Instead of the season opener being in Cincinnati, as it had been for years, it was held indoors in Seattle. And at night. The distinction of hosting the league's first game—in this case it was the majors' opener, too—was the Mariners' for the asking when they joined the league last season. It will apparently be theirs for years to come, if no other team squawks.
Impervious to the hail, thunder and lightning that descended upon those who were outdoors in Seattle, the Mariners stormed past the Twins 3-2 in the Kingdome. Glenn Abbott picked up the win and Shortstop Craig Reynolds hit a two-run homer.
Seattle (2-2) also got fine pitching from three 23-year-olds who have dubbed themselves the Three Stooges: Steve Burke (who wears uniform No. 39), Rick Honeycutt (No. 40) and Shane Rawley (No. 41). Honeycutt and Enrique Romo combined on a four-hitter and trimmed the Twins 6-3.
April 17, 1978
Between those two defeats, Minnesota (2-2) beat the Mariners 5-4, despite nifty relief work by Rawley (no runs in four innings) and Burke (one run in 3‚Äö√Ñ√∂‚àö√±‚àö¬® innings). Minnesota rookie Roger Erickson, 21, who has a collection of 1,500 comic books ("Almost all the Marvel comics," he says proudly), was, in his own way, a marvel. Erickson, a non-roster invitee to the Twins' spring camp, gave up five hits in 6‚Äö√Ñ√∂‚àö√±‚àö¬® innings and won his debut. Minnesota finished the week with an 8-2 victory over the Mariners. Paul Thormodsgard pitched a three-hitter to get the win.
Atop the West was Chicago (2-0), the winner of two improbable 6-5 encounters with Boston. In the first game the White Sox went into the ninth trailing 5-4. Ron Blomberg, late of the Yankees, ended 2½ years of "super depression" by belting a game-tying homer. And then Chet Lemon singled and came home on a bloop double by Wayne Nordhagen, much to the delight of a Comiskey Park day-game record crowd of 50,754. Chicago was behind 5-2 in the eighth of the next game, but Lemon tied the score with a two-out, two-run double and scored on a single by Eric Soderholm.
Shortstop Mario Guerrero, the player to be named later in the deal that sent Vida Blue to the Giants, joined the A's (1-1) on Friday. Guerrero, a former Angel with only two homers in 1,204 at bats, unloaded a three-run shot in the eighth inning on Saturday for a 4-2 win over California (1-1). Nolan Ryan started for the Angels but was yanked with a 2-0 lead after six innings, 123 pitches and 13 strikeouts. In the opener between Oakland and California, Frank Tanana of the Angels beat the A's 1-0 with a six-hitter.
Texas owner Brad Corbett, who spent tons of money during the off-season signing new players, got an early dividend as the Rangers (1-0) jolted the Yankees 2-1. Going all the way was ex-Met Jon Matlack. And driving in both Texas runs was Richie Zisk, formerly of the White Sox. Zisk, who batted only .138 in spring training, had three hits, including a decisive home run in the bottom of the ninth.
Kansas City's only game, an 8-5 loss in Cleveland, drew the ire of Royal fans, who decried last week's trading of John Mayberry to Toronto. With Mayberry not around to snag errant throws to first base, two infielders were charged with errors on tosses that got past rookie Clint Hurdle.
CHI 2-0 TEX 1-0 SEA 2-2 MINN 2-2 CAL 1-1 OAK 1-1 KC 0-1
Nowhere were the vagaries of spring more evident than in Milwaukee (2-0), where there was consternation when 22-year-old Shortstop Robin Yount expressed a sudden interest in quitting baseball to become a pro golfer. Yount was put on the disabled list to mull over that choice while his sore foot and elbow healed. Taking over for Yount was Paul Molitor, 21, whose professional experience consisted of 64 games at Burlington, Iowa last season. Molitor, who batted .346 in the minors, alleviated the fears of Brewer fans with four hits (one a homer) and six RBIs in his first two games as Milwaukee drubbed Baltimore 11-3 and 16-3. Larry Hisle, the $3.1 million outfielder Milwaukee picked up from Minnesota, homered in each game, and the Brewers also got grand slams from Sixto Lezcano and Gorman Thomas.
Cleveland (1-0) held off Kansas City 8-5, amid the cheers of 52,433 hometown rooters. Three homers put the Indians on top, and Mike Paxton kept them there with three innings of hitless relief.
For Boston (0-2) there was no relief, as Red Sox relievers blew leads during two setbacks in Chicago by yielding 10 hits and six runs in 3⅖ innings.
