Welcome, newcomers: Soto, Burnes, and Chapman have made strong impressions after switching teams

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MLB season slated to start with Yankees-Jays, Tigers-Indians

Corbin Burnes threw six one-hit innings in his Baltimore debut, and Matt Chapman homered twice in his second game with San Francisco.

That all paled in comparison to what Juan Soto did in his first series for the New York Yankees.

The Yankees opened with a four-game sweep at Houston, with their new star outfielder making big plays the whole way. He threw the tying run out at the plate in the ninth inning of the opener, had three hits and a bases-loaded walk the following day, then homered Saturday night. In the finale, Soto had three more hits, including a two-out RBI single in the top of the ninth that lifted New York to a 4-3 win.

With the health of Gerrit Cole hanging over the Yankees’ season, is it possible we’ve underestimated what a boost New York can expect from Soto? This is a player whose 2022 trade from Washington to San Diego felt like a truly seismic deadline deal, and although the Padres went through a disappointing season last year, Soto remained excellent. He doesn’t turn 26 until October.

While Soto was storming through his first four games in Houston, the defending AL East champions got off to a fine start themselves. Baltimore scored 24 runs in its first two games against the Los Angeles Angels. And the Orioles had to love what they saw from Burnes, who was acquired to be their ace and looked every bit of that in an 11-3 win Thursday. Burnes struck out 11 and allowed only one baserunner — a first-inning homer by Mike Trout.

As for Chapman, he had two homers and a double Friday for the Giants to join this group of players making strong first impressions for their new teams.

AWAY FROM HOME

Four teams remain undefeated after sweeping their opening series — and all four did it on the road. The Yankees took four in a row at Houston, Detroit swept a three-game set in Chicago against the White Sox, Milwaukee went to New York and beat the Mets three times, and Pittsburgh won four straight at Miami.

Three of those teams will stay on the road, with only Milwaukee coming back for its home opener Tuesday against Minnesota.

TRIVIA TIME

Who is the most recent Baltimore pitcher to win a Cy Young Award?

COMEBACK OF THE WEEK

It was an abbreviated week, but there were still a few good candidates for this: On Sunday, the Cincinnati Reds scored three runs in the bottom of the ninth to beat Washington 6-5. With two out and nobody on, Cincinnati’s win probability was down to 1.4% according to Baseball Savant. Then Jonathan India doubled, Will Benson tied it with a two-run homer, and Christian Encarnacion-Strand followed with a solo shot to win it.

That was a day after Washington produced its own three-run ninth to beat Cincinnati 7-6.

LINE OF THE WEEK

Not technically a performance from this week, but we’ll include it anyway in the spirit of honoring excellence from the first few games of the season: When the Dodgers and Padres opened their schedules with a couple games in South Korea, San Diego beat Los Angeles in a 15-11 slugfest March 21. But Mookie Betts did his best to lift the Dodgers with four hits, a walk and six RBIs.

TRIVIA ANSWER

Steve Stone, who went 25-7 with a 3.23 ERA in 1980. That capped a stretch in which the Orioles won six Cy Young Awards in a 12-year span. Jim Palmer won three of them, with the others going to Mike Cuellar, Mike Flanagan and Stone.

Among American League teams, only Texas has a longer current Cy Young drought than Baltimore. The Rangers have never won one, although Max Scherzer and Jacob deGrom — currently on the injured list for Texas — have won the award five times for other franchises.

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AP MLB: https://apnews.com/MLB