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).

Minnesota Twins bench coach Mike Bell, the brother of Cincinnati Reds manager David, has died following a short battle with cancer.

The Twins announced Bell's passing aged 46 in a statement on Friday.

Bell, who was appointed to Minnesota's coaching staff prior to the 2020 season, had missed spring training after being diagnosed with kidney cancer earlier this year.

"The Minnesota Twins are devastated by the loss of Mike Bell," a team statement read.

"In his short time with our club, Mike had an indelibly positive impact - not only on the quality of our team on the field, but most importantly upon everyone whom he met.

"Widely respected in our game, all who knew Mike, on and off the field, are better for the experience."

The Twins said "at the request of the Bell family" they would fulfil Friday's preseason game against the Atlanta Braves "in honour of Mike".

As well as being the brother of Reds manager David, Bell was the son of five-time All-Star Buddy and grandson of four-time All-Star Gus.

Bell had a short playing career in Cincinnati before a 13-year association with the Arizona Diamondbacks in a variety of roles.

The Los Angeles Dodgers confirmed the signing of free agent Trevor Bauer on a three-year deal on Thursday.

Bauer, who was the National League Cy Young award winner with the Cincinnati Reds in 2020, confirmed last week he was joining the Dodgers instead of the New York Mets.

The 30-year-old pitcher will reportedly earn a record-breaking $40million in his first season with the World Series champions in 2021.

Bauer is set to then break that record again in 2022 as he earns $45m, although there are opt-out clauses after both years. It is said he will then take in $17m in the final year of his contract.

The ex-UCLA ace, who was presented at Dodger Stadium, is the first Cy Young winner to enter free agency since Greg Maddux in 1992.

Bauer led the NL in ERA (1.73), WHIP (0.795), opponents' batting average (.159), opponents' BABIP (.215), adjusted ERA-plus (276), hits per nine innings (5.1), shutouts (two) and complete games (two) in the coronavirus-shortened 2020 campaign.

The 2018 All-Star also ranked second in strikeouts (100) and strikeouts per nine innings (12.3).

"This season is about making sure history remembers us as we wish to be remembered. This season is about adding to our legacy. And I can't wait, Dodger fans."

While the Los Angeles Dodgers are yet to announce the deal, Trevor Bauer revealed his free-agency decision via his YouTube channel on Friday.

Hot off being crowned the National League (NL) Cy Young award winner with the Cincinnati Reds in 2020, Bauer is getting paid after the opting to join World Series champions the Dodgers instead of the New York Mets in a record-breaking deal.

Bauer - the first Cy Young winner to enter free agency since Greg Maddux in 1992 - is reportedly due to earn $40million in 2021 and $45m in 2022. The 2021 salary would make him the highest-paid player in MLB history, a record he would break again the following year.

The right-handed ace will help form an intimidating Dodgers bullpen, which also includes past Cy Young winners Clayton Kershaw and David Price, plus star pitcher Walker Buehler.

As Bauer looks to experience success in Los Angeles, where Mookie Betts, Cody Bellinger and Corey Seager spearheaded the Dodgers to World Series glory for the first time since 1988, we take a look at the numbers behind the 30-year-old using Stats Perform Data.

Bauer joins Cy Young club but is success on the horizon?

Bauer led the NL in ERA (1.73), WHIP (0.795), opponents' batting average (.159), opponents' BABIP (.215), adjusted ERA-plus (276), hits per nine innings (5.1), shutouts (two) and complete games (two) in the coronavirus-shortened 2020 campaign.

He also ranked second in strikeouts (100) and strikeouts per nine innings (12.3).

In nine seasons since he broke into the majors with the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2012, Bauer is 75-64 with 1,279 strikeouts and a 3.90 ERA. His only All-Star selection came in 2018.

Bauer is the eighth reigning Cy Young award winner to change teams that subsequent offseason after taking his talents to LA, and the fourth to do so in free agency, following Catfish Hunter (1975), Mark Davis (1990), Maddux (1993), David Cone (1995), Pedro Martinez (1998), Roger Clemens (1999) and R.A. Dickey (2013).

Did those players go on to enjoy further success?

Hunter made two All-Star teams with the New York Yankees in 1975 and 1976, Maddux won the NL Cy Young in that 1993 season with the Atlanta Braves as well as in 1994 and 1995 while he also earned All-Star selection between 1994-98 and in 2000, to go with Gold Glove honours in his first 10 years in Atlanta, where World Series victory followed.

Cone was an All-Star with the Yankees in 1997 and 1999, Martinez earned Cy Young Awards with the Boston Red Sox in 1999 and 2000, made All-Star teams in 1998, 1999, 2000 and 2002 (and in 2005 and 2006 with the Mets).

Clemens was a Cy Young winner with the Yankees in 2001 and the Houston Astros in 2004. He also made All-Star teams in 2001 and 2003-05 (the latter with the Astros), while Dickey's first year in Toronto saw him secure Gold Glove status.

Ace trio to lead back-to-back bid?

The star-studded Dodgers now boast three Cy Young winners in superstar Kershaw, veteran Price and Bauer.

The last team with three? The 2014 Detroit Tigers, who had a certain Price, Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer in their rotation.

That 2014 Tigers side went 90-72 and won the American League (AL) Central, but were swept by the Baltimore Orioles in the American League Division Series (ALDS) 3-0. 

The Cy Young trio started those three playoff games, combining to go 0-2 with a 4.43 ERA. Detroit did not acquire Price that year until the trade deadline; from August 1 to the end of the regular season, the Tigers were 32-25 with a 3.94 team ERA (3.97 from starters).

The Dodgers are the first World Series champions to add a reigning Cy Young award winner that offseason, after the 1999 Yankees, who prised Clemens to New York and went on to win the ultimate prize that year. 

But how does Bauer compare to three-time Cy winner Kershaw (32) and 2012 recipient Price (35)?

Bauer's career numbers do not really measure up to the other two, especially Kershaw, with the exception of his strikeout rate - the younger Bauer comes in at 9.7, level with Kershaw and ahead of Price (8.8).

But just looking at the last three seasons, Bauer has more than held his own.

Since 2018, Bauer has a .211 BA allowed percentage - fewer than Kershaw (.220) and Price (.241).

When it comes to strikeouts per nine innings, Bauer comes in at 11.2, ahead of Price (9.7) and Kershaw (9.2), while the Dodgers recruit (1.0) has fared much better than Price (1.3) and Kershaw (1.2) when it comes to home runs per nine innings.

Bauer also has postseason and World Series experience, having made 10 playoff appearances with the Cleveland Indians and one with the Reds. 

In the NL Wild Card Series against the Braves last season, Bauer allowed just two hits and struck out 12 over 7.3 innings.

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