The Yankees (0-1) were not as concerned about their 2-1 defeat in Texas as about Catcher Thurman Munson's aching right knee, which limited him to being a DH.
Detroit's opener was delayed a day by rain, but the 52,528 fans at the first game got what they wanted, a 6-2 win over Toronto and a typically theatrical effort by Mark (The Bird) Fidrych. In his first start since injuring his shoulder last July, Fidrych yelled at himself on the field, smoothed out the mound, collided with a teammate on one play and with a Blue Jay on another and chased down four hot-dog wrappers that swirled around the infield in the ninth inning. The Tigers (1-1) then lost 5-2 to the Blue Jays (1-1).
MIL 2-0 CLEV 1-0 DET 1-1 TOR 1-1 NY 0-1 BOS 0-2 BALT 0-2
The Reds were not about to let a little adversity spoil their opener against the Astros. So what if rain caused three delays totaling 102 minutes? So what if Tom Seaver gave up a home run to the first batter he faced (Houston's Terry Puhl, who was homerless in 229 times up last season)? So what if Seaver was knocked out after going only three-plus innings and allowing five runs? So what if 11 Reds fanned? So what if the Astros pulled off a triple play? Flicking aside those aggravations, Cincinnati won 11-9. Among the Reds' 16 hits were three by Joe Morgan—a pair of two-run doubles and a homer. Cincinnati (3-0) added two more wins over Houston (0-3). Former Cub Bill Bonham won 5-4, and then Fred Norman and Doug Bair teamed up on a four-hit, 2-1 victory.
"Aliens from outer space" were invited to Atlanta's opener by The Atlanta Radio Club. They declined to attend. Showing up, though, were 42,866 fans, buoyed by one of spring's annual privileges: optimism. Their hope that the Braves would not be as inept as last season was strengthened by three homers in the first three innings. But from then on the show belonged to the Dodgers, who won 13-4. Spurring Los Angeles on were Davey Lopes, who stole three bases and drove in four runs, and Rick Monday, who showed he has recuperated from last year's back ailment by getting a homer and four RBIs. Next time out the Braves (0-2) lost 6-2 to the Dodgers (2-0).
Before San Diego's opener, new Manager Roger Craig named Dave Winfield the Padres' first captain. Winfield responded with a single, double and homer in a 3-2 win in San Francisco.
The Giants earned a split of their two games against San Diego with a 6-0 triumph in which two players who did not expect to be around excelled. Jim Barr felt he would be traded but was kept and became a starter because of Vida Blue's late arrival and an injury to Ed Halicki. Barr responded to his unexpected opportunity by throwing a seven-hit shutout. Rob Andrews, who expected to be the player to be named later in the Blue deal, remained with the Giants (Mario Guerrero went to the A's), played second base and slammed a three-run triple.
CIN 3-0 LA 2-0 SD 1-1 SF 1-1 ATL 0-2 HOU 0-3
New York and Pittsburgh, which had the worst spring records among National League teams, were the only unbeaten clubs in the East. Jerry Koosman of the Mets (2-0), who dropped his final nine decisions and lost 20 games in 1977, stymied the Expos 3-1. And then the Mets, who hit fewer homers than any team in the majors last season (88), slugged three as they defeated Montreal (0-2) 6-5 on a two-out, two-run pinch homer in the bottom of the ninth by Ed Kranepool.
Pittsburgh, which lost sluggers Richie Zisk, Al Oliver and Richie Hebner to trades and free agentry during the past two years, was outhit 15-7 by the Cubs, but used tight pitching and resourcefulness to win twice. John Candelaria won the opener 1-0, with the Pirates' only run being set up by Bill Robinson's hard slide into second base that broke up a certain inning-ending double play. The next day Bert Blyleven's bunt was turned into a four-base, two-run error by Chicago, and the Bucs won 4-3 in the 10th when the Cubs' usually redoubtable reliever, Bruce Sutter, gave up a double, an intentional walk and two very unintentional bases on balls.
As advertised, Helicopter Man dropped the first ball from about 120 feet in the air to Phillie Catcher Barry Foote at Veterans Stadium. However, Cy Young Award winner Steve Carlton did not live up to his billing, twice failing to cover first base and giving up 10 hits in four innings as the Cardinals took the opener 5-1 behind Bob Forsch. Larry Christenson of the Phillies (1-1) then beat the Cardinals (1-1) 7-0, matching his shutout pitching with some standout hitting. Christenson had a single, homer and four RBIs.
PITT 2-0 NY 2-0 ST.L 1-1 PHIL 1-1 MONT 0-2 CHI 0-2