Major League Baseball's Opening Day in 2013 featured a full slate of games on Monday, and Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw put on a show.
Kershaw wasn't the only player who impressed in the first game of the year, either.
The MLB season is long and arduous, and what happens on Opening Day is usually long forgotten by the time the playoffs arrive. That said, now that the season has finally arrived, it's impossible not to laud those who excelled above and beyond their peers.
Without further ado, here are the men who put on the best performances from Monday's action around the league.
Clayton Kershaw, Pitcher, Los Angeles Dodgers
If Kershaw's performance on Monday is any indication, he's going to be tough to score on in 2013.
Kershaw pitched a complete-game shutout, allowing just four hits, zero walks and striking out seven.
He never once got himself into a real jam, as Ken Gurnick of MLB.com points out: "The only threat Kershaw faced was in the first inning when Pablo Sandoval singled with two outs and was wild-pitched to second. But Kershaw struck out Posey to end the inning."
Pitching a complete-game shutout to open the season would have been good enough, but Kershaw has more up his sleeve.
With the score tied 0-0 in the bottom of the eighth inning, Kershaw took one mighty swing and sent the first pitch he saw deep to center field, hitting his first career home run.
ESPN's Baseball Tonight reported that it was the first time in history that a pitcher shut out an opponent and hit a home run on Opening Day:
Baseball Tonight @BBTN
#SFvsLAD: @ClaytonKersh22 1st pitcher to hit HR & pitch shutout on #OpeningDay. @Dodgers defeat @SFGiants 4-0. http://t.co/BPN0CjRYET2013-4-1 22:45:21
That's how you get a season kicked off, and the Dodgers ended up winning the game 4-0.
Bryce Harper, Left Field, Washington Nationals
Harper is one of MLB's brightest young stars, and he got his 2013 campaign started with a bang.
Actually, make that two bangs.
The Nationals won their opener by a score of 2-0, and Harper provided all the offense Washington needed with two solo dingers—one in the bottom of the first inning, and one in the bottom of the fourth.
As SportsCenter pointed out, Harper is now on pace to hit 342 home runs:
Bryce Harper has just done it again! Harper goes deep for his 2nd time on #OpeningDay. Yes, he's on pace for 324 home runs!2013-4-1 18:08:30
After a rookie season that proved Harper has the game to become one of baseball's greats, this young man is set to explode with a monster season in 2013.
Collin Cowgill, Center Field, New York Mets
Cowgill has spent more time in the minor leagues in his pro career than he's spent playing in the bigs. Before this season, he had accumulated just 196 career at-bats, leading to just two home runs and 18 RBI.
After Monday's show at Citi Field, Mets fans might be seeing a lot more of Cowgill in 2013.
The Mets took a 7-2 lead into the seventh inning, and with two outs and the bases loaded, Cowgill delivered his first career grand slam to bust the game wide open in favor of the home team, which ended up winning by a score of 11-2.
According to the team's official Twitter account, Cowgill's slam was only the second grand slam on Opening Day in team history:
New York Mets @Mets
More Cowgill!!! WOW!!!!!!! @Ccowgill12 first career grand slam and second by a Met on Opening Day. Todd Hundley in '95 was the other.2013-4-1 19:43:51
I got a fever, and the only prescription is more Cowgill!
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