Daily Dose: Everyone, Meet Mr. Heyward

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In a moment the baseball gods couldn’t have scripted much better, 20-year-old stud prospect Jason Heyward made his big-league debut Monday afternoon and blasted a three-run homer 450 feet off Carlos Zambrano in his first at-bat. The crowd in Atlanta chanted Heyward’s name before he stepped into the batter’s box and the post-homer scene can probably be described best as pandemonium.
Zambrano went on to completely unravel, allowing eight runs without making it out of the second inning, but few people will remember any of that when watching the first clip of Heyward’s career highlight video 25 years from now in Cooperstown. OK, so that’s admittedly a bit over the top, but Heyward is truly a special prospect and I’ll be shocked if he ends up being anything less than a multi-time All-Star.
While the Jason Heyward Era gets off to a memorable start, here are some other notes from around baseball …

* In addition to Heyward announcing his arrival as a future star, some established stars did their usual thing on Opening Day. Albert Pujols went 4-for-5 with a pair of homers against the Reds. Tim Lincecum tossed seven shutout innings against the Astros. And just like last season Zack Greinke saw a Quality Start wasted when the Royals’ bullpen blew a two-run lead (Cy Young runner-up Felix Hernandez had a similar fate in Oakland).
* Ben Sheets, Shaun Marcum, and Jake Westbrook each drew Opening Day starts after missing 2009 following elbow surgery. Westbrook struggled to throw strikes in Chicago and Sheets was merely OK versus Seattle, but Marcum took a no-hitter into the seventh inning against Texas. He eventually gave up a three-run homer to Nelson Cruz and had his win vanish when Jason Frasor blew a save, but it was a very encouraging outing.
* Rotoworld’s award-winning Season Pass product offers subscriber-only columns, daily waiver wire and starting pitcher advice, extensive prospect coverage, detailed bullpen and rotation databases, frequently updated projections and rankings, and much, much more. If you’re not satisfied simply putting your teams on cruise control after draft day, Season Pass can help you make the most of this season.
* Milwaukee’s lineup included a couple surprises, with Carlos Gomez in the second spot despite a .292 career on-base percentage and 39-year-old Jim Edmonds starting over Corey Hart after sitting out 2009. Gomez grounded into a rare double play before four straight hits, notching a homer and a steal in the same game for just the second time. Edmonds went 1-for-4 with a walk and will likely start often over Hart versus righties.
* Clearly distraught about being included on my “players to avoid” list, Garrett Jones homered in his first two at-bats against Vicente Padilla. Jones has always had plenty of power and has now gone deep 25 times in 395 career at-bats, but his lengthy, mediocre minor-league track record still has me convinced that his batting average and overall production will come crashing back down to earth soon enough.
* If you’re not sick of me yet, you can also find me spending way too much time on Twitter.
AL Quick Hits: Josh Beckett and the Red Sox finalized a four-year, $68 million contract extension that keeps him in Boston through 2014 … Mark Buehrle shut out the Indians for seven innings Monday and also made one of the best defensive plays you’ll ever see from a pitcher … Scott Kazmir (shoulder) was “very surprised” by the Angels putting him on the disabled list to begin the season … After saying last week that he’d refuse any assignment to the minors, Hank Blalock changed his mind and will report to Triple-A for the Rays … Ron Washington confirmed that Neftali Feliz will serve as the Rangers’ primary setup man … Willie Bloomquist started at third base in the Royals’ opener, but Alberto Callaspo (oblique) is hoping to return Tuesday … Kevin Kouzmanoff went 0-for-4, grounded into two double plays, and committed an error in his A’s debut … Casey Kotchman opened the season batting third for the Mariners, behind Ichiro Suzuki and Chone Figgins, and drove in four runs.
NL Quick Hits: Jose Reyes (thyroid) singled and stole two bases in an extended spring training game Monday … Roy Halladay had an excellent Phillies debut, allowing one run in seven innings … Colby Rasmus homered Monday and also robbed Scott Rolen of a potential homer with a leaping grab in center field … Drew Stubbs was on the bench Monday in favor of Chris Dickerson and Laynce Nix … Cameron Maybin was a mess Monday, going 0-for-4 with three swinging strikeouts and several poor plays in center field … Jeff Suppan (neck) is aiming to return from the disabled list when eligible Saturday … After struggling down the stretch with a wrist injury last season, Mark DeRosa homered in his Giants debut … Johan Santana out-dueled Josh Johnson, allowing one run in six innings Monday … Not only did Yadier Molina (oblique) start Monday, his grand slam broke the game open late … Mike Jacobs went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts Monday while inexplicably batting cleanup for the Mets.

The Mets break out the whuppin’ sticks, rout the Dodgers 13-7

Cespedes d'Arnaud

So often in life the anticipation of something outpaces its reality. For Mets fans tonight, it was the exact opposite. They had a grand old time. The Mets broke out the lumber and overwhelmed the Dodgers 13-4 to take a 2-1 lead in NLDS.

