World Series champions Los Angeles Dodgers were humbled on the Opening Day of the new Major League Baseball season 8-5 by the Colorado Rockies on Thursday.

The Dodgers had 14 stranded runners throughout the game while Cody Bellinger hit a ball into the stands which did not count as a home run on a strange afternoon.

With crowds returning to MLB, the Dodgers were unable to get off to a flying start.

"Honestly, we just didn’t play a good baseball game," Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. "All the way around, we didn’t play well."

In the Houston Astros' first game back playing in front of crowds since their cheating scandal emerged they were jeered and boed in an 8-1 win on the road against the Oakland Athletics.

Back-to-back home runs from Michael Brantley and Alex Bregman in the eighth put the Astros out of sight and silenced the crowd.

 

Trout lifts Angels, Mariners mighty comeback

Mike Trout flexed his muscle as the Los Angeles Angels rallied to beat the Chicago White Sox 4-3. At the bottom of the eighth, a visibly pumped Trout's hit gave him an RBI and tied the game. Shohei Ohtani then got on the board after an error by second baseman Nick Madrigal.

The Seattle Mariners trailed 6-1 in the eighth inning against the San Francisco Giants before mounting a remarkable fightback and eventually prevail 8-7. The winning run came when Jake Fraley walked with the bases loaded.

The New York Yankees' bats let them down as they were beaten 3-2 by the Toronto Blue Jays.

The Tampa Day Rays shut out the Miami Marlins in a 1-0 win earned by Austin Meadows' solo home run in the ninth.

 

Bellinger denied by mix-up

Bellinger was denied his first homer of the new season in a moment of confusion, when team-mate Justin Turner, who was on first base, thought Bellinger had been caught in the outfield and ran back. Bellinger's hit was actually fumbled by Raimel Tapia over the fence so when Turner reversed and passed by the left-hander that made him out and resulted in only an RBI single.

 

First homer of season

Detroit Tigers hitter Miguel Cabrera claimed the maiden homer of the new season in driving snow, which left him confused, sliding into base just in case it had not cleared the fence.

 

Thursday's results

Toronto Blue Jays 3-2 New York Yankees
Detroit Tigers 3-2 Cleveland Indians
Milwaukee Brewers 6-5 Minnesota Twins
Pittsburgh Pirates 5-3 Chicago Cubs
Philadelphia Phillies 3-2 Atlanta Braves
Tampa Bay Rays 1-0 Miami Marlins
St Louis Cardinals 11-6 Cincinnati Reds
Colorado Rockies 8-5 Los Angeles Dodgers
San Diego Padres 8-7 Arizona Diamondbacks
Kansas City Royals 14-10 Texas Rangers
Los Angeles Angels 4-3 Chicago White Sox
Houston Astros 8-1 Oakland Athletics 
Seattle Mariners 8-7 San Fransisco Giants 

 

Dodgers to bounce back

The Dodgers will look to bounce back from their opening day loss on Friday on the road again versus the Colorado Rockies.

The Washington Nationals and New York Mets will not be facing each other on the opening day of the new MLB season after Thursday's game was called off due to COVID-19 issues.

Washington were set to host the Mets at Nationals Park, but members of the home team's organisation are currently involved in contact tracing.

On Wednesday, Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo revealed they would be without five players and a staff member following a positive coronavirus test result.

In announcing the postponement, Major League Baseball said the decision had been taken "out of an abundance of caution" but ruled out the fixture taking place on Friday instead.

Earlier on Thursday, the Boston Red Sox announced their opener against the Baltimore Orioles needed to be pushed back for a different reason.

With rain set to fall throughout the day, Boston made the pre-emptive decision to switch the game to Friday.

The Red Sox have been granted permission to have up to 4,500 fans in attendance too, the first time since the start of the coronavirus pandemic that spectators will be allowed at Fenway Park.

Francisco Lindor has agreed to a mammoth 10-year, $341million contract extension with the New York Mets, according to reports.

Lindor arrived in New York as part of a blockbuster six-player trade with the Cleveland Indians on January 7.

The four-time MLB All-Star and two-time Gold Glove winner – who was due to become a free agent after this season – had set a deadline of Opening Day to reach a deal over a new contract in New York.

