Shohei Ohtani enjoyed an historic night as the two-way Los Angeles Angels star fuelled his team to a 7-4 walk-off win against the Chicago White Sox.

Ohtani made MLB history by starting and serving as the designated hitter, while he put on a show with bat and ball in stunning opening inning on Sunday.

The 26-year-old Japanese sensation, who became the first pitcher to bat second in a game since 1903, produced a scoreless first inning as his fastball reached 100mph (the fastest in MLB so far in 2021) three times.

After starring on the mound, Ohtani hit a crushing solo homer in the bottom of the inning – his projected 451-foot shot reaching 115.2mph – the hardest homer by an Angels player since 2015, eclipsing team-mate Mike Trout (115mph in 2018).

Hampered by injuries since entering the majors in 2018, Ohtani, who exited in the fifth inning after a collision at the plate, also became the first Angels pitcher to record a hit in an American League (AL) game since Clyde Wright in 1972.

Jared Walsh called game with the contest tied at 4-4 in the bottom of the ninth, launching a walk-off homer – his second of the night – to lift the Angels.

 

Astros blitz Athletics

The Houston Astros are 4-0 for the first time since 2001 after a 9-2 victory away to the Oakland Athletics. Kyle Tucker, Jason Castro and rookie Chas McCormick hit home runs for the Astros, who outscored the A's 35-9 across the four games. Houston are the fourth team in MLB history to tally at least eight runs in their first four games, following in the footsteps of the New York Yankees (2003), Red Sox (1995) and Milwaukee Brewers (1978).

Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Randal Grichuk homered as the Toronto Blue Jays beat AL East rivals the Yankees 3-1 to claim the season-opening series. Bo Bichette became the fastest Blue Jays player to reach 100 career hits, achieving the feat with a first-inning double in his 78th game.

World Series champions the Los Angeles Dodgers defeated the Colorado Rockies 4-2 behind Julio Urias. He pitched a career-high seven innings to inspire the Dodgers, tallying six strikeouts while giving up three hits and one walk.

 

Red Sox make slow start

The Boston Red Sox's winless start to the season continued, swept by the Baltimore Orioles following an 11-3 defeat. Boston have now fallen to their second-ever 0-3 start at Fenway Park and first since 1948. The Red Sox are coming off a 24-36 record in last year's coronavirus-shortened season – their lowest winning percentage since 1965.

 

Baddoo homers on first career pitch

It was a memorable outing for Detroit Tigers outfielder Akil Baddoo, who homered in his opening MLB at-bat – the very first pitch. The 22-year-old Baddoo – making his first appearance above Class A – drove to left field in the bottom of the third inning. Detroit, though, lost 9-3 to the Cleveland Indians.

"I was actually waiting for the silent treatment, but everyone was just full of energy -- just so happy for me," Baddoo said. "So I loved every second of it."

 

 

Sunday's results

Philadelphia Phillies 2-1 Atlanta Braves
Toronto Blue Jays 3-1 New York Yankees
Baltimore Orioles 11-3 Boston Red Sox
Cleveland Indians 9-3 Detroit Tigers
Cincinnati Reds 12-1 St Louis Cardinals
Minnesota Twins 8-2 Milwaukee Brewers
Texas Rangers 7-3 Kansas City Royals
Chicago Bulls 4-3 Pittsburgh Pirates
Los Angeles Dodgers 4-2 Colorado Rockies
Houston Astros 9-2 Oakland Athletics
Arizona Diamondbacks 3-1 San Diego Padres
Los Angeles Angels 7-4 Chicago White Sox
New York Mets-Washington Nationals (postponed)

 

Astros at Angels

The Astros (4-0) will put their perfect record on the line in the opening game of their series with the Angels (3-1) on Monday.

Yermin Mercedes entered MLB's history books after maintaining his red-hot start to the season, despite the Chicago White Sox losing 5-3 to the Los Angeles Angels.

White Sox rookie Mercedes set a league mark on Saturday after he made it eight-for-eight hits in 2021.

Mercedes – who also hit a solo homer in the second inning against the Angels – surpassed Chris Stynes for the longest streak of hits to start a season in the modern era (since 1900).

After a groundball single in the seventh inning and a double in the eighth, the 28-year-old's streak came to an end in his ninth at-bat.

