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And That Happened: Opening Day’s Scores and Highlights

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Welcome back for the eleventh year of “And That Happened.”

If you’re a longtime morning recap reader, glad to have you back. If you’re new here, welcome. We do this most mornings. We don’t take it too seriously and don’t usually go too deeply into each game because, as the title suggests, baseball just happens. If you need the x’s and o’s spelled out for you in minute detail, there are a lot of places you can get that. Our aim with this feature is to give you a working idea of what went on in baseball the night before, keep track of broad themes — some serious, most not — that play out as the season unfolds and, hopefully, give you a little laugh or something.

Here are the scores if you want some greater detail. Here are the highlights:

Braves 8, Phillies 5: Gable Kapler managed the living hell out of his first game as a big league skipper. Really got his money’s worth, I tell ya, yanking his cruising starter despite him being at only 68 pitches and despite holding a 5-0 lead. He played the matchups as if his life depended on it and brought in relievers as if he were paid by the mound visit as opposed to being on salary. The Braves chipped away and tied things up and, in the end, Nick Markakis won it with a three-run walkoff homer. Bill broke it down last night, and offered a defense Kapler. I totally get the intellectual underpinnings of that case and I myself am often one to offer a “hey, the outcome was bad, but the decision that led to the outcome was good” line of reasoning. Hindsight is 20/20 and all of that.

But nah, not gonna join Bill on this one. Call me old fashioned, call me a sucker for old school starting pitching orthodoxy, but when your starter is at 68 pitches and the opposition looks hopeless against him, you give him a little rope. Especially on the first day of the season when everyone is as fresh as they’ll ever be. This isn’t second-guessing — I was first guessing it in real time as I watched the game — and it’s what I’d do in that situation even if current managerial trends would counsel otherwise.

White Sox 14, Royals 7: Neither team can be completely happy when the game ends in a football score — both pitching staffs have to sort of suck if there are touchdowns involved — but the Sox are obviously happier here. White Sox DH Matt Davidson hit three homers. He’s the first player to hit three Opening Day bombs since Dmitri Young did it for the Tigers back in 2005. George Bell of the Blue Jays did it in 1988. Both of those games were against the Royals too, so maybe they have a thing for it, cosmically speaking.

Brewers 2, Padres 1: Some good Opening Day pitching from Chase Anderson and Clayton Richard, but each of them were long gone when this one was decided. The Padres had a chance in the 11th, but Jeremy Jeffress got  Chase Headley to hit into a 5-2-3 bases-loaded double play. Then in the 12th Orlando Arcia singled in Ji-Man Choi to give the visitors the win. If you care about such things, the Padres’ big offseason splash, Eric Hosmer, was 0-for-4 with 2Ks in his first game in San Diego.

Rays 6, Red Sox 4: Boston had a 4-0 lead heading into the bottom of the eighth when the bullpen cratered and the Rays put up a six-spot. Four walks and a Denard Span bases-loaded triple characterized the meltdown, which never saw Craig Kimbrel throw a pitch. All of that negated Chris Sale‘s six innings of one-hit, shutout ball.

Yankees 6, Blue Jays 1: Giancarlo Stanton homered twice in his Yankees debut, once in his first inning, once in the ninth. His first one was ridiculous, as he took a pitch down in the zone the opposite way, hammering it out at 117 m.p.h. Most guys would dribble that junk down to second base. If someone else did manage to both lift and homer off of that pitch, it’d be one of those golf shots on a high arc. Stanton sent it halfway to Sudbury:

The real tragedy here is that he didn’t have a bad or even merely good first game as a Yankee, thereby preventing me from using the “What’s wrong with Giancarlo Stanton?” joke I had planned to use.

Astros 4, Rangers 1: George Springer hit a leadoff homer for the second Opening Day in a row and Justin Verlander tossed six shutout innings. It’s like 2017 never ended. Jake Marisnick also homered for the Astros. At one point Houston even employed its previously-teased four-man outfield against Joey Gallo:

Does it make me a buzzkill if I observe that almost any left fielder in a three-man outfield would’ve made that catch, be he playing straight up or be he shaded toward center to account for Gallo being a pull hitter? Yes? Well, then, pretend I didn’t say anything. Genius move, Houston. In other news, the Rangers avoided their first home opener shutout ever on the strength of an Astros’ passed ball in the bottom of the ninth inning. Inspiring!

Orioles 3, Twins 2: Adam Jones swatted a walkoff homer in the 11th inning of his 11th Opening Day as a Baltimore Oriole. If it had happened during the 11th hour, well, we’d have to ask why they started the game at 7:30AM, but it sure would’ve been poetic and stuff.

Mets 9, Cardinals 4: Noah Syndergaard pitched better than his line score. Yeah, he gave up four runs, but he also struck out ten Cardinals batters in six innings and didn’t walk a man. Yoenis Cespedes drove in three and Adrian Gonzalez hit a go-ahead double in the fifth.

