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2021 MLB Opening Weekend Highlights

Baseball is finally back, and the opening weekend was full of surprises. Some teams surprised everyone by winning games they weren’t expected to win. Some players overperformed, while others surprisingly underperformed. Overall, it was a great weekend of baseball full of highlights. 

On opening day, the Washington Nationals were set to face the New York Mets with a great pitching duel. Starting pitcher Jacob Degrom of the Mets versus starting pitcher Max Scherzer of the Nationals. Both players have won multiple Cy Young awards and have been top pitchers in all of baseball. Unfortunately, COVID-19 struck again, and the opening day began with at least one Nationals’ player testing positive. A few more players were then ruled out of the game as a result of contact tracing. As the weekend progressed, more players were testing positive and ultimately the entire series was cancelled. This weekend made it very clear that COVID-19 still exists and is still making an impact so everyone should continue to stay safe. 

After the first series of the season, there were only three teams that were undefeated. This included the Houston Astros, Philadelphia Phillies and Baltimore Orioles. All three teams were not expected to start off this hot. The Phillies faced the Atlanta Braves, who were the 2020 National League East division winners and projected winners of the division this year. It seems as if the Phillies improved their bullpen in the offseason, which was a big issue last year, but starting off the season sweeping the Braves shows that maybe they are ready to compete for the division title. Can the Phillies really keep this up? It is possible, but the Braves for sure are not going to go down as easily as they did in that series. The Astros lost center fielder George Springer in the offseason and were projected to be close to the top of their division competing with the Oakland A’s. However, the Astros swept the A’s in four games. Third baseman Alex Bregman had a down year last year, but it appears as if he is bouncing back as according to MLB.com, he had a 0.467 batting average in the series with two home runs. Second baseman Jose Altuve also started off red hot with a 0.421 batting average. The Orioles played well over the weekend, but it was apparent that their opponent, the Boston Red Sox, could not find a way to get their offense going. Superstar outfielder Alex Verdugo has started the season with two hits in 15 at bats. It is highly likely that he is going to return to form soon but the Red Sox as a whole have a lot of work to do to bounce back from a sweep to the Orioles. 

We also had the first brawl of the season over the weekend. According to Yahoo!Sports, on April 3, outfielder Nicholas Castellanos of the Cincinnati Reds was a part of a brawl against the St. Louis Cardinals. Castellanos, ran home during a wild pitch and barely crossed home plate before being tagged. He then proceeded to stand up and flex on the pitcher trying to tag him. This resulted in chaos and a brawl broke out. Castellanos was suspended for two games for his actions. He did not make any physical contact with the pitcher. All Castellanos did was stand up and flex. There has been debate about whether or not he should truly be suspended for this celebration. Starting pitcher Trevor Bauer had this to say about the play, “MLBs [Major League Baseball] note to players. Don’t get excited about big moments or play with intensity, we will fine you and suspend you if you do… #FreeNickCastellanos.” Castellanos is still likely going to be suspended, but it is clear that some players are upset with how MLB is handling situations similar to this. 

There were many players that had surprisingly good starts to the season, such as center fielder Michael A. Taylor of the Kansas City Royals. However, there was one player that started off the season with a bang. Designated hitter Yermin Mercedes of the Chicago White Sox in his first two games as an MLB player was eight for eight. According to MLB.com, he finished his first four games with 10 hits in 16 plate appearances, which is good for a 0.625 batting average. It is unlikely that he is going to keep up with this pace, but this guy can hit and that is very clear. 

Shohei Ohtani may be the most talented player in baseball. On April 5, Shohei Ohtani appeared in the game as a pitcher and hitter. Ohtani is described to be a two-way player. This means that he hits and pitches. Ohtani reached 100 miles per hour on his fastball a few times and in his first at bat of the game, he hit a home run 450 feet. He literally can do it all at this point. Ohtani is making a huge impact on both sides of the baseball field. Ultimately, he did not win the game. However, he did display elite pitches in his few innings of work. After his first start though, it is apparent that Ohtani has a chance to display talent that has not been seen in decades. Over the first three games of the season, there were three stars that did not have a hit. According to MLB.com, this included second baseman Ozzie Albies, first baseman Freddie Freeman, and third baseman Rafael Devers. Albies has been fairly consistent over the past couple years so there is no doubt that he is going to get his timing back, but it was still surprising to see him go hitless in the first three games of the season. Freeman won the Most Valuable Player (MVP) award last year and has been one of the best first baseman in the league for many years. He still walked three times in the first three games, but it is very surprising to see him go without a hit. Freeman will definitely bounce back and retain his title as the best first baseman in baseball. Devers is known for his hitting, yet last year he had a down year batting wise. In the first three games of the season, he had zero hits in eleven plate appearances. He may be regressing slightly, but zero hits out of 11 appearances is significantly worse than last year. It is possible that he continues to take a step back with his hitting but do not expect him to be this bad.

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