Mercedes finished with three hits and a run, to go with two RBIs as a designated hitter for the White Sox, who dropped to 1-2.

The Angels trailed 3-2 heading into the eighth but capped a three-run rally via Justin Upton's two-run homer.

 

Dominant Musgrove leads Padres

Joe Musgrove enjoyed a memorable debut for the San Diego Padres. He struck out eight batters in six innings to lead the unbeaten Padres to a 7-0 shutout of the Arizona Diamondbacks and 3-0 start to the season. Musgrove held the Diamondbacks to three hits, while walking none.

An inside-the-park home run from Zach McKinstry lifted World Series champions the Los Angeles Dodgers past the Colorado Rockies 6-5. McKinstry hit the go-ahead score in the eighth inning after connecting on a fastball from Mychal Givens for his first major league homer. It was the first inside-the-park homer by a Dodgers player since 2017.

Jose Berrios struck out 12 batters in six hitless innings as the Minnesota Twins took down the Milwaukee Brewers 2-0. He combined with three relievers on a one-hitter with 17 strikeouts. Berrios and Brewers pitcher Corbin Burnes became the first pair of opposing starters to have 10-plus strikeouts and one or fewer hits allowed in the same game in the modern era, per Stats Perform.

The Houston Astros maintained their 100 per cent record thanks to Yordan Alvarez's three-run homer in the 9-1 rout of the Oakland Athletics.

 

Hill humbled in Miami

Rich Hill struggled in the Tampa Bay Rays' 12-7 loss to the Miami Marlins. The 41-year-old gave up four earned runs in four innings in his first start with the Rays. He also walked two. Chris Archer took the loss after giving up four runs in two innings of relief.

 

Haniger completes comeback

It was a special day for Mitch Haniger. After three surgeries and nearly two years of recovery, the 30-year-old hit his first home run since 2019 as the Seattle Mariners blanked the San Francisco Giants 4-0.

 

Saturday's results

Houston Astros 9-1 Oakland Athletics
Cincinnati Reds 9-6 St Louis Cardinals
Miami Marlins 12-7 Tampa Bay Rays
New York Yankees 5-3 Toronto Blue Jays
Baltimore Orioles 4-2 Boston Red Sox
Detroit Tigers 5-2 Cleveland Indians
Kansas City Royals 11-4 Texas Rangers
Chicago Cubs 5-1 Pittsburgh Pirates
Philadelphia Phillies 4-0 Atlanta Braves
Minnesota Twins 2-0 Milwaukee Brewers
Los Angeles Dodgers 6-5 Colorado Rockies
San Diego Padres 7-0 Arizona Diamondbacks
Los Angeles Angels 5-3 Chicago White Sox
Seattle Mariners 4-0 San Francisco Giants
New York Mets-Washington Nationals (postponed)

 

Blue Jays at Yankees

The Blue Jays (1-1) and Yankees (1-1) will look to settle their three-game series in New York on Sunday.

World Series champions Los Angeles Dodgers were humbled on the Opening Day of the new Major League Baseball season 8-5 by the Colorado Rockies on Thursday.

The Dodgers had 14 stranded runners throughout the game while Cody Bellinger hit a ball into the stands which did not count as a home run on a strange afternoon.

With crowds returning to MLB, the Dodgers were unable to get off to a flying start.

"Honestly, we just didn’t play a good baseball game," Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. "All the way around, we didn’t play well."

In the Houston Astros' first game back playing in front of crowds since their cheating scandal emerged they were jeered and boed in an 8-1 win on the road against the Oakland Athletics.

Back-to-back home runs from Michael Brantley and Alex Bregman in the eighth put the Astros out of sight and silenced the crowd.

 

Trout lifts Angels, Mariners mighty comeback

Mike Trout flexed his muscle as the Los Angeles Angels rallied to beat the Chicago White Sox 4-3. At the bottom of the eighth, a visibly pumped Trout's hit gave him an RBI and tied the game. Shohei Ohtani then got on the board after an error by second baseman Nick Madrigal.

The Seattle Mariners trailed 6-1 in the eighth inning against the San Francisco Giants before mounting a remarkable fightback and eventually prevail 8-7. The winning run came when Jake Fraley walked with the bases loaded.

The New York Yankees' bats let them down as they were beaten 3-2 by the Toronto Blue Jays.