MLB.com and ESPN reported on Wednesday a deal had been struck on the eve of the 2021 season, with the 27-year-old shortstop's contract beginning in 2022.

It is one of the richest contracts in MLB history, only behind Los Angeles Angels star Mike Trout ($426.5m) and Mookie Betts of the Los Angeles Dodgers, ($365m), though it trumps the $340m deal signed by San Diego Padres sensation Fernando Tatis Jr. this offseason.

Lindor hit .258 with eight home runs and 27 RBIs in the coronavirus-shortened 2020 campaign.

A career .285 hitter, Lindor has averaged 29 home runs, 86 RBIs and 21 steals over his six major league seasons. 

Amid speculation over Lindor's future with the Mets, team-mate Pete Alonso had told reporters on Tuesday: "I hope they pay him $400m. He's worth every penny."

Opening Day.

A term synonymous with baseball across the United States and the globe. For fans, it is nothing short of a national holiday.

The highly anticipated start to the season on April 1 is an occasion steeped in history, with tradition front and centre.

This year's Opening Day means more than most. It is the latest signal of American life and sport returning to normal amid the COVID-19 crisis.

The coronavirus pandemic led to an enforced break and a reduced 60-game regular season schedule behind closed doors, with a limited number of fans allowed to attend the playoffs as the Los Angeles Dodgers went on to end their 32-year World Series drought.

But 2021 will see the return of the usual 162-game calendar and more importantly, spectators in the stands. All but one of the 30 teams will start at reduced capacity – the Texas Rangers hosting a full house for their home opener against the Toronto Blue Jays.

As America's pastime begins anew, we preview the upcoming season, in which the Dodgers look to defend their World Series crown, using Stats Perform data.
 

Kershaw gears up for a franchise-record start

Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw – entering the final season of his three-year, $93million deal – will be on the mound when the Dodgers open their title defence against the Colorado Rockies.

It will be Kershaw's ninth Opening Day start – the most in franchise history – after injuries prevented him from beginning the 2019 and 2020 campaigns, the eight-time All-Star getting the nod ahead of Walker Buehler and high-profile recruit Trevor Bauer, the reigning National League (NL) Cy Young winner.

Future Hall of Famer Kershaw boasts a 5-1 record on Opening Day, with a 1.05 ERA (6/51.2), 59 strikeouts and eight walks. The 2014 NL MVP's only loss came in his previous start in 2018 as he allowed eight hits and one earned run, while tallying seven strikeouts in six innings against the San Francisco Giants.

Since 1913, when ERA became an official stat, Kershaw has managed the lowest Opening Day figure among pitchers with six starts – 1.05. The 32-year-old's ERA is ahead of Bob Feller (1.21), Jim Palmer (1.40), Hal Newhouser (1.41) and Walter Johnson (1.51).

As for the star-studded Dodgers, they are 74-62 (.544) all-time on Opening Day, winning nine of their 10 season openers since 2011, losing only in 2018.

Their 9-1 (.900) Opening Day record over this stretch is the best in the league, ahead of the Houston Astros (8-2), Baltimore Orioles (8-2), Seattle Mariners (7-3), Detroit Tigers (7-3) and New York Mets (7-3).
 

All eyes on Tatis and Padres

Fernando Tatis Jr. heads into the 2021 season fresh off signing his eye-popping 14-year, $340m contract with the San Diego Padres.

The Padres – winners of two NL pennants – are pinning their hopes on MLB's new poster boy delivering a first World Series to San Diego.

Tatis won a Silver Slugger award last year, having hit .277 with 17 home runs and 45 RBIs in the coronavirus-shortened 2020 season.

The powerful 22-year-old is the first player in MLB history to have at least 35 home runs and 25 stolen bases within the first 150 games of his career.

Tatis – the youngest Padres player to debut on Opening Day (20 years and 85 days) in 2019 – became the fastest player in franchise history (24 team games) to reach the double-digit home run mark in a season in 2020 after hitting his 10th and 11th homers in August.

In the postseason, Tatis homered twice against the St Louis Cardinals in October, becoming the youngest Padre to ever homer in a playoff game (21 years and 273 days) and the third-youngest player in MLB history to homer twice in a postseason match, behind Carlos Correa (21 and 20 days old) and Andruw Jones (19 years, 180 days old).

