The Opening Weekend of this most irregular 2020 Major League Baseball 60-game season came and went in joyous glory. And, just as we all predicted, the Baltimore Orioles are tied at the top of the American League East with the New York Yankees and Tampa Bay Rays; Adam Duvall‘s home run hit a cardboard cutout of Jeff McNeil‘s dog Willow, and Ángel Hernández finally mastered the strike zone.
Ok ok, some things have stayed the same but there’s plenty of different out there to enjoy. Let’s look at how Sunday reminded us of why we love baseball.
Ji-Man, Give This a Go!
A quick look at Ji-Man Choi‘s Baseball Reference page will confirm that the Rays’ quirky South Korean slugger does indeed bat left-handed. So, it was somewhat of a surprise that, with his team trailing 4-0 in the bottom of the 6th, he trotted up to the plate and demolished a 90 mph fastball from Anthony Kay over the fence in left-center field at Tropicana Field, batting right-handed.
The Korean broadcast on MBC Sports+ does the moment justice.
— Dan Kurtz (@MyKBO) July 27, 2020
Choi had briefly dabbled with batting right-handed for the Rays way back in 2015, when he notched a mere 15 plate appearances. However, as we all know the Rays earn our utmost respect for being the most unconventional team in baseball, and allowing Choi to trust his instincts served them well tonight. In his entire professional career before today, the South Korean had batted righty just 17 times out of 3,397 total PA. Astonishing. As the Rays’ own Twitter feed announced…”there’s a Choi Boi in all of us.”
There’s a Choi Boi in all of us pic.twitter.com/nx0NNPQoEx
— Tampa Bay Rays (@RaysBaseball) July 26, 2020
The Rays rallied from 4-0 down in the 6th to take the game to extra innings, where Kevin Kiermaier‘s walk-off triple proved to be the difference.
Using the phrase made famous by Paul Rudd and Jason Segel in the 2009 film, I Love You Man, is the only way to appreciate the footage of Miami Marlins slugger Jesus Aguilar showing love for the athletic frame of Phillies’ first baseman, Rhys Hoskins. Taking the phrase to a whole new level on Sunday, we appreciate the Venezuelan taking the time to apply his mask before getting down to the deed.
Protect your homies 🔑
Pull your mask up before you slap their ass 😤 pic.twitter.com/64ZAwXQQ3T
— Mike (@hammerito) July 26, 2020
First-ever player to be ejected from the stands
Derek Holland, step on down. Actually, no…get outta here! In a somewhat odd occurrence during the Pirates’ 5-1 victory over the Cardinals, umpire Jordan Baker made the fiery decision to eject Pirates reliever Derek Holland, who was heckling from the stadium seats behind the dugouts.
This is ALL TIME! First player ever to be ran from the damn STANDS?
HEY, YOU, in section 120 row 2 seat 36, your ass is OUTTA HERE! https://t.co/pOTVmAwGes
— Dallas Braden (@DALLASBRADEN209) July 26, 2020
This led to the first manager versus umpire confrontation of 2020, and we sure did learn a few things. First, please put on your mask before berating any individual…
Manager and umpire arguments in 2020 are just a tad different than normal.
— FOX Sports Midwest (@FSMidwest) July 26, 2020
We all remember Trevor Bauer losing his temper last year after being pulled from a start. Well, after a dominant first outing of 2020 (in which he went 6.1 innings, giving up only 2 hits and 1 walk with a whopping 13 strikeouts) the polarizing Cincinnati Reds starter managed to look on the brighter side of life. Welcome back, Trev!
Hey look y’all I had another temper tantrum today I’m such a baby a crybaby a whiner omggggggg just play baseball you loser wahhhhhhh pic.twitter.com/IhSMwCIwi1
— Trevor Bauer (@BauerOutage) July 26, 2020
And then there is Carlos Carrasco, the hero. The Cleveland Indians starting pitcher was heavily rumored to be opting out of the season due to health concerns around his susceptibility to COVID-19. With a quality showing equal to Bauer in every regard, it brought a smile to see a man who has been through so much over the past year give the global pandemic a sturdy clip round the ear.
Carlos Carrasco's first start since being diagnosed with leukemia last year is complete. He walked off the mound as "Summer of '69" played over the sound system.
His final line:
6 innings (plus a batter), 5 hits, 2 ER, 1 walk, 10 strikeouts
— Mandy Bell (@MandyBell02) July 26, 2020
Somewhat alarmingly, there were two MLB records broken over Opening Weekend. It was the first time since 1954 that no team has started the season 3-0. And, in Bauer and Carrasco’s case, it was the first time in MLB history that every team was in action on a given day and no starting pitcher completed 7 innings. Wowzers!
Even Chilled Mad Max Is Pretty Intense
Max Scherzer headed to the stands to watch the Nationals square off against the Yankees on his day off. The ‘no-nonsense’ Washington ace looked like he already had his next start on his mind as he vehemently chewed his gum whilst sporting some seriously bright sunglasses.
Chill Max. pic.twitter.com/ETHEux36wP
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) July 26, 2020
He looked to loosen up somewhat at the 7th-inning stretch, partaking in a little light exercise with teammate Anibal Sanchez.
— Washington Nationals (@Nationals) July 26, 2020
Chocolate Milk and Squats
Pete Alonso was giving out life secrets when “Mic’d Up” during ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball broadcast. Looks like we all need to stock up for the world’s new fad diet. I am sure every good sports magazine will be providing a full run down with meal plans and recipes in their next issue.
Pete Alonso shares the secret to life. pic.twitter.com/vv5yaYTXGb
— Cut4 (@Cut4) July 27, 2020
Cardboard Cutouts vs Real Fans
Of course, real fans are the best! However, the myriad of cardboard cutout fans, pets, and well anything goes at this point, are making every effort to provide a great fan experience to all of us at home. Let’s look at the top “fake fan” moments from Sunday:
Jeff McNeil‘s dog, Willow had it rough on Saturday. But, he came back for the game on Sunday and the Mets players’ pets came along in support.
Willow McNeil, who did not suffer any lasting damage from her game of fetch yesterday, brought three new Very Good friends to tonight's game.
That's Charlie Sewald on the top right. Other two as yet unidentified. Rumor has it Seth Lugo is considering purchasing one for his cat. pic.twitter.com/XFtWBBW53a
— Anthony DiComo (@AnthonyDiComo) July 26, 2020
I am a huge admirer of Acceptably Drawn Baseball (@drawawalk), yet somehow I cannot think how I will explain this to my daughter in 10 years time?!
— acceptably drawn baseball (@drawawalk) July 26, 2020
The Phillie Phanatic has stolen the show over the weekend, winning the “Battle of the Mascots” by a landslide. Just look here as he gets the (cardboard) crowd going to try to turn a rally.
Phillie Phanatic really putting in his best effort 🤣
— ESPN (@espn) July 26, 2020
ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball brought out a number of retired legends to provide some much-needed entertainment in what was a dire matchup between the Dodgers and Giants at Chavez Ravine. Mike Piazza preceded to smoke a cigar as he called Chipper Jones, “Larry.” However, the former Atlanta Brave had the last laugh with this epic troll of the Mets.
— New York Post (@nypost) July 24, 2020