Road is tough place to be for MLB teams

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In Jackson Browne’s 1977 song “The Load-Out,” he described the daily rigors of a band and its road crew on a concert tour, including the emotions felt throughout the endeavor.

We got time to think of the ones we love

While the miles roll away

The only time that seems too short

Is the time that we get to play

The same could be said about baseball teams playing on the road, especially road trips that last six or more games, and can stretch close to two weeks.

Sure, these are Major League ballplayers, and they’ve become accustomed to living in a hotel half the season, taking charter buses to the stadium, sleeping in strange beds and flying all over the place. And in a 24-hour period, the time that flies by, is the few hours they’re playing baseball. The rest of the time can be monotonous.

It’s not easy. So it’s no wonder teams are exhaling on the final game of an extended road trip, anticipating their return to home base.

Not too long ago we saw the A’s strapped with one of the worst road records in baseball. After being swept in two games at division-rival Seattle last week, Oakland had a league-leading 15 losses with a suitcase in hand. But with Monday night’s 6-4 win over the Indians at Progressive Field, the A’s had won four in row on the road. Their nine-game journey finishes Wednesday, when we will see if Oakland’s adrenaline runs out.

The Angels are another example, as they recently went 5-6 on an 11-game, 6,000-mile road trip that finished with a series against baseball’s best team, the Minnesota Twins.

They opened the trip by losing two to Houston, then won four of five, and dropped three of the last four. The Halos’ two against the Astros were in Mexico. Then they went to Detroit and Baltimore before heading to Minneapolis.

No, we’re not going to see many road trips heading south of the border, and that’s an extraordinary circumstance. But after Monday’s abbreviated card, only 13 of the 30 major-league teams had a .500 or better record when ordering room service, and 11 of them were above .500.

After this past weekend, teams concluding a road trip of six or more games were 34-44 in the final game.

Specifically, if teams were finishing up a six-game trip, they were 12-18. Surprisingly, the percentage was a little better with teams on a longer trip, having gone 22-26 if their journey was more than six games.

Keep an eye on teams finishing up long road trips, especially those Thursday matinee games where teams look like they have one foot on home plate and the other out of the stadium, on their way to the airport to return home.

Now, let’s bounce back from last week, when I was 1-2 with my picks.

Thursday

Rockies at Pirates: We’re going to start at PNC Park, where the Colorado Rockies are finishing up an eight-game road trip before returning to Denver. And in practicing what I preach, I’ll side against the Rockies and play the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Heading into this series, which started on Tuesday, the Pirates had won three straight and seven of 10. They were four games above .500 and sat in third place just 2 1/2 games back of first-place Chicago.

The Rockies, on the other hand, had been feeling the effects of traveling, and went into Steeltown mired in a four-game skid that dropped them to five games below .500. First pitch is scheduled for 9:35 a.m. PT, which is 10:35 a.m. in Denver, where the Rockies will be looking forward to going while the Pirates are piling on the runs. Take the home team in this one, and don’t bother listing pitchers. PIRATES

Phillies at Cubs: This series opened Monday between a pair of division leaders. I suspect the Phils will still be atop the National League East by the time this series finale rolls around, but there’s no telling if the Brewers will have caught Chicago, which is possible.

I’m taking the road team here, as I like Philadelphia starter Aaron Nola, who is scheduled to pitch. He’ll stroll to the mound at Wrigley Field after matching a career high with 12 strikeouts in what was his best outing of the season against the Rockies. The right-hander’s 4.47 ERA isn’t indicative of his recent performances, as he boasts a 2.30 ERA in his last five starts.

He’ll outduel Chicago’s Jon Lester, who struggled in a 5-2 loss to the Nationals last Saturday, when the southpaw lasted a mere 4 1/3 innings and was tagged for five runs. As of Tuesday, the Phils had the fifth-best road ERA (3.46) and that’ll be the difference here. PHILLIES

Friday

Tigers at Mets: The Tigers open a nine-game trip in Queens, after a nine-game homestand. It won’t be easy. Detroit has been slumping of late, as it opened its three-game series with Miami on Tuesday after losing six straight and eight of 10. They dipped to eight games below .500, much in part because of a paltry offense that was tied for the third-worst batting average (.219) in baseball.

Now the Tigers open this series against Noah Syndergaard, who seemingly has buried his early-season struggles. The right-hander has finally found his groove, having delivered quality starts in three of his last four trips to the hill, with a 2.40 ERA over that stretch. I wouldn’t worry much about who the Tigers are starting, as it won’t matter with as bad as things are with their offense. Take the Mets and list Syndergaard only. METS

Last week: 1-2

Season: 13-8

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About the Author

W.G. Ramirez

W.G. Ramirez is a 32-year veteran covering sports in Southern Nevada, and resident of 46 years. He is a freelance reporter in Las Vegas and the Southern Nevada correspondent for The Associated Press.

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