Baseball made its return in spectacular fashion today. There were only three games on the first Sunday of the regular season, and the fun really begins tomorrow, but today did not disappoint. In fact, it was the first Opening Day to feature two or more walk-off wins since 1998. You simply couldn’t ask for much more.
3 for today:
Madison Bumgarner has historic day
Bumgarner began his day with five perfect innings. He struck out 11 batters across seven innings of work. But his pitching performance wasn’t even the most memorable part of his day. In the second inning, Bumgarner ripped a Zack Greinke fastball over the left-center field fence. He didn’t stop there, however. After not allowing a baserunner for the first five innings of the game, Bumgarner gave up three runs to Arizona in the sixth, which tied the game. That was no problem for him, though. He proceeded to crush his second homer of the day in the seventh. This one was a majestic solo shot way over the left field fence. It traveled 422 feet at an angle of 33° before reaching its destination. Bumgarner became the first pitcher ever to homer twice on Opening Day, and he finished the day as the league’s home run leader. However, his team didn’t get the win because, well, the Diamondbacks did.
Diamondbacks fight back from three deficits
Down 3-0 in the sixth, the Diamondbacks came back to tie the game on an RBI single courtesy of Nick Ahmed and a two-run shot off the bat of A.J. Pollock. Arizona quickly fell behind again in the seventh when Bumgarner blasted his second home run. But they tied it back up in the eighth when Paul Goldschmidt chopped a single through the left side to score one and knot the game at four. In the ninth, the Giants regained the lead on a Connor Gillaspie sacrifice fly, and San Francisco had their brand new, $62-million closer, Mark Melancon ready to go, so it appeared that the game was just about over.
And when Melancon retired the first two batters with ease, and Jeff Mathis strolled to the plate, the game was certainly over, right? Wrong. Mathis lined a ball to left center, and Gorkys Hernandez fumbled it around, allowing Mathis to reach second. Daniel Descalso followed by smoking a single right back up the middle. And just like that, the game was tied thanks to talents of two players you might not have even realized were still in the league.
It took two more two-out hits from Arizona — one from Pollock and the killing blow from Chris Owings — to finally take the lead. The Giants picked up right where they left off in 2016, and Arizona gained an impressive win to start a season whose outcome will likely determine whether or not the team starts from scratch next year and trades two of its stars, Pollock and Goldschmidt; both of whom led today’s charge.
Carlos Martinez shuts down Cubs
Bumgarner’s pitching performance was excellent, but the top pitching performance of the night belongs to Martinez, who whiffed 10 Cubs across 7 1/3 shutout innings. His best stuff was on display tonight, and the Cubs just couldn’t do anything about it. His fastball routinely touched 99 mph and even 100 at times while his changeup sat around 90 mph with nasty movement. The impact of Martinez’s performance was momentarily erased when Willson Contreras knotted the game at three with a monster three-run home run off closer Seung Hwan Oh in the ninth. But the Cardinals loaded the bases in the bottom half of the inning against Mike Montgomery, and Randal Grichuk put the finishing touches on his 2-for-4, 3 RBI night by smoking a ball to the left-center gap to end the game in walk-off fashion.
3 for tomorrow:
Mets vs. Braves (Syndergaard vs. Teheran)
The best part about Opening Day is that nearly every team’s ace is on display. Well, here are two of the game’s best young aces facing off. Teheran is 26 years old and logged a 3.21 ERA in 188 innings last season while Syndergaard is 24 years old and logged a 2.60 ERA while striking out 218 batters in 183 2/3 innings.
Tigers vs. White Sox (Verlander vs. Quintana)
The Tigers and White Sox bring us another matchup of aces. This one is between a resurgent veteran in Justin Verlander who finished second in Cy Young Award voting last year (and probably should have won it) and one of the most underrated pitchers in the sport, Jose Quintana, who posted a 3.20 ERA in 208 innings a year ago.
Rangers vs. Indians (Darvish vs. Kluber)
And finally, the best matchup of the day comes courtesy of the Rangers and Indians, who will both trot out their respective aces. Yu Darvish had trouble rekindling his ace form as he returned from Tommy John surgery last year, but he is now fully healthy and ready to be a top pitcher once again. Corey Kluber is coming off a third place finish in Cy Young Award voting and a superb postseason run; he posted a 1.83 ERA in six October starts.