3 Major League Baseball games in, Red Sox worried

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Baseball’s opening weekend produced a number of surprises and although a sample of just three or four games is way too small from which to draw any conclusions, there are points worth noting.

There were quite a number of huge off season moves made by a number of teams with the Boston Red Sox being especially busy. But perhaps one move involving the Red Sox will have more of an impact than the acquisition of Carl Crawford or Adrian Gonzalez.

That would be the departure of pitching coach John Farrell to become the new manager in Toronto.

Red Sox pitchers got roughed up for 26 runs in losing all three games in Texas to open the season. John Lackey and Jon Lester had especially poor games and Clay Buchholz fared only slightly better. It’s a long season and Boston is the team to beat but there could be cause for concern in Red Sox nation should there not be signs of improvement quickly.

It’s no surprise at all that Philadelphia swept three games at home from lowly Houston or that Cincinnati similarly won all three home games against an improved Milwaukee ball club. But what may be considered as an early season surprise to many was Baltimore’s winning of all three games at Tampa Bay to start their first full season under manager Buck Showalter.

The Orioles got outstanding starting pitching in outscoring the Rays 12-3. But those results may say more about the problems facing Tampa Bay at the plate this season after losing both Crawford and Carlos Pena in the off season. To make matters worse start third baseman Evan Longoria was injured over the weekend and may be out at least three weeks.

The Rays still have decent pitching but the loss of Longoria could set up some very nice plays on the UNDER in their games over the next few weeks as manager Joe Maddon tinkers with the lineup.

The year of the pitcher was 2010 but early signs show that offense may have a resurgence in 2011. Though only 46 games had been played through Sunday, scoring was up more than a run per game over the opening of last season at a time when pitchers are thought to have an edge over hitters with an average of 9.7 runs per game tallied.

Towards that end the opening series produced 28 OVER to just 17 UNDERs in addition to 1 PUSH.

Of note is that the lines maker wasted no time in putting up low totals as the consensus in last Thursday’s opener between the Dodgers and Giants was 6½, matched the next night when Seattle opened its season at Oakland. The Giants game did stay UNDER but the Seattle game did go OVER.

Here’s a look at a pair of weekend series in each league this weekend.

Phillies at Braves: The top two teams in the NL East meet in an early season showdown. The Phillies opened the season with a 3 game sweep of Houston while Atlanta took 2 of 3 in Washington. The Phillies are off of a 3 game series against their division rivals, the Mets.

Atlanta just finished a 4-game series in Milwaukee and have not had an off day since last Friday. The Braves should be underdogs several times in this series depending on the pitching matchups with the Phillies fifth starter, Joe Blanton, likely to start mid week.

Atlanta has an underrated offense while the Phillies’ may be a bit overrated, at least until Chase Utley returns from the DL. The Braves do solid pitching of its own which makes this series attractive from both an UNDER and an Underdog perspective.

Preferred plays:

Braves +125 underdog or more in any matchup.

• Phillies as favorites of minus 125 or less in any matchup.

• UNDER 7 or higher

 

Cubs at Brewers: These NL Central Division rivals each had disappointing opening series with Milwaukee dropping all 3 in Cincinnati and the Cubs dropping 2 of 3 at home to Pittsburgh. Milwaukee’s strength should be its offense although the pitching rotation is stronger with the addition of Zack Greinke (currently on the DL) and Shaun Marcum.

The Brewers do have concerns in the bullpen which should be a strength of the Cubbies. Chicago has a decent lineup that should be above average this season, especially at the “friendly confines.” Cubs’ starters Ryan Dempster and Matt Garza were not impressive against the light hitting Pirates.

The wind conditions always factor into the setting of totals at Wrigley Field but on the fundamentals this should be a high scoring series.

Preferred plays:

• Cubs -130 or less in starts by Carlos Zambrano or Randy Wells.

• Brewers as underdogs of any price against all other starters.

• OVER 8 or lower in any matchup.

Yankees at Red Sox: These long time bitter rivals meet for a three game series. The Yanks had the much better start to their season, winning two of three at home against Detroit, outscoring the Tigers 23-19 in an entertaining, home run filled series. Boston was tattooed in losing all 3 games in Texas, allowing 26 runs.

This series should be high scoring as well. Both teams have plenty of offense but questions on the mound. That would also be in line with the teams’ recent history. In 2010 the Sox and Yankees met 18 times with 12 of the games going OVER and another pushed.

The teams averaged over 11 runs per game. Of the 9 games in Fenway, 8 went OVER. New York ace CC Sabathia was the lone effective starter against Detroit and he’s not expected to start in this 3 game series. Until Boston’s starters begin to show they are not adversely affected by the departure of ex-pitching coach John Farrell it’s hard to recommend the Sox as solid favorites against any team with an above average offense.

Preferred plays:

• OVER 9 or lower in any matchup.

• Yankees as +120 underdogs in any matchup.

• Either team as an underdog of +130 or more in any matchup

Rays at White Sox: This is a four game series that starts on Thursday. Tampa Bay dropped all 3 opening games at home to Baltimore while the White Sox won 2 of 3 in Cleveland. The Sox have plenty of power in their lineup with newly acquired Adam Dunn already putting up some good numbers.

Chicago has a decent pitching staff that should get plenty of support from the offense. Pitching will have to be the strength of Tampa if the Rays are to contend this season considering the off season losses to the lineup. Tampa does not figure to be above average in run production and will have to rely on their starters going 6 or 7 innings in many games.

They Rays are a well managed team that suggests improvement as the season unfolds. But the early edges belong with the Pale Hose who may not have to face Tampa’s ace David Price in this series.

Preferred plays:

• White Sox as -150 favorites or less in any matchup except against Price or James Shields.

• Rays with Shields as underdogs +125 or more.

• Rays as underdogs of +130 or more against Mark Buehrle.

• UNDER 9 or higher if Chicago’s Edwin Jackson or John Danks faces the Rays’ Shields, Price or Jeremy Hellickson.

• UNDER 7½ or higher if Price does start for Tampa against any Chicago starter.

last week season PCT
8-7 8-7 53.3

 

About the Author

Andy Iskoe

Owner and author of “The Logical Approach,” Andy Iskoe has been a long time GT columnist, contributing weekly in-season columns on baseball, pro basketball and pro football.

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