Opening Day in Houston
Derek Jeter got his 3,317th hit, got plunked, and got his final season started. Nolan Ryan threw to Craig Biggio, and Scott Feldman threw like every Houston fan hopes he will again. Dexter Fowler got it all started for Houston with doubles in his first two ABs as an Astro, Jesus Guzman went deep, Jose Altuve pestered the visitors and they were happy in Texas. Now every team has played a regular season game and nobody is 0-0 in the Standings. We have all the firsts . . . . Continue reading
Today’s Games | Standings | Watch live on MLB.TV
Happy Opening Day! We’ve seen: Buster Posey’s familiar flair for heroics; Jose Fernandez and Mike Trout picking up where they left off; close games all day and night; our first walk-offs thanks to an Alex Gonzalez single in the ninth for Detroit and then a 10th-inning homer by Neil Walker to provide the only run in Pittsburgh; the first time since 1953 Cincinnati was shut out at home on Opening Day; our first grand slam by Jimmy Rollins; the first overturned call due to Replay Review after a Fredi Gonzalez challenge; successful managerial debuts for Brad Ausmus and Matt Williams; big offense from the Giants and Mariners; Nyjer Morgan beating Oakland with his bat and glove; a great pitcher’s duel in Cincinnati, brilliant debuts with new clubs such as Nelson Cruz for Baltimore and Jose Abreu for the White Sox; our first run-scoring wild pitch; our first immediate comeback from 6-0 down; and of course first excessive use of ketchup and mustard on hot dogs. Here is an ongoing look from MLB.com’s Mark Newman at game-by-game firsts in today’s 13 openers . . . Continue reading
We counted down to Opening Day on this MLB.com blog starting in January, we tracked all the firsts throughout MLB Opening Series at Sydney, and now we keep going through Opening Night and then all Opening Week extravaganzas. Join MLB.com’s Mark Newman here, follow Dodgers-Padres live with MLB.com Gameday and on ESPN.
First final and first game fireworks in North America: Padres 3, Dodgers 1. Continue reading
6 Days – Mr. Tiger and The Man
Let’s start today’s post off with a little music.
Less than a week to go until the historic Major League Baseball Opening Series between the Dodgers and D-backs at the Sydney Cricket Grounds in Australia, and No. 6 in this long countdown takes us back to the days of Steve Garvey at first for the Dodgers, Tony Oliva in right for the Twins, Willie Wilson in center for the Royals, Paul Blair in his heyday for the Orioles, Roy White at second for the Yankees, Rico Petrocelli at third for Boston, and J.T. Snow at first for the Angels and then the Giants.
But Al Kaline and Stan Musial stand alone. Continue reading
13 Days – Omar Vizquel
You never know what the first day of a Major League Baseball season will bring.
On April 27, 1995 — a late start after the prolonged labor strife — the Indians opened their season at Texas. In the very first inning, Omar Vizquel was charged for two errors on one play. Will Clark reached first on Vizquel’s error at short, and Vizquel was charged for a second error on the throw, which allowed Jeff Frye to score. Just think, one inning into a season and one of the best shortstops in history already had two errors.
Well, things sort of turned around. The Indians won that game, 11-6, they won the American League pennant and reached their first World Series since 1954, and Vizquel won his third of an eventual 11 Gold Gloves. He finished the season with nine errors, so two of the nine came in the first moments of a season. Vizquel owns the highest all-time career fielding percentage (.985) among big league shortstops (minimum 1000 games) and ranks first in career games played as a shortstop (2,709), having played 24 seasons in the bigs. Funny how things work out.
Today as we countdown to 13 days until the MLB Opening Series on March 22 in Sydney, we remember the Venezuelan who played 24 seasons, mostly in the No. 13 for Cleveland. He opens this season on the Tigers’ coaching staff. Here’s a look back at his career, as you plan your own season. MLB Schedule | Tickets
Who should be No. 12?
