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Out of obscurity, Mercedes and Mullins shine early

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Chicago White Sox's Yermin Mercedes (73) runs the bases after hitting a home run during the second inning of a baseball game against the Los Angeles Angels Saturday, April 3, 2021, in Anaheim, Calif. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

In the first few games of the season, hot streaks are magnified — although this performance by Yermín Mercedes would have probably stood out any time.

Mercedes became the first player since at least 1900 to began the season with eight consecutive hits. He added another hit Sunday night for the Chicago White Sox and is now 9 for 14 on the season. Not bad for a 28-year-old rookie who had only one major league at-bat before this year.

These early runs are fun for fans, in part because they can elevate a previously unknown performer into the national consciousness for a few days. It probably won't last, but it's more proof that baseball is full of unexpected twists.

Speaking of surprises, that's the Baltimore Orioles sitting atop the AL East after sweeping three games in Boston by a combined score of 18-5. The Orioles are expected to be one of the worst teams in the game this year, but they hammered the Red Sox behind the torrid hitting of Cedric Mullins, a 13th-round draft pick in 2015 who hit .271 last year for Baltimore. He went 9 for 13 in that first series against Boston. Check back in about a month to see where he and the Orioles stand.

One of the most memorable recent examples of an early-season phenomenon occurred in Detroit in 2006. That was the year Chris Shelton hit nine home runs in the first 13 games for the Tigers. He hit seven the rest of that season and then two more over the remainder of his big league career.

There's a long way to go.

SHOHEI'S SHOW

The Los Angeles Angels sent two-way star Shohei Ohtani to the mound Sunday night against the White Sox and batted him second in their lineup. He was the third pitcher in 45 seasons to bat for himself in a game where the designated hitter could have been used — and that move paid off when Ohtani homered in the first inning.