So much of that anticipation was about revenge, really. Hitting Chase Utley if he was in the lineup, perhaps, or at the very least sending some sort of retaliatory message the Dodgers’ way in response to Utley breaking Ruben Tejada‘s leg on Saturday. But with Utley out of the lineup — and the notion that base runners matter a whole heck of a lot in a playoff game — Matt Harvey just set out to pitch, not plunk. And Mets hitters set out to beat the living heck out of Brett Anderson and a couple Dodgers relievers. Living well is the best revenge, and for a major league team, winning baseball games is living well.

It didn’t start out so well for Harvey, as Yasmani Grandal singled in two runs in the top of the second with a third run scoring on a Curtis Granderson error on the same play. It was 3-0 Dodgers early and Mets’ fans sphincters’ clenched. But only momentarily.

The Mets came right back in the bottom of the second with four runs with a Travis d'Arnaud single and a bases-loaded, bases-clearing double from Curtis Granderson. In the next inning d’Arnaud hit a two-run shot. In the fourth Daniel Murphy singled in a run and Yoenis Cespedes hit a three-run bomb to left to make it 10-3. The Dodgers got one back in the top of the seventh but New York scored three more of their own in the bottom half. It was never a ballgame after the third inning.

Brett Anderson was the author of the damage through three, Alex Wood gave up the four runs in the fourth and hung on in the fifth in what became mop-up duty. Harvey was done after five and took the win. He wasn’t necessarily sharp, but he did strike out seven and was good enough. Some late damage from the Dodgers, including a three-run homer in the ninth from Howie Kendrick, was too little, too late. Granderson and d’Arnaud did the damage for New York, driving in five and three runs, respectively.

Once the competitive portion of this game was over, the Mets’ crowd turned to more important matters. Chanting things like “We want Utley!” Don Mattingly didn’t give him to ’em, probably because there was no downside to smacking him after the game got out of hand. But no upside either. Because of that stuff about living well, remember?

Now it’s on Clayton Kershaw to save the Dodgers from elimination [looks at watch] tonight, technically. If he doesn’t, his detractors will write another page in their Big Book of Clayton Kershaw Playoff Failures. If he does, we get a Game 5 back in Los Angeles.

Maybe Chase Utley gets into one of those.

Jake Arrieta beatable, but still unbeaten

Jake Arrieta
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Jake Arrieta gave up as many earned runs Monday against the Cardinals as he had in his previous 13 starts combined, yet the Cubs still won 8-6.

It’s the 15th straight time the Cubs have won a game started by Arrieta, who is set to finish first or second in the Cy Young balloting announced next month. Their last loss in an Arrieta-pitched game was when the Phillies’ Cole Hamels no-hit them on July 25. They won the previous four before that, too, so make it 19 of 20.

The outing could go down as Arrieta’s last of the season, though that would require the Cardinals beating the Cubs in back-to-back games to finish the NLDS. The more likely scenario at this point is that Arrieta starts Game 1 of the NLCS against the Dodgers or Mets.

Arrieta, though, was vulnerable in this one, turning in his shortest start since June. Even in the shutout of Pittsburgh in the wild card game, the Pirates had chances in the middle innings (most notably before Starling Marte‘s well-hit grounder with the bases loaded turned into a double play in the sixth).

Tonight, he walked two in a row at one point, after not walking a single batter in his previous three starts. He gave up his first homer in six starts. The wind was a factor in tonight’s eight-homer barrage, but Jason Heyward‘s two-run shot off Arrieta went against the grain in left-center.

So, if nothing else, the illusion of impenetrability is now gone. Arrieta can be gotten to, if primarily in short bursts. That’s not going to do anything for the Cardinals — at least not unless Arrieta is called on to pitch an inning or two in Game 5 — but it’ll probably come into play later in the postseason.

Ding-Dong! The Cubbies ride homers to a 2-1 series lead

Jorge Soler

The wind was blowing out of Wrigley Field on Monday night, but mostly for the home team. Makes you think that maybe, just maybe, it wasn’t all about the wind.

The Cubs hit six homers off of Cardinals pitching, one each from each of the first six batters in their lineup. Three of them came against Michael Wacha, who Mike Matheny inexplicably let bat for himself in the top of the fifth and take the hill in the bottom of the fifth and on to a third time through the Cubs’ order. He was shaky as it was, and quickly put a runner on and then allowed a two-run homer to Kris Bryant to make it 4-2. One batter later Kevin Siegrist came in and let Anthony Rizzo take him VERY deep to right field to make it 5-2.

Jason Heyward made it interesting in the top of the sixth with a two run shot to make it a one-run game but then Jorge Soler hit a two run shot in the bottom half and Dexter Fowler hit one in the eighth to make it 8-4. You can’t trade solo shots for multiple two-run jobs. You wanna get the Cardinals? Here’s how you get ’em. They pull a knife, you pull a gun. They send one of yours to the hospital, you send one of his to the morgue! They hit a solo homer, you hit a bunch of two-run shots. That’s the Chicago way, and that’s how you get the Cardinals!

Not that the Cardinals didn’t do a lot. They scored four runs in five and a third against Jake Arrieta, who hadn’t been damaged like that since June 16. But five Cubs relievers held mostly firm. You tell me before the game that they got to Arrieta like that and I tell you they won. But nope.

Now it’s 2-1 Cubs in a best of five. They go tomorrow with Jason Hammel and try to eliminate the Cards. Who had best figure out how to counter the Cubs’ power.