When it comes to on-base plus slugging, Tatis stacks up well. Since 1920, Tatis (150.8) is only behind Juan Soto (153.9 – 2018-20), Albert Pujols (159.3 – 2001), Jimmie Foxx (160.0 – 1925-29), Ted Williams (161.5 – 1939-40) and Trout (165.0 – 2011-13) for highest OPS-plus up until the age of 21.

Across his two Opening Day appearances, Tatis has three hits in seven at-bats and two runs while slugging at .571. The Padres will be hoping he can improve on that when they host face the Arizona Diamondbacks.

By comparison, Philadelphia Phillies star Bryce Harper and New York Yankees slugger Giancarlo Stanton love Opening Day.

Harper – the 2015 NL MVP and six-time All-Star – has nine hits, five homers and six runs in eight appearances, while 2017 NL MVP Stanton has 13 hits, four homers, 10 runs and 12 RBIs through 10 games.

Blue Jays recruit George Springer, a World Series winner with the Astros, has also impressed on Opening Day following five hits, three homers and six RBIs in six games.
 

Can Abreu and Freeman go back-to-back?

Chicago White Sox star Jose Abreu was crowned the American League's best in 2020.

Becoming the 28th player to win both the MVP and Rookie of the Year in his career, Abreu beat Jose Ramirez of the Cleveland Indians and Yankees star DJ LeMahieu.

Abreu – the fourth White Sox player to win the award – was second in MLB with 19 home runs and fourth in the AL with a .317 batting average.

Freddie Freeman of the Atlanta Braves trumped Dodgers star Mookie Betts and Padres sensation Manny Machado to the NL honour.

Freeman's 1.102 OPS was the second highest in MLB, trailing only Washington Nationals outfielder Juan Soto, while he led the majors with 51 runs scored and was second in the NL in batting average (.341), on-base percentage (.462) and slugging percentage (.640).

Does it bode well for the pair in 2020?

In a season after winning the MVP award, a player averages 135.9 hits, 21.5 homers, 80.5 runs and 79.5 RBIs with a slugging percentage of .516.

There have been 13 players to win back-to-back MVPs; 11-time All-Star Miguel Cabrera (AL) was the last to do so in 2012 and 2013. The most recent player in the NL was Albert Pujols (2008-09).
 

The end of Cleveland as we know them

After 106 years, this will be the last season the franchise will be known as the Indians, following the example of the NFL's Washington Football Team, who dropped their Redskins nickname in 2020 amid a long-time controversy.

Since 1915, Cleveland have won two World Series – in 1920 and 1948 – with their current streak of 71 seasons without a World Series title the longest active run in the majors.

In 1954, Cleveland went 111-43 (.721) in the regular season, before being swept in the World Series by the Giants. It stands as the highest single-season win percentage in AL history, and the best by any MLB team in the past 100 years.

Cleveland have had a winning record in each of the past eight seasons (2013-20), making them one of four MLB teams with an active streak of eight-plus (also Yankees 28, Cardinals 13, Dodgers 10). It is tied for the second-longest streak of winning seasons in franchise history (10 straight 1947-56; eight in a row 1994-2001).

Three Cleveland players have won the AL MVP Award – George Burns (1926), Lou Boudreau (1948) and Al Rosen (1953) – while five have claimed the AL Cy Young Award: Gaylord Perry (1972), C.C. Sabathia (2007), Cliff Lee (2008), Corey Kluber (2014 and 2017) and Shane Bieber (2020).

Former NFL quarterback Tim Tebow has retired from baseball after five years in the minor leagues with the New York Mets.

Tebow switched to baseball in 2016, having played for the Denver Broncos and New York Jets following his first-round selection in the 2010 NFL Draft.

The 33-year-old hit a home run in his first at-bat in a game against the St Louis Cardinals in September 2016.

In three professional seasons, Tebow batted .223/.299/.338 with 107 runs, 48 doubles, three triples, 18 homers, 107 RBI and five stolen bases in 287 games.

"I want to thank the Mets, Mr. Alderson, the fans and all my team-mates for the chance to be a part of such a great organisation," said Tebow.

