Out of obscurity, Mercedes and Mullins shine early

Sports

Chicago White Sox’s Yermin Mercedes (73) runs the bases after hitting a home run during the second inning of a baseball game against the Los Angeles Angels Saturday, April 3, 2021, in Anaheim, Calif. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

In the first few games of the season, hot streaks are magnified — although this performance by Yermín Mercedes would have probably stood out any time.

Mercedes became the first player since at least 1900 to began the season with eight consecutive hits. He added another hit Sunday night for the Chicago White Sox and is now 9 for 14 on the season. Not bad for a 28-year-old rookie who had only one major league at-bat before this year.

These early runs are fun for fans, in part because they can elevate a previously unknown performer into the national consciousness for a few days. It probably won’t last, but it’s more proof that baseball is full of unexpected twists.

Speaking of surprises, that’s the Baltimore Orioles sitting atop the AL East after sweeping three games in Boston by a combined score of 18-5. The Orioles are expected to be one of the worst teams in the game this year, but they hammered the Red Sox behind the torrid hitting of Cedric Mullins, a 13th-round draft pick in 2015 who hit .271 last year for Baltimore. He went 9 for 13 in that first series against Boston. Check back in about a month to see where he and the Orioles stand.

One of the most memorable recent examples of an early-season phenomenon occurred in Detroit in 2006. That was the year Chris Shelton hit nine home runs in the first 13 games for the Tigers. He hit seven the rest of that season and then two more over the remainder of his big league career.

There’s a long way to go.

SHOHEI’S SHOW

The Los Angeles Angels sent two-way star Shohei Ohtani to the mound Sunday night against the White Sox and batted him second in their lineup. He was the third pitcher in 45 seasons to bat for himself in a game where the designated hitter could have been used — and that move paid off when Ohtani homered in the first inning.

Ohtani also shut out Chicago through four innings, but the White Sox scored three in the fifth and Ohtani left the game. When the pitcher’s spot came up in the sixth, the Angels used Albert Pujols as a pinch-hitter. Then they used a double switch to move the pitcher’s spot to sixth in the order. The game ended on a home run by Los Angeles’ Jared Walsh, the No. 5 hitter.

TRIVIA TIME

We’re already down to just three unbeaten teams: Houston (4-0), Baltimore (3-0) and Philadelphia (3-0). How many teams last year won at least three games before their first loss?

HIGHLIGHT

It wasn’t exactly ideal baseball weather, but there was something picturesque about Detroit’s Miguel Cabrera connecting for his 488th career homer — and the first home run in the major leagues this year — on opening day as snow swirled around Comerica Park.

Cabrera was having such a hard time following the ball that he slid into second, thinking it might still be in play.

LINES OF THE WEEK

Minnesota’s José Berríos and Milwaukee’s Corbin Burnes hooked up in the most impressive pitching duel of the young season so far. Neither team had a hit until Byron Buxton of the Twins homered off Burnes in the seventh.

Berríos was pulled after six innings with his no-hitter intact, and Minnesota ultimately settled for a combined one-hitter in a 2-0 victory Saturday.

Berríos struck out 12. Burnes had 11 strikeouts and no walks. It was the first major league game in the modern era in which both starters had at least 10 strikeouts while allowing one hit or fewer.

TRIVIA ANSWER

Zero. Nobody managed a 3-0 start last season, and only Houston, San Diego, St. Louis and the Los Angeles Dodgers made it to 2-0.

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Follow Noah Trister at www.Twitter.com/noahtrister

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