Baseball fans, rejoice. The 2021 Major League Baseball season officially begins Thursday in ballparks that will actually hold (some) fans during the regular season, a departure from the 60-game campaign MLB played last year.
This year, the plan is to play all 162. And on Day 1, all fans – no matter the expectations or predictions – hold that sense of promise that comes with every new season.
Two games have already been postponed: one due to weather, the other due to COVID-19 concerns, a reminder the pandemic will still factor into the 2021 season. Follow along here for the latest updates and highlights from the first “real” Opening Day since 2019.
Who’s closing where?
Some of the most closely guarded secrets this spring had to do with several teams’ preferences at the back of the bullpen. Of course, one game certainly doesn’t guarantee how things go all season, but at least a couple of those closer questions were answered in Thursday’s openers.
The San Diego Padres had three potential candidates — and manager Jayce Tingler used them all in an 8-7 victory over the Arizona Diamondbacks. Emilio Pagan pitched a scoreless seventh, Drew Pomeranz struck out the side in the eighth and Mark Melancon wrapped things up in the ninth.
Pittsburgh Pirates manager Derek Shelton said Richard Rodriguez wouldn’t necessarily keep the closer’s job he took over late last season. However, Rodriguez did pitch the ninth and get the save in a 5-3 win over the Chicago Cubs.
The Minnesota Twins indicated they’re planning on using Taylor Rogers and Alex Colome as co-closers. Rogers worked a scoreless seventh against the Milwaukee Brewers, but Colome yielded two hits and three unearned runs in the ninth in an eventual 6-5 loss in 10 innings. However, the runs were unearned because of Colome’s throwing error. Keep a close eye on this situation.
Gregory Soto picked up the save in a 3-2 Detroit Tigers win, despite giving up a two-run homer to Cleveland’s Roberto Perez in the ninth.
St. Louis Cardinals manager Mike Shildt said before his team’s opener that hard-throwing Jordan Hicks would be eased into the closer’s role after missing all of last season. Giovanny Gallegos pitched the eighth and Alex Reyes had the ninth, despite it not being a save situation, in the Cards’ 11-7 victory over the Cincinnati Reds.
Greg Holland posted a stellar 1.91 ERA with six saves last season for the Kansas City Royals. He got out of a bases-loaded situation in the eighth against the Texas Rangers to protect a four-run lead, but ran into trouble in the ninth. Former closer Wade Davis picked up the save by getting the final two outs of a wild 14-11 win.
And the Tampa Bay Rays set an MLB record last year — during the short season, no less — with 12 different players recording at least one save. In their season-opening win over the Marlins, Diego Castillo secured their first one of 2021.
Meadows’ home run the difference for Rays (7:13 p.m.)
Outfielder Austin Meadows broke up a scoreless tie with a solo homer in the top of the eighth inning as the Tampa Bay Rays defeated the Miami Marlins 1-0 in the Battle of Florida.
The game was a classic pitcher’s duel between the Rays’ Tyler Glasnow and the Marlins’ Sandy Alcantara. Both tossed six shutout innings before turning things over to their bullpens.
Glasnow struck out six and allowed only a first-inning single to Jesus Aguilar before retiring the final 16 batters he faced. Alcantara yielded two hits and two walks, striking out seven. Meadows’ homer came off Marlins reliever Yimi Garcia.
Diamondbacks rally back against Padres (6:30 p.m.)
Trailing 6-1, Arizona scored six runs – on four home runs in the top of the fifth to take the lead. After Ketel Marte and Asdrubal Cabrera homered, pinch hitter Tim Locastro’s two-run shot tied it at six and Stephen Vogt followed with a solo home run to take the lead.
Dodgers’ oddity costs Bellinger a HR
Blue Jays beat Yankees in extra innings
Leading off the 10th inning with a man on second (it’s still weird), Randal Grichuk hit an RBI double to break the tie game and Toronto held on to win 3-2 in the Bronx. Julian Merryweather struck out the side to get the save for the Blue Jays.
Cardinals open with a bang (4:35 p.m.)
St. Louis scored six runs in the first inning against Reds ace Luis Castillo, capped off by rookie Dylan Carlson’s three-run homer. Prized offseason acquisition Nolan Arenado singled in his first at-bat with the Cardinals, coming around to score earlier in the frame.
Rangers jump out on Royals (4:30 p.m.)
Texas scored five runs before Kansas City starter Brad Keller even recorded an out, getting an RBI single from Nick Solak, a three-run double from new addition Nate Lowe and an RBI single from designated hitter Eli White. The Rangers sent 10 batters to the plate and had seven hits in the inning.
Pirates phenom goes long (2:35 p.m.)
Pittsburgh third baseman Ke’Bryan Hayes, among the favorites to win the NL Rookie of the Year award, hit a two-run homer in the first inning off Cubs right-hander Kyle Hendricks. The 24-year-old, son of MLB veteran Charlie Hayes, hit .376 with five home runs and 11 RBI in 24 games last season.
Cabrera gets campaign started (1:40 p.m.)
Playing in a snowstorm in Detroit, Miguel Cabrera hit the first home run of the 2021 MLB season, a two-run shot in the second inning off reigning AL Cy Young winner Shane Bieber. It was Cabrera’s 488th career home run and 2,867th hit, a great start for the 37-year-old looking to reach the 500 and 3,000 milestones this season.
Play ball! (1:10 p.m.)
With the first pitch of the Yankees-Blue Jays game in the Bronx, the 2021 MLB season is officially underway. Yankees ace Gerrit Cole set Toronto down in order in the top of the first.
Nationals-Mets postponed due to COVID issues (11:15 a.m.)
Washington was set to be without five players for Thursday’s game after one player tested positive for COVID-19 and four others were in quarantine due to contact tracing. Now, the game won’t be played and despite a scheduled day off Friday, the earliest the teams will play is on Saturday.
Red Sox-Orioles postponed (9 a.m.)
Thursday’s game at Fenway Park between the Red Sox and Orioles was called off due to rain and will be played on Friday, which is the exact reason for the built-in off-day following opening day.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: MLB opening day 2021 live: Scores, updates, highlights around baseball