"I loved every minute of the journey, but at this time I feel called in other directions. I never want to be partially in on anything. I always want to be 100 per cent in on whatever I choose.

"Thank you again for everyone's support of this awesome journey in baseball, I'll always cherish my time as a Met."

In 2019 – Tebow's final professional season – he appeared in 77 games for the Syracuse Mets (AAA) before a laceration on his left hand cut short his season.

That season, Tebow tallied 25 runs, four homers and 19 RBIs while hitting .163.

"It has been a pleasure to have Tim in our organisation as he's been a consummate professional during his four years with the Mets," said team president Sandy Alderson.

"By reaching the Triple-A level in 2019, he far exceeded expectations when he first entered the system in 2016 and he should be very proud of his accomplishments."

The New York Mets fired general manager Jared Porter on Tuesday, a day after it was reported he sent unsolicited text messages and lewd images to a female reporter in 2016.

The Mets hired the 41-year-old Porter only last month, but new team owner Steven Cohen announced his firing on Twitter.

Cohen wrote: "We have terminated Jared Porter this morning. In my initial press conference I spoke about the importance of integrity and I meant it. There should be zero tolerance for this type of behavior."

In response to a question about the firing of Porter, Cohen added: "No action would of set a poor example to the culture I'm trying to build."

Shortly after Cohen’s tweet, the Mets issued a statement from team president Sandy Alderson.

It read: "The New York Mets have terminated general manager Jared Porter, effective immediately. Jared's actions, as reflected by events disclosed last night, failed to meet the Mets' standards for professionalism and personal conduct."

Porter was the Chicago Cubs' director of professional scouting in 2016 when ESPN said he began sending unsolicited and inappropriate text messages and images to the reporter after meeting her in June of that year.

He has yet to make a public comment on ESPN's allegations.

Porter spent the next four seasons with the Arizona Diamondbacks as their senior vice president and assistant general manager.

Francisco Lindor's time in Cleveland has come to an end, as the Indians moved the four-time All-Star to the New York Mets in a blockbuster six-player trade announced on Thursday. 

The Mets will also receive starting pitcher Carlos Carrasco in the deal, with Cleveland getting infielders Amed Rosario and Andres Gimenez and a pair of prospects in pitcher Josh Wolf and outfielder Isaiah Greene. 

Lindor has been one of the game's premier shortstops, and the face of the Cleveland franchise, since breaking into the majors in 2015. The 27-year-old was the runner-up in voting for the American League's Rookie of the Year in 2015 and has won two Silver Slugger awards as well as a pair of Gold Gloves during his six-year career. 

The Puerto Rico native is set to be a free agent after this season, however, and an inability to agree to terms on a contract extension forced Cleveland to field offers from interested teams. 

Lindor joins a Mets organisation with grand designs under new owner Steve Cohen and who have been one of the more aggressive teams this offseason. New York previously added catcher James McCann and reliever Trevor May in free agency, while pitcher Marcus Stroman accepted an $18.9million qualifying offer to return. 

A career .285 hitter, Lindor has averaged 29 home runs, 86 RBIs and 21 steals over his six major league seasons. 

The Mets also add a valuable piece to the rotation in Carrasco, who went 88-73 with a 3.77 ERA in 11 seasons with Cleveland. The 33-year-old right-hander won 35 games between the 2017 and 2018 seasons before missing most of the 2019 campaign when diagnosed with leukaemia. 

Carrasco successfully fought off the disease to make 12 regular-season starts in 2020, going 3-4 with a 2.91 ERA and winning a second straight AL Comeback Player of the Year award. 

Rosario is the most experienced of the players Cleveland got in return and figures to slot in as Lindor's replacement at shortstop. The 25-year-old's last full season in the majors was a solid one as he batted .287 with 15 homers, 72 RBIs and 19 stolen bases. 

Gimenez, 22, made his major league debut last season and hit .263 with three homers and 12 RBIs in 49 games. 

Wolf and Greene were ranked as the Mets' number nine and number 10 overall prospects by MLB.com. Wolf was a second-round pick by New York in 2019, while Greene was taken in the second round of the 2020 draft and has yet to make his professional debut.

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