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KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) – Bobby Witt Jr. searched the crowds for his family ahead of his highly anticipated big league debut on Thursday, finally spotting them in the sea of Kansas City Royals fans who had bundled up for a windy opening day.
“I don’t know if they even paid attention to me,” Witt later admitted.
Everyone was paying attention to him at the end.
After going hitless in his first three at bats, Witt doubled the left field line with two outs in the eighth inning, pushing the Royals to a 3-1 victory over the renamed Cleveland Guardians.
“You couldn’t have scripted this any better,” Royals manager Mike Matheny said with a smile. “He’s not the one he’s going to forget, and I probably won’t either.”
In a clash of former Cy Young Award winners, Cleveland ace Shane Bieber and former Royals star Zach Greinke dueled to a 1-to-1 stalemate before handing the game over to the relievers on a cold day at the Kauffman Stadium.
He tied until the eighth, when the Royals’ Michael Taylor beat Triston McKenzie (0-1), then took second place on the sacrificial bunt of Nicky Lopez. McKenzie struck out Whit Merrifield before Witt, considered by many to be the game’s No. 1 prospect, doubled the left field line to give Kansas City their first lead.
“I could kind of see it coming a bit with the way the game was going,” said Greinke, who signed a one-year deal to return to the club that drafted him 20 years ago. “It felt like it was going to be a special day.”
Andrew Benintendi drove Witt in, giving Royals reliever Scott Barlow (1-0) a cushion. And after a perfect eighth, Barlow knocked out Myles Straw with runners on the corners in ninth to end it.
Lopez also drove in a run for Kansas City, while Jose Ramirez had an RBI double for the Guardians a day after agreeing to a five-year, $124 million deal to stay with Cleveland until what could be the end. of her career.
Many famous fans braved the wintry weather to enjoy opening day.
Several members of the Kansas City Chiefs, including coach Andy Reid, dressed in Royals attire. So did members of the Kansas basketball team, which defeated North Carolina in Monday night’s national title game in New Orleans.
It was 47 degrees on the first pitch, and a gale blowing out to right field made it even colder. Then there was the intermittent drizzle that turned into a shot of ice pellets during the national anthem, which probably meant everyone had to wear jerseys long for the sun and the heat of spring training. from Arizona.
“The weather wasn’t fun for anyone,” said Guardians manager Terry Francona.
Greinke didn’t seem to care. He wore short sleeves for his first start in a Kansas City uniform since Sept. 30, 2010.
He didn’t have the same dominating fastball he had in 2009, when he won the Cy Young, but he made up for it with the wisdom of 18 years in the big leagues – and an enticing 69 curveball. mph. Greinke went through 5 2/3 innings, allowing a run on five hits and a walk while striking out one, then received a standing ovation from the crowd.
“He knows how to throw,” Francona said.
Bieber, whose Cy Young came 11 years after Greinke won his, was nearly as good. He allowed one run on three hits in 4 2/3 innings for Cleveland, which played under a new name for the first time since 1915.
The two staff aces were gone by the time Witt came to bat in the eighth inning, however. They were reduced to fans like everyone else, watching with rapt attention one of the game’s bright young stars step onto the plate.
“I was going crazy. I jumped over the (dugout) railing,” Lopez said. “He is ready for this moment. The Royals know he is ready for this moment. We all know he’s ready for that moment.
The Royals honored longtime scout Art Stewart, who spent 69 years in professional baseball, with family members throwing first pitches to George Brett and Mike Sweeney. Stewart died in November at the age of 94.
The Guardians announced their five-year, $20 million deal with closest match Emmanuel Clase, which was agreed over the weekend. They haven’t announced their deal with Ramirez yet as several details are still being finalized.
The Guardians have placed OF Josh Naylor on the injured list as he returns from a broken leg. C Luke Maile (strained right hamstring) and right-hander James Karinchak (strained back) joined him there.
After taking Friday off, the series resumes Saturday with Cleveland RHP Zach Plesac against Royals RHP Brad Keller.
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