Cubs 8, Marlins 4: The first game in all of Major League Baseball this season began with an Ian Happ homer on the first pitch. Then the rest of the first inning involved Jose Urena hitting dudes and looking lost. Anthony Rizzo homered. Kyle Schwarber flopped around on defense out in left, helping the Marlins back into the game, but he homered later in the game to give the Cubs some breathing room. You take the good and the bad with him. There were over 32,000 fans on hand. A lot of ’em were Cubs fans and those who weren’t included a lot of Opening Day tourists. It’s gonna be an . . . intimate year in Marlins Park this year. Sort of how concert promoters talk-up small-club shows for acts that can’t fill arenas anymore.

Athletics 6, Angels 5: There were runners on first and third in the 11th inning with Marcus Semien at the plate for Oakland. The Angels deployed a five-man infield and had the left and right fielders hug the corners to keep the game-ending run from scoring and . . . it didn’t matter. Semien swatted one out to center where no one was playing. Oops:

Between this, that four-man outfield and the whole “third-time-through-the-order” business in the Braves-Phillies game, it wasn’t a great day for brain genius strategy yesterday, was it? Oh, and Matt Olsen homered, picking up right where he left off last year. He now has 25 homers in his last 60 games. That’s certainly something.

Giants 1, Dodgers 0: Clayton Kershaw worked in and out of trouble but Joe Panik got to him with a solo homer in the fifth. That’s all the Giants needed as Ty Blach tossed five shutout innings and three Giants relievers took it the rest of the way home in blanking the Dodgers in the two-hour, fifty-five minute contest. Kershaw had been 5-0 in seven previous Opening Day starts. Stuff happens I guess.

Mariners 2, Indians 1: Felix Hernandez showed that he is still the man who would be King, twirling five and a third shutout innings. Hernandez was on a pitch count due to a spring training that was cut short or else he probably would’ve gone longer. His opposite, Corey Kluber, went a full eight innings but didn’t get enough run support to overcome his allowing Nelson Cruz‘s first inning two-run bomb.

Diamondbacks 8:, Rockies 2:, Jake Lamb hit a two-run double in the first that erased a 1-0 deficit and added a two-run single to lead the Dbacks’ attack. D.J. LeMahieu and Nolan Arenado solo homers were all the Rockies could muster

Pirates vs. Tigers; Nationals vs. Reds — POSTPONED:
Sit around, dream away the place I’m from
Used to feel so much, now I just feel numb
I could go out tonight, but I ain’t sure what for
Call a friend or two I don’t know anymore

Sit and listen to the rain
Sit and listen to the rain

Astros owner Crane expects to hire new manager by Feb. 3

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HOUSTON (AP) — Houston Astros owner Jim Crane expects to hire a new manager by Feb. 3.

The Astros need a new manager and general manager after AJ Hinch and Jeff Luhnow were fired Monday, hours after both were suspended by Major League Baseball for a year for the team’s sign-stealing scandal.

Crane said Friday that he’s interviewed a number of candidates this week and has some more to talk to in the coming days.

Crane refused to answer directly when asked if former Astros player and Hall of Famer Craig Biggio was a possibility for the job. But he did say that he had spoken to Biggio, fellow Hall of Famer Jeff Bagwell and former Astros star Lance Berkman in the days since the firings.

“We’ve talked to all of our Killer B’s,” Crane said referring to the nickname the three shared while playing for the Astros. “They’ve contacted me and they’ve all expressed that they would like to help. Berkman, Bagwell, Biggio have all called and said: ‘hey, if there’s anything I can do, I’m here for you.’”

“So we’ll continue to visit with those guys and see if there’s something there.”

Crane says his list is still rather extensive and that he hopes to have it narrowed down by the end of next week. He added that he expects most of Hinch’s staff to stay in place regardless of who is hired.

Crane has enlisted the help of three or four employees to help him with the interview process, including some in Houston’s baseball operations department.

“We compare notes,” he said. “I’ve learned a long time ago that you learn a lot if four or five people talk to a key candidate and you get a lot more information. So that’s what we’re doing.”

Crane’ top priority is finding a manager with spring training less than a month away, but he said he would start focusing on the search for a general manager after he hires a manager. He expects to hire a GM before the end of spring training.

“We should have another good season with the team pretty much intact … so I don’t know why a manager wouldn’t want to come in and manage these guys,” he said. “They’re set to win again.”

The penalties announced by MLB commissioner Rob Manfred on Monday came after he found illicit use of electronics to steal signs in Houston’s run to the 2017 World Series championship and again in the 2018 season. The Astros were also fined $5 million, which is the maximum allowed under the Major League Constitution, and must forfeit their next two first- and second-round amateur draft picks.

The investigation found that the Astros used the video feed from a center field camera to see and decode the opposing catcher’s signs. Players banged on a trash can to signal to batters what was coming, believing it would improve the batter’s odds of getting a hit.

With much still in flux, Crane was asked what qualities are most important to him in his next manager.

“Someone mature that can handle the group,” he said. “Someone that’s had a little bit of experience in some areas. We’ve just got to find a leader that can handle some pressure and there’s going to be a little bit of pressure from where this team has been in the last few months.”

Despite his comment about experience, Crane said having been a major league manager before is not mandatory to him.

“We made some mistakes,” he said. “We made a decision to let that get behind us. We think the future is bright. We’ll make the adjustments … people think we’re in crisis. I certainly don’t believe that.”