16 Days: Jose Fernandez
Dwight Gooden stopped by our MLB.com studios in NYC recently, not long after this countdown began to Major League Baseball’s Opening Series on March 22 in Sydney, Australia. I told him we eventually would run into a tough choice at No. 16, where he and Hall of Famer Whitey Ford were a pair of New York legends at the top of the consideration list. Here’s what Doc said about making his first Opening Day start for the Mets in 1985, at only 20 years old in a Cy Young season:
“It was very special to myself, obviously being my first one, being at Shea Stadium. It was Gary Carter’s first game as a Met, and he hit that game-winning home run in the 10th inning. That one sticks out more than anything.
“Once you make the team, you always dream about pitching Opening Day. You have all the ceremony, the World Series atmosphere for that one day. It’s the beginning of a new season. Leading up to the game, the drumming going, you’re trying to keep your emotions ready, and the lineups are introduced on the field, all the pregame ceremony stuff, it’s just a great, great thing to have, and it’s the best part of the season outside of the World Series.”
With that introduction, we fast-forward nearly three decades to 2014. Of all the things we are anticipating in this regular season, probably none is more exciting than the first Opening Day start by Jose Fernandez. The similarities to Gooden’s first Opening Day start are spectacular.
Fernandez is 21, ace of the Marlins staff. Like Gooden, he is making this assignment after having already been an All-Star, National League Rookie of the Year and a top-three Cy Young ballot choice in his first season, recording double-digit wins and electrifying crowds.
Fernandez had a 2.19 ERA, 0.979 WHIP and 9.7 K/9 ratio his first season, compared to Gooden’s 2.60, 1.073 and 11.4, respectively. Each righty led the NL in his first year in hits per 9 innings, Fernandez with just 5.8 hits allowed per game compared to Gooden’s 6.6. While Gooden pitched for a Mets club that was expected by many to contend — winning it all in 1986 — it still will be interesting to see whether his second-year growth is anywhere near that of “Special K,” who followed up his first Opening Day start by going 24-4 and winning the Cy.
On Wednesday, Fernandez whetted our appetites again, holding the Mets to two hits in 3 1/3 shutout innings in Port St. Lucie, Fla.
Fernandez is on track to make his Opening Day start on March 31 at home against Colorado, and what a night that will be at Marlins Park. There is a Fireworks Spectacular after the game, there is an All You Can Eat Mondays special still available, and a special pitcher from Cuba will be on the mound.
A new season is just 16 days away, and with that special nod here to Ford, the Yankees’ Chairman of the Board, winningest World Series pitcher and Opening Day fixture, on this day we are taking a look at youngsters past and present, with an NL East excitement level that is sky-high. MLB Schedule | Tickets
Who should be No. 15?
17 Days – Todd Helton
While you’re still looking for Major League Baseball’s next .400 hitter, now is a good time to let you know that Todd Helton hit exactly .400 on Opening Day. So we tip our hat to him, 17 days away from the MLB Opening Series March 22 in Sydney.
The Rockies will open the regular season March 31 at Miami, and it will mark the first time since 1997 that Helton, now retired, has not been in Colorado’s starting lineup. That was the year that Helton was an August call-up. After that, he was a warrior who proceeded to put up these Opening Day numbers, mostly having to begin on the road:
24-60, 9 runs, 5 RBIs, 11 doubles.
During that time, the Rockies went 9-7, playing 11 of their 16 openers on the road due to the Denver climate. His performances included game-winners, usually an RBI double in there somewhere, steadiness, and a 4-for-4 performance in a 2004 victory at Arizona, with the first three hits coming against D-backs fireballer Randy Johnson. Highlights:
98 – 2-for-4, RBI, 2 doubles, won at eventual NL champ Padres.
99 – 0-for-5, won at Padres.
00 – 1-for-4, 2-0 loss at Greg Maddux and Braves.
01 – 1-for-2, 2 runs, 2 BB, 8-0 win vs. Cardinals.
02 – 2-for-4, loss at Cardinals.
03 – 2-for-5, 1 run, double, loss at Astros.
04 – 4-for-4, 2 run, double, 6-2 win at D-backs.
05 – 1-for-4, 1 run, 1 RBI, 12-10 walk-off win vs. Padres.
06 – 1-for-4, 1 RBI, double, 3-2 win vs. D-backs. That RBI double off Terry Mulholland in the bottom of the eighth was the big hit, tying it at 2-2 and forcing extras, won by Rockies in 11th.
