A’s outlast Ohtani, Angels on Opening Night
by Scott Armstrong
OAKLAND, CA — Rookie starter Kyle Muller comported himself well and the Oakland A’s prevailed on 2023’s Opening Night, downing the Los Angeles Angels 2-1 at the Coliseum. It was a fun end to the first occasion since 1968 wherein all MLB clubs opened their campaign on the same day.
In the eighth, Tony Kemp’s double against Aaron Loup (0-1) and Aldemys’ Diaz single against the Halos’ bullpen proved the difference. After Loup gave up a rally-starting single to Esteurys Diaz and Kemp’s hit, Ryan Tepera allowed Diaz’s game-winning RBI. The bullpen thus again failed Phil Nevin in his first game as Angels manager with the interim tag removed.
Muller, dealt to the A’s in the Sean Murphy trade with Atlanta, was the first Oakland rookie to start Opening Day on the hill, and the first in A’s franchise history since 1937. Muller allowed Los Angeles’ lone run in his fifth and final inning of work. Fellow rookie Logan O’Hoppe knocked in Gio Urshela, who’d reached third courtesy of an infield hit, a Kemp throwing error and a wild pitch.
To no avail, Angels starter Shohei Ohtani pitched six sparkling innings, in his first mound outing that “mattered” since his ultimate strikeout of Mike Trout to end the World Baseball Classic and secure Japan’s championship over the USA. Ohtani was one of four starting pitchers with double-digit strikeout totals on Opening Day, which hadn’t happened in MLB since 1970.
Ohtani whiffed 10 Athletics while working with a rookie catcher in O’Hoppe and a Pitchcom system that didn’t function properly until the second inning. For O’Hoppe’s part, he became the first rookie to start behind the dish for the Angels since Bengie Molina in 2000.
In the ballgame’s “One Shining Moment,” LA right fielder Hunter Renfroe made an outfield catch that he’d never be able to duplicate in 1,000 tries.
A fifth-inning drive by Jace Peterson sent Renfroe back toward the warning track. Renfroe’s read off the bat turned him to his left (glove) side, but as the fly ball descended, it was going to fall in closer to the gap. Renfroe’s eyes somehow never left the ball, and he reached up to snare the ball with his back completely to the infield.
Ohtani raised his arms in disbelief and triumph. Renfroe flashed a Cheshire grin. Peterson, running out the fly ball, kept smiling over his shoulder at Renfroe as he left the field. As ESPN’s Clinton Yates pointed out on Twitter, many baseball observers will wait to see if a circus catch of equal import could possibly happen in the remaining 161 games to be played.
Before the game, the A’s honored Sal Bando, Jesus Alou, and other individuals with ties to the A’s organization who passed away in the last year.
All photos by Scott Armstrong/KXSF