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April 2, 2018 - Source: Elsa/Getty Images North America

Brett Borzelli

A Wild Opening Week

Didi Gregorius makes history, as do the Dodgers and Giants. Shohei Ohtani dazzles in his debut, while the defending champion Astros surge to a 6-1 start. Brett Borzelli presents highlights from Major League Baseball’s wild 2018 Opening Week.

“You always get a special kick on Opening Day, no matter how many you go through. You look forward to it like a birthday party when you’re a kid. You think something wonderful is going to happen.” – Joe DiMaggio

For baseball fans, only two seasons exist — baseball season and winter. Opening Day simply can’t come soon enough. When that hallowed day finally arrives, the wonderfulness manifests just as Joltin’ Joe promised.

Even though winter still stubbornly refuses to depart some parts of the country, baseball season is finally upon us. Let’s take a look back at some of the highlights from a magical first week of baseball.

Didi Gregorius Makes History

Snow pushed back the Yankees’ home opener by a day, but it was well worth the wait. Didi Gregorius made history by driving in eight runs. New York’s “infield captain” became the first Yankee shortstop ever to knock in eight runs in a game, and only the sixth in MLB history to accomplish the feat. Sir Didi’s eight RBIs now stands as the new record for most by any player during his team’s home opener.

Gregorius went 4-for-4 with a walk in five plate appearances on the day. He singled, doubled, and belted a pair of three-run homers to lift the Yankees to an 11-4 victory over the visiting Tampa Bay Rays. The cold and rain-soaked crowd at Yankee Stadium surely experienced a thrill on Tuesday.

The Yankees’ shortstop wasn’t the only pinstriped hero to grab headlines during Opening Week. In his debut as a Yankee last Thursday in Toronto, Giancarlo Stanton smacked two home runs — including one in his first plate appearance. On Wednesday, during only his second game at The House That Ruth Built as a member of the Yankees, the reigning National League MVP smashed a 458-foot home run. With an exit velocity of 117.9 MPH, the rocket was the hardest hit ball of this young MLB season.

Yankee fans celebrated Wednesday’s 7-2 win for another reason. It marked the first time that the three-headed right-handed hitting monster Stanton, Aaron Judge, and Gary Sanchez homered in the same game. Fans throughout The Empire eagerly anticipated this event since Stanton’s acquisition from Miami over the winter.

Stanton and Gregorius aren’t the only Yankees to produce multi-homer games. Tyler Austin clubbed a pair of dingers during Saturday’s contest. Only six games into the season and the Yankees boast three players with multi-homer outbursts. That’s the soonest in franchise history.

Shohei Ohtani Dazzles

With spring training winding down, Shohei Ohtani’s place on the Angels’ Opening Day roster remained uncertain. Owing to his underwhelming Cactus League performance, some speculated that Ohtani might start the season in the minors. Manager Mike Scioscia put that talk to rest, though, when he announced that Ohtani would be in the Halos’ Opening Day lineup and would also pitch their fourth game. The rest, as they say, is history.

Ohtani dazzled during his pitching debut in Oakland on Sunday. He experienced only one bad inning. In the second, he allowed a pair of singles followed by a three-run homer to Matt Chapman. The Athletics managed only one other baserunner for the rest of the game, which came in the form of a walk. Ohtani pitched six innings on the day, including four perfect frames. He struck out six batters while earning his first career MLB win.

So far, Ohtani served as the Angels’ designated hitter in three games. On Opening Day in Oakland on Thursday, he singled in his first MLB plate appearance. On Tuesday, he slugged a three-run homer in his first trip to the batter’s box at Angel Stadium.

The following day, Ohtani hit a two-run game-tying blast against incumbent Cy Young Award winner Corey Kluber. Kluber carried a no-hitter into the fifth inning of that game. He allowed a single to Andrelton Simmons to spoil the no-hit bid and Ohtani drove him in with the dramatic home run. The Angels ended up winning the game by a score of 3-2 in thirteen innings.

