Baseball: Kershaw, Harper shine on opening day

While Houston notched the first win of 2013, the real excitement began Monday with the Mets making more history and the Brewers finally giving their fans something to cheer about on opening day.

There were brilliant individual performances also, with Los Angeles Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw smacking a homer and posting a shutout to beat the rival San Francisco Giants and Washington slugger Bryce Harper homering in his first two at-bats of the new Major League Baseball season.

The Astros kicked off the season with a one-sided 8-2 victory over the Texas Rangers in lone contest Sunday night. But opening day is now a two-day affair as 24 teams officially began their seasons on Monday, including Kershaw's Dodgers who shut out the defending champion Giants 4-0.

Kershaw tossed a four-hit shutout and blasted the go-ahead solo home run in the bottom of the eighth inning to lift the Dodgers over the rival Giants at Dodger Stadium.

"It was a shock. I never hit one like that before," Kershaw said of his home run. "I thought I better swing at the first pitch since I struck out the first two times."

Kershaw struck out seven en route to his sixth career shutout and ninth career complete game, while his first career homer provided all the offence the Dodgers would need.

The left-hander is only the second pitcher in major league history to hit a home run and pitch a shutout on opening day.

Hall of Famer Bob Lemon accomplished the feat in 1953 with the Cleveland Indians.

The New York Mets continued to make opening day history by hammering the San Diego Padres 11-2 at Citi Field park.

The Mets have now won 34 of their last 44 opening day games and own the best winning percentage (.654) on opening day in league history.

Jon Niese allowed just two runs over 6 2/3 innings and helped his own cause with a pair of hits, an RBI and a run scored.

Niese scattered four hits and walked two with four strikeouts, while Collin Cowgill blasted a grand slam and scored twice for the Mets.

"The adrenaline was pumping, I'm not going to lie," Niese said of his first opening day start. "As far as the anxiety, it really wasn't much."

Jonathan Lucroy hit a game-winning sacrifice fly to centre field in the 10th inning as Milwaukee edged the Colorado Rockies 5-4 at Miller Park in both teams' season opener.

Lucroy finished zero-for-four, but his bases-loaded sacrifice fly in the 10th was the difference for the Brewers, who hadn't won a game on opening day since they beat the Chicago Cubs 4-3 in 10 innings at Wrigley Field in 2008.

"I was sitting on a fastball, hopefully over the middle," Lucroy said, and Adam Ottavino "left a slider up in the zone and I was just trying to meet it."

Harper homered twice and Stephen Strasburg tossed seven scoreless innings as the Washington Nationals began their National League East title defence with a 2-0 win over the Miami Marlins.

Harper became the first reigning National League rookie of the year to hit a home run on opening day of the following season since Ryan Howard accomplished the feat for the Phillies in 2006.

He recorded the third multi-homer game in his career and second against the Marlins.

"They really were loud and crazy," Harper said of the regular-season record crowd of 45,274. "Hopefully they're going to be like that all year."

Strasburg allowed three hits and struck out three, needing only 80 pitches to complete his effort.