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The stars and chumps of Opening Day

Apr 6, 2010, 1:11 AM EDT

zambrano-standard-100405.jpgIt all started with a John Lannan pitch to Jimmy Rollins around 10 a.m ET, and ended when Denard Span’s fly ball settled into Bobby Abreu’s glove about 15 hours later.

Once again, Opening Day didn’t disappoint, as there were stellar defensive plays, dramatic home runs, and dominant pitching performances. It was everything you want out of the first full day of baseball, and reminded us how much we grew to miss the game over the last six months.

Let’s take a look at the big winners and losers from Opening Day.

STARS OF THE DAY
Albert Pujols, Cardinals:
What else is there to say about Pujols? He’s great. And if the Cincinnati Reds didn’t know that, they do now, after he goes 4-for-5 with two home runs. *That puts him on pace for 324 this season, in case you’re counting.
*This might not happen

Garrett Jones, Pirates: Anything Pujols can do, Jones can do, umm better? Well no, but it was still a fine performance for the right fielder, who was 2-for-4 with a pair of homers in a rout of the Dodgers.

Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Texas “Walk-off” Ranger: Poor Shaun Marcum. The Blue Jays starter had his no-hitter broken up by Vlad Guerrero in the seventh inning, then watched his lead vanish when Nelson Cruz tied it up by going opposite field off his shoe tops for a three-run blast. That all set the stage for Saltalamacchia, who completed the Rangers rally with a walk-off single over the head of a shallow outfield.

CHUMPS OF THE DAY
Carlos Zambrano, Cubs:
Zambrano has been throwing out lines about how he’s ready to “kick some (butt)” this season, and wants to “rock and roll.” Apparently, what he meant was that he was ready to “get his (butt) kicked” and wanted to let the Braves “party every day,” as he allowed 8 runs in 1 1/3 before hitting the showers.

Los Angeles Dodgers in general, Vicente Padilla in particular: OK so Padilla as Opening Day starter is a joke, as Clayton Kershaw is clearly the better talent. But to allow seven runs in 4 1/3 innings to the Pirates is, well, sad. The pressure is already building in L.A., as the Dodgers need to take advantage of a favorable early-season schedule.

Marvin Hudson, umpire: Hudson and his cohorts in blue didn’t have as bad a game as Zambrano, but they certainly didn’t help matters much, as Hudson gave Nate McLouth credit for a catch on a fly ball by Marlon Byrd. [Watch here]

The drop was so obvious that Aramis Ramirez didn’t even try to return to first base, and he was promptly doubled up. Luckily the call didn’t figure in the outcome.

As if to take the pressure off Hudson, the umps later blew a similar call in the A’s-Mariners game when Casey Kotchman’s fly bounced into Rajai Davis’ glove for what was ruled an out.

Royals bullpen and defense: We pity you, Zack Greinke. You do your thing, allowing two runs (only one earned, of course) in six innings. You outduel Justin Verlander and depart with a 4-2 lead, then sit and watch your team lose 8-4. Gonna be a long season buddy.

LOST IN THE SHUFFLE: Other performances you may have missed
Placido Polanco:
New Phillies third baseman goes 3-for-5 with a grand slam and 6 RBIs.

Ubaldo Jimenez: Roy Halladay, Tim Lincecum, Johan Santana and Mark Buehrle were all strong, but you might have missed Jimenez, who struck out six and allowed one run in six innings against the Brewers. And he reportedly hit 99 mph on the gun, too.

Yunel Escobar: While Jason Heyward was amazing the masses, Braves shortstop quietly went 2-for-5 with 5 RBIs.

Carlos Gomez: Not a bad Brewers debut for the former Twin/Met, as Gomez goes 4-for-5 with a double and a homer.

Casey Kotchman: Another steal by GM Jack Zduriencik? New Mariners first baseman goes 2-for-4 with 4 RBIs, and was robbed of another hit by the umpires, err, I mean Rajai Davis.

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  1. Paul - Apr 6, 2010 at 12:09 PM

    Not sure how you can say umpire’s Hudson call didn’t affect the outcome of yesterday’s opener, as if everything after that call would have happened the same had the correct call been made. Soriano would have been batting with a chance to tie the game with no outs. Instead, Lowe had two outs and no one on. It may have chased Lowe, and put pressure on the sketchy Braves middle relievers.