All totaled, Ohtani played a major role in three of his club’s five victories. He certainly appears to be the impact player that Halos’ fans hoped he would be.

Amazing, Historic Series in Los Angeles

The Giants and Dodgers renewed hostilities with an amazing season-opening set in Los Angeles. All four games were shutouts. This marked the first time in MLB history that a four-game series to start a season all ended with one team failing to score.

The historic series began with a pair of magnificent pitching duels. On Opening Day, Ty Blach started for San Francisco and tossed five innings of three-hit ball. A quartet of relievers completed the shutout. Clayton Kershaw was the tough-luck loser for Los Angeles. He surrendered a fifth-inning home solo homer to second baseman Joe Panik for the only run of the game.

As unbelievable as it sounds, Panik homered again the following night for the sole run of that game. This time, he beat Dodgers’ closer Kenley Jansen in the ninth inning with the teams deadlocked in a scoreless tie. Johnny Cueto allowed one hit over seven innings for San Francisco, while Alex Wood stretched his one-hitter to eight innings. Wood’s no-hitter was broken up in the fifth inning, while Cueto maintained his into the seventh. Tony Watson and Hunter Strickland completed the shutout with two perfect frames of relief for the Giants.

After losing each of the first two games 1-0, the Dodgers bounced back by beating their rivals 5-0 on Saturday behind Kenta Maeda and 9-0 on Sunday behind Rich Hill. Los Angeles became the first team in MLB history to limit an opponent to two runs or fewer in a four-game season-opening set. The Dodgers also matched the 1915 Phillies for the fewest runs allowed over the first four games of a season. This marked the first time in the Giants’ 136-year history that they failed to score more than one run in each of their first four games to start a season.

Bryce Harper and Matt Davidson Go Yard

On Thursday, Matt Davidson clubbed three home runs to help lift his White Sox to a 14-7 win over the Royals in Kansas City. Davidson becomes just the fourth player in history to go yard three times on Opening Day. As a team, the White Sox hit six home runs, tying the major league record held by the 1988 Mets for most long balls on Opening Day.

Bryce Harper powered the Nationals to a 4-2 record to start the season. He boasts a Ruthian 1.517 OPS and has nine walks against only two strikeouts in 29 plate appearances. Along with Charlie Blackmon, Brian Dozier, and Davidson, Harper leads the majors with four home runs. He shares baseball’s RBI lead with Justin Smoak, Freddie Freeman, and Gregorius. Each has knocked in nine runs.

Astros Surge to 6-1 Start

One week into the season, the defending World Series champion Houston Astros hold the best record in baseball at 6-1. They have outscored opponents 41 to 20, and are tied with the Braves for baseball’s best run differential (+21). Houston’s pitching staff boasts a 2.47 ERA, trailing only Boston (2.21). The Astros took three of four from the Rangers in Arlington to open the season, then went home to Minute Maid to sweep the Orioles in a three-game series.

The Red Sox and Diamondbacks jumped out to 5-1 starts, while the Mets stand at 4-1. The surprising Pirates were baseball’s sole remaining undefeated team after winning their first four games. Pittsburgh fell to Minnesota on Wednesday. Atlanta leads the majors with 48 runs scored, while the Twins and Mets have allowed the fewest runs (13) to date.

What a wild Opening Week for baseball fans! More thrills await since nine teams have yet to play their home openers. The Rockies, Indians, Cardinals, Nationals, Phillies, Twins, White Sox, and Red Sox all host their first games of the 2018 campaign on either Thursday or Friday. The Cubs, meanwhile, must wait until Monday to play their first game of the year in Wrigley. The wonder of Opening Week promises to continue for those clubs and their fans.

Main Photo: April 2, 2018 – Source: Elsa/Getty Images North America

Brett Borzelli writes about the New York Yankees on Pinstripe Alley and Baseknock MLB. He is a member of the IBWAA. You may peruse his Baseknock MLB articles by clicking here.

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