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Ronald Acuña Jr. had himself a great would-be Opening Day. (via Kamen Guentchev)

In a stunning turn of events, the Major League Baseball season opened on schedule after all on Thursday. As you would expect, The Hardball Times was on top of the action at every game. Here are the summaries:

HOUSTON — Home fans cheered the Astros and booed each time one of their players was hit by an Angels pitcher in a 3-1 Los Angeles victory. All the Angels’ runs came on home runs off the bat of Mike Trout, rewarding those who took him as the No. 1 pick in their fantasy drafts.

In the home opener for the team that has been excoriated and penalized for stealing signs with electronic help, the Astros looked helpless at the plate and stumbled over empty Gatorade bottles and other debris between at-bats. The umpires removed trash cans from the dugout before the game.

The Astros scored their only run when the last of four consecutive plunkings forced it in.

Zack Greinke, now 36 years old, was old new manager Dusty Baker’s starting pitcher. With Gerrit Cole gone to New York and Justin Verlander on the injured list, Baker told reporters he was still mulling pitching choices for the rest of the series. “John Burkett, Bill Swift… I do like veterans who know what they’re doing.”

Unemployed former managers A.J. Hinch, Alex Cora and Carlos Beltran attended the game and sat together in the penalty box.

TORONTO — The Blue Jays won their home opener 6-1 over a patchwork Red Sox team, which was playing without some of its biggest stars or any resolution of penalties for its part in the sign-stealing scandal. Also without a dugout trash can.

J.D. Martinez, Rafael Devers and Xander Bogaerts were held out of the Boston lineup amid rumors they are about to be traded for prospects. Boston owner John Henry said any deal would have absolutely, positively nothing whatsoever to do with the luxury tax threshold.

Eduardo Rodriguez started for the Red Sox. Ticket holders from Boston, unable to attend the game because of restrictions at the border, received refunds marked “No Sale.”

BALTIMORE — In his Yankees debut, $324 million acquisition Gerrit Cole gave up just one hit, Chris Davis’ infield bleeder, as his team beat the Orioles 10-0.

After the game, Yankees manager Aaron Boone apologized for his team’s paltry 15-hit offensive output against the weakest team in the division, noting that injured stars Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Hicks were not available. New York tabloids reported Boone’s job might be in jeopardy because of the team’s sluggish start

Dr. Anthony Fauci threw out the first ball after washing his hands for 20 seconds.

NEW YORK — Behind two-time Cy Young winner Jacob deGrom, the Mets beat the defending World Series champion Washington Nationals, 4-2.

The early victory was especially important for the Mets, who have the hardest first-month schedule of any contender in the majors, with only six games against teams FanGraphs forecasts to have losing records.

A Hardball Times Update
Goodbye for now.

New York native Bernie Sanders threw out the first ball amid controversy over his pregame remarks that baseball players shouldn’t be millionaires.

PHOENIX — Ronald Acuna Jr. hit three home runs, rewarding those who took him as the No. 1 pick in their fantasy drafts, and the Atlanta Braves ruined the Diamondbacks’ home opener with a 5-2 victory.

Starting pitcher Madison Bumgarner’s two bases-empty homers supplied all the D-backs’ runs.

Native American protesters outside Chase Field called on the Atlanta team to change its nickname. Atlanta officials issued a sympathetic reply, saying several other culturally insensitive alternatives are under consideration.

CHICAGO — With the wind chill registering 32 degrees at game time, the Kansas City Royals beat the White Sox 1-0 in a game that took just two hours to play.

The Royals scored the only run of the game on a sacrifice fly. Through a translator, Cuban rookie Luis Robert explained that his 12-bounce throw to the plate was caused by the ski glove he wore on his throwing hand.

SEATTLE — Marco Gonzales, who won 29 games the past two years with no one noticing, out-dueled the Rangers’ Corey Kluber, a former Cy Young Award winner, in the Mariners’ 2-1 victory.

Tom Murphy and Robinson Chirinos wore standard catchers’ masks. However, in recognition of Seattle being an early coronavirus hot spot, other players wore medical masks. “Mmwwwf umwaaadsh,” Mariners pitcher Yusei Kikuchi said through a translator.

Texas left the tying run on third when Joey Gallo declined to tag up and try to score on a long fly ball out of an abundance of caution.

OAKLAND — The Minnesota Twins hit six home runs in their 13-10 Opening Day win over the A’s. That put the Twins, who set a major league season record of 307 homers in 2019, on pace for 972 this year.

Marwin Gonzalez of the Twins knocked Oakland starter Mike Fiers out of the game and out of consciousness, slamming into him as the pitcher covered first base on a bunt. Fiers, a teammate of Gonzalez on the World Series-winning Astros in 2017, publicly exposed that team’s cheating. “It was an accident,” Gonzalez said through a translator. “I have nothing against that #$%^& stool pigeon.”

