Bases emblazoned with Opening Day sit ready to be installed on the field on opening night of the MLB season in Houston

The worst Opening Day starts of the 2000’s

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Opening Day is set to kick off in just a few minutes when the Houston Astros take on the Texas Rangers. The Rangers’ Matt Harrison opposes the Astros’ Bud Norris. Though Norris isn’t terrible, he isn’t exactly the type of starter you envision kicking off your team’s season on Opening Day.

With that said, let’s take a quick look back at some of the worst Opening Day starts of the 2000’s.

April 1, 2011: Roberto Hernandez (Indians) vs. White Sox

Hernandez, then known as Fausto Carmona, was hit right from the start. He allowed two runs in the first, four in the third, and was charged for four more in the fourth inning as the Sox put up an eight-spot. Adam Dunn and Carlos Quentin homered in the third, but the rest of the damage was done by singles and doubles.

Hernandez’s final line: 3 IP, 11 H, 10 ER, 1 BB, 5 K

April 5, 2010: Carlos Zambrano (Cubs) vs. Braves

The Cubs staked Zambrano to a three-run lead in the first inning, but he gave it back and then some in the bottom half of the inning. On a walk, four singles, and a three-run home run by Jason Heyward, the Braves scored six runs. In the second, Zambrano hit Martin Prado, then Chipper Jones grounded out but Prado ended up coming all the way around to score on a Zambrano throwing error, and Brian McCann homered before the right-hander was finally removed from the game.

Zambrano’s final line: 1.1 IP, 6 H, 8 ER, 2 BB, 1 K

April 2, 2007: Jose Contreras (White Sox) vs. Indians

Grady Sizemore led the game off with a home run, then three more Indians reached base without making an out — all singles. Josh Barfield landed a crushing blow with two outs, hitting a two-run triple to right field that brought the Indians’ lead to 5-0. Contreras came out for the second inning, but walked Sizemore, then surrendered a double to Trot Nixon to put runners on second and third with no outs. Travis Hafner hit a grounder to shortstop Juan Uribe, but he made an errant throw to first base, allowing Sizemore and Nixon to score, chasing Contreras in the process.

Contreras’s final line: 1 IP, 7 H, 8 R (7 ER), 1 BB, 1 K

April 3, 2006: Jon Lieber (Phillies) vs. Cardinals

Lieber was on the hook for eight runs in his start, which is amazing considering he exited the third inning having allowed only two runs on a Jim Edmonds RBI double in the first and an Albert Pujols solo home run in the third. The eventual World Series champions strung together a bunch of hits against Lieber in the fourth: five singles and a triple. Lieber left with his team down 5-0 with one out and the bases loaded. Julio Santana came in relief but he only poured more gasoline on the fire. Pujols hit a sacrifice fly, Edmonds was walked to re-load the bases, and Scott Rolen hit a grand slam to put his team up 10-0.

Lieber’s final line: 3.1 IP, 9 H, 8 ER, 1 BB, 3 K

April 4, 2005: Javier Vazquez (Diamondbacks) vs. Cubs

The first inning wasn’t that bad for Vazquez. He surrendered four hits, leading to two runs, but they were all singles. The Cubs started crushing everything Vazquez threw in the second. He got Michael Barrett to pop out to lead off the inning, but pitcher Carlos Zambrano reached base on a double, which was then followed up by three consecutive singles and an Aramis Ramirez double, putting the Cubs up 6-0. Jeremy Burnitz struck out, but Derrek Lee extended the inning with a double to left, driving in the Cubs’ seventh run, pushing Vazquez out of the game.

Vazquez’s final line: 1.2 IP, 10 H, 7 ER, 0 BB, 2 K

Wade Davis? Greg Holland? Who needs ’em?

KANSAS CITY, MO - AUGUST 21: Joakim Soria #48 of the Kansas City Royals throws in the eighth inning against the Minnesota Twins at Kauffman Stadium on August 21, 2016 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images)
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The story of the two-time defending AL champion and current defending World Series champ Kansas City Royals cannot be told without talking at length about their bullpen.

In 2014, Wade Davis, Greg Holland and Kelvin Herrera formed a shutdown brigade that not only made it next to impossible for the opposition to mount late rallies, but managed something which seemed utterly impossible before 2014: they turned Ned Yost into a tactical genius. Indeed, the only time Yost got criticism at all that fall was when he messed with the autopilot formula that had that three-headed monster handling the 7th, 8th and 9th innings.

Much the same happened in 2015, of course, despite Holland’s sharp decline and eventual injury. Davis and Herrera continued their dominance. They were joined by Ryan Madson and a cast of other effective relievers who, along with timely hitting, great defense and good health, helped propel the Royals to the title.

This year had not been quite the same story. Holland has been out all year and Davis, while effective when he’s pitched, has missed time due to injury. As has longtime contributor and presumptive next-man-up Luke Hochevar. Herrera is basically still Herrera, but Ned Yost has been presented with a decidedly different set of choices. Lots of choices and Ned Yost don’t always go together well, but lately that hasn’t mattered.

Last night the Royals’ bullpen came in to a close game and tossed three scoreless innings. That set a franchise record with 32 straight scoreless frames, besting the previous record set back in the club’s inaugural season in 1969. The streak is a huge part of why the Royals have won nine games in a row.

Unlike the success of 2014-15, the streak is not a three-man show. As Rustin Dodd of the Kansas City Star notes, eight different relievers have appeared for Kansas City during the streak, with Joakim Soria and Matt Strahm leading the crew with five and a third innings pitched. Herrera has tossed five scoreless. Otherwise it’s been a group effort with even Peter Moylan offering a couple of scoreless frames. And here you thought Moylan was, I dunno, gearing up for the upcoming Brisbane Bandits season. Nope.

The Royals are still not, in my view anyway, a lock to make the postseason. It’s a a crowded field right now. They’re seven and a half back in the AL Central and four back in the Wild Card with a bunch of teams in front of them. But they’re certainly playing themselves back into the conversation. They’re interesting. And they’re doing it in much the same way they’ve done it the past two years. Only with different dudes doing the do.

Video: Mookie Betts made a ridiculous throw last night

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Mookie Betts was an infielder once upon a time and the knock on him both then and since his move to the outfield was that maybe his arm was not fantastic. As an infielder there was talk that he was better suited to the right side than the left. As an outfielder people were saying that, with work, his arm could be average and/or serviceable. Not bad, of course, but not anything to write home about.

Maybe we need to reassess that, because last night he uncorked one from right field that would make Dwight Evans says “dang, man.”

 

And the throw mattered, as Kiermaier represented the tying run in a game that, at the time, the Sox were leading 2-1.

Betts is a dangerous middle-of-the-order bat at age 23. And now he shows that he’ll nail a fast runner with a frozen rope if he has to. The guy is going to win an MVP award some day. And maybe not just one.