Play ball! Opening Day filled with early surprises

Mon Mar 31, 2014 6:54pm EDT
 
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By Larry Fine

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Opening Day unfolded across the United States on Monday with the promise of warmer days, the familiar scent of hot dogs sizzling on the grill and a batch of surprises in Major League Baseball's annual day of celebration.

Unlikely players gave New York Mets fans hope at chilly Citi Field before the Washington Nationals rescued a 9-7 win in 10 innings with the help of a career-high four runs batted in by number eight hitter Anthony Rendon, including a three-run blast in the 10th.

The Detroit Tigers sent their fans home happy with a 4-3 win after a ninth-inning, walk-off RBI single by 37-year-old Alex Gonzalez, acquired last week following an injury to shortstop Jose Iglesias, off Kansas City Royals closer Greg Holland.

Those were two early contests among 13 Opening Day games across the MLB landscape that signaled a belated end to a long, cold winter for many fans following the Los Angeles Dodgers' two-game sweep of the Arizona Diamondbacks to start the season 10 days ago in Sydney, Australia.

Opening Day is celebrated as something of a holiday for fans, with inaugural contests of each team marked by ceremonies, player introductions and packed stadiums that include children whose parents allowed them to skip school.

The chilly 44 Fahrenheit (7 Celsius) New York conditions gave way to warm cheers as the Mets at first seized the upper hand in a game that featured five home runs.

New York's power came from unexpected sources.

Juggling their lineup after allowing second baseman Daniel Murphy to rush home to Florida on Monday when his wife went into labor, the Mets received a three-run home run by back-up outfielder Andrew Brown in the first inning and a later home run by light-hitting Juan Lagares.   Continued...

 
Mar 31, 2014; New York, NY, USA; Washington Nationals second baseman Anthony Rendon (6) celebrates his three run home run against the New York Mets during the tenth inning of an opening day baseball game at Citi Field. Washington Nationals won 9-7. Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports