Burnett, Samardzija join exclusive list of starters with nine or more strikeouts
By Roger Schlueter
In 1970, eight Opening Day starters -- including Bob Gibson, Sam McDowell, Andy Messersmith and Steve Blass -- struck out at least eight batters.
Dave McNally had the highest strikeout total for Opening Day starters in '70, fanning 13 in a complete-game victory over the Indians. Those eight pitchers with at least eight K's are still the most for any single year's worth of Opening Day games in the live-ball era.
But that calling card is in jeopardy, for the 2013 slate of Opening Day games has already seen seven such performances -- by A.J. Burnett, Matt Harrison, Johnny Cueto, Jeff Samardzija, Matt Cain, Felix Hernandez and Ian Kennedy. Two more contests and four more pitchers (Jason Hammel, David Price, Justin Masterson and R.A. Dickey) will close out the 2013 Opening Day games on Tuesday, and quite possibly, add to that total of seven starts with at least eight K's.
• In the Cubs' 3-1 victory over the Pirates, Samardzija -- making his first Opening Day start -- threw eight shutout innings (on two hits and a walk) and fanned nine to pick up the win. Burnett took the loss, despite striking out 10. With Burnett striking out 10 and Samardzija fanning nine, this tilt marked the seventh time since 1916 that an Opening Day contest saw both starters strike out at least nine.
Opening Day strikeout duos
Starters with at least nine K's in the same contest:
Pitchers and K's
Bob Feller (10) and Bill Dietrich (9)
Herb Score (10) and Billy Pierce (9)
Don Drysdale (14) and Bob Anderson (9)
Bob Veale (10) and Juan Marichal (9)
Dave McNally (13) and Sam McDowell (11)
Roger Clemens (11) and Jack Morris (9)
A.J. Burnett (10) and Jeff Samardzija (9)
• In Boston's 8-2 win over the Yankees, Jackie Bradley Jr. made his Major League debut (starting in left field), and although he went 0-for-2, he did draw three walks and scored two runs. At 22 years and 347 days, Bradley is the youngest Red Sox player to make his Major League debut on Opening Day and start in left field since Carl Yastrzemski (21 years, 232 days) on April 11, 1961. With regard to those three walks, Bradley became the first player since the Twins' Danny Ardoin in 2000 to draw three in his Major League debut, and one of four players since 1916 to collect three in a Major League debut that also happened to be a team's Opening Day. The other three: Russ Scarritt ('29), Jack Saltzgaver ('32) and Joe Lahoud ('68).
• The Nationals defeated the Marlins, 2-0, with Stephen Strasburg throwing seven innings of three-hit, no-run ball and Bryce Harper homering twice.
Harper, at 20 years and 167 days, is the youngest player to homer twice on Opening Day. Previously, Don Money -- at 21 years and 305 days on April 8, 1969 -- had been the youngest. Harper became the third player in Expos/Nationals history to homer twice on Opening Day, following Al Oliver in 1983 and Vladimir Guerrero in 2000. Of the three, only Harper homered in each of his first two at-bats of the season.
Strasburg -- making his second career Opening Day start -- is the first Expos/Nationals pitcher since Dennis Martinez in 1991 to finish his Opening Day start with at least seven scoreless innings. Last season, Strasburg allowed one run in seven innings on Opening Day.
• Scoring their second-most runs on Opening Day, the Mets defeated the Padres, 11-2, and improved to 34-18 all-time in their first game of the season. The .654 winning percentage is the best for any franchise on Opening Day. The final four Mets runs came from a Collin Cowgill grand slam. He is the first Mets player with an Opening Day slam since Todd Hundley hit one on April 26, 1995.
• Clayton Kershaw went the distance for the Dodgers, throwing a four-hit shutout with seven K's and zero walks, as Los Angeles defeated San Francisco, 4-0.
Before Kershaw, the last Dodgers pitcher to toss an Opening Day shutout against the Giants was Jesse Petty on April 13, 1926. Allowing only one hit -- a double to Frankie Frisch -- Petty walked three and fanned two, as Brooklyn defeated New York, 3-0.
Kershaw's start produced a game score of 86 -- the highest for a Dodgers Opening Day starter since at least 1916.
Kershaw also opened the Dodgers' scoring with a solo homer in the eighth. since 1916, Kershaw and Bob Lemon (on April 14, 1953) are the only two Opening Day pitchers to throw a shutout and also hit a home run.
• Batting fifth, Andre Ethier went 1-for-4 with an RBI. Ethier was making his sixth Opening Day start in right field for the Dodgers, the most at that position for the club since Carl Furillo made 10 straight from 1949-58.
• Justin Verlander picked up the win with five scoreless innings, helping the Tigers to a 4-2 victory over the Twins. Verlander has made six career Opening Day starts, tying Hal Newhouser for the fourth most in Tigers history. Jack Morris made 11, and is followed by George Mullin (10) and Mickey Lolich (seven).
• With Johnny Cueto (nine K's in seven innings) leading the way, Reds pitchers combined to strike out 17 Angels batters. Cueto's nine represent the most strikeouts by a Reds Opening Day starter since Mario Soto fanned 10 Cubs in 1982, while the 17 strikeouts are the most for any team on Opening Day since Mariners pitchers combined for 21 K's against the White Sox in 1996. However, with the Angels getting past the 17 strikeouts to win the game, the Halos are the only team in the live-ball era to collect that many K's in an Opening Day contest and still come out on top. For their part, Angels pitchers combined to record 13 strikeouts -- the most for the club on Opening Day. The previous high for the franchise was 12 K's, accomplished three times (most recently in 1997).
• In Atlanta's 7-5 victory over Philadelphia, new Braves Justin Upton (batting third and playing left field) and B.J. Upton (batting fifth and playing center) combined to go 1-for-8, with Justin hitting a 460-foot homer in the fifth. The Uptons are the first brother combination to share an Opening Day starting lineup since Adam and Andy LaRoche did it for the Pirates in 2009, and are the first brother combination to both start in the outfield for the same team on Opening Day since the Waner brothers -- Paul and Lloyd -- did it with the Pirates on April 19, 1938.
• Felix Hernandez threw 7 2/3 scoreless innings and struck out eight against one walk, and picked up the win as the Mariners blanked the Athletics, 2-0. Hernandez, who tied Randy Johnson for the Mariners record for most Opening Day starts (six), improved to 4-0 with a 1.33 ERA in those six starts. The team shutout was the first on Opening Day for Seattle since 2007, when it -- led by Hernandez making his first Opening Day start -- defeated Oakland, 4-0.
Roger Schlueter is senior researcher for MLB Productions. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.