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Opening Day roundup: Walk-offs, homers make for wild start to baseball season

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The 2014 MLB season got off to a wild start on Monday, as baseball fans waiting out the cold months of winter were rewarded with an Opening Day* heavy on home runs and full of thrilling finishes, including an ending that’s only happened once before in baseball history.

In case you hadn’t heard, Los Angeles Angels outfielder Mike Trout just got PAID and the 22-year-old phenom rewarded the team by smashing a two-run homer off of Mariners ace Felix Hernandez in his first at-bat of the season. Unfortunately for L.A., six-time opening day starter Jered Weaver was unable to hold on to the lead, as Seattle overcame the early deficit to rally for a 10-3 win. Our thoughts are with Angels hitting coach Don Baylor, who will undergo surgery today for a broken femur, a freak injury he suffered catching the ceremonial first pitch from Vladimir Guerrero, who signed a one-day contract with the team to retire as an Angel.

Washington National’s star Bryce Harper also appeared to suffer a bizarre injury in his team’s opener at the New York Mets, when the outfielder was kneed in the head by Mets second baseman Eric Young Jr. as he slid into base. However, Harper cleared concussion tests and remained in the game, and the Nats went on to win in extras, downing the Mets 9-7 in the 10th.

The Cubs and the Pirates went to extra-innings as well, and the largest regular season crowd in PNC Park history were treated to a pitcher's duel between Jeff Samardzija of the Cubs and Pittsburgh’s Francisco Liriano. The teams went into the 10th inning in a scoreless tie, before Pirates second baseman and Pittsburgh native Neil Walker ended the game with a walk-off solo home run. According to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, it was just the “second walk-off homer in a 1-0 Opening Day victory in major league history.” The game also made history when a fifth-inning double-play call became the first play ever challenged under the MLB’s new expanded replay system.

The Cubs and Pirates NL Central rival Cincinnati Reds have arguably the greatest Opening Day tradition in all of baseball, with one local station beginning their coverage of the festivities at 4:30 a.m. Alas, a seventh-inning homer from the Cardinals Yadier Molina put a damper on the fun, as St. Louis knocked off the Reds by a score of 1-0.

Finally, in one of the best games of the day, the Detroit Tigers gave new manager Brad Ausmus his first career win thanks to a ninth-inning walk-off single by the newly acquired infielder Alex Gonzalez that pushed the Tigers past the Kansas City Royals 4-3. On a bright and clear day in downtown Detroit, the unique nature of this American rite of spring was on full display.

“There's two things that could have spoiled opening day for me," Ausmus said after the game. "One, if we lost. And two, if the sun wasn't out. Because for me opening day, the sun is out, fans are having fun, they're eating their popcorn, drinking their beer. The energy is higher."

For a full look at the results of all 13 games, click here.

*in America, for most teams

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