The Tampa Day Rays shut out the Miami Marlins in a 1-0 win earned by Austin Meadows' solo home run in the ninth.

 

Bellinger denied by mix-up

Bellinger was denied his first homer of the new season in a moment of confusion, when team-mate Justin Turner, who was on first base, thought Bellinger had been caught in the outfield and ran back. Bellinger's hit was actually fumbled by Raimel Tapia over the fence so when Turner reversed and passed by the left-hander that made him out and resulted in only an RBI single.

 

First homer of season

Detroit Tigers hitter Miguel Cabrera claimed the maiden homer of the new season in driving snow, which left him confused, sliding into base just in case it had not cleared the fence.

 

Thursday's results

Toronto Blue Jays 3-2 New York Yankees
Detroit Tigers 3-2 Cleveland Indians
Milwaukee Brewers 6-5 Minnesota Twins
Pittsburgh Pirates 5-3 Chicago Cubs
Philadelphia Phillies 3-2 Atlanta Braves
Tampa Bay Rays 1-0 Miami Marlins
St Louis Cardinals 11-6 Cincinnati Reds
Colorado Rockies 8-5 Los Angeles Dodgers
San Diego Padres 8-7 Arizona Diamondbacks
Kansas City Royals 14-10 Texas Rangers
Los Angeles Angels 4-3 Chicago White Sox
Houston Astros 8-1 Oakland Athletics 
Seattle Mariners 8-7 San Fransisco Giants 

 

Dodgers to bounce back

The Dodgers will look to bounce back from their opening day loss on Friday on the road again versus the Colorado Rockies.

Opening Day.

A term synonymous with baseball across the United States and the globe. For fans, it is nothing short of a national holiday.

The highly anticipated start to the season on April 1 is an occasion steeped in history, with tradition front and centre.

This year's Opening Day means more than most. It is the latest signal of American life and sport returning to normal amid the COVID-19 crisis.

The coronavirus pandemic led to an enforced break and a reduced 60-game regular season schedule behind closed doors, with a limited number of fans allowed to attend the playoffs as the Los Angeles Dodgers went on to end their 32-year World Series drought.

But 2021 will see the return of the usual 162-game calendar and more importantly, spectators in the stands. All but one of the 30 teams will start at reduced capacity – the Texas Rangers hosting a full house for their home opener against the Toronto Blue Jays.

As America's pastime begins anew, we preview the upcoming season, in which the Dodgers look to defend their World Series crown, using Stats Perform data.
 

Kershaw gears up for a franchise-record start

Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw – entering the final season of his three-year, $93million deal – will be on the mound when the Dodgers open their title defence against the Colorado Rockies.

It will be Kershaw's ninth Opening Day start – the most in franchise history – after injuries prevented him from beginning the 2019 and 2020 campaigns, the eight-time All-Star getting the nod ahead of Walker Buehler and high-profile recruit Trevor Bauer, the reigning National League (NL) Cy Young winner.

Future Hall of Famer Kershaw boasts a 5-1 record on Opening Day, with a 1.05 ERA (6/51.2), 59 strikeouts and eight walks. The 2014 NL MVP's only loss came in his previous start in 2018 as he allowed eight hits and one earned run, while tallying seven strikeouts in six innings against the San Francisco Giants.

Since 1913, when ERA became an official stat, Kershaw has managed the lowest Opening Day figure among pitchers with six starts – 1.05. The 32-year-old's ERA is ahead of Bob Feller (1.21), Jim Palmer (1.40), Hal Newhouser (1.41) and Walter Johnson (1.51).

As for the star-studded Dodgers, they are 74-62 (.544) all-time on Opening Day, winning nine of their 10 season openers since 2011, losing only in 2018.

Their 9-1 (.900) Opening Day record over this stretch is the best in the league, ahead of the Houston Astros (8-2), Baltimore Orioles (8-2), Seattle Mariners (7-3), Detroit Tigers (7-3) and New York Mets (7-3).
 

All eyes on Tatis and Padres

Fernando Tatis Jr. heads into the 2021 season fresh off signing his eye-popping 14-year, $340m contract with the San Diego Padres.

The Padres – winners of two NL pennants – are pinning their hopes on MLB's new poster boy delivering a first World Series to San Diego.