Out of an abundance of caution, Twins designated hitter Nelson Cruz self-quarantined between at-bats because of current health concerns for the elderly.

CINCINNATI — Despite a host of offseason additions to their roster, the Reds fell to St. Louis, 7-2, with eight strikeouts from newcomers Mike Moustakas and Nicholas Castellanos. (Which, face it, doesn’t have the ring of “Mantle and Maris.”)

Still angry the Reds have lost their traditional Opening Day exclusivity, fans booed lustily, taking out their frustrations on the reputed sluggers and on starting pitcher Trevor Bauer.

Breaking through his usual reticence, Bauer explained through a translator that his fastball was in peak form but that he’d flattened the curve.

SAN DIEGO — Twenty-one years after his father became the only major league player ever to hit two grand slams in one inning, Fernando Tatis Jr. accomplished the same feat. Tatis Jr. was three months old when his father set the record.

Tatis’ two slams off the Colorado Rockies bullpen helped the Padres overcome a seven-run deficit in the bottom of the ninth inning and beat the Rockies 12-8. Colorado lost its big lead when San Diego rallied off four ineffective relievers, each of whom had to pitch to three batters under a new 2020 rule.

LOS ANGELES — The Dodgers, the overwhelming National League favorites and stocked with about a half dozen potential Hall of Famers, beat their over-matched in-state rivals, the San Francisco Giants, 14-2.

Los Angeles’ Clayton Kershaw pitched a complete game but was immediately placed on the 15-day injured list and replaced on the active roster by top prospect Dustin May. Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said Friday’s starter, Walker Buehler, also is likely to be injured after that game.

At a pregame press conference, new Dodger Mookie Betts, a free agent after this season, announced he will not seek to top Bryce Harper’s record $330 million contract. “Considering all the people who have lost their jobs in the current crisis,” he said, “it would be unseemly for me to ask for any more than $329 million.”

MILWAUKEE — Yu Darvish picked up where he left off last season, striking out 10 and walking none as the Chicago Cubs beat the Brewers, 4-1. New manager David Ross bypassed his old friend and teammate Jon Lester for the Opening Day start, saying the logical choice was “only Yu.”

Starter Brandon Woodruff pitched well in defeat for the Brewers. Asked about the rest of his rotation, Milwaukee manager Craig Counsell replied, “only Brandon.”

Umpires disallowed a replay request from Counsell when he failed to signal for it within the now-required 20 seconds. Counsell explained afterward that he was singing “Happy Birthday” twice.

CLEVELAND — The home team routed Detroit, 12-0, giving the Tigers a good start in their drive to win yet another No. 1 pick in next year’s amateur draft.

Much of the action was off the field. Outside the stadium, protesters displayed signs calling on the Cleveland team to change its nickname. They favor “Cleveland Pakistanis.”

Meanwhile, the Tigers announced they will retire Miguel Cabrera’s number. They conceded they cannot, however, retire the $124 million they owe Cabrera over the next four seasons.

ST. PETERSBURG — Behind starting pitcher Charlie Morton and a bunch of good players you’ve never heard of, the Rays started their season with a thrilling 6-5 win over Pittsburgh at Tropicana Field.

The Pirates, featuring a bunch of not-so-good players you’ve never heard of, led until Guillermo Heredia — or maybe it was Erik Gonzalez — muffed a fly ball in the bottom of the ninth, allowing the tying and winning runs to score. The play became an instant classic — The Drop in the Trop.

Joe Biden was expected to throw out the first ball but missed the game, reportedly because he was taking a nap.

MIAMI — The new-look Marlins, sparked by other teams’ castoffs, surprised the Philadelphia Phillies, 5-4, before an enthusiastic Opening Day crowd of nearly 2,000, some of them actual paying patrons.

Offseason acquisitions Jonathan Villar, Corey Dickerson and Jesus Aguilar led the Miami offense. The Phillies had a chance to tie the game in the ninth inning, but Bryce Harper, who had walked, strayed too far from first base and was picked off by reliever Brandon Kintzler’s throw to Aguilar. Harper later explained, through a translator, that he had been maintaining social distancing.

Area resident Donald Trump threw out the first ball. His pitch was incredible, like nothing we’ve ever seen before.

Joe Distelheim is a retired newspaper editor whose career included stints as sports editor of The Charlotte Observer and Detroit Free Press. He co-authored Cubs: From Tinker to Banks to Sandberg to Today.
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3 years ago

Great work, Joe. Nice to be entertained on a day like today.

3 years ago

ahhhh. very good stuff, sir…

3 years ago

slow clap

3 years ago

so there were fans there …..

3 years ago

So the Giants get trounced on twice on the same day? Yeah sounds about right. :/

*I think your Padres result needs an edit. Or not, either way makes sense*