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.

Opening Day (or Opening Two-Day) is finally upon us. It’s cold, rainy, snowy, windy up here in the north, but who cares? Everyone is in first place today and the weather has to turn at some point since they are playing baseball, right…right?

There are a slew of games on all day (even more tomorrow), so sit back, crack open a beer or two and enjoy America’s past time. And listen to the soothing sounds of John Fogerty…

Here are my quick predictions for this season:

NL East
Phillies
Braves (wildcard)
Marlins
Mets
Nationals

NL Central
Brewers
Cardinals
Reds
Cubs
Pirates
Astros

NL West
Giants
Rockies
Dodgers
Padres
Diamondbacks

AL East
Red Sox
Yankees (wildcard)
Rays
Blue Jays
Orioles

AL Central
White Sox
Tigers
Twins
Indians
Royals

AL West
Rangers
Athletics
Angels
Mariners

NL Cy Young
Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers (picking Halladay just seemed too easy at this point. Plus he and Cliff Lee could take votes away from each other)

AL Cy Young
Justin Verlander, Tigers

NL MVP
Albert Pujols, Cardinals (contract year, he could be ridiculous)

AL MVP
Adrian Gonzalez, Red Sox

NL Rookie of the Year
Freddie Freeman, Braves

AL Rookie of the Year
Jeremy Hellickson, Rays

Number of HR for Jose Bautista
28

Next up on the list on my picture series from last season is Opening Day when I ventured down to my hometown ballpark to watch the Pirates battle the Dodgers on April 5, 2010.

Duke vs. Manny - Opening Day 2010

As you can see from the picture, I was able to capture the ball in-flight for a marquee matchup between Pirates starter Zach Duke versus Dodgers slugger Manny Ramirez. Duke was effective enough through five innings of work to pick up the victory in a Pirates 11-5 blowout.

Garrett Jones blasted two home runs, leading me to proclaim that he was on pace to hit 324 bombs for the year. Obviously, he fell well short of that mark and ended up with a total of 21 big flys on the year. As for Duke, it was his last Opening Day as a member of the Pirates after being dealt to Arizona in November. Manny only played part of the season with Los Angeles after he was signed off waivers by the White Sox in August.

But for one golden afternoon, the Pirates had it all. Home runs, effective pitching, a blowout victory, as perfect weather that you could ask for in April in Western Pennsylvania and I ran into Franco Harris on the concourse after the game. All in all, it was a spectacular day.

I remember listening to the Buccos faithful on the radio during the drive home and them stating that this year would be different and the losing would finally end.

Ah, you have to love Opening Day.

This is a bit old as I missed it from opening night prior to the Red Sox-Yankees game, but I had to post it. For readers who don’t know what this five-year-old kid is all about…his YouTube video of the reenactment of Herb Brooks speech before Team USA’s 1980 Miracle on Ice was an instant hit (more than 2 million hits). If you ask me, he performs this speech better than Kurt Russell did in Miracle. He’s been on some talk shows, and now it has led him all the way to Fenway Park to add some fun to the Red Sox-Yankees rivalry. He modified the original speech a little here to fit with baseball. Ladies and gentleman, meet Joshua Sacco…

Who knew so much could happen in just one day? Yes, it was just one day. Let me just state as a Pirates fan that even though it’s one day, please know that I am very excited to wake up today with the Bucs in first place. Hey, we have to enjoy every good moment the Pirates have because they are few and far between. Here are some random thoughts from yesterday’s Opening Day…

•    The atmosphere in PNC Park yesterday afternoon during the 11-5 victory over the Dodgers was electric, perfect and hard to compare to any other game in the ballpark’s short history. Beautiful summer-like weather, a barrage of home runs and runs and a bullpen to close out the reigning NL

2010 Opening Day at PNC Park

West champs. It reminded me of what the Pirates and the city could be if the Pirates competed throughout the season. With the said, it was once again just one day, and it didn’t change my outlook or prediction on the year, but blocking any negative thoughts today while the Pirates are undefeated. Ah, just say that out loud today.

•    Hey, did you hear Jason Heyward homered in his first at-bat? It was obviously a magical day for the rookie and Braves fan, but let’s not go overboard just yet. Once again, it was just one day. See, it’s becoming a theme now. Let’s just hold off on the Heyward’s ticket to the Hall of Fame for now. It was an unbelievable start to his career, but I have to mention that Jordan Schafer had the same start to his career last year before playing 50 games and being sent down to the minors. I’m in no way stating that the same with happen with Heyward, but there has to be some perspective on the topic. Heyward will be great this season and probably had a bit more energy rolling through him because it was his first game and Opening Day, but the kid will struggle at times.

•    I don’t understand why the Rays and Orioles did not play yesterday. MLB had the “Opening Night” game between New York and Boston and then yesterday was everyone else in the league…except for Baltimore and Tampa Bay. They play tonight along with six other games while most of the teams from yesterday have the day off. Maybe it’s just me, but that makes no sense. In a season where most teams only receive days off a couple of times per month, why give the majority of teams a day off on the second day of the season? More reasons why I need to be the commissioner of baseball.

•   And how about some of the performances around the league? Roy Halladay’s debut with the Phillies wasn’t bad, the Pujols guy is OK as he launched two home runs, Mark Buehrle looks in midseason form after blowing by the Indians, Shaun Marcum returned for the Blue Jays and had a no-hitter in the 7th inning before losing the no hit bid and the win as Texas rallied for the win and Carlos Zambrano had a long day (well actually a short one on the mound with 8ER in 1.1 innings).

Opening day is always a great day, but take it for what it is. Don’t jump off the bridge if your team lost and don’t punch your postseason tickets if you’re a Pirates fan.

Today should be a national holiday. Opening Day is finally upon us. No more analyzing spring training stats or wondering who’s going to make the roster—it’s time to watch some meaningful baseball for a change. The Red Sox and Yankees got things started last night, but today is the real Opening Day with a full slate of games scheduled. So set the fantasy lineups, purchase your MLB-TV package and get ready for America’s past time.

For the festivities, I’ll be heading down to the North Shore of Pittsburgh for the Pirates-Dodgers game at 1:35 p.m. at PNC Park to see Zach Duke vs Clayton Kershaw Vicente Padilla! Hopefully the Pirates will be able to muster up enough offense to get a win for the sellout crowd. The plan is to have the Bucs take care of business, get home to see Jason Heyward make his ML debut at 4 p.m. and then catch Tim Lincecum match up against Roy Oswalt tonight. Click the play button below to enjoy a little Centerfield, and happy Opening Day to all!