Baseball is back—and starting in April, not July! For the first time since 1968, MLB scheduled every team’s opener on the same day, and although not all 15 of those games occurred Thursday, there were plenty of home runs and strikeouts and quad-boxed MLB.tv screens to go around.
To commemorate the sport’s return in such a torrent, and to acknowledge that although we can’t draw full conclusions after one game apiece, we can at least appreciate the first contests that count, let’s offer some key takeaways by assessing all 30 teams in 30 words each—no more, no fewer. In chronological order of Thursday’s schedule:
Blue Jays 3, Yankees 2
Toronto: In three trips against Gerrit Cole, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. walked twice and smoked a 114-mph line drive for a single. That will work for this season’s most obvious breakout pick.
New York: The lineup went 0-for-9 with runners in scoring position. Gerrit Cole was angry. Fans booed. Now all the Yankees have is, uh, the best-projected record, still, in the American League.
Tigers 3, Cleveland 2
Detroit: Miguel Cabrera hasn’t been healthy and good since 2016, but supplied Thursday’s best highlight with a dinger in the snow, his trip home interrupted by an aggressive slide into second.
Miguel Cabrera, in the snow, hitting the first homer of the 2021 MLB season while sliding into second base was not on my bingo card. pic.twitter.com/aL9rsECXH1— Bleacher Nation Cubs (@BleacherNation) April 1, 2021
Cleveland: Every time I review the Francisco Lindor trade, I’m amazed anew that Cleveland didn’t get more for its star shortstop. Related: The team didn’t score until the ninth inning Thursday.
Orioles at Red Sox—Delayed
Baltimore: Due to rain in the forecast in Boston, this game was preemptively postponed to Friday afternoon. Even Mother Nature didn’t want the Orioles to spoil her festive Opening Day mood.
Boston: The good news for the Red Sox is that they’re now ahead of the Yankees in the standings (because they haven’t played). That hasn’t happened on any day since 2018.
Brewers 6, Twins 5
Milwaukee: Preventing runs in extra innings is a challenge, with the automatic runner on second. Having Josh Hader for those jams helps; he struck out the Twins’ side in the 10th.
Minnesota: Actually, forget Vladito—the best breakout pick is, as ever, Byron Buxton, who obliged with a homer. I still believe! Focus on that blast, Twins fans, and forget the ninth-inning collapse.
Pirates 5, Cubs 3
Pittsburgh: Shortstop Kevin Newman hit .606/.641/.788 with zero strikeouts in spring training, then knocked two hits Thursday. He was the majors’ second-worst hitter last season. You can’t predict baseball.
Chicago: Not the most auspicious start for the Báez-Bryant-Rizzo core in its final hurrah—getting two-hit by the lowly Pirates, and losing a start by Kyle Hendricks, the one reliable rotation member.
Phillies 3, Atlanta 2
Philadelphia: The most encouraging sign for the Phillies, after a disastrous 2020 from the bullpen, is that four relievers combined for 3 1/3 scoreless innings. Strong late-inning defense helped, too.
Atlanta: One of baseball’s many delights: A high-powered lineup with numerous All-Stars and the reigning MVP scored only because of a pinch-hit home run from Pablo Sandoval. Freddie Freeman could never.
Rays 1, Marlins 0
Tampa Bay: The past two seasons, 96 percent of Tyler Glasnow’s pitches were fastballs or curves. He added a slider and threw it 34 percent of the time Thursday, allowing one baserunner.
Miami: A dazzling outing from a young starter (in this case, Sandy Alcantara) paired with zeros from a lineup of mediocre-at-best veterans? This may be a common outcome for the Marlins.
Cardinals 11, Reds 6
St. Louis: The Cardinals outfield profiles as superb defensively but uncertain at the plate. Well, Tyler O’Neill and Rookie of the Year candidate Dylan Carlson both homered Thursday, so that’s a start.
Cincinnati: The Reds decided they didn’t need a real shortstop and shifted third-base stalwart Eugenio Suárez’s position instead. He took less than an inning to make an error that cost runs.
Padres 8, Diamondbacks 7
Arizona: Madison Bumgarner now holds a 7.09 ERA as a member of the Diamondbacks. Yikes! At least Ketel Marte had four hits, including a homer, after he slumped in 2020?
San Diego: Tatis, Machado, and Darvish were bad—and the Padres were still stupendously fun, with contributions from Eric Hosmer, Jake Cronenworth, and Victor Caratini. They lead this year’s MLB.tv team rankings.
Rockies 8, Dodgers 5
Colorado: A win is cause for celebration, especially against the Dodgers. But I suspect if the Rockies keep allowing 15 hits and eight walks per game, they won’t win many more.
Los Angeles: Clayton Kershaw in his first eight Opening Day starts: a 1.05 ERA. Kershaw on Thursday: six runs (five earned). But he’s a World Series champion now, so all’s copacetic.
Royals 14, Rangers 10
Kansas City: Jorge Soler, the 2019 home run king, posted the best individual line of the day: 2-2 with a homer, plus two walks, a hit by pitch, and a catcher’s interference.
Texas: This was the wackiest game of Opening Day, tied 5-5 after just one inning. One early conclusion: With Lance Lynn and Mike Minor gone, the Rangers’ rotation could be dreadful.
Mets and Nationals—Delayed
New York: ESPN had the perfect evening showcase: Mets vs. Nats, deGrom vs. Scherzer, the newly extended Lindor vs. Soto at the plate. But this opener was postponed at least until Saturday.
Washington: That’s because multiple Nationals tested positive for COVID-19—a crucial reminder that amid the Opening Day excitement, we’re still stuck in a pandemic that can affect the season in myriad ways.
Angels 4, White Sox 3
Los Angeles: Andrelton Simmons left in free agency—yet the Angels didn’t lose any Web Gem ability at the shortstop position, with José Iglesias taking over. Look at the bounce on this throw!
This was stupid good from José Iglesias pic.twitter.com/UdqfsQGIdW— Fabian Ardaya (@FabianArdaya) April 2, 2021
Chicago: The White Sox blew a late lead, thanks to bad luck and worse defense. And hey, the Twins did that too, earlier in the day—these rivals have something in common.
Astros 8, Athletics 1
Houston: The Astros picked up where they left off in October: crushing Oakland pitching. Yordan Álvarez’s return from injury is crucial for Houston; he belted a two-run double off the wall.
Oakland: New Athletic Elvis Andrus tried to take a walk when the count had only three balls. That failed gambit was the most memorable moment from an otherwise muted Oakland opener.
Mariners 8, Giants 7
Seattle: Goofy late-night baseball is a true joy of the regular season, and we found a prime example Thursday: The Mariners won on a 10th-inning, bases-loaded walk at 10:56 PT.
San Francisco: But first: The Giants blew a lead via three walks, a HBP, and a ghastly error, then extended the game with a ninth-inning homer. What a dumb, wacky, glorious sport.