Chicago Cubs pitcher Jeff Samardzija delivers a pitch against the San Francisco Giants during the second inning of their MLB Cactus League spring training baseball game in Mesa

What special skills does it take to be the Opening Day starter?


Patrick Mooney of reports that, because Matt Garza may not be healthy by then, Jeff Samardzjia could be the Cubs’ Opening Day starter. Here’s what Dale Sveum says about that:

“We’re still waiting to see what happens with ‘Garz,’ how he comes along,” Samardzija said. “They know where I stand on it and how I feel. But it’s nice to have a few guys that are capable of doing it. Hopefully, it gets decided out on the field instead of in the training room.

It’s a baseball game. What starting pitcher who makes a 25-man roster is not “capable” of doing that?  I realize being named the Opening Day starter is often an honor, but I sure hope we’re not allowing our fetishization of that to creep beyond the narrow topic of Jack Morris’ Hall of Fame credentials.

It’s one game, often a weird one, played in cold weather, after a bunch of festivities which often delay the start time and in front of a sellout crowd regardless of the team’s quality or the game’s actual strategic import.

Indeed, it would probably make sense to put your cannon fodder out on Opening Day. He’s not gonna hurt the gate at least.

Astros stave off AL West elimination, beat the Diamondbacks

Colby Rasmus, Gary Pettis
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Facing an elimination number of one, the Astros staved off elimination in the AL West by beating the Diamondbacks on Friday night by a 6-1 margin. The Rangers suffered a heartbreaking loss to the Angels on Saturday afternoon, which temporarily put the Astros’ fate in their own hands.

Colby Rasmus hit a pair of solo homers and Jose Altuve added a solo shot of his own. Starter Collin McHugh tossed seven innings of one-run ball, limiting the Diamondbacks to six hits and a walk with six strikeouts. Reliever Will Harris allowed a solo home run to Paul Goldschmidt in the eighth, but Luke Gregerson closed out the game with a scoreless ninth.

The Astros trail the Rangers by one game in the AL West and lead the Angels by one game for the second AL Wild Card slot. The Rangers can clinch the AL West on Sunday afternoon with a win or an Astros loss. The Astros can clinch the second AL Wild Card on Sunday afternoon with a win or an Angels loss.

The Yankees lost both ends of Saturday’s doubleheader against the Orioles and lead the Astros by only one game for the first AL Wild Card slot.

If the Astros win and the Rangers lose on Sunday, they will play an AL West tiebreaker in Texas. The winner will win the second AL Wild Card if the Yankees win on Sunday, or the first AL Wild Card if the Yankees lose on Sunday.

If the Astros lose and the Angels win on Sunday, the two teams will be tied for the second AL Wild Card. They would play a tiebreaker in Houston, and the winner would play the Yankees in New York in the Wild Card game.

Video: Kelby Tomlinson slides in for an inside-the-park home run

Kelby Tomlinson
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Giants second baseman Kelby Tomlinson looked more like Ladainian Tomlinson the way he was running during Saturday afternoon’s game against the Rockies. In the first inning with one out against starter Chris Rusin, Tomlinson hit a fly ball into the right-center field gap at AT&T Park, a great place to go if you’re in the mood for an inside-the-park home run.

Neither Carlos Gonzalez nor Chris Dickerson could corral the ball before it rolled all the way to the 421-foot marker at the fence. Tomlinson motored around the bases, but Gonzalez made a strong throw into cut-off man D.J. LeMahieu, and LeMahieu made a great throw in to catcher Tom Murphy, but Tomlinson slid in safely just ahead of the tag.

It was an exciting play and the hit proved important as the Giants eked out a 3-2 win against the Rockies.