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BASEBALL | Shohei Ohtani, Yu Darvish Have Solid Opening Day Starts

The Angels and Padres fall in narrow losses to the Astros and Diamondbacks, respectively.



Reigning American League MVP Shohei Ohtani pitches on Opening Day, April 7, in Anaheim, California. (Ashley Landis/AP)

Shohei Ohtani and Yu Darvish both opened the 2022 MLB campaign as Opening Day starters.

The hard-throwing right-handers stopped pitching before the outcome of either game was decided on Thursday, April 7. Ohtani’s Los Angeles Angels fell 3-1 to the visiting Houston Astros, while Darvish’s San Diego Padres dropped a 4-2 decision to the Arizona Diamondbacks in Phoenix.

Ohtani, who was penciled in Angels manager Joe Maddon’s lineup as the designated hitter, lasted 4⅔ innings in his first Opening Day start to usher in his fifth MLB season. He received the assignment twice during his NPB career, in 2015 and 2016 with the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters.

The game began with Ohtani firing a 99-mph (159-kph) fastball to Astros star Jose Altuve.

He allowed four hits and one run and issued one walk. He fanned nine batters and made 80 pitches (51 for strikes), then stayed in the game as the designated hitter. 

“I feel like I could have been better,” Ohtani said of his pitching performance, according to The Associated Press.

The 2021 American League MVP, who went 9-2 as a starting pitcher last season and belted 46 home runs, was hitless in four at-bats as Los Angeles' leadoff hitter. He struck out once.

Ohtani is the first player in MLB history to toss his team’s first pitch and to be its first batter in a season opener, according to MLB.com.

The Astros scored one run off Ohtani in the third inning, then tacked on a pair of runs in the eighth inning. The Angels scored their lone run in the home half of the eighth.

Houston won its 10th consecutive game on Opening Day. Southpaw starter Framber Valdez held the Angels to two hits in 6⅔ innings.

Maddon was impressed with Ohani’s pitching performance.

“Shohei showed once again nothing’s too quick for him,” Maddon said, according to the Orange County Register. “Nothing’s too big for him. I thought he looked really good.”

In Phoenix, Darvish left the game after six no-hit innings. He had thrown 92 pitches (51 strikes) by that point. Bob Melvin, a former MLB catcher and first-year San Diego manager, opted to pull Darvish, adhering to a pitch count. Darvish had a no-decision.

Seth Beer ignited the Diamondbacks, smacking a three-run home run off Padres reliever Craig Stammen in the ninth.

Suzuki, Tsutsugo Collect Hits in Openers

Chicago Cubs right fielder Seiya Suzuki, who joined the club on a five-year deal announced last month, batted sixth in his first regular-season game in the majors against NL Central Division rival Milwaukee Brewers.

Suzuki went 1-for-2 with a pair of walks. He hit a leadoff single to shallow left field on an 0-1 pitch from Brewers starter Corbin Burnes, the 2021 National League Cy Young Award winner, in the sixth inning.  Two batters later, he scored Chicago’s first run, which tied the game. The Cubs added two more runs in the inning.

The Cubs went on to defeat the Milwaukee Brewers 5-4 at Wrigley Field. 

After the game, Suzuki said he had an enjoyable MLB debut.

"It was really fun. I could play relaxed," Suzuki said, according to Kyodo News. "I was always focused on getting on base. I think it went well but the season is long, so I'll have to keep it up."

And what was it like competing against Burnes, who had an MLB-low 2.43 ERA among starters last year?

"I went into the box excited. Things went well today," Suzuki was quoted as saying by Kyodo News. "I came over here wanting to face pitchers like him."


Pittsburgh Pirates first baseman Yoshi Tsutsugo finished 2-for-3 in a 9-0 road defeat to the St. Louis Cardinals.

Notes from Around the Majors

Ohtani appears in a Time magazine feature story (“Shohei Ohtani Is What Baseball Needs”) in its upcoming April 25 double issue. …. He is projected to have, far and away, the most endorsement income among MLB’s players this year, according to Forbes. The magazine predicted he’ll make $20 million USD (more than ¥2.4 billion JPY) in off-field income, or about three times what he earned in 2021.

Author: Ed Odeven

Follow Ed on JAPAN Forward’s [Japan Sports Notebook] here on Sundays, in [Odds and Evens] here during the week, and Twitter @ed_odeven, and find him on JAPAN Forward’s dedicated sports website, SportsLook.

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