Play ball: Giants fall to Dodgers on Opening Day; NBA tips off restart next week

Major League Baseball is back.

A masked Dr. Anthony Fauci threw out the season’s first (wild) pitch, the New York Yankees knocked off the World Series champion Washington Nationals and the San Francisco Giants fell short against the rival Los Angeles Dodgers in front of cardboard cutouts at Dodger Stadium.

There were no fans in the stands, crowd noise was pumped in and the National League is using a designated hitter: it’s not baseball in its traditional form, but it’s baseball nonetheless.

Giants hurler Johnny Cueto was solid from the bump and the Giants played well early on, but a late surge by the Dodgers resulted in an 8-1 victory for the boys in blue.

“My impressions are that we didn’t execute as well as the Dodgers overall,” first-year Giants manager Gabe Kapler said after the game.

The Giants’ lineup is underwhelming and the bullpen is a concern, but with a 60-game schedule and the playoffs being expanded to 16 teams, every squad has a realistic shot at the postseason.

The Giants are in L.A. through Sunday. Today’s game is at 1 p.m. on FOX and Sunday’s has a 7 p.m. start on ESPN.

The Oakland A’s opened their season Friday night at home against the Los Angeles Angels. It’s a four-game series with 1 p.m. starts on Saturday and Sunday, and a 12:40 p.m. start on Monday.

NBA NEARS TIP-OFF

The NBA’s much anticipated return is set to tip off next week.

The Sacramento Kings (28-36), one of 22 teams in the bubble in Orlando, open their eight-game “regular-season” slate against the San Antonio Spurs (27-36) at 5 p.m. Friday. Both teams are among seven vying for the final two playoff spots in the West. The Kings are currently 3.5 games behind the eighth-seeded Memphis Grizzlies.

Kings small forward Harrison Barnes has cleared COVID-19 protocol and has joined the team in Orlando, and point guard De’Aaron Fox is expected to be ready to go after nursing an ankle sprain.

“We’re very hopeful that he’ll be ready for game one,” coach Luke Walton said of Fox. “He looks good. We pushed him pretty hard (Tuesday) in practice, and he didn’t have any setbacks in how he felt when he woke up today.”

Sacramento will reopen the season without second-year forward Marvin Bagley III, who is out with an ankle injury.

The first official NBA games will be Thursday. The Utah Jazz and New Orleans Pelicans get things started at 3:30 p.m. The Lakers and Clippers then face off at 6 p.m. Both games are on TNT.

49ERS, MOSTERT CLEAR THE AIR; NFL MAKES CHANGES

Two weeks after Raheem Mostert asked the San Francisco 49ers for a trade, the speedy ball carrier and the NFC Champions have reportedly cleared the air.

After being buried deep on the depth chart, Mostert had breakout season in 2019 and led the 49ers in yards (772) and rushing touchdowns (8). He was instrumental in the team’s run to the Super Bowl, and was looking for a contract more in line with his production. Mostert is currently in the second year of a three-year, $8.7 million contract.

The big news out of the NFL this week was the name change in Washington, where the squad formerly known as the Redskins will now be referred to as the Washington Football Team. A basic name for a basic organization.

The NFL also cancelled its preseason schedule this week. Owners had hoped to get two preseason games in, but the NFL Players Association wasn’t having it. Expect week 1 of the NFL season to be sloppy.

To contact Sports Editor Walter Ford, call 530-477-4232 or email [email protected]

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