Opening Day Battle In Detroit Recalls Unique Slugfest Between Babe Ruth’s Yankees And The Red Sox

Home runs, which were hit in record numbers last year, portend to be even more prominent in 2018. Opening Day featured plenty of the long ball, including three by the same player.Chicago designated hitter Matt Davidson went deep with a trio of home runs in a 14-7 rout against Kansas City, and White Sox teammate Tim Anderson cleared the fence on two occasions in that game. Also smashing two homers on Opening Day was New York’s Giancarlo Stanton, his first hits as a Yankee after winning the 2017 National League Most Valuable Player award as a member of the Miami Marlins.The barrage of home runs makes what happened in Detroit, where the most runs were scored, even more of an anomaly. It was not necessarily remarkable that the Pirates and Tigers scored 23 runs in a game that lasted five and a half hours, but the fact they did it without even one home run being hit through nine innings.You have to go back almost one hundred years to find the last time that many runs were scored in an Opening Day game without a home run, which was on April 12th of 1926. In that contest the Yankees beat the Red Sox 12-11 and, despite the many sluggers in both lineups, not a single home run was hit.Lou Gehrig was hitting third with Babe Ruth behind him in the clean up slot and, though neither of the future Hall of Fame Yankees went deep, the duo did combine for three doubles and a half a dozen runs batted in. That production led the Bronx Bombers being up 11-1 by the fifth inning, making it seem that the game was going to end up as a blow out win.Boston, however, scored two runs in the bottom of the fifth, and then the Red Sox rallied for five more in the sixth. By then nineteen runs had been scored, all without a ball going over the Green Monster in Fenway Park.Fortunately for the Yankees, Ruth and Gehrig were not the only future Hall of Fame players in their lineup that day. Second baseman Tony Lazerri doubled in the seventh to bring in Ruth, and outfielder Earle Combs hit a single to score Lazerri with an additional insurance run.Since the Red Sox mounted another rally, that extra run eventually proved essential. Not only did New York hang on for that Opening Day victory, they went on to win the pennant.On the other hand, the losing team that day continued to lose all year, nearly twice as much as they won. In fact, when the Yankees were celebrating their pennant at the end of the season, Boston had suffered through 103 losses.Neither of the two opponents in the Opening Day game this year is likely to win a pennant like the Yankees did, nor is either expected to lose as many games as those Red Sox from 92 seasons ago. The Tigers and Pirates did, however, manage to score twenty runs in nine innings without hitting a home run, just as those rivals.And to think, for a few minutes the run total was 21, when Detroit’s Nick Castellanos was originally ruled safe at the plate. That run prompted the Tigers to storm the field in celebration of their 11-10 walk off win, only to have the call overturned after a review revealed Catellanos to be out.Manager Ron Gardenhire, who was coaching his first game ever as the Detroit skipper, was ejected after arguing the overturned call. It was probably good that he was not on the field when, in the top of the next inning, Pittsburgh outfielder Gregory Polanco put the Pirates ahead 13-10.Besides winning the game for his club, Polanco had managed to do what no other player could in that slugfest or in the one between New York and Boston long ago. He had hit a pitch over the fence.