The MLB season finally started amid the COVID-19 pandemic on Thursday with plenty of unusual elements — no fans, umpires wearing masks, Washington star Juan Soto sidelined by the coronavirus, and all the Nationals and Yankees kneeling together before the national anthem.
“It’s hard to describe. That’s 2020 in a nutshell,” said Nationals pitcher Sean Doolittle, who was supposed to catch US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Anthony Fauci’s way-off-the-mark ceremonial first pitch. “Very emotional day. Very, very emotional day.”
However, there was also plenty that actually made it all seem something resembling normal — Gerrit Cole’s five terrific innings, big hits from Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge, and a 4-1 storm-halted victory for the Yankees over defending champions the Nationals.
Photo: Geoff Burke-USA Today
“It was a lot of fun. No one could have envisioned the type of year we’re having this year, but within those parameters, it exceeded every mark,” said Cole, who only allowed Adam Eaton’s first-inning homer and joked about recording a complete game. “I just had a blast.”
Max Scherzer, who struck out 11, but gave up all of New York’s runs, chose to look at the bright side.
“I’d rather be playing baseball than not. That’s the way I look at it,” Scherzer said. “All the things we can get negative about and cry about, I’m just not going to do it.”
What began as a muggy evening turned into a dark, windy downpour, replete with rumbles of thunder and flashes of lightning, prompting a delay in the top of the sixth inning.
After waiting 1 hour, 58 minutes the game was called off and goes into the record book as a win for New York.
It was the beginning of what is planned as a regular season with just 60 games — instead of 162 — and key rule changes.
Those include an agreement to expand the playoffs from 10 to 16 teams; using designated hitters in every game; and a runner on second base to start each half-inning in extras.
“I found it easy to get locked into the game,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said. “I had a lot of butterflies today coming to the ballpark and sorting through all the different things to get ready.”
The pre-game ceremony included nods to the Nationals’ title and the Black Lives Matter movement — players from both teams jointly held a long black piece of cloth, then knelt in unison.
“There’s a lot of injustice in this world and a lot of bad things going on, so we just wanted to show that we’re aware of it,” Judge said. “Start the conversation. Start the change.”
The 266 days between the final game of the World Series and Thursday marked the longest gap between games since professional baseball leagues started in 1871.
“A long wait,” Yankees shortstop Gleyber Torres said.
While the stadium was closed, some fans did watch from balconies on at least one nearby high-rise building as fake crowd noise was piped in through the stadium speakers, adding a bizarre element to an eerie atmosphere.
“It felt odd,” Judge said. “It definitely felt odd.”
Taiwan’s Hsieh Su-wei on Thursday crashed out of the first round of the women’s singles at the Madrid Open, while Ashleigh Barty eased past Shelby Rogers as the world No. 1 prepares to try to reclaim her French Open title in Paris later this month. Veteran world No. 65 Hsieh fell to a 6-2, 6-4 defeat to Tamara Zidansek of Slovenia in 1 hour, 33 minutes in the Spanish capital. The Taiwanese can now concentrate on the doubles, in which she has teamed up with Elise Mertens of Belgium and been handed the No. 1 seeding and a bye into the second
Argentine soccer icon Diego Maradona received inadequate medical care and was left to his fate for a “prolonged, agonizing period” before he died last year, an expert medical panel said on Friday. In a 70-page document, the panel said that Maradona, who succumbed to a heart attack on Nov. 25 last year at the age of 60, “started to die at least 12 hours before” the moment he was found dead in his bed. Maradona died just weeks after undergoing brain surgery on a blood clot. A panel of 20 experts was convened by Argentina’s public prosecutor to examine the cause of death
WEEKEND MATCHES: Hang Yuan FC’s first game against CPC FC was a tense affair with no one scoring until the 80th minute, but after a flurry of goals Hang Yuan prevailed 2-1 Tainan TSG (Taiwan Steel Group) have had to postpone their trip to Hong Kong to play in the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Cup qualifiers. The AFC on Monday delayed the AFC Cup East Zone Group J qualifier matches in Hong Kong — which were to be held from Friday next week to May 20 — until June 23 to 29 due to international travel and quarantine challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. As defending champions of the Taiwan Football Premier League (TFPL), Tainan TSG are representing Taiwan in Group J against Mongolia’s Athletic 220, and Hong Kong’s Eastern Long Lions and Lee
FURIOUS FANS: The biggest game in English soccer was postponed amid chaotic scenes after about 200 protesters made their way onto the pitch and set off flares Manchester United’s English Premier League clash against Liverpool on Sunday was postponed after furious United fans stormed Old Trafford in protest at the club’s owners, while Gareth Bale scored a hat-trick as Tottenham Hotspur thrashed Sheffield United 4-0. Manchester City would have been crowned champions for the third time in four seasons if second-placed United had lost to Liverpool, but Pep Guardiola’s side saw their hopes of a title party put on hold after the biggest game in English soccer was postponed amid chaotic scenes. The Glazer family, already unpopular for their leveraged buyout of the club 16 years ago that saddled