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The Monday Takeaway
The Red Sox tried during the past offseason to pry Cole Hamels away from the Phillies. They were willing to part with valuable assets to bring the left-hander to Boston. But players perceived by the front office as future cornerstones were off the table.

In the end, GM Ben Cherington and Co. came up short, leaving Hamels with the not-yet-rebuilding Phillies, who, as fate would have it, were scheduled to host the Red Sox on Opening Day. The visitors dug into the batters’ boxes at Citizens Bank Park on a mission: If you can’t get ‘em, beat ‘em.

Boston was on the board five pitches into Hamels’ afternoon, drawing first blood on a solo shot by Dustin Pedroia, who spent the winter boasting of renewed offensive prowess, now that the thumb and hand issues that plagued the 31-year-old for parts of three seasons are behind him. Four innings later, Pedroia cranked one more, bringing him more than one-fourth of the way to his 2014 total of seven in 609 trips to the plate.

Between those jacks by the second sacker, Mookie Betts, one of the coveted youngsters the Phillies wanted for Hamels, found the first pitch of the third inning to his liking and thumped it into the left-field stands. Moments after Pedroia’s second jack, newcomer Hanley Ramirez delivered a laser beam to make it 4-0 Boston.

Hamels was through after five with those four runs on his line, all of them notched on solo homers, the first time he’d allowed four balls to find the seats on his watch at the Phillies’ home yard.

Meanwhile, Clay Buchholz was on cruise control, flummoxing every Phillie not named Ryan Howard, whose fifth-inning double broke up a no-hitter and marked the home nine’s only knock until the seventh. The right-hander worked around a pair of singles in his final frame to exit with the shutout intact, having issued only one walk and fanned nine. According to the Baseball-Reference Play Index, it was only the second time Buchholz has recorded nine or more strikeouts without handing out two or more bases on balls since the 2010 season; the other was his three-hit blanking of the Astros on July 13th of last year.

With Buchholz, Junichi Tazawa, and Tommy Layne on point, the Red Sox could’ve stopped at four. But Ramirez decided to make it a little grander:

The new left fielder joined Pedroia in the two-tater club, as the Red Sox finished with eight runs even though only four of their starters logged a hit. Betts had two, Pedroia had three, Ramirez had two, and Ryan Hanigan, batting eighth, chipped in a single. David Ortiz and Pablo Sandoval took hat tricks back to the team hotel.

On a day when Ramirez’ grand slam was the lone hit with men in scoring position by either club, long balls were the name of the game. The Red Sox drilled five of them in their opener for the first time since 1965 to defeat the ace who proved too hard to get.

Quick Hits from Monday
Up in Milwaukee, the pitcher the Phillies did let go followed Buchholz’ lead for seven scoreless innings of his own. Kyle Kendrick—who left Philadelphia in free agency and signed a one-year, $5.5 million deal with the Rockies—scattered seven hits, walked none, and struck out six. He could’ve earned the “W” trying half as hard.

That’s because Kyle Lohse’s Opening Day went south even quicker than Hamels’ did. It began innocently enough, with a fly out by Charlie Blackmon, but three of the next four Rox doubled. And then, Corey Dickerson pummeled a 1-2 mistake, and before Lohse knew it, the Brewers were in a 4-0 hole.

A double-play ball off the bat of Carlos Gonzalez spared Lohse in the second, but the Rockies were back at it in the third, when Troy Tulowitzki got things started with his second two-bagger of the day. Two batters later, Nolan Arenado tacked a round-tripper on to his double to make it six-zip Colorado.

The Brewers got out of that inning without further damage, and Kendrick was due to lead off the fourth, and it seemed things were finally looking up for Lohse. But then Kendrick doubled, and Lohse uncorked a wild pitch, and Gonzalez singled home his pitcher, and Ron Roenicke had seen enough.

Lohse had no trouble throwing strikes on Monday, but he had a whole lot of trouble throwing good ones

and belt-high sinkers are no recipe for success against a power-packed lineup. Now, the righty must live with the indignity of being the first-ever starter to cough up seven extra-base hits while recording 10 or fewer outs on Opening Day.

