Opening day winners and losers: Robinson Cano, Chris Sale and pace-of-play

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It’s one game out of 162. One day out of months of them. So how much can you really take away from opening day in Major League Baseball? It’s a valid question. But have you ever known sports not to be a world of overreaction?

So, sure, we’re assessing the winners and losers of opening day. And, yes, the premise is somewhat flawed. But we also know that every baseball fan approaches opening day with slightly more optimism than the other days. Even people in Baltimore.

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The winners aren’t just the teams that score more runs — even though that is also technically true. Being an opening day “winner” is about making a statement on the biggest day of the year when all 30 teams play. It’s also about being on the opposite side of expectations. So, no, the Orioles aren’t necessarily “losers” for losing.

The good news? Tomorrow is a new day. And so is the day after that.

WINNER: ROBINSON CANO

Robinson Cano had a pretty good year last year, but he was still sort of thrown aside as used goods when he was traded to the New York Mets. He sure didn’t play like it Thursday. He homered in his first Mets at-bat (off Max Scherzer no less), turned a nice double play and added an insurance run in the Mets’ 2-0 win with an RBI single.

Mar 28, 2019; Washington, DC, USA; New York Mets second baseman Robinson Cano (24) is congratulated by left fielder Michael Conforto (30) after hitting a solo home run against the Washington Nationals during the first inning at Nationals Park. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 28, 2019; Washington, DC, USA; New York Mets second baseman Robinson Cano (24) is congratulated by left fielder Michael Conforto (30) after hitting a solo home run against the Washington Nationals during the first inning at Nationals Park. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

WINNER: PACE OF PLAY

This might be the biggest win of all. Baseball games were — for the most part — pretty quick on opening day. There were some exceptions of course, but 10 of the 15 games were under three hours, with four of them under 2:30. Here’s the list with times:

Orioles-Yankees: 3:06

Mets-Nationals: 2:44

Cardinals-Brewers: 2:36

Braves-Phillies: 3:04

Tigers-Blue Jays: 2:25 (10 innings)

Astros-Rays: 2:38

Angels-A's: 2:18

Twins-Indians: 2:18

Giants-Padres: 2:18

Cubs-Rangers: 3:07

Pirates-Reds: 2:54

Rockies-Marlins: 2:55

D-backs-Dodgers: 2:48

White Sox-Royals: 3:12

Red Sox-Mariners: 3:34

Gotta figure the league office is happy about that.

LOSER: WASHINGTON NATIONALS

Not happy? Anybody who was really living that “The Nats are better without Bryce Harper” narrative. It’s a good coping mechanism and, heck, it may ultimately be true. But the Nats squandered a 12-strikeout day by Max Scherzer and couldn’t push a run across the plate against the Mets. Not the way the start the post-Bryce era.

WINNER: LOS ANGELES DODGERS

Eight homers. A good old-fashioned whoopin’ of the Arizona Diamondbacks, 12-5. Lighting up Zack Greinke. That’s the way to start a new season, especially if you’re the two-time World Series losers.

LOSER: CHRIS SALE

Speaking of the World Series: Last time we saw Chris Sale in a real game, he was winning the World Series with the Boston Red Sox. A parade followed, so did a mammoth contract extension. And opening day? Well, it seemed a bit more like spring training for the Red Sox ace. Seven runs on six hits in three innings isn’t what opening day dreams are made of. To the Mariners at that, who won 12-4.

SEATTLE, WA - MARCH 28: Chris Sale #41 of the Boston Red Sox reacts during the third inning of the 2019 Opening day game against the Seattle Mariners at T-Mobile Park on March 28, 2019 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)
SEATTLE, WA - MARCH 28: Chris Sale #41 of the Boston Red Sox reacts during the third inning of the 2019 Opening day game against the Seattle Mariners at T-Mobile Park on March 28, 2019 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

LOSER: MILES MIKOLAS

Like Sale, newly appointed St. Louis Cardinals ace got a contract extension this offseason and rolled into 2019 with good-sized expectations. Like Sale, he couldn’t keep the ball in the yard. He gave up three homers, including one to Milwaukee Brewers’ pitcher (!) Jhoulys Chacin, in a 5-4 loss in Milwaukee.

WINNER: DEREK DIETRICH

He’s the least expected name on this list, but new Cincinnati Red and Ohio native Dietrich hit a three-run pinch-hitter home in the seventh inning that proved to the game-winner for the new-look Reds. Dietrich, who came over from the Marlins, didn’t get as much as attention as some of the other new Cincy acquisitions, but no matter, he came through in the Reds’ 5-3 win.

WINNER: LUKE VOIT

The legend of Luke Voit continues. The 28-year-old slugger — who broke out late in 2018 after being traded the Yankees — picked up where he left off. He hit a three-run, first-inning homer after Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton singled. He drove in four runs total — the other coming on a bases loaded HBP — as the Yankees won 7-2 over the Orioles.

WINNER: LORENZO CAIN

We’ll let the video do the talking here. There were two outs in the ninth, the Brewers were ahead by one and Lorenzo Cain did this.

LOSER: CLEVELAND INDIANS

The Indians saw ace Corey Kluber take a perfect game into the sixth inning only to lose 2-0 to the division rival Minnesota Twins. We know the Indians can pitch, but the offense was pretty rough Thursday. Their No. 2 through No. 7 hitters were a combined 0-for-19. The whole team mustered only two hits. Give some credit to Twins starter Jose Berrios, who allowed just two hits and struck out 10.

WINNER: JORDAN ZIMMERMANN

Remember him? Zimmermann, now a 32-year-old with the Detroit Tigers, took a perfect game into the seventh inning against the Blue Jays. The Tigers won 2-0. Maybe it will all be a fluke, but since Zimmermann has carried an ERA over 4.00 all three years he’s been in Detroit and got lit up in spring training, this gets him some love.

WINNERS: PHILLIES NOT NAMED BRYCE HARPER

Bryce Harper isn’t on the winners list thanks to an 0-for-3 day at the plate with two strikeouts (he did walk and score a run). But the rest of the Phillies are. They beat down the Braves 10-4, a score that included an Andrew McCutchen lead-off homer and a Rhys Hoskins grand slam. New addition Jean Segura had two hits and scored two runs. Bryce will have better days, but lucky for him, the rest of the team picked him up.

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