2022 MLB Opening Day Takeaways: Shohei Ohtani Makes History; D-Backs stun Padres with home run

Major League Baseball is back. After an offseason that included a 99-day owner-imposed lockout that threatened a full season and delayed opening day by a week, MLB’s 2022 162-game regular season began Thursday. The day gave us a seven-game slate that featured a bit of history from Shohei Ohtani and a solid debut from Royals rookie Bobby Witt Jr.

The other 16 MLB teams will open their seasons on Friday (full schedule here). First, here’s a look at Thursday’s scoreboard:

MLB Opening Day Results

  • FINAL: Chicago Cubs 5, Milwaukee Brewers 4 (Box Score)
  • FINAL: Kansas City Royals 3, Cleveland Guardians 1 (Box Score)
  • FINAL: St. Louis Cardinals 9, Pittsburgh Pirates 0 (Box Score)
  • FINAL: Cincinnati Reds 6, Atlanta Braves 3 (Box Score)
  • FINAL: New York Mets 5, Washington Nationals 1 (Box Score)
  • FINAL: Houston Astros 3, Los Angeles Angels 1 (Box Score)
  • FINAL: Arizona Diamondbacks 4, San Diego Padres 2 (box score)

And now, some takeaways from day one of the 2022 regular season.

Ohtani makes history; Valdez dominates

Early on against the Astros on Thursday night, the two-way Angels superstar made major league history. He was the Angels’ starting pitcher in the team’s first game and he was Joe Maddon’s leadoff hitter. This caused this:

If you paid much attention during his MVP run in 2021, in which he excelled on the mound as a starting pitcher and at home plate as the Angels’ primary DH, then you’re used to this sort of thing – i.e. Ohtani’s story on what appears to be a nightly base.

After this first achievement, Ohtani got to work. He worked 4 ⅔ innings and in that span, he struck out nine-to-one with one run allowed while consistently hitting triple figures with his fastball and showing mastery of his breaking tricks. After being raised as a starting pitcher, Ohtani was able to stay in the game at DH thanks to the freshly implemented “Ohtani Rule”. In contrast, he endured a 0 for 4 nights at home plate.

Having a lot to do with that 0 for 4 nights was Astros southpaw Framber Valdez, who had the best performance of any starter on Opening Day. Valdez worked 6⅔ shutout frames, allowed just two hits and went six-for-one. At one point, Valdez sat 15 Angels in a row and he recorded 11 takedowns on the ground on the night.

Alex Bregman and Yordan Alvarez each homered for Houston.

D-Backs dump Darvish’s unsuccessful bid to shock Padres

Padres right-hander Yu Darvish didn’t hit the Diamondbacks for six innings Thursday night at Chase Field, but that was just a prelude to ninth-inning heroics for Arizona.

With the game close and Darvish’s pitch count increasing, San Diego manager Bob Melvin opted to call it a night for Darvish between innings. Tim Hill opened the bottom of the seventh and allowed a first hit to Pavin Smith that ended the no-hitter bid. Had the Padres been able to complete it, it would have only been the second no-hitter opener in MLB history. The first and only one was shot by Bob Feller in 1940.

It wasn’t quite Darvish’s peak, as he had more walks (four) than strikeouts (three), and there’s no doubt the Diamondbacks will be a bad offensive team this season. That said, it’s heartening to see Darvish, 35, putting zeros after what has been, by his standards, a disappointing 2021.

The 2-0 lead that Darvish was staked when he left held until the bottom of the ninth. In this final frame, Robert Suarez walked the first two batters, put the tying run in scoring position with a wild pitch, then charged the bases via a hit batter. Melvin then summoned Craig Stammen to face Seth Beer. Another wild pitch tackled Arizona’s first run of the night, and then Beer didn’t miss that breaking ball at the bottom of the zone:

Beer, playing in just his sixth major league game, hit his second career home run and his first career home run.

Wainwright sets the tone for Cardinals

Ideally, 40-year-old right-hander Adam Wainwright wouldn’t have started in the Cardinals’ 9-0 win over the Pirates on Opening Day. Jack Flaherty is St. Louis’ ace these days, but he’s out until at least the end of May with shoulder issues. His health issues pushed Wainwright into the top spot in the rotation, and on Thursday he had six shutout innings and six strikeouts against zero walks.