The bad news didn’t end there for Milwaukee, either, as the Rockies found Michael Blazek equally generous. Two singles and a Dickerson double made it 10-0, the eventual final score.

***

Just as Dickerson exhibited no signs of regression in his first action of 2015, J.D. Martinez kicked off his encore campaign in style:

That oppo taco off off Phil Hughes was the first dinger of the major-league season, and Alex Avila padded the lead to 3-0 with a two-run bomb in the second. The only other extra-base knocks in this one belonged to Yoenis Cespedes, who picked up a double and a triple in his Detroit debut, and would up a single shy of a cycle if you factor in his defensive efforts—namely, snatching a homer away from Kurt Suzuki.

The left fielder’s robbery kept David Price’s CG SHO bid alive well into the afternoon, through 8 2/3 innings, when Brad Ausmus called on Joe Nathan with two Twins on and his ace’s pitch count at 101. Nathan whiffed Torii Hunter, and the 4-0 decision was in the books.

***

If you haven’t pitched in the majors in three full seasons, it’s nice to come back with a nine-run lead. That’s precisely the situation the Royals granted Ryan Madson, who’s back after a prolonged recovery from Tommy John surgery performed on April 11th, 2012.

The top eight hitters in Ned Yost’s order all had hits for Kansas City, which rode six innings of one-run work from Yordano Ventura to a comfortable late-inning advantage. Jeff Samardzija scuffled in his Chicago debut, managing just one punchout while permitting five runs in six frames, and relievers Dan Jennings and Kyle Drabek fared no better. Drabek, who’d made just five major-league appearances since his Tommy John procedure on June 19th, 2012, was shelled to the tune of six hits in just 1 1/3 innings before Madson took the hill.

With his fastball down to around 92 mph, from its old mid-90s perch, Madson didn’t miss any White Sox bats. Adam Eaton greeted him with a single, but the ex-Phillie responded by coaxing a twin killing at Melky Cabrera’s expense. Madson then issued a walk to Jose Abreu, before getting Adam LaRoche to pop out to secure the 10-1 victory and a spotless ERA.

***

Out west, after Clayton Kershaw booked a relatively pedestrian quality start, holding the new-look Padres to three runs over six frames, two first-year Dodgers combined to steal the show.

Down 3-2 with two away in the last of the seventh, Los Angeles got back-to-back doubles from Adrian Gonzalez and Howie Kendrick, tying the game on the strength of its new second baseman.

Then came a sequence sure to make the pace-of-play crowd cringe.

With the score deadlocked at three runs apiece, Bud Black called for left-hander Frank Garces to face Carl Crawford with Kendrick representing the go-ahead run at second. Don Mattingly decided to flip the platoon advantage back into his favor, pinch-hitting Scott Van Slyke for Crawford. Not to be outfoxed, Black told Garces to utilize the open base and put Van Slyke on. The next batter was another righty: Juan Uribe. So, out came Black to fetch Garces and bring in Shawn Kelley, who got Uribe to ground to second to end the inning on the very first pitch.

If that lulled the record crowd to sleep, the Dodgers had a wake-up call in store an inning later.

Rookie outfielder Joc Pederson got things started with a walk, but A.J. Ellis popped up his sacrifice bunt attempt. An error by Kelley put men on first and second with one away for Kendrick’s new double-play partner. Jimmy Rollins did not disappoint:

That three-run job made Rollins the hero in his Dodger Stadium debut.

Chris Hatcher, who came over from the Marlins in the Dee Gordon trade that set up the Kendrick trade, nailed down the save.

The Defensive Play of the Day
Corey Kluber was good on Monday. Dallas Keuchel was better, leading the Astros to a 2-0 win over the Indians and making an early case for the AL’s pitcher Gold Glove:

What to Watch on Tuesday
Mat Latos is 27, the age at which many players peak, and still far from the mid-30s, when many big leaguers begin a precipitous and unstoppable decline. But despite his relative youth, Latos has been on the downslope for years. He peaked in 2010, his first full major-league season, when he fanned 25.3 percent of the batters he faced and walked only 6.7 percent, seemingly setting the stage for Cy Young Award campaigns to come. A trade from San Diego, one of the league’s friendliest pitching environments, to Cincinnati, one of its toughest, didn’t help, but the right-hander’s slide has little to do with his surroundings. It has much more to do with his velocity

—and not just on the fastball, which flirted with a 95 mph average in 2010 and plunged toward 90 last year. Less zip means fewer whiffs, so it’s no shock that Latos’ strikeout rate dipped to a career-low 17.6 percent in 2015. The question is whether the elbow inflammation that cost Latos most of September has subsided, and whether better health could restore some of the punch his power arsenal has recently lacked.

The Marlins bet that it could on December 11th, when they acquired Latos, a free agent after the 2015 season, for controllable right-hander Anthony DeSclafani and minor-league catcher Chad Wallach. Tonight, Miami’s home fans will get their first look at the club’s new no. 2 starter, as Latos takes on Alex Wood in the middle match against the Braves (7:10 p.m. ET).

***

Cardinals righty Lance Lynn has made 33 starts in each of the past two seasons. He worked a shade over 200 innings in both 2013 and 2014. And he’s avoided the disabled list since a two-month stint with a strained oblique in 2011. In other words, he’s taken the ball whenever he’s been asked to do so.

Two years ago, that meant monthly rendezvous with the Cubs: one in May, another in June, a third in July, one more in August, and a fifth in September. Then, last year, the schedule-makers and manager Mike Matheny conspired to keep Lynn away from the Redbirds’ Windy City rivals, limiting him to just one assignment against them, a six-inning, two-run no-decision on May 4th. Trivia time: How many of the Cubs’ starters that day can you name? (Answer at the bottom of this post.)

Lynn is well acquainted with the Cubs’ old guard, which includes Starlin Castro and Anthony Rizzo, the two gimmes from the lineup in question. But he’s never surfed the rising wave of young talent, from Arismendy Alcantara to Jorge Soler, that began to arrive down the stretch. Those young Cubs will go to bat in support of Jake Arrieta, as the series—which began with a Cardinals victory on Sunday night—resumes at Wrigley Field (8:05 p.m. ET).

***

C.J. Wilson toed the rubber 31 times in 2015, and he only held the opposition scoreless in two of them. Following a five-hit shutout over the Rays on May 17th, the southpaw only blanked a foe once in his final 23 tries, as his ERA for the year soared to 4.51, more than a run higher than his 2014 output of 3.39. It got worse in the playoffs, when the Royals chased Wilson before he could complete the first inning in Game Three of the ALDS.

The lone scoreless line on Wilson’s post-May 17th log came on September 17th, when James Paxton and the Mariners paid a visit to Angel Stadium. Wilson saw Paxton and the M’s again 10 days later at Safeco Field, where he tossed six innings of one-run ball heading into the playoffs.

Here are Wilson’s last four starts in table form:

Date

Opponent/Starter

Line

Sept. 17

SEA/Paxton

7 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 3 BB, 7 K

Sept. 22

OAK/Samardzija

2/3 IP, 2 H, 6 R, 4 ER, 4 BB, 0 K

Sept. 27

SEA/Paxton

6 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 3 BB, 2 K

Oct. 5

KCR/Shields

2/3 IP, 3 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 1 BB, 1 K

As luck would have it, Wilson gets a third date with Paxton and the Mariners in a span of five starts. He’ll look to pick up where he left off at Safeco Field, because—thanks to the Halos’ four-man rotation—a weekend meeting with the Royals awaits (10:10 p.m. ET).

Trivia Answer: Emilio Bonifacio, Luis Valbuena, Rizzo, Castro, Nate Schierholtz, Ryan Kalish, John Baker, Darwin Barney, Jason Hammel.