MLB Opening Day 2022 Results: Takes and Observations From Day 1April 8, 2022
And just like that, Major League Baseball is one day into its 2022 season.
The offseason lasted longer and had a bit of a different mood than usual, but all that was finally water under the bridge amid a seven-game slate on Thursday. If you missed any of it, the short version is that storylines aplenty emerged on Opening Day.
If it's the long version you want, well, you're in luck. Below are recaps for each of Thursday's openers, complete with obligatory highlights and analysis.
Chicago Cubs 5, Milwaukee Brewers 4
So what do the Cubs have in Seiya Suzuki, their new $85 million man from Japan?
Something quite good, from the looks of it. The 27-year-old reached base three times in his major league debut, twice via bases on balls and another time with a hard single off reigning Cy Young Award winner Corbin Burnes.
The Cubs were otherwise paced to victory by Nico Hoerner's two-run home run off Burnes in the fifth, and later by Ian Happ's go-ahead two-run double in the seventh:
A fun fact about Hoerner's long ball is that it was his first since Sept. 21, 2019, as he then went 325 plate appearances in the minors and majors without one across 2020 and 2021. As such, him hitting the first home run of the season is about as "baseball" as baseball gets.
Another boost the Cubs got was from "The Professor" himself, Kyle Hendricks. He went into Opening Day off a 4.77 ERA in 2021 and a 9.53 ERA in spring training, but he didn't look much like a slouch as he was racking up 17 swings and misses (including 13 on nasty-looking changeups) over 5.1 innings of one-run ball.
For their part, the Brewers outhit the Cubs 10-8 and at least got four excellent innings out of Burnes—even if he did record his first walk a tad sooner than in 2021—before he hit a wall in the fifth. He also worked at a noticeably brisk pace while using the new PitchCom system, so there's now at least one real-life datapoint in favor of the notion that it will speed up games.
St. Louis Cardinals 9, Pittsburgh Pirates 0
Sometimes you can say "you love to see it" and actually mean it. For example, when 42-year-old Albert Pujols was introduced at Busch Stadium as a St. Louis Cardinal again after 11 years away:
In addition to the beginning of Pujols' major league swan song, Thursday also marked the 305th time that right-hander Adam Wainwright and catcher Yadier Molina have teamed up as a battery. It went as so many of their other daily partnerships have gone, with Wainwright shoving with six shutout innings and Molina helping out defensively.
Yet even while St. Louis' 2022 opener was ostensibly all about honoring the old guard, it was a member of the new guard who provided the big offensive blow. Namely, Tyler O'Neill in the second inning with an absolute rope of a three-run homer:
Consider this your reminder to keep an eye on O'Neill as a dark-horse candidate for the National League MVP. The guy is already a two-time Gold Glover, and he's apparently still feeling the rhythm that guided him to 13 home runs in the final month of 2021.
As for the Pirates, their pitchers issued more walks (seven) than their batters had hits (six), and all of the latter were singles. They also got a scare when they had to immediately remove ascendant third baseman Ke'Bryan Hayes with a forearm injury mere hours after agreeing to terms with him on a franchise-record $70 million contract.
Oh, and in case any Pirates fans are wondering about the guy who's playing shortstop while 6'7", 220-pound super-prospect Oneil Cruz marinates in the minors, Kevin Newman got caught stealing and made an error.
Kansas City Royals 3, Cleveland Guardians 1
A short way to the west on I-70, still another emotional return took place at Kauffman Stadium when Zack Greinke made his first start for the Royals since 2010.
That the 38-year-old struck out only one batter in 5.2 innings paints a more or less accurate picture of where his stuff is at these days. And yet, he also painted an equally accurate picture of how well he can still pitch by allowing just one run on five hits and a walk.
Meanwhile, the hitting hero for the Royals on Thursday is one who ought to be specializing in all sorts of heroics for them in years to come: Bobby Witt Jr.
Ranked as MLB.com's No. 1 prospect coming into the season, the 21-year-old put an exclamation mark on his major league debut with a go-ahead double in the eighth:
Kansas City Royals @Royals
Bobby has arrived! <a href="https://twitter.com/MLB?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@MLB</a> Hit No. 1 is a big one!<a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/OpeningDay?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#OpeningDay</a> // <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/TogetherRoyal?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#TogetherRoyal</a> <a href="https://t.co/jtEdB7Cz2o">pic.twitter.com/jtEdB7Cz2o</a>
See that swing? That's a Mike Trout swing. Not just in the sense that it produced a loud sound and a good result, but in that Witt literally swings it just like the Los Angeles Angels' three-time MVP. That'll play. Heck, it already is playing.
One run for the Guardians? Sounds about right for an offense that's thin on impact hitters outside of the newly extended Jose Ramirez, who drove in said run with a double in the fourth. At some point, fixing that might require adding salary to a payroll that's fourth from the bottom of MLB at the start of the season.
Regarding 2020 American League Cy Young Award winner Shane Bieber, he was mostly effective through 4.2 innings but with a fastball that was stuck in the low 90s. It surely bears mentioning that the weather in Kansas City was the opposite of pleasant, yet it's not the best omen after he missed half of last season with a shoulder injury.
Cincinnati Reds 6, Atlanta 3
As if it didn't bode poorly enough for Atlanta that no team has repeated as World Series champions in over 20 years, the club now has an 0-1 hole to climb out of as it begins its title defense.
In fairness, it wasn't an altogether awful night for the defending champs. Max Fried, especially, was better than his final line (5.2 IP, 8 H, 5 R, 1 BB, 5 K) suggests. The Reds did get some hard hits, but on the whole their 19 balls in play off Fried averaged just 81.7 mph.
