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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Dazzling debut for Brave


Associated Press

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Hall of Famer Hank Aaron chats with Jason Heyward before the game with the Cubs.

RICH ADDICKS | Associated Press

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ATLANTA His face and head covered in shaving cream and his first home run ball stashed safely away, Jason Heyward stood in front of his locker and beamed.

"I had a blast," he said.

He stole the show on opening day.

Minutes after catching the ceremonial first pitch from Hank Aaron, Heyward hit a three-run homer in his first major league at-bat to spark the Braves to a 16-5 opening win yesterday over Carlos Zambrano and the Chicago Cubs.

Heyward, who also had a run-scoring single in the eighth, was 2 for 5 with four RBIs.

"It was the first of many career highlights for him," said Atlanta's Chipper Jones. "That was impressive, that was very impressive."

Braves fans in the sellout crowd eagerly embraced Heyward, from Henry County, about 30 minutes south of Atlanta.

Fans chanted "Let's go, Heyward!" as he confidently took two pitches in his first-inning at-bat, then sent a fastball from Zambrano into the Braves' bullpen behind the right-field wall on his first swing, sending the crowd over the top.

"I felt my legs but I couldn't hear myself think, it was so loud," Heyward said.

After the game, Braves reliever Peter Moylan crept behind a crowd of reporters and hit the rookie with a towel full of shaving cream.

Yunel Escobar drove in a career-high five runs as Zambrano gave up eight runs in 1 1/3 innings, matching the shortest of 239 career starts.

Derek Lowe (1-0) gave up five runs, five hits and three walks in six innings before a sellout crowd of 53,081, a record for a day game in Atlanta and the fourth-largest overall in Atlanta history.

The 20-year-old Heyward became the sixth Braves player to homer in his debut, the fourth to do so in his first plate appearance. Jordan Schafer also did it last season.

Heyward (6-foot-5, 240) won the starting job in right field despite playing only 50 games above Class A. He was selected baseball's top prospect by Baseball America after hitting .323 with 17 homers and 63 RBIs at three minor league stops in 2009.

"Jason had a spectacular day, really," said Braves manager Bobby Cox. "He'll have his struggles, probably, like any other 20-year-old in the big leagues, but he's a very talented kid. And when he's not hitting, he's going to help us in the outfield. He's a very gifted athlete."

Phillies 11, Nationals 1: Placido Polanco hit a grand slam, Ryan Howard also homered, and new ace Roy Halladay struck out nine over seven innings as visiting Philadelphia beat Washington. Halladay, acquired from Toronto, allowed one run and six hits. President Barack Obama's ceremonial first pitch was high and wide.

Cardinals 11, Reds 6: Albert Pujols went 4 for 5 and hit two of a team-record four homers on opening day as visiting St. Louis beat Cincinnati. Yadier Molina completed the Cardinals' first four-homer opening game with a grand slam in the ninth.

Rockies 5, Brewers 3: Ubaldo Jimenez gave up a run and struck out six in six innings and Ian Stewart homered on his 25th birthday for visiting Colorado. Jimenez became the first Rockies starter to win on opening day in six years.

Pirates 11, Dodgers 5: Garrett Jones homered in his first two at-bats, pinch-hitter Ryan Church doubled home three runs and host Pittsburgh beat Los Angeles. Ryan Doumit added a three-run homer in the eighth off reliever George Sherrill. Doumit also doubled and scored twice.

Mets 7, Marlins 1: David Wright hit a two-run homer, Johan Santana pitched six effective innings and host New York beat Florida. Newcomers Jason Bay, Rod Barajas and Gary Matthews Jr. each got two hits for New York.

Giants 5, Astros 2: Tim Lincecum pitched seven scoreless innings and visiting San Francisco beat Roy Oswalt and Houston. Lincecum allowed four hits and struck out seven with no walks. Oswalt allowed seven hits and three runs in six innings.

Diamondbacks 6, Padres 3: Stephen Drew hit an inside-the-park home run and Dan Haren held visiting San Diego to three hits in seven innings. Haren allowed one run and struck out four without a walk. He threw 20 of 24 first-pitch strikes and had a three-ball count against only one batter.

AMERICAN LEAGUE

RANGERS 5, BLUE JAYS 4: Shaun Marcum took a no-hit bid into the seventh inning for visiting Toronto before Texas rallied to win on Jarrod Saltalamacchia's RBI single in the bottom of the ninth. Texas scored twice in the ninth off Blue Jays closer Jason Frasor (0-1).

Tigers 8, Royals 4: Johnny Damon and Brandon Inge drove in two runs apiece in a six-run seventh inning for visiting Detroit. Yuniesky Betancourt's two-run home run and Billy Butler's bases-loaded single staked Cy Young Award winner Zack Greinke to a 4-2 lead over Justin Verlander in a duel between two of baseball's premier starters.

Mariners 5, Athletics 3: Casey Kotchman hit a go-ahead two-run single with two outs in the ninth inning to go along with two earlier RBIs, lifting visiting Seattle over Oakland. Brandon League, a Saint Louis School alum, pitched the eighth for the victory and David Aardsma finished with a 1-2-3 ninth for the save.

Angels 6, Twins 3: Hideki Matsui drove in the go-ahead run in the fifth and added an eighth-inning homer in his dynamic Angels debut, and Jered Weaver pitched six strong innings for host Los Angeles. Jeff Mathis and Kendry Morales also homered for the Angels.

White Sox 6, Indians 0: Mark Buehrle pitched three-hit ball over seven innings and Paul Konerko hit a two-run homer in the first inning for host Chicago. Buehrle retired the last 10 batters he faced, struck out three and walked one.

NOTES

Red Sox: Boston ace Josh Beckett agreed to a $68 million, four-year contract extension through the 2014 season, solidifying one of baseball's best rotations.

Beckett gets a $5 million signing bonus, payable when the contract is approved by the commissioner's office, and annual salaries of $15.75 million.

John Lackey signed for five years and $82.5 million over the offseason. Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz won't be eligible for free agency until the 2014 season ends. Daisuke Matsuzaka, who is starting the season on the disabled list, is under contract through 2012.

The 29-year-old Beckett has a 106-68 record with a 3.81 ERA and 1,331 strikeouts in his career. In 14 career postseason starts, he is 7-3 with a 3.07 ERA and three shutouts.