The second day of the season gave us a light slate on Friday with just seven games on the schedule. With only one day game, all eyes were on John Means as he made his first career Opening Day start and was lights-out on the mound in Boston. The 27-year-old left-hander breezed through seven innings of work — allowing just one hit all afternoon — a single to lead off the game by Enrique Hernandez. Means struck out five batters — four swinging — and did not issue a walk as 65 of his 97 pitches went for strikes. He picked up the win as the bullpen held on the lead over the final two innings.
Much was made of Means’ velocity late in the 2020 season, as it looked to be a major factor for him down the stretch in September. In four games, he posted a 1.52 ERA, 0.63 WHIP, and stuck out 30 batters over 23 2/3 innings, and averaged 94 MPH on the fastball — up from 92 MPH in 2019. In this first start of the season, Means was averaging 91.7 MPH, though the 37-degree weather could have been a factor as he topped out at 93.3 MPH. This could be the breakout season for Means, though wins could be hard to come by in a tough AL East division.
Mets and Nationals weekend series postponed
The Mets and Nationals will have to wait a couple more days to open their 2021 seasons. The entire weekend series was postponed Friday due to a COVID-19 outbreak within the Washington organization. The Nationals now have four positive tests with five players and one staff member in quarantine following contact tracing. The Mets are on schedule to open their season on Monday in Philadelphia. Meanwhile, things are still up the air for the Nationals. They’re currently slated to host the Braves Monday to begin a three-game series. The team should get confirmation over the next could days as it awaits additional testing results. Mondays don’t all have to be bad, as now we get to watch the best pitcher in the game, Jacob deGrom, starting in a road matchup against the Phillies.
Starting Pitchers with an EDGE
Yusei Kikuchi – 6 IP, 3 ER, 10 K, 1 BB vs. SFG
Kikuchi was tagged for two home runs on the night but was otherwise fantastic as he racked up 10 strikeouts on Friday night against the Giants in Seattle. The 29-year-old showed some skill development in 2020, increasing his velocity and adding an effective cutter. The problem — and a big reason he underachieved his 3.30 FIP — was a 10.3 percent walk rate. So, it was a good sign that he only walked one in his 2021 debut.
Ryan Yarbrough – 5 2/3 IP, 0 ER, 3 K, 0 BB vs. MIA
Yarbrough did a great job keeping the Marlins’ hitters in check and suppressing hard contact on Friday with a scoreless outing. Unfortunately, the bullpen blew the lead late to ruin a chance for a win. The 29-year-old left-hander was only at 65 pitches when he was pulled in the sixth after a double by Starling Marte. Much to our dismay as fantasy managers, getting pulled at the first sign of trouble late in the game is just what happens to Tampa Bay starters. Regardless, Yarbrough figures to be a traditional starter for the Rays all season and should continue to contribute solid ratios with plenty of chances to get wins on a competitive team.
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Hitters with an EDGE
Jose Abreu – 2-for-4, HR, 4 RBI, 2 R
It was a grand night for the 2020 MVP as Abreu cleared the bases with an opposite-field blast to put the White Sox up 4-1 in the third inning. Surrounded by talent throughout the lineup, don’t be surprised if the 34-year-old first baseman surpasses 100 RBI for the eighth time in his career.
The ‘Stros align
Jose Altuve – 3-for-3, 4 R, 2 BB
Alex Bregman – 2-for-4, HR, 3 RBI, 2 R, 1 BB
Yuli Gurriel – 3-for-3, HR, RBI, R, 2 BB
Altuve reached base five times on the night and scored four runs as the Astros leadoff man. That’s now six runs in two games, and the 30-year-old second baseman should be in a position to score plenty more as long as he remains healthy. Altuve had a rough 2020 season but showed some signs of life in the playoffs, going 18-for-60 with five home runs in 13 postseason games. If you drafted him at a discount, it’s looking early on like it’ll pay off in a big way.
Bregman hit his second home run in as many days to start the season as he looks to be completely fine after dealing with a hamstring issue in spring training. And Yuli Gurriel had himself a game, reaching base in all five of his plate appearances and launching his first home run of the season. The Astros lineup is off to a hot start early on as they’ve now scored 17 runs through the team’s first two games.
Yusei Kikuchi – SP, Seattle Mariners, 39% rostered (Yahoo)
I’m going with Kikuchi for today’s priority pickup. He was a popular sleeper pick coming into the season after just about every underlying metric showed that he should have been much better in 2020. An encouraging first start in which he only walked one batter and struck out 10 is enough for me to make him a pickup across all formats. If he can put it all together and continue to keep the walks in check, the left-hander could be on his way to a breakout season.
After plenty of speculation throughout spring training regarding who would serve as the closer for the Padres, Mark Melancon has now recorded the team’s first two saves of the season. It’s looking like the veteran could continue to get plenty of run in the ninth inning as long as he’s effective.
Gabe Kapler has had a reputation for using multiple relievers in the closer role, but he might just have his guy in Jake McGee. The left-hander pitched the ninth inning of a tie game on Thursday before recording his first save of the season for San Francisco Friday against the Mariners.
Speaking of closer-by-committees, Diego Castillo now has the first two saves of the season for the Tampa Bay Rays in Nick Anderson‘s absence. Castillo recorded his second save Friday against the Marlins.
With Hunter Harvey on the injured list, Tanner Scott was believed to be the next-man-up in Baltimore. Though on Friday, it was Cesar Valdez who locked down the ninth inning. This is a situation I’d want to stay clear of outside of deep 15-team leagues.
Matchup of the Day
Yeah, this is going to be a fun one to watch as the two young hurlers go head-to-head in Milwaukee. I know what I’ll be watching at 7:10 ET.
American League Quick Hits: Kyle Lewis is hopeful to resume hitting in a batting cage in the next 3-4 days. …Sean Murphy was a late scratch from the Oakland lineup as he deals with wrist soreness. …Eduardo Rodriguez threw a three-inning simulated game Friday. …George Springer could return for the team’s home opener April 8. …Robbie Ray threw a bullpen session and could be back soon. …Nate Pearson also threw a bullpen session. …Hunter Renfroe went 0-for-3 with three strikeouts. …Ty Buttrey was placed on the restricted list. …
National League Quick Hits: Sixto Sanchez underwent an MRI on his sore right shoulder that revealed only minor inflammation …Felony marijuana charged were dropped against Luis Campusano. …Zac Gallen (forearm) threw a 39-pitch bullpen session with no issues on Wednesday. …David Price pitched in relief and gave up two home runs in two-thirds of an inning in Colorado on Friday. …Trevor Bauer had a no-hit bid broken up in the seventh inning in Colorado.