Here we are, only three weeks into this young season, and we already have some surprises. And I’m not even talking about Big Papi’s shirt being buried under the new Yankee Stadium (that story DID have a very nice ending with the shirt being auctioned on Ebay for $175K for the Jimmy Fund). Who would have thought they would ever see David Ortiz’s batting average sink to .077? In the past week, he’s hit .333 to raise his average to .188. Can the Yankees do anything against to stop Manny? Last season he batted .396 with 20 hits (4 HR, 8 RBI). This season he already has 3 HR and 10 RBI with a .526 average in just 6 games. Since the start of the ’06 season, he’s … against them. Meanwhile, the Red Sox clubhouse has been ravaged for the past week with the flu. Pitcher Diasuke Matsuzake missed a start. Reliever Manny Delcarmon missed a couple of games, and catcher Jason Varitek missed nearly a week.
– Cincinnati Reds fired GM Wayne Krivsky after just 21 games and hired former St. Louis GM Walt Jocketty. This seems more like a move to get Jocketty than a move to get rid of Krivsky. Krivsky was not exactly unsuccessful in Cincinnati. He made moves to acquire Josh Hamilton, Johnny Cueto, Brandon Phillips, and Bronson Arroyo, amongst others.
– Milwaukee OF Gabe Kapler, who has hit a total of 13 HR and 81 RBI in 742 at bats since the beginning of the 2003 season, has hit 4 HR and 13 RBI in 42 at bats this season. Can you say “el fuego”?
– I love the idea of Major League Baseball honoring Jackie Robinson on April 15th. There may be no man in the annals of the game more deserving. But it was a little bizarre watching a game where everyone on the field is wearing the number 42 as they were in the Angels – Rangers game on Tuesday. It gave a whole new meaning to the question of “Who’s on First?”.
– The Detroit Tigers have completely turned their game around. After starting the season 2-9 with only 8 HR (11 in AL) and 41 RBI (29th in ML) at the end of the second week of the season, they are now 10-13 (7-3 in their last 10 games). In the last 7 days, they are 1st in the majors in runs (55), 1st in the AL in both HR (12) and RBI (53), and 4th in average (.290).
While staff ace Justin Verlander is still only 1-0 with a 5.38 ERA, the rest of their pitching has vastly improved. Just last week their team ERA is 5.95, dead last in the majors and over a run higher than Cleveland, who is next lowest in the AL (4.76). In the last 7 days it has been 3.25, (4th). That moved them up to 2nd to last in the AL (5.17). Their starters are a combined 5-10, improved from the 1-7 they were a week ago. They need to stay on this road if they want to even come close to meeting people’s expectations. OF Curtis Granderson will help. He’s back as the spark that this team has desperately missed. In his 2nd game back after being out for the first three weeks of the season, he led off the game with a HR. The Tigers scored 19 runs that game. Coincidence? You decide.
– Philadelphia Phillies second baseman Chase Utley and left fielder Pat Burrell are making a very early run at NL MVP. No, it’s never too early to talk about MVP Awards. They are 1-2 in both HR and RBI. Utley is 1st in HR and 2nd in RBI (10 and 21), while Burrell is 2nd in HR and 1st in RBI (8 and 25). Utley is also 2nd in batting average (.385). Burrell is only 8th (.355). Utley is also tied for the NL lead in runs (20) and is 2nd in hits (35). If this madness were to continue and one of them were to earn the NL MVP Award, they would be the third consecutive Philadelphia Phillie to receive the award. 1B Ryan Howard won it in 2006 and SS Jimmy Rollins won it last season.
TRIVIA QUESTION: Who were the last three consecutive players from the same Major League team to win either the American or National League Most Valuable Player Award? Answer at end of column.
SERIES OF THE WEEK
OAKLAND @ SEATTLE
Oakland comes into this series with the 2nd best record in the AL (14-9) and the best pitching staff in the AL (ERA 3.19). Their starters are 10-7 (2nd) with a 3.33 ERA (1st). Their relievers have a second best 2.90 ERA with 7 saves and a 4-2 record. In the past week the team has gone 5-1 with an AL best 2.00 ERA, 48 Ks and only 10 walks.
