MLB Notebook: The 2024 season opened with a bang

Brett Holden
3 months ago
Opening Day has finally arrived. This is for real now, and what an Opening Day we were treated to.
Unfortunately for four teams, their Opening Day would be delayed as inclement weather extended through the East Coast, the New York Mets, Milwaukee Brewers, Philadelphia Phillies, and Atlanta Braves were all left on the sidelines as they watched the other 26 teams kick off the 2024 MLB season.
First up was Mike Trout’s Los Angeles Angels facing off against baseball’s most exciting young team, the Baltimore Orioles. Fresh off new ownership and an injury-fueled spring, the youthful O’s deployed a new acquisition, Corbin Burnes, as their Opening Day starter. The Angels enter the season sans their premiere Japanese superstar, Shohei Ohtani, but Trout reminded everyone he is still around on Thursday. As Burnes whiffed both Anthony Rendon and Aaron Hicks to start the season, Mike Trout stepped up to the plate and reminded the baseball world why he is one of the best players in the game. Trout hastily fouled off the first offer from Burnes and then spat on an 87 mph slider down-and-away, Trout blasted a 1-1 slider that just stayed over the plate a little too long, over the left-center-field fence and into the Orioles bullpen for the first homer of Opening Day. 
However, almost conducive to the Angels expectations, Burnes and the O’s shut the rest of the Halos down as the offense went to work scoring 11 runs on ten hits. Orioles pitching would only allow one more hit throughout the game, which came in the eighth as Luis Rengifo would leg out a tight double. The Angels would score two more runs that inning after Jorge Mateo spiked a double-play ball throwing to first, scoring Rengifo and youngster Nolan Schanuel, who reached base on a walk. Trout’s Ohtani-less Angels would go on to lose their Opening Day matchup, 11-3… but at least Trout hit a homer, I guess, right Anaheim?
But Trout wasn’t the only star out of Southern California to have a booming Opening Day. The glitz and glamour around the Los Angeles Dodgers and their big three headlined the offseason and on Opening Day, the Blue Crew was finally able to debut their stars on home turf. Mookie Betts, Shohei Ohtani, and Freddie Freeman would top the Dodgers lineup on Thursday and boy did they show up. Betts started the game with a lead-off full-count walk leading to Shohei Ohtani’s first home at-bat in front of Dodgers fans. As Chavez Ravine roared and rose to their feet, Ohtani rose to the occasion. After going down 1-2 to start the at-bat, Shohei would poke a changeup down-and-away over Paul Goldschmidt’s head and all the way to the wall. Ohtani would get caught trying to leg the hit into a triple, but Betts was held at third and Shohei would be caught in the middle, keeping his first hit at Dodger Stadium at a double. 
But it wouldn’t end with Ohtani. The third head of this brand-new three-headed-monster in Hollywood, Freddie Freeman, stepped up to the plate with Mookie Betts on third. Freeman worked the count full and smacked a single through the shallow infield for the Dodgers’ first run of the season on North American soil. The big three would go on to combine for five hits in eight at-bats, bringing in for of L.A.’s seven runs, and two home runs from both Betts and Freeman. It was the exact start the Dodgers were hoping for from their superstars, setting the groundwork for what should be a beyond-impressive 2024. 
But they weren’t the only new stars in Dodger Blue to have an impressive Dodger Stadium debut. Tyler Glasnow, who Los Angeles acquired from the Rays in a massive trade over the winter, diced the Cardinals all game. Glasnow finished the game with five strikeouts in six innings pitched, only allowing the lone run of the game in the fourth inning off a Paul Goldschmidt long ball. Glasnow improves to 1-0 on the season after his no-decision in South Korea. The new guys are shining in Tinsel Town. 
Speaking of new guys, Juan Soto made quite the impression on his new team. Soto, who was traded to the Yankees in December, made his pinstripes debut as the Yanks faced off against the Houston Astros. Now, it did not start too well for Soto and the Bronx Bombers in Houston. The Astros smacked around Nestor Cortes, who was named Opening Day starter for New York after Gerrit Cole went down with an injury, committing to Carlos Rodon for the second game of the year, and Marcus Stroman declining the start, allowing four runs in the first two innings, including a home run from Jake Meyers to top it off in the bottom of the second. But the tides began to turn for the Astros in the fifth.
Framber Valdez would walk two of the first three batters he saw in the inning, plus an infield single from Oswaldo Cabrera would load the bases for none other than Juan Soto. After going down 0-1, Soto would fight back to a 2-1 count. On the fourth pitch of the at-bat, Soto would line one to right field out to Kyle Tucker as the Yankees would score their first run of the 2024 season, cashed by their premiere offseason addition, Juan Soto. New York would go on to score two more in the inning, bringing them to within one. The very next inning, Oswaldo Cabera would do it again as he smacked a ball to deep right field, tying the game at four. But, it didn’t end there. The Yankees would score their fifth run in three innings in the top of the seventh as Aaron Judge would smack a double to the wall in left field and would eventually come around to score the go-ahead run off an Alex Verdugo sacrifice fly to Chas McCormick. 
