After what happened on Opening Day, here's what to expect in the 2019 season.
It’s always interesting to try and draw conclusions from the first games of the baseball season. Opening Day allows us to evaluate players and teams for the first time in meaningful games, and it’s hard not to get too wrapped up in the small sample size excitement. Obviously, the Dodgers aren’t going to continue on their current pace of eight home runs per game, and Chris Sale isn’t going to get rocked like he did against the Mariners.
However, there is still plenty to unpack after a full slate of games on Opening Day. Here are five takeaways from Thursday’s action.
1. The Yankees are going to be an even better offensive team than last year.
The one downside to the Yankees’ lineup last season was its boom-or-bust performances. They set the MLB record for most home runs in a season, but they also had a tendency to slump when the longball was harder to come by. That’s why what the Yankees did in the first inning of Thursday’s 7-2 win over Baltimore was so encouraging.
As most teams do with power hitters at the plate, the Orioles shifted against Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton and Gary Sanchez. All three of them took what the defense gave them and singled through the right side of the infield. Luke Voit provided the big hit that inning, a three-run blast to straightaway centerfield with Judge and Stanton on base. The next time Judge, Stanton and Sanchez batted, the Orioles decided not to shift. Home runs are awesome, but the best teams know how to produce even when their hits aren’t leaving the yard.
2. The NL Central is going to be exciting.
The Brewers and Cardinals combined for nine runs and six home runs. With two outs in the ninth inning and the Cardinals losing 5-4, Jose Martinez pinch-hit for Kolten Wong—who had already hit two homers in the game—to face lefty Josh Hader. Martinez smacked a deep fly ball but Lorenzo Cain robbed him of what would’ve been the game-tying home run.
Meanwhile, the Cubs opened their season against the Texas Rangers, and they wasted no time in showing they’re going to be more than just an afterthought in the NL Central. Javier Baez hit two homers and Kris Bryant had one as Chicago blew out the Rangers, 12-4.
3. The Mariners are rebuilding?
The Mariners won 89 games last season, but that didn’t stop them from trading away several key players to restock their farm system and acquire younger Major League talent. But so far, 2019 hasn’t looked like a rebuilding year for Seattle. After winning both games against the Athletics last week in Japan, the Mariners rocked Red Sox ace Sale. Three of their new players homered in the game, with shortstop Tim Beckham taking Sale deep twice.
4. Phear the Phillies
Bryce Harper went 0-for-3 in his first game with the Phillies, but that didn’t matter. Philadelphia’s lineup is loaded and more than capable of scoring runs even when its $330 million man has an off-game. New Phillies leftfielder Andrew McCutchen homered to lead off the game, and the man whose place McCutchen took in left, Rhys Hoskins—now playing his natural position, first base—hit a grand slam in the seventh inning to put the Phils up 10-4. Their rotation is still suspect behind ace Aaron Nola and veteran Jake Arrieta, but their improved bullpen should be enough to hold most leads this dangerous offense gives them.
5. Mike Trout needs help
OK, so we knew this already. But before actually seeing the Angels play on Opening Day, baseball fans could hold out hope that this will be the year that the best player in the game returns to the postseason. Now, it’s too early to say the Angels won’t make the playoffs, but if Thursday’s 4-0 loss to the A’s is any indication, their chances aren’t looking too promising.
Trout went 1-for-3 in the game. The rest of the Angels went 2-for-25. This was what they did against Mike Fiers. Just think of the cruelties they’ll face when they see Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole. Yikes.