The A’s bats have been hot. They are 6th in the AL in batting average, but in the past week they’ve hit a healthy .324 (2nd) with 5 HR and 44 RBI (2nd).
The acquisition of DH Frank Thomas, who was released by Toronto earlier in the week, will only help them. Thomas is off to a typically slow start (.167, 3HR, 11 RBI) but he’s just getting started. Last season he batted .250 with 4 HR and 13 RBI in April, then only .193 with 4 more HR and 11 RBI in May. He finished the season with a 2.77 average, 26 HR, and 95 RBI. I think he’ll be OK.
Seattle’s starters are 9-7 with a 3.44 ERA, 2nd behind the A’s. Their relievers, however, are killing them. While they have 6 saves, they also have a 6.00 ERA (2nd worst in AL) and are 2-5. In the past week, the Mariners have gone the exact opposite direction of the A’s, going 2-4 with a. 4.15 ERA.
The Mariners are 12th in the AL in batting average (.250) with 21 HR (8th) and 102 RBI (8th). Unlike the A’s, they’ve gone cold in the past week, batting an AL 3rd– worst .214 in the past week with 6 HR and 21 RBI (11th).
Dana Eveland (2-1, ERA 1.90) vs. Miguel Batista (2-2, ERA 4.38)
So far this season, this seems to be a much different Dana Eveland than the Arizona Diamondbacks had on their roster last season or the Milwaukee Brewers had on their staff the season before. THAT Dana Eveland went a combined 2-4 in 64.2 innings pitched since 2005 with a 7.57 ERA, and 87 hits given up against only 58 strikeouts. This season, Eveland has 17 hits and 18 K in 23.2 innings pitched.
After Miguel Batista’s first two, nearly identical outings of the season where he gave up 4 runs in 5 innings, then 4 runs in 6 innings, his last outing was a very good one for him. He pitched 7.2 innings of shutout ball against the Angels of Southern CA and gave up only one walk. His 8 Ks matched his total in his three previous games. Against the A’s, Batista is 4-4, 5.23 in his career last season went 2-2, 4.50 (15 ER, 30.0 IP) in 5 starts.
Justin Duchscherer (1-0, ERA 1.80) vs. Erik Bedard (1-0 ERA 3.27)
Justin Duchscherer appeared in only one game this season, and that was April 4th against the Cleveland Indians. He pitched 5 innings, gave up 4 hits and one run and got the win. He’s been on the DL ever since with a strained right bicep. It’s not even definite that he’s going to be activated for this game, but A’s manager Bob Geren is confident that he will be. Although Duchscherer will be on a close pitch count if he does play.
Erik Bedard had pitched in two games this season prior to going on DL with a hip strain. His last game, April 8th against Tampa Bay, he pitched 6 innings and gave up 5 hits, including 2 HR, but got the win. Last season, Bedard went 1-2 with a 3.86 ERA and 25 Ks in 18.2 innings in 3 games against the A’s while he was still pitching with Baltimore.
Joe Blanton (1-4, ERA 4.32) vs. Felix Hernandez (2-0, ERA 1.67)
Joe Blanton already has his work in for 2008. He leads the AL in innings pitched with 41.2. Unfortunately, he also leads the AL in losses (4). In his meeting against the Mariners, he went 8 innings but gave up 12 hits and 4 runs in a losing effort.
Seattle’s Felix Hernandez is ranked 3rd in the AL in innings pitched (37.2). In 5 game appearances, he has 2 decisions, both victories. He pitched a complete game against the A’s on April 16th. Fernandez gave up 1 run on 8 hits with 8 Ks.
The way these two teams are playing right now, Oakland use this series to really pull away from the Mariners and put some distance between them.
NEW YORK YANKEES:
1961:Roger Maris; 1962 Mickey Mantle; 1963: Elston Howard