Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Top 10 moments from Opening Day 2015

How great was Opening Day?
Ask Sonny Gray. Or Hanley Ramirez. Or Dustin Pedroia. Maybe Todd FrazierJoe Nathan or Clay BuchholzJimmy Rollins or Mike Trout might be able to give you an answer. And, now that he has some time on his hands, Bud Selig could probably give you a good answer too.
From Masahiro Tanaka's first pitch at Yankee Stadium to the last pitch at Chase Field, Major League Baseball's 140th Opening Day was a treasure trove of familiar faces in new places and the drama that makes this one of the best days of the year.
Any year. Every year.
This year, here were my 10 favorite moments:
Very little Gray area in A's victory
Bob Feller is the only big leaguer to ever throw a no-hitter in a season opener, doing it with the Cleveland Indians against the White Sox in 1940. But more than 11 hours into the day's games, Gray took a no-hitter into the eighth inning against the Rangers at the O.co Coliseum.
Ryan Rua, one of the 23 rookies who played for Texas a year ago, led off with a sharp single into right field, taking away Gray's run at history.
You should keep your eyes open for all future meetings between Gray and the Rangers. After all, he threw a six-hit shutout against them on the last day of the 2014 season, clinching a Wild Card spot for the A's. The Texas lineup entered this game with a .173 average in 104 career at-bats against Gray, and it was downhill from there.
Little League hero strikes again
Frazier, the guy who was the winning pitcher and hit the game-winning home run for Toms River, N.J., in the championship game of the 1998 Little League World Series, delivered the a three-run homer to give the Reds a 5-2 victory over the Pirates at Great American Ball Park.
Frazier's homer was stashed away inside a crazy sequence of events staged by some of baseball's most athletic players.
After Andrew McCutchen drove a two-run home run to tie the score at 2 in the eighth inning, Billy Hamilton took over for the Reds in the bottom of the inning. He singled into center field with one out, moved to second on a single by Joey Votto and then caught Tony Watson napping. He broke as Watson was starting toward the plate and stole third without a throw. Watson, seemingly rattled, then served up a massive three-run home run to Frazier.
But the party in the stands was just starting. It really got rocking as Aroldis Chapman slammed the door in the ninth, striking out Sean Rodriguez andFrancisco Cervelli on 100-mph fastballs.
Enter Han-Man for the Red Sox
Ramirez, playing in his first game for Boston, joined Pedroia, playing in his 1,152nd, in homering twice in the Red Sox's 8-0 victory over the Phillies. The Red Sox hadn't had a two-homer game from a player on Opening Day since Carlton Fisk in 1973.
Making it even better, Ramirez's second homer was a grand slam off Jake Diekman. The Red Sox hit five overall, including one by Mookie Betts. And, now, the best part -- four of them came off Cole Hamels, who has seemed headed to Boston all winter in on-again, off-again trade talks as conventional wisdom says the Red Sox lack a No. 1 starter.
The Price of late-inning relief
Fans at Comerica Park hooted manager Brad Ausmus when he went out to remove David Price in the ninth inning of a potential shutout over the Twins. Ausmus had let Price start the ninth but summoned in Nathan after two runners reached base, creating a save situation. This was a nightmare scenario for the Tigers' fans, who have learned the hard way to fear the ninth inning.
But it was terrific to see Nathan come through, getting the benefit of the doubt from umpire Joe West on a two-strike attempt to check a swing by Torii Hunter. The 4-0 victory was a great start for both Price and Nathan, better for the Tigers than if Price had done it all by himself.
Scherzer shows his stuff
Max Scherzer took a no-hitter into the sixth inning in his first start after signing that $210 million deal with the Nationals. This was magic in motion but unraveled quickly, thanks in part to a high pop that fell in between second baseman Dan Uggla -- whose comeback was one of the Grapefruit League's surprises -- and shortstop Ian Desmond, who was charged with the error. Lucas Duda broke up Scherzer's no-hitter with a two-run single smashed to right-center, starting the Mets toward their 3-1 victory.
A disappointing finish at Nationals Park, but still … Scherzer gave 'em five innings to talk about.
Thanks for everything, Mr. Commissioner
Former commissioner Bud Selig was greeted warmly when he threw out the first pitch at Miller Park. Unfortunately for the Brewers, this was the highlight of a day in which the Rockies knockedKyle Lohse out of the game in the fourth inning and rolled to a 10-0 victory.
Trout gets the first laugh against King Felix, again
Want to watch a great piece of baseball? Then check out the eight-pitch at-bat that started the Angels-Mariners game at Safeco Field.
Felix Hernandez jumped ahead of Trout, 0-2. But Trout fouled off three two-strike pitches and took two more for balls, working his way to a 2-2 count. Hernandez threw a 92-mph sinker and Trout sent it flying into the seats. It marked the second year in a row he hit a first-inning home run off Hernandez. The Mariners would come to view this as only an interesting footnote, however, as Hernandez gave up only one more hit in his seven-inning stint and they rolled to a 4-1 victory.
Welcome to town, Mr. Rollins
Rollins' three-run homer in his LA debut gave the Dodgers a 6-3 victory over the Padres. It came in the eighth inning, after a double by another newcomer, Howie Kendrick, had tied the score and taken away a potential save opportunity from new Padre Craig Kimbrel. New Dodgers reliever Joel Peralta took the victory, saved by another of his former teammates from Tampa Bay, Chris Hatcher, as the Dodgers raised their record to 5-0 in Opening Day starts by Clayton Kershaw, who had been in line for a loss before the late dramatics.
Speaking loudly with their silence
Blue Jays second baseman Devon Travis homered off Yankees reliever Chasen Shreve in his big league debut. When he returned to the dugout, he got the silent treatment from Jose Bautista and his other Toronto teammates. But it lasted only until he had gone from one end of the dugout to the other. The Jays were too happy for their teammate -- one of six rookies on the Opening Day roster -- to make him suffer long.
Gone, never forgotten
The Rays retired number No. 66 in honor of late coach and organization icon Don Zimmer, who passed away last June. His widow, Soot, dabbed away tears during the ceremony. Evan Longoria, who regularly played cards with Zimmer before games, presented Soot a framed jersey in honor of her husband, who spent 65 years in baseball. They married at home plate before a game in Elmira, N.Y., in 1951.

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