After a long wait over 5 months, MLB‘s opening weekend 2021 finally came around.
MLB Opening Weekend 2021
There was no shortness of excitement, with plenty of great games and individual performances over the four day stretch that featured 50 games.
Let’s take a look at what the biggest stories were from opening weekend.
Shohei Ohtani: Japanese Babe Ruth
In the final game of the weekend, featured in primetime on Sunday Night Baseball, two way star Shohei Ohtani made history.
It was his first ever start as a pitcher where he also hit, and it was the first time a pitcher hit second in the lineup since 1903, when Jack Dunleavy did it for the St. Louis Cardinals.
And boy did he put on a show (no pun intended).
In the first pitch of his first at-bat, he sent a 97 MPH fastball 450 feet into the seats for his second homer of the year.
Ohtani was dealing up until the 5th inning. Joe Maddon left him in too long and 3 runs came in on two wild pitches. Even though the ending didn’t go how most people wanted it to, it was an amazing game to watch and a historic performance for Ohtani.
Also in that White Sox-Angels series, an unsung hero went on a scorching hot tear. With the absence of Eloy Jimenez due to a ruptured pectoral muscle he suffered in a Spring Training game, the White Sox called on a career minor leaguer Yermin Mercedes to fill the hole Jimenez left, and boy did he fill that hole.
Mercedes started the year with 8 straight hits, going 5 for 5 in the second game of the series then going 3 for 3 with a homerun the next day. It’s the first time a player has ever started a season with 8 straight hits since 1900, so it’s quite an impressive feat.
Minnesota’s Jose Berrios and Milwaukee’s Corbin Burnes both took no hitters into the 7th inning. Burnes lost his no-no first when he gave up a solo homerun to Byron Buxton, and was taken out of the game right after.
If you’re not watching Corbin Burnes vs. Jose Berrios right now, you’re doing yourself a great disservice.
— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) April 4, 2021
Berrios was pulled from the game after the 6th inning, and in the 8th inning, Milwaukee finally got in the hit column after a Omar Narvaez single off of Tyler Duffey, 5 outs away from completing the no-hitter. That would end up being the only hit for the Brewers in the game, as the Twins went on to win 2-0.
It was announced on Friday that Major League Baseball will be removing the All-Star Game from the host city of Atlanta due to the change in voting laws in Georgia.
While commissioner Rob Manfred has suffered lots of criticism in his 8 years as commissioner, he has received lots of praise for this move, as these new voting laws have been designed to reduce the amount of minority votes in Georgia.
Major League Baseball has been a huge advocate for equality. Last year, each team represented Black Lives Matter to some extent, in ways like wearing BLM pre game shirts or having it written out on the mound. They have yet to announce a new host city for the game, and many are speculating potential locations being Milwaukee (so they can still celebrate Hank Aaron in a more sensible capacity), Texas, or Colorado.
No more juiced balls?
One of the biggest stories in baseball over the last few seasons was the doctoring of the baseball.
Homeruns were flying out of the yard at a historic pace, and many believed it was due to a change in the production of the baseballs.
So far this season, it seems as if it takes a little more power to hit it out, which could potentially be a bad thing if they deadened the ball too much. However it’s only the first week, so only time will tell if it makes a significant difference.
Five teams left the weekend without a loss. The Astros, Phillies, and Orioles swept their first series of the year, while the Mets and Nationals are yet to play their first game due to COVID complications within the Nationals clubhouse.
Houston absolutely dominated the Oakland A’s and was the only team to end the weekend with 4 wins, and were also the first team to score 8+ runs in their first 4 games since the New York Yankees did it in 2003.
Meanwhile in Philly, the Phillies held the Braves to only 3 runs in the series, led by a dominating performance by Zack Wheeler. There was also shocking effectiveness by the bullpen, as they didn’t allow a run in 7.1 innings pitched.
Lastly, the Orioles offense could not stop hitting against the Red Sox pitching, bringing in 21 runs in the three game set. The pitching staff also shut Boston down, with great starts by John Means and Matt Harvey.
What to look for in Week 2
While it’ll be hard to live up to the excitement of what has already occurred, there will be plenty of incredible matchups to watch.
The Mets are finally starting their season today, with deGrom scheduled to take on the undefeated Phillies. The Nationals are scheduled to start their season vs Atlanta the next day if their COVID issues are solved.
Out on the West Coast, the so far dominant Astros will head to Anaheim in a matchup with the Angels, with both teams fighting for an AL West title.
To conclude the week, the featured Sunday Night Baseball game on ESPN will be between the Braves and the Phillies, with Drew Smyly and Matt Moore set to start for each team. Let’s hope for another week of electric baseball!