LEAD OFF

The Brewers were seeing Red yesterday afternoon. The comeback kids from 2010 picked up right where they left off last year as the Reds put together a four-run bottom of the ninth capped off by a three-run walkoff home run by catcher Ramon Hernandez for a 7-6 win and another improbable comeback. The Reds’ first six wins of 2010 were in their final at-bat and also won the NL Central title on a Jay Bruce walkoff shot late in the year.

A lot of experts have the Brewers stepping ahead of the Reds this year for the division title, but the defending NL champs apparently did not use up all of their magic on last season.

How bad was it for Brewers closer John Axford? He gave up four earned runs in 0.2 innings, easily his worst outing of his young career. The right-hander from Canada only gave up more than one run in a game once last year and that was only two runs on September 28 against the Mets. He gave up more than that yesterday in one pitch.

NOTABLE DEBUTS

Brandon Belt, 1B, Giants:1-for-3, BB, K

Nate Adcock, RP, Royals: 1.0 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0  BB, 0 K

WHAT AN ENCORE

Jason Heyward apparently loves Opening Day. He homered for the second straight year in his first at-bat of the season. The Braves second year phenom became just the second player in MLB history to homer in his first at-bat on his team’s opening game his rookie year and the following year. Kazuo Matsui was the other with the Mets in 2004 and ’05. Matsui never lived up to any kind of expectations, but Heyward should be on his way to a big year.

QUESTION:

Including his game-winning blast, Hermandez had four hits for the Reds. Who was the last Reds player to record four hits on Opening Day? Scroll down for answer.

PITCHING DUEL

In a game for the baseball purist, Clayton Kershaw and Tim Lincecum locked into a pitching duel in Dodger Stadium. Kershaw got the better of Timmy this time with 7.0 shutout innings, one walk and nine strikeouts while picking up the win in a 2-1 game. Could Kershaw be on his way to a Cy Young like I predicted? I know, it’s extremely early, but not a bad way to start the season.

INSIDE THE BOXSCORE

Rickie Weeks and Carlos Gomez hit back-to-back home runs for the Brewers to lead off the game, becoming the first team in 42 years to open the season with back-to-back long balls.

ANSWER:

Paul O’Neill went 4-for-4 with a double, home run and three RBIs on Opening Day 1989. O’Neill’s big day led the Reds to a 6-4 victory over the Dodgers at Riverfront Stadium.

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As I settled down onto my couch last night to watch the Dodgers-Giants game, I expected a classic pitching duel featuring two of the game’s youngest star pitchers—Clayton Kershaw and Tim Lincecum. Instead, I saw a wild 7-5 Giants win that featured three ejections, hit batters, bench warnings and the 8.06 rule.

In case you are not familiar with the rule, 8.06 (b) regarding the manager’s trips to his pitcher states: “A second trip to the same pitcher in the same inning will cause this pitcher’s automatic removal.” It also clarifies in the rule that the manager or coach is considered to have concluded his visit to the mound when he leaves the 18-foot circle surrounding the pitcher’s rubber.

Well after Joe Torre and bench coach Bob Schaefer were ejected earlier in the game, hitting coach Don Mattingly took over as the acting manager. With the bases loaded in the top of the ninth and the Dodgers clinging to a 5-4 lead, Mattingly went out to talk with closer Jonathan Broxton. Mattingly started walking back to the dugout, took a couple of steps off the mound before turning around to say something else. Giants manager Bruce Bochy was all over it. He appealed to the umps that it was two separate visits. The rule does state that, and Broxton was forced out of the game for reliever George Sherrill, who by the way promptly gave up the go-ahead two-run single to Andres Torres. Bochy also got this call against the Dodgers when he was managing the Padres in 2006.

Whoops.

Mattingly admitted that he knew the rule, but didn’t think he moved off the dirt when he turned back. The Dodgers were probably still done because Broxton did not seem to have it last night anyway after giving up a single and a walk to lead off the inning.

The great pitching duel was foiled early when an ineffective Lincecum was hit around early and failed to go at least five innings. He finished with five runs allowed on seven hits in just 4.2 innings of work. Not very Timmy-like. Kershaw, on the other hand, was more effective but did not have brilliant stuff himself as he allowed four runs (two earned) through 6.0 innings and was ejected after hitting Aaron Rowand with a pitch to lead off the seventh. Kershaw also hit Torres to lead off the game in the first. Lincecum retaliated by brushing Matt Kemp back in the fifth and then hit him on the very next pitch.

Like I said, so much for that 1-0 pitching duel. It was still a great game, just not the type of game I was expecting. I’m only disappointed in MLB Extra Innings package for not having the Dodgers broadcast with Vin Scully available…I have no idea why that was either. Would have  been a great contest to listen to Vin. I  The Giants go for the road sweep of the Dodgers tonight.