07 – 2-for-4, double, 8-6 loss vs. D-backs.
08 – 2-for-4, double, run, 2-1 win at Cardinals. His double in eighth was the big hit, leading to the first run and then him scoring decisive run as they scored both runs that inning.
09 – 1-for-4, 9-8 loss at D-backs.
10 – 2-for-5, one run, double, 5-3 win at Brewers.
11 – 2-for-4, 1 run, 1 RBI, 7-6 loss vs. D-backs.
12 – 1-for-4, RBI double, 5-3 win at Astros.
13 – 0-for-3, walk, 5-4 loss at Brewers.
His last Opening Day ended a personal 13-year hitting streak on Colorado curtain lifters. Now the Rockies move on in a new era, Justin Morneau their presumptive first baseman. It is a good time to pause and reflect on The Toddfather’s career, and as the debate begins over whether he will be Cooperstown-worthy, with his jersey number matching the number of years he spent with the same club, don’t forget to include his general Opening Day magnificence in the mix. It is just 1 of 162, to be sure, but it is the day that takes the first foot forward and with him it usually was a positive one. MLB Schedule | Tickets
The next one is a doozy. Who should be No. 16?
18 Days – Matt Cain
Four days ago, we featured Clayton Kershaw of the Dodgers at 22 days remaining in our countdown to Major League Baseball’s Opening Series on March 22 in Sydney, Australia. That was an easy one. A shutout and a decisive homer last April 1, too obvious.
But maybe you remember that on the other side of that Dodgers-Giants rivalry game, Matt Cain made his first Opening Day start in the Majors. And when he left after six innings, it was a scoreless tie. Granted, Cain pitched out of trouble a lot for the Giants that day, but he got the outs when he had to and he was able to experience something he had been wondering about.
“You’ve seen some guys do it, and you always kind of wonder what it feels like,” Cain said that day. “There definitely is a lot of hype going on with it, a bit of overreporting, kind of. But that’s the fun part leading up to the first game.”
Now another Opening Day awaits. Cain figures to be a lot better than 8-10 this season, having finished strong after a disappointing first half last season. Giants fans are counting on it. The Giants open the 2014 regular season on March 31 at Arizona to start a four-game series, and then they visit the Dodgers for a weekend series on that trip. The home-opener at AT&T Park is April 8 against the D-backs, and more memories are waiting to be made.
Hey, it’s an even-numbered year, so the Giants are due. MLB Schedule | Tickets
Who should be No. 17? Tell us in the comments below.
19 Days – Bob Feller
We’re just 19 days away from the Major League Baseball Opening Series on March 22 in Sydney, Australia, and in the course of this entire countdown that started 51 days out with Ichiro, there is really only one Opening Day performance in the history of baseball that holds a place atop the mountain.
“It means a lot of luck,” Bob Feller told MLB.com writer Anthony Castrovince in the spring of 2010, when asked about what was then the 70th anniversary of the only Opening Day no-hitter, hurled by him in 1940. Just months after that interview, we sadly lost the great right-hander, who spent his entire 18-year career with Cleveland, sacrificing four years to military service. Watch him explain what happened:
There were only about 14,000 fans at old Comiskey Park on that April 16, due to a blustery day in Chicago. But the elements actually helped Feller, then just 21 and already with 55 wins under his belt. He abandoned the curve and relied on his legendary fastball, striking out eight and walking five in a 1-0 victory over the White Sox. Feller escaped a bases-loaded jam in the second and recalled, “After that, I started pitching better.”
Feller made a club-record seven Opening Day starts for the Indians, and his first was a year before that gem, in 1939. You could almost argue that his best Opening Day performance actually may have been that first one. He struck out 10, walked only two and allowed only three hits in a complete game victory over Detroit at home, one of the hits a solo homer in the sixth by Bernie McCosky. But history mainly recalls one special Opening Day start a year later. And his legacy carries on, an autograph that sits on this particular writer’s office desk, representing the first signature he ever got as a boy. Rapid Robert loved to sign for you. We’ll never forget.
The 2014 Indians open their regular season March 31 at Oakland, and then face Minnesota in their home opener April 4 at Progressive Field. What memories are in store this season? MLB Schedule | Tickets
Who should be No. 18?