  2. mgflolox - Apr 6, 2010 at 12:44 PM

    Kevin Kouzmanoff had 2 GIDP, one of which was in the bottom of the 8th with 2 on and no out, effectively killing the potential game winning rally. Then he followed it up with a throwing error on Figgin’s grounder with 2 out in the 9th, allowing Kotchman the opportunity to win it with his 2-run single.

  3. Bob - Apr 6, 2010 at 1:03 PM

    How does Jason Heyward not make the stars of the day list?

  4. djonny - Apr 6, 2010 at 1:09 PM

    How can you not place Mark Buehrle’s between the leg put out on the top of this list?

  5. John - Apr 6, 2010 at 1:30 PM

    How does Stephen Drew and an Opening Day in the park home run not get mentioned?

  6. Bill on da Shore - Apr 6, 2010 at 1:40 PM

    Opening Day? It’s Opening Day today! O’s at Rays at 7:05. Nice to see the league finally lets those two teams play.

  7. soxfan678 - Apr 6, 2010 at 1:50 PM

    What bout YOUK!! wow Red Sox hatersss!! his game exceeded Albert in the fact without it they would have certainly lost big!!

  8. soxfan678 - Apr 6, 2010 at 1:58 PM

    Just so you know:
    Youk 3 for 4 – 2 doubles, 1 Triple and 2 HUGE RBIs..think that qualifies as stellar opening day performance.

  9. wsfan - Apr 6, 2010 at 2:31 PM

    Mark Buehrle! Mark Buehrle! Mark Buehrle!

  10. bpomeroy - Apr 6, 2010 at 3:10 PM

    your an idiot soxfan678….Pujols 4/5, 2 homers….much better that Youk.
    FYI…the “sox” and the AL East suck balls!

  11. Sox_2010 - Apr 6, 2010 at 3:29 PM

    Cardinals would be a 4th place team in that “sucky AL East”..

  12. Susan V. - Apr 6, 2010 at 3:38 PM

    I must be blind because I don’t see Roy Halladay’s name under STARS OF THE DAY. He pitched more than a beautiful game and the rest of the Phillies made horse manure out of the Nationals. You really missed the mark by not adding Roy Halladay to your STARS OF THE DAY. Bad call!!!!

  13. Oldtimer - Apr 6, 2010 at 3:55 PM

    All I can say about yesterday’s Royal’s donation to the Tigers pennant run is, the NFL draft is almost upon us.

  14. Mike - Apr 6, 2010 at 4:09 PM

    I with everyone else questioning where Buehrle’s play is in that list. I guess he’s focused on overall statistical performances but that play has a great chance to be play of the year.

  15. VICKY - Apr 6, 2010 at 4:22 PM

    Matsui? Matsui? Anyone heard of Matsui????

  16. Dave S - Apr 6, 2010 at 5:45 PM

    Matwhoooi?

  17. Bob Harkins - Apr 6, 2010 at 7:36 PM

    Because the Cubs allowed 16 runs, and Lou Piniella himself said the call didn’t cost his team the game.

  18. Bob Harkins - Apr 6, 2010 at 7:37 PM

    For all the Buehrle-Drew-Heward fans, I agree. That’s why I included them in my “top plays of Opening Day” post. http://hardballtalk.nbcsports.com/2010/04/play-of-opening-day-mark-buehrle-flashes-leather.html.php

  19. Bob Harkins - Apr 6, 2010 at 7:39 PM

    Not hating on the Sox, though you might be able to convince me to change my mind. Youk wasn’t included because it didn’t occur during this time frame. It was the night before:
    “It all started with a John Lannan pitch to Jimmy Rollins around 10 a.m ET, and ended when Denard Span’s fly ball settled into Bobby Abreu’s glove about 15 hours later.”

  20. liononthebeach - Apr 6, 2010 at 10:39 PM

    One of the best opening days in baseball in a long time. Great weather, great performances by established stars, rookies shining, making statements, great plays, good pitching, bad pitching, soft bull pens, strong closers, big HR bombs, great catches, early season errors. Great day to watch many games. Too bad there aren’t days like it every day. Gotta love this game!

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