Tatis won a Silver Slugger award last year, having hit .277 with 17 home runs and 45 RBIs in the coronavirus-shortened 2020 season.

The powerful 22-year-old is the first player in MLB history to have at least 35 home runs and 25 stolen bases within the first 150 games of his career.

Tatis – the youngest Padres player to debut on Opening Day (20 years and 85 days) in 2019 – became the fastest player in franchise history (24 team games) to reach the double-digit home run mark in a season in 2020 after hitting his 10th and 11th homers in August.

In the postseason, Tatis homered twice against the St Louis Cardinals in October, becoming the youngest Padre to ever homer in a playoff game (21 years and 273 days) and the third-youngest player in MLB history to homer twice in a postseason match, behind Carlos Correa (21 and 20 days old) and Andruw Jones (19 years, 180 days old).

When it comes to on-base plus slugging, Tatis stacks up well. Since 1920, Tatis (150.8) is only behind Juan Soto (153.9 – 2018-20), Albert Pujols (159.3 – 2001), Jimmie Foxx (160.0 – 1925-29), Ted Williams (161.5 – 1939-40) and Trout (165.0 – 2011-13) for highest OPS-plus up until the age of 21.

Across his two Opening Day appearances, Tatis has three hits in seven at-bats and two runs while slugging at .571. The Padres will be hoping he can improve on that when they host face the Arizona Diamondbacks.

By comparison, Philadelphia Phillies star Bryce Harper and New York Yankees slugger Giancarlo Stanton love Opening Day.

Harper – the 2015 NL MVP and six-time All-Star – has nine hits, five homers and six runs in eight appearances, while 2017 NL MVP Stanton has 13 hits, four homers, 10 runs and 12 RBIs through 10 games.

Blue Jays recruit George Springer, a World Series winner with the Astros, has also impressed on Opening Day following five hits, three homers and six RBIs in six games.
 

Can Abreu and Freeman go back-to-back?

Chicago White Sox star Jose Abreu was crowned the American League's best in 2020.

Becoming the 28th player to win both the MVP and Rookie of the Year in his career, Abreu beat Jose Ramirez of the Cleveland Indians and Yankees star DJ LeMahieu.

Abreu – the fourth White Sox player to win the award – was second in MLB with 19 home runs and fourth in the AL with a .317 batting average.

Freddie Freeman of the Atlanta Braves trumped Dodgers star Mookie Betts and Padres sensation Manny Machado to the NL honour.

Freeman's 1.102 OPS was the second highest in MLB, trailing only Washington Nationals outfielder Juan Soto, while he led the majors with 51 runs scored and was second in the NL in batting average (.341), on-base percentage (.462) and slugging percentage (.640).

Does it bode well for the pair in 2020?

In a season after winning the MVP award, a player averages 135.9 hits, 21.5 homers, 80.5 runs and 79.5 RBIs with a slugging percentage of .516.

There have been 13 players to win back-to-back MVPs; 11-time All-Star Miguel Cabrera (AL) was the last to do so in 2012 and 2013. The most recent player in the NL was Albert Pujols (2008-09).
 

The end of Cleveland as we know them

After 106 years, this will be the last season the franchise will be known as the Indians, following the example of the NFL's Washington Football Team, who dropped their Redskins nickname in 2020 amid a long-time controversy.

Since 1915, Cleveland have won two World Series – in 1920 and 1948 – with their current streak of 71 seasons without a World Series title the longest active run in the majors.

In 1954, Cleveland went 111-43 (.721) in the regular season, before being swept in the World Series by the Giants. It stands as the highest single-season win percentage in AL history, and the best by any MLB team in the past 100 years.

Cleveland have had a winning record in each of the past eight seasons (2013-20), making them one of four MLB teams with an active streak of eight-plus (also Yankees 28, Cardinals 13, Dodgers 10). It is tied for the second-longest streak of winning seasons in franchise history (10 straight 1947-56; eight in a row 1994-2001).

Three Cleveland players have won the AL MVP Award – George Burns (1926), Lou Boudreau (1948) and Al Rosen (1953) – while five have claimed the AL Cy Young Award: Gaylord Perry (1972), C.C. Sabathia (2007), Cliff Lee (2008), Corey Kluber (2014 and 2017) and Shane Bieber (2020).

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