LEADING OFF: Harper a hit but still hitless, Darvish vs TEX
A look at what’s happening around the majors Saturday:
Bryce Harper was a hit on opening day in Philadelphia, getting plenty of applause in those gaudy green Phanatic spikes . But he’s still hitless, something he’ll try to change when the Phillies continue a series against Atlanta. Harper was 0 for 3 with two strikeouts Thursday, though his intentional walk set up Rhys Hoskins’ seventh-inning grand slam in a 10-4 victory. The Braves’ Bryse Wilson is set to oppose Philly’s Nick Pivetta.
Chicago Cubs righty Yu Darvish makes his season debut after an injury-shortened year — he’ll face some former Rangers teammates when he starts at Texas. Darvish hasn’t pitched in the majors since last May 20, when elbow trouble sidelined him in his first season since signing a rich deal with the Cubs.
Darvish made his big league debut with Texas in 2012 after playing seven pro seasons at home in Japan. He was 52-39 with a 3.42 ERA in 122 starts for the Rangers before they dealt the four-time All-Star to the Dodgers at the 2017 trade deadline.
James Paxton is set to make his first start with the Yankees following an offseason trade from Seattle. Nicknamed The Big Maple, the Canadian left-hander has been slowed by injuries the past two seasons but pitched like an ace when healthy.
He’ll face the Orioles, who will use starter-turned-reliever Nate Karns as the major league’s first relief opener of 2019. After losing 115 games last season, Baltimore and new manager Brandon Hyde are eager to experiment while they rebuild. The team only used an opener once last season under Buck Showalter, but it could be a regular occurrence going forward for the pitching-thin Orioles.
THOR VS STRAS
Noah Syndergaard and Stephen Strasburg square off in another enticing pitching matchup in Washington. NL Cy Young Award winner Jacob deGrom of the Mets edged Cy Young runner-up Max Scherzer in New York’s 2-0 win opening day. The Mets and Nationals combined for 26 strikeouts in that game. Expect more punch outs with Syndergaard and Strasburg ranking among the sport’s hardest-throwing starters.
IT’S ALWAYS SONNY
Reds righty Sonny Gray pitches against the Pirates hoping to get more comfortable in his new home than his previous one. Gray is seeking a return to form after a frustrating 2018 season with the Yankees. He had a 4.90 ERA and struggled especially in the Bronx, leading to an offseason trade to Cincinnati. First-year manager David Bell won his debut Thursday and showed a willingness to try new ideas, like using relief pitcher Michael Lorenzen as a defensive replacement in center field.