With this effort, Wainwright joined an elite company:

In vintage fashion, Wainwright didn’t break 90 mph all day and relied heavily on his lead, curve and cutter. He picked up four flushes and 22 strikes called along the way. In the fourth, he came out of his only real jam of the day by inducing a late-inning double play. No, the Pirates aren’t a good offensive team, but Wainwright’s outing was impressive in any setting.

Consider it a continuation of his work in 2021. Last season, Wainwright topped 200 innings (a growing rarity) and threw a 3.05 ERA and 3.48 K/BB ratio with three full games to the fore. of the MLB. For his troubles, he finished seventh in the NL Cy Young ballot. It was one of the best 39-year-old pitching campaigns ever, and if Thursday’s results are any guide, then Wainwright could be in for a memorable 40-year-old campaign.

On offense for St. Louis, Tyler O’Neill homered and drove five times, and Paul Goldschmidt hit base five times.

Witt leads KC to an opening day win

The Bobby Witt Jr. era is underway. witt, the No. 2 prospect in baseballled the Royals to an opening day victory with his impressive play on both sides of the ball against the Guardians. He landed his first MLB and RBI hit with a game-winning double in the eighth inning.. Witt also had a wonderful sliding play at third base earlier in the game.

Witt, 21, was the second pick in the 2019 draft, and he created a .290/.361/.576 batting line with 35 doubles and 33 home runs in 124 games split between Double-A and Triple-A l ‘last year . It was his only full season in the minor league because of the pandemic. Witt had a monster spring training and worked his way up Kansas City’s Opening Day roster.

Elsewhere, Zack Greinke put in a professional effort in his first start for the Royals. He held Cleveland to one run in 5 2/3 innings despite just one strikeout and generating just five swings and misses on 84 pitches. The Royals are looking for their first winning season since winning the World Series in 2015.

Megill shines in the start of opening day

Tylor Megill, not Jacob deGrom or Max Scherzer, was on the mound for the Mets on opening day. deGrom will miss several weeks with a shoulder problem and Scherzer’s season debut has been pushed back to Friday with a minor hamstring issue. This spurred Megill into action and he was just as good as deGrom or Scherzer could have been.

On Thursday, Megill struck out six of five scoreless innings against the Nationals, and he allowed just three base runners. Not only that, but Megill came out throwing harder than he did anytime as a rookie last year. His fastball averaged 96.1 mph on Thursday, up about 2 mph from last year, and he peaked at 99.1 mph. Megill threw the eight fastest pitches of his career on Thursday.

Robinson Canó had an impressive all-around game in his return from last year’s performance-enhancing drug suspension. He went 2 for 3 with a walk at home plate, including laying down a bunt to beat the shift, and he turned several trick plays going to his right on defense. At 39 and after last year’s suspension, Canó has a lot to prove this year, and he was strong in the opener.

As for the rest of the offense, the Mets got contributions throughout the lineup. All of the starters had a hit except for No. 9 hitter James McCann, who entered the team’s first inning of the season with bases pitched. Off-season additions Mark Canha, Eduardo Escobar and Starling Marte went 4-for-12 combined with a brace.

The Nationals got a solo home run from Juan Soto, the 99th of his career, and not much else. That, unfortunately, should be a theme for Washington in 2022. It’s a one-man army.

Happ, Suzuki helps Cubs beat Burnes

Seiya Suzuki is officially a major leaguer and he has a .750 on-base percentage. Suzuki went 1 for 2 with two walks for the Cubs on Opening Day. He recorded his first league hit against defending NL Cy Young winner Corbin Burnes, and he’s the first Cubs player to hit base three times in his MLB debut since Nico Hoerner hit a three-hit game in his 2019 debut.

Speaking of Hoerner, he smashed MLB’s first home run of the 2022 season, a three-run outburst against Burnes. Hoerner has not hit a home run in 324 plate appearances between majors and minors in 2020-21. The blow of the game was Ian Happ’s two-run brace in the seventh inning. David Robertson closed out the win for the North Siders.

Burnes worked his season debut. Last season he hit a record 58 batters before walking his first base of 2021. So naturally he walked the very first batter he faced in 2021. Burnes was charged with three runs in five rounds. In three starts against the Cubs last season, he allowed three runs in 20 innings. So already Chicago had more success against him than last year.

Suzuki reached base three times and Happ had three hits, including two doubles. Kyle Hendricks allowed a run in 5 1/3 innings for the Cubs. He struck out seven and generated 14 swings and misses, two more than any game last year. The Cubs won their season opener for the fourth time in the past five years.