MLB: Multiple milestones recorded at the beginning of 2021 season

The 146th season of Major League Baseball is now underway and in full swing. One hundred and sixty-two games will be played in 2021, as MLB is returning to a full season following a shortened 60-game season in 2020.

Despite the sport returning to its original length, some rules from last season during the COVID-19 pandemic are returning for this year. All doubleheaders played in 2021 will be played as two seven-inning games. For games that go into extra innings, a runner will be placed at second base at the start of every half inning. 

Although these two rules from 2020 are staying put, one rule will not be restored as the designated hitter will be removed from National League play.

It did not take long for history to be made in 2021, as a rookie from the south side of Chicago did something that the game has not seen for more than a hundred years. Yermín Mercedes, Chicago White Sox designated hitter, went 8-for-8 against the Los Angeles Angels to start his major league career. 

Mercedes became the first player in the modern era of the sport (dating back to 1900) to start his career with eight straight hits without recording an out, one of them being his first MLB home run. 

Mercedes was not the only rookie in the American League Central division to make history early into the season, as Detroit Tigers outfielder Akil Baddoo became the 31st player in the history of the sport to hit a home run on the first pitch that he saw. 

In the very next game, Baddoo hit a grand slam, becoming the first player in Tigers’ history to hit a home run in each of his first two games played. 

The story of Baddoo continued onto his third MLB game played, as he was able to win the game for the Tigers via a walk-off single in the 10th inning against the Minnesota Twins. He became the first player in MLB history to have a grand slam, another home run and a walk-off hit in his first three games played.

The AL Central has showcased a multitude of talent so far this season, ranging from slugging rookies to veteran starting pitchers.

On April 14, White Sox pitcher Carlos Rodón threw his first career no-hitter against the Cleveland Indians, which was also the 20th in White Sox history. He flirted with perfection, as he took a perfect game into the ninth inning but lost it when he hit Cleveland catcher Roberto Pérez with a pitch. 

Indians ace Shane Bieber, who is fresh off an AL Cy Young award, continued his dominance by becoming the first pitcher since 1893 to record 10 or more strikeouts in his first four starts of the season. 

Bieber struck out a total of 48 batters in this span, tying the MLB record for most strikeouts in a pitcher’s first four starts of the season with Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan. 

The record held by both Bieber and Ryan was quickly snapped, however, as New York Mets pitcher Jacob deGrom broke it with 50 strikeouts. 

On April 24, deGrom broke the record with a 15-strikeout performance against the Washington Nationals, marking a new career-high for deGrom. He became only the third pitcher ever to amass 14 or more strikeouts in three consecutive games, joining Pedro Martinez (1999) and Gerrit Cole (2019). 

DeGrom is not the only NL pitcher to make history in 2021, as San Diego native and Padres pitcher Joe Musgrove threw a no-hitter against the Texas Rangers on April 9, the first in franchise history. 

Heading into that game, the Padres were the only team remaining without a no-hitter until Musgrove got the job done. The only baserunner allowed by Musgrove was a hit batsmen, as he plunked Joey Gallo in the fourth inning. 

Another NL pitcher making headlines is Milwaukee Brewer Corbin Burnes. Over his first four starts of the season, Burnes struck out 40 batters without issuing a single walk. 

This broke St. Louis Cardinals Adam Wainwright’s previous record of 35 strikeouts without walking a batter. No starting pitcher in the history of baseball had done this in his first four starts or in any four-start span.

Long-time Cardinal catcher Yadier Molina is another player making history early on in the season. On April 14 against the Nationals, Molina caught his 2,000th game behind the plate, becoming only the sixth catcher in Major League history to catch 2,000 games in his career. 

Molina is the first and only player to catch this many games with a single team, as he has played with the Cardinals for his whole career. 

Baseball is a game of many milestones, and it has been shown that that is the case early on in 2021. History will continue to be made as the MLB returns to its first full season since 2019.