The Astros would push for the tying run late in the game. After Mauricio Dubón and Yordan Álvarez reached base in the bottom of the ninth, Kyle Tucker stepped up to the plate. After watching the first offer from Clay Holmes, Tucker cranked the 1-0 offering into right field for a base hit. The Astros would wave Dubón home, but that was a mistake. Tucker’s hit would roll all the way to Soto in right field as La Fiera would cock back and absolutely gun Dubon at home plate, preserving New York’s lead. Despite Houston’s best efforts at challenging the play for blocking the plate, the call on the play stood as Juan Soto saves the game for the Yankees, winning his first game in Bronx Pinstripes. 
The Yankees weren’t the only AL East team to cash in a massive win on Opening Day. The Toronto Blue Jays continued their season-opening win streak as they put up an eight spot on division rivals, the Tampa Bay Rays. The Jays have won each of their last five Opening Day games with their big bats carrying them over the Rays. Toronto got big fly’s from George Springer, Cavan Biggio, and Vladimir Guerrero Jr., who launched a massive 455-foot moon shot that may have landed back in Dunedin. Bo Bichette brought home two runs as he pulled one down the line for a double, one of his two hits in the game. Alejandro Kirk also got in on the action on Thursday, smacking a single through the infield, scoring two runs in the top of the sixth; a positive sign for both Kirk and the Jays as the catcher looks to bounce back from a rocky 2023 season. 
It wasn’t just the Jays bats that were hot on Opening Day, their arms had a solid day as well. José Berríos made his fourth career Opening Day start, his second with Toronto, and he threw well. A tough start for the Puerto Rican right-hander as Yandy Diaz blasted an inside changeup over the short left-field wall, taking the lead for Tampa Bay. Berríos locked in after the hiccup, fanning six over six innings. Berríos would allow six hits but mitigated the damage until his final inning where Yandy would strike again. Diaz sliced an outside slurve that got by a diving Springer, scoring the runner from second base. The Jays bullpen shut it down from there as Trevor Richards, Nate Pearson, and Tim Mayza closed out the game for Toronto’s first victory of the season. 
Finally, the defending champs, the Texas Rangers hosted the Chicago Cubs which ended in an absolutely bizarre fashion. The game started off relatively ordinary as the Cubbies scored in the first inning, the Rangers responded with a Josh Jung RBI double, then both teams traded runs in the sixth. However, things ramped up in the ninth inning. After Closer José Leclerc walked two batters with two outs, Leclerc and his Catcher Jonah Heim thought they got Miles Mastrobuoni to foul off a pitch below the zone, but the umpire thought otherwise. Home Plate Umpire, Chad Fairchild said Mastrobuoni did not touch the pitch and when the ball rolled behind Heim, Michael Busch rounded third base and scored the go-ahead run in the top of the ninth. The ball was clearly fouled upon replay, but since the play is unreviewable, the call on the field must stand, meaning the Cubs just stole the potential winning run off a blown call. Mastrobuoni would line out to the center fielder as the Cubs looked to close out the game for their first win of the season over the reigning World Series champions… That would not be the case. 
Travis Jankowski pinch hit in the bottom of the ninth to matchup against Adbert Alzolay. Jankowski would work a full count where on the sixth pitch of the at-bat, he crushed the inside slider 396 feet over the right-field fence to tie the game. Oh, how cruel and forgiving the Baseball Gods can be. The game would go to extra innings where the Cubs threatened to take the lead once again, loading the bases for Christopher Morel. Rangers reliever David Robertson got Morel to pop up in shallow right to escape the danger… Cue the storybook ending. 
After also loading the bases, the Rangers would send their rookie, Wyatt Langford, to the plate. Langford got his first MLB hit in the bottom of the eighth but would be unable to cash in the winning run, grounding into a fielder’s choice to keep the game tied; Up comes Jonah Heim. Heim, who was in the middle of the whole foul-ball debacle, had the chance to right Fairchild’s wrongdoings. Down 0-1 after fouling off Drew Smyly’s first pitch, Heim would smack a high sinker into the opposite field as Josh Jung would cross the plate and the World Series champs walk off their Opening Day with a win.
From dramatic finishes to heroic debuts, Opening Day had it all this year. Baseball is so back, baby. 

Quick Notes:

  • Tyler O’Neill hits fifth straight Opening Day home run. The Canadian has set a record for the most homers hit on consecutive Opening Days as he makes his debut with the Boston Red Sox. The BoSox would go on to win the game 6-4. 
  • Jordan Montgomery finally signs a contract with the Arizona Diamondbacks. Montgomery signs with the D-Backs on a two-year, $25 million deal.
  • D-Backs set a franchise record after scoring 14 runs in one inning. Arizona scored all 14 runs in the third inning with seven RBI singles, three doubles, and a sacrifice fly. The Diamondbacks went on to win their home opener against the Rockies, 16-1. 

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