NL aces channel their 2013 best

March, 31, 2014
Mar 31
11:48
PM ET
For a number of National League Opening Day starters, the first day of the baseball season was about picking up right where they left off.

That was true for 2013 NL Rookie of the Year Jose Fernandez, who dominated the Colorado Rockies for six innings in a Miami Marlins rout. Fernandez tied Josh Beckett’s club record for most strikeouts in an Opening Day start with nine.

The Elias Sports Bureau noted that Fernandez was only the second starting pitcher to have a nine-strikeout, no-walk game on Opening Day in the last 16 seasons.

The full list of pitchers to have that sort of game puts Fernandez in elite company. It is noted in the chart on the right.

Fernandez starred because he had a pitch mix that kept hitters guessing once he got two strikes on them. He threw 35 two-strike pitches, but didn’t throw more than 12 of any pitch type. Fernandez set a tone for how difficult he would be to hit when he struck out Troy Tulowitzki on an 84-mph slider in the top of the first.

Wainwright’s curve still pretty good
Cardinals ace Adam Wainwright hasn’t lost anything from the curveball that made him among the top pitchers in the league last season. Wainwright (with help from a homer by catcher Yadier Molina) beat the Cincinnati Reds, 1-0, marking the first time in Reds history that they lost a season opener, 1-0.

Wainwright threw 22 curveballs and they netted him six outs, yielding no hits and one walk.

Liriano sharp
Some of the Pirates’ magic from 2013 carried over into their season opener with the Cubs, a game they won 1-0 on Neil Walker’s walk-off home run in the 10th inning. It was the second walk-off homer on Opening Day in Pirates history. Bob Bailey had the other against Hall-of-Famer Juan Marichal in 1965.

Elias notes that those mark the only two instances of a player hitting a walk-off homer in a 1-0 Opening Day win.

The Pirates got another great effort from Francisco Liriano, who struck out 10 in six scoreless innings. Liriano got misses on 45 percent of the swings against him. Ten of them came against his slider, resulting in seven strikeouts.

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