Fried also got his fastball up to 98 mph, yet even that didn't make him the nastiest pitcher who took the mound on a night when both sides struck out 13 times. For that honor, we'll lean toward Spencer Strider on account of how he whiffed five of the six batters he faced:
On paper, Strider went into Opening Day looking like a middle man in Atlanta's bullpen. With stuff like that, he could be yet another high-leverage guy alongside Kenley Jansen, Will Smith and Tyler Matzek for manager Brian Snitker.
Oh, right. The Reds actually won this game.
For that, credit underrated ace Tyler Mahle. Starting in place of the injured Luis Castillo, the righty allowed just one unearned run on three hits and two walks to set the tone for the four pitchers who would follow. Combined, they permitted Atlanta just one more hit.
If nothing else, a W on Opening Day is a much-needed palate cleanser for Reds fans after they watched their team dismantle its roster as part of a payroll-cutting mission during the offseason. Yet the Reds also have the third-best FanGraphs playoff odds in the National League Central, so...hey, you never know.
New York Mets 5, Washington Nationals 1
The start of this one was delayed by rain, and the fans who stayed to cheer on the home team eventually got a chance to get excited courtesy of Juan Soto's 99th career home run:
It may have only counted for one run, but it was also the hardest-hit ball of the contest at 111 mph. That'll do for an early indication that Soto's exit velocity is going to take yet another step up in 2022, in which case he should hit for even more power to go with an OBP that's sure to be well above .400.
Comparatively, Mets hitters didn't hit one over the fence and thus had to scratch together their five runs. The bottom of the lineup did the bulk of the work, with Mark Canha and Jeff McNeil combining for four hits and two runs batted in.
Though the Mets have Cy Young Award winners Jacob deGrom and Max Scherzer plus Chris Bassitt, Carlos Carrasco and Taijuan Walker on their roster, injuries and other weirdness forced them to go with Tylor Megill as their Opening Day starter. Not that this proved to be a bad thing, as he twirled five shutout innings with the help of some serious gas:
Anthony DiComo @AnthonyDiComo
Tylor Megill threw 98 mph by Juan Soto to quell a threatening Nationals rally in the third -- runners on the corners, one out.<br><br>Megill has run into some poor luck tonight but has still managed to throw up zeroes.<br><br>Mets 0, Nationals 0 after three. <a href="https://t.co/5el2faknn0">pic.twitter.com/5el2faknn0</a>
The Mets' opening win did end on a bit of a sour note when Pete Alonso had to depart after taking a 95 mph fastball off his shoulder and chin flap in the ninth inning. He thankfully avoided major damage, because the last thing the Mets needed was MLB's leading home run hitter since 2019 joining deGrom on the injured list.
Arizona Diamondbacks 4, San Diego Padres 2
Raise a glass to Seth Beer, who had everyone at Chase Field all abuzz when he provided the nightcap for Arizona with a walk-off three-run home run in the ninth:
Beer and the Diamondbacks drunk up the glory as he rounded the bases, and...well, you don't need any more puns to get the idea. The D-backs won, and thus already need just 51 more wins to match last year's total.
For the Padres, one bright side is that Yu Darvish looked recovered from the aches and pains that hampered him in the back half of 2021. The ace righty walked four batters, but he had his fastball up to 97 mph as he allowed no hits or runs in six innings. The no-no he started only ended when Tim Hill gave up a leadoff single to Pavin Smith in the seventh.
Though the Dads still managed to outhit the Snakes 4-3, it doesn't make for a great first impression for the former's offense that it had such a sleepy night even against a shaky Madison Bumgarner and the five relievers who followed him. Without Fernando Tatis Jr., there's a certain vibe that just isn't there.
Since Tatis might not be recovered from his broken wrist until around the All-Star break, the Padres will have to try to get that vibe from other sources.
Houston Astros 3, Los Angeles Angels 1
It took mere minutes for reigning American League MVP Shohei Ohtani to achieve a new historic feat on Thursday, becoming the first player in AL/NL history to start his team's season both on the mound and at the plate:
The pitching? It was good. Ohtani hit 100 mph on his first pitch of the night to Jose Altuve, who he then punched out for the first of his nine strikeouts through 4.2 innings.
However, that's about it for positive takeaways from this game for the Angels.
Theirs is yet another offense that had a sleepy night, with Matt Duffy collecting two of the team's four hits. Mike Trout managed just a single in his return from last year's calf injury, while fellow Comeback Player of the Year candidate Anthony Rendon went 0-for-4. Meanwhile, breakout candidate Jo Adell struck out three times and had some misadventures in the outfield.
For the visitors, occasional ace Framber Valdez stole the pitching show after Ohtani departed. He retired 15 in a row at one point and ultimately allowed just two hits and a walk with six strikeouts over 6.2 innings of shutout ball. Not a bad way to fill in for Justin Verlander, who wasn't quite ready to go on Thursday.
Otherwise, the difference in the game offensively came via the back-to-back jacks by Alex Bregman and Yordan Alvarez in the eighth:
Wait, Ryan Tepera? Isn't he the same guy who accused the Astros of being up to "sketchy stuff" when he faced the Astros with the Chicago White Sox in last year's playoffs?
Yup, sure is. Say what you will about how good Astros hitters are, but they clearly have good memories.
Also, bully for Bregman. He became somewhat invisible in Houston after finishing second to Trout in the 2019 AL MVP race, so beginning his 2022 season with two hits, a homer and a pair of RBI marks a substantial step in the right direction.
Stats courtesy of Baseball Reference and Baseball Savant.