Yankees and Dodgers cruise, and it rains; scenes from opening night

Scott Pianowski

Two games down, 898 to go. Let’s see how far we can get. 

It was nice to have baseball back on Thursday, as weird as it still felt. I preferred the empty Washington seats to the goofy Los Angeles cutouts, but opinions will vary. Neither game had a high level of drama, and with MLB putting a 16-team playoff system into place for 2020, maybe seasonal drama is out the window. The drama is simply getting through the schedule. 

[Still time to join or create a fantasy baseball league for the short season]

I mean, let’s be honest, the Dodgers are already angling their roster for the playoffs. They’ll be as proactive as anyone when it comes to resting and managing star players. (A day ago, Clayton Kershaw was the presumed opening-night starter. Thursday, he moved to the IR, resting a back injury.) 

Yankees 4, Nationals 1

Asterisk or no asterisk, Gerrit Cole had all the ingredients for a lift-off no-hitter. A rain-shortened game, Angel Hernandez behind the plate. Washington lost Bryce Harper a year ago, Anthony Rendon over the winter, and Juan Soto (Covid-19) on Thursday. Ryan Zimmerman opted out a few weeks ago. 

Andrew Stevenson stepped into the lineup Thursday, replacing Soto. Stevenson has played sparingly for the Nats over three years, compiling a .238/.319/.299 slash. It was a lineup of sadness. 

Cole allowed a first-inning homer to Adam Eaton, but otherwise was in command. One walk, five strikeouts, 75 pitches. Looks like he’ll be fine without facial hair. 

Max Scherzer was in and out of trouble on the other side (5.1 IP, 6 H, 4 R, 4 BB, 11 K), though at least he padded the strikeout column. He also threw 99 pitches before the rains came. A lot of teams are going to handle their early starters with kid gloves, but it’s hard to get the ball out of Scherzer’s hands. 

Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton both had a pair of hits, with Stanton adding a titanic first-inning homer. I tend to lean away from injury-clouded players, especially when they play for a big-market team and tend to attract ADP buzz, but I have to admit this tweet got me thinking:

Not everyone wants to get into a discussion about these kinds of soft factors, but it makes intuitive sense to me. Stanton was under no extra pressure in Miami, toiling for a screened Marlins team in front of a half-empty ballpark. In New York, the fans can turn on you in 30 seconds. Maybe Stanton will be able to relax and do his thing. I don’t have any shares, and maybe it’s just the recency bias talking, but when Stanton walloped that first home run, I had some non-drafting regret. 

Dodgers 8, Giants 1 

Here’s a game where neither starter went deep — Johnny Cueto threw 63 pitches for the Giants, Dustin May 60 for the Dodgers. Both pitchers were in and out of trouble, working around seven baserunners. Rob Silver had an interesting take on May after the game: 

The Dodgers eventually broke the game open against the Giants bullpen, specifically rocking Tyler Rogers, who was on the list of possible San Francisco closers. (As if you wanted to speculate for a closer on what could be the worst team in the majors, and managed by Gabe Kapler of all people.) Enrique Hernandez was the batting star, with four hits and five RBIs. The homer came in the eighth, padding the final score. 

Meanwhile, hotshot prospect Gavin Lux waits in baseball purgatory. These are the cards a team like the Dodgers can play, where you have ridiculous talent at every age and pay bracket. 

Austin Barnes picked up the LA start at catcher, though Will Smith figures to start 60 percent of the time. Mike Yastrzemski and Alex Dickerson had two hits each for the Giants, and Pablo Sandoval had a single and a sacrifice fly. I love seeing Panda on a team, and in a lineup. When he’s batting third, maybe that’s a problem. 

Heck, maybe Panda should be the Giants closer

Things really get cooking on Friday, with 28 of the 30 teams in action (the Nats and Yankees get the day off). The Braves and Mets kick off in about four hours, so get to work on those lineups. 

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