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Sunday July 3rd, 2022 1:16PM

LEADING OFF: Verlander back, Thor debuts, hoorays for Beer

By The Associated Press
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A look at what's happening around baseball Saturday:

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VERLANDER’S RETURN

Justin Verlander is set to pitch for Houston for the first time since having Tommy John surgery late in 2020. The 39-year-old will face Noah Syndergaard and the Angels.

Verlander returned to the Astros on a $25 million, one-year deal that includes a $25 million player option for 2023 conditioned on him pitching 130 or more innings in 2022. In his last full season in 2018, Verlander went 21-6 with a 2.58 ERA and won his second Cy Young Award.

Syndergaard is making his first appearance for Los Angeles after leaving the Mets for a $21 million, one-year deal. He pitched just two innings for New York last season after two years away due to Tommy John surgery and setbacks during his recovery.

BEER FOR THE MASSES

Beer was the hero on opening night for Arizona Diamondbacks fans. On Friday, too, before even taking the field.

One day after rookie Seth Beer blasted a game-ending, three-run homer against San Diego, the Diamondbacks capitalized on the publicity with a promotion that gave a free Coors Light to the first 10,000 fans who came to the park that were 21 years and older.

The D-backs are trying to pull fans to Chase Field after a 110-loss season in 2021. Beer’s homer— plus the free beer — is a good start.

“We know we have to earn back our fans,” manager Torey Lovullo said grinning. “Maybe we get them a little tipsy tonight.”

GOOD TO SEE YOU

A day after Max Scherzer’s New York Mets debut, the club will get to see another right-handed All-Star make his first start in its uniform when Chris Bassitt takes the mound against the Washington Nationals.

Bassitt arrived from the Oakland Athletics in a trade for two minor league pitchers less than a month ago.

The 33-year-old Bassitt was frighteningly hit in the face by a 100 mph liner off the bat of Brian Goodwin last August and needed surgery for three fractures to his right cheekbone. A little more than a month later, Bassitt returned to to make two late-season starts.

Bassitt went 12-4 with a 3.15 ERA in 27 starts in 2021 for the A’s. He is 31-25 with a 3.47 ERA in seven seasons in the majors.

Sonny Gray with Minnesota and Carlos Rodon with San Francisco are also set to make their first starts with new teams. Gray, acquired in a trade from Cincinnati, will pitch against Seattle. Rodon signed a $44 million, two-year deal with the Giants and makes his Bay Area debut against Miami.

ALLY’S DEBUT

Alexandra Irving made her debut as official scorer, the fourth female to score opening day this season — a new first.

“It’s a dream come true for me, honestly,” said the 32-year-old Irving, whose mother Sandra attended the game to cheer her daughter’s accomplishment. “I’ve been scoring since I was like 12 or 13 and I used to go to games by myself and score the games. To be able to do it at this level, it’s unreal. I feel so, so lucky to have the opportunity for young girls to look into the press box and see a woman doing stats and think that they can do that, too, I feel honored to be able to give that awareness.”

Irving is an online producer for the San Francisco Chronicle and former softball catcher for more than a decade.

The three others were Kara Blackstone in Arizona, Jillian Geib in Colorado and Sarah Johnson in Minnesota.

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