Mike Trout hit two home runs off Zack Greinke and scored four times to help the Los Angeles Angels beat the Houston Astros 9-6 on opening day.
Alas, the game was played on a computer, not on the field. But as fans of the popular sports game Strat-O-Matic can attest, make-believe boxscores can be fun too.
Fifteen of them were generated Thursday by Strat-O-Matic — one for every real game postponed on opening day because of the coronavirus. The results came via computer simulations, which the New York-based company will continue to run daily while the real thing is on hiatus.
“People miss baseball, us included,” said Adam Richman, whose father created Strat-O-Matic as an 11-year-old in 1948. “This is a way to bring a little bit of baseball to everyone in their homes. We know baseball will be back, but until then there’s Strat-O-Matic.”
Howie Kendrick hit a tiebreaking solo home run in the ninth inning to help the World Series champion Nationals beat the Mets 4-3. Pinch hitter Brock Holt's three-run homer in the bottom of the 11th inning gave the Brewers a 7-4 victory over the Cubs. The Orioles scored twice in the seventh off Adam Ottavino to win 3-2 and spoil Gerrit Cole's debut with the Yankees.
Trout, coming off his third AL MVP award, homered in the first and again in the fourth. The computer didn't report on the reception the Astros received from the crowd in Houston or the opposition in the wake of their sign-stealing scandal.
"I notice nobody was hit by a pitch," Strat-O-Matic research director John Garcia joked.
The simulations generated full boxes, including attendance and time of game. Pace was much-improved — each actual game took only about 10 seconds on the computer.
Until the real games return, Strat-O-Matic will announce each day's results on its website and social channels. Standings and season statistics will be updated, and fans are invited to help select pitchers and lineups.
“Everybody is craving baseball,” Garcia said. “We’re glad we have a way of delivering it to people.”
Trout's big day reflected the kind of realism that helped popularize Strat, as fans call it. While the data-crunching company still sells a board game that has changed little since the 1960s, it also offers a digital game and has expanded into football, basketball and hockey.
Last year was Strat's best yet, and business is even more brisk since the pandemic, Richman said.
“It's like a lot of content companies who are able to provide entertainment while people are hunkered down at home, whether it be Netflix or Hulu,” Richman said. “In some ways we’re no different. Amid all this that is so difficult, bringing some joy is wonderful."
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