The opening week of the MLB season has at long last arrived. Baseball fans all over the world have been waiting for the day this great sport would return. COVID-19 took away 102 games and still is a threat to take away even more games. But while we have the games back let’s enjoy the sport we all love.
Baseball will be different in 2020. The 60-game season will be unlike anything we have ever seen. Each game has so much more meaning with such a short season. MLB has expanded the playoffs to eight teams in each league. In a season where more than half the teams will qualify for the playoffs, the 60-game season will be a wild sprint to the end.
Nothing sounds more like baseball than the sound of the bat hitting the baseball over the fence. That sweet sound of the crack of the bat is even more amplified this year with the absence of fans in the stands. In this first weekly installment of “This Week in Home Runs” we look back at the home run highlights of the past week. Overall 105 home runs were hit in 46 total games played.
First Homers Hit
New York Yankees slugger, Giancarlo Stanton hit the first homer of the season on Thursday night. Stanton’s monstrous blast came to the dismay of the defending champion Washington Nationals. This should be a very welcomed sight to Yankee fans as Stanton hit a pair of homers in the opening series. In this same game, Adam Eaton of the Nationals hit the first homer of the season by a National League player.
Yoenis Cespedes, playing in his first major league game in over two years, crushed a solo homer in the seventh inning of the New York Mets season opener Friday at Citi Field. The homer Cespedes hit did more than just beat the Atlanta Braves. Cespedes is the first National League player to hit a home run as the designated hitter in a home game. Remember this, baseball fans, because Cespedes will forever be the answer to a trivia question.
Walk Off Grand Slam
Friday night’s game between the Los Angeles Angels and Oakland Athletics had a very exciting finish. The A’s defeated the Angels in extra innings, and the deciding 10th inning will go down as one of the most memorable innings in MLB history. One of the new rules in place for this 60-game season is the automatic runner on second base in every extra-inning game. That in itself is memorable. But for A’s first baseman Matt Olson he decided to top that.
After the Angels failed to score in the top of the tenth inning, Olson stepped up to the plate with the bases loaded and one out. All Olson needed to do was hit a sacrifice fly and the A’s win on opening day. Olson would go on to hit a walk-off grand slam home run giving the A’s the 7-3 win.
Olson is the first player to hit a walk-off grand slam on opening day since 1986. Jim Presley of the Seattle Mariners hit his walk-off grand slam, ironically, against the then California Angels. The last player to hit a walk-off grand slam was David Bote of the Chicago Cubs in 2018. Bote’s slam was something even more special than Olson’s. The Nationals were leading the Cubs 3-0 in the bottom of the ninth inning. With two out Bote pinch hit for Justin Wilson and hit a grand slam leading the Cubs to a 4-3 victory.
Multi Homer Games
Max Kepler of the Minnesota Twins had the first two-homer game of the year. Kepler accomplished this on Friday in a game in Chicago against the White Sox. In all seven players accomplished this during the opening weekend of the season.
Max Muncy of the Los Angeles Dodgers had his two-homer game on Friday vs the San Francisco Giants. Leury Garcia of the Chicago White Sox and Nelson Cruz of the Twins had their two-homer games over the weekend in Chicago.
Phil Gosselin of the Philadelphia Phillies hit his two against the Miami Marlins. Cleveland Indians third basemen Jose Ramirez smacked two homers vs the Kansas City Royals. Trevor Story of the Colorado Rockies hit his two homers against the Texas Rangers. Story is the first player to hit two homers in a game in the Rangers brand new stadium, Globe Life Field.
Cruz is off to a hot start leading the major leagues with three long balls. Fourteen players are tied with two home runs after the first weekend of the season, with nine of them playing in the National League. With the inception of the universal designated hitter, expect to see more power from the senior circuit.
Welcome To the Majors
Tampa Bay Rays rookie Yoshi Tsutsugo, making his professional debut smacked a two-run home run. Tsutsugo’s homer is more memorable as it was his first career hit at any level. White Sox rookie of the year candidate, Luis Robert, hit the first home run of his promising career. White Sox fans hope there will be many more home runs from Robert to come.
Other Notable Home Runs
Didi Gregorius made his Phillies debut at home vs the Marlins. Didi’s first hit as a Phillie was a solo home run. Rays first basemen Ji-Man Choi had an interesting game on Sunday. Choi hit his first homer of the season against the Toronto Blue Jays. Normally a left-handed hitter, Choi hit his home run batting right-handed. Not only was this his first at-bat as a righty but Choi learned how to switch hit during the pandemic. The Rangers opened up Globe Life Field this past Friday. But we had to wait until Sunday to see the first regular-season home run hit in the new stadium. Who better to do the honors than Joey Gallo who is the Rangers best player.
Opening weekend also had its share of big ninth-inning homers. Marcell Ozuna of the Braves hit a solo home run against Mets closer, Edwin Diaz, on Saturday. Ozuna’s homer tied the game with the Braves winning it in the 10th inning. Jason Castro of the Angels hit a game-tying ninth-inning home run off of Liam Hendriks. The Angels would ultimately lose the game on the Olson grand slam.
The Detroit Tigers had two game-winning homers during the weekend series against the Cincinnati Reds. On Saturday JaCoby Jones hit a two-run homer off Raisel Iglesias giving the Tigers a 6-4 victory. The next day, C.J. Cron hit a two-run home run in the ninth inning off of Michael Lorenzen, giving the Reds another ninth-inning win 3-2.
Tigers designated hitter Miguel Cabrera hit his 478th career home run. Cabrera has passed Adrian Beltre for 30th place on the all-time home run list. He is now 15 home runs away from tying Fred McGriff and Hall of Famer Lou Gehrig at 493. Cabrera who is 37 years old is just 22 homers away from that magical 500 career homer mark.
Home Run Stats
The Twins set a record for home runs hit in 2019 and have continued to mash the ball in 2020. With seven homers in the first three games, the Twins are once again leading the league. The White Sox also have hit seven dingers. Ironically the White Sox were hosting the Twins this past weekend where the teams combined to hit 14 home runs including the second grand slam of the year hit by Jake Cave. This marks the most homers hit in a series in the young season. The Marlins at the Phillies and the Tigers at the Reds each had 11.
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