The obvious headlines in the first week of baseball belong
to Barry Bonds and his explosive start, slugging five home runs in his first
three games as he attempts to challenge his record setting 73 home runs of last
Perhaps overshadowed by Bonds’ exploits has been the
start of his team. The Giants have won all six games to open the season. The
overall qualify and depth of the starting pitching remains a concern for the
long run but the first two efforts by veteran Livan Hernandez have been
exceptional and provide a reason for Giants fans to be optimistic.
Division rival Arizona has gotten a pair of outstanding
starts from their aces Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling. In winning all four
starts the Diamondbacks’ Dynamic Duo has combined to allow just one earned run
in 32 innings while walking just six batters and striking out 46!
With Johnson and Schilling likely to start a total of about
70 games the Diamondbacks may need only modest contributions from their other
three starters to contend for the playoffs and a chance to defend their World
All five teams in the NL East begin the week with 3-3
records. This division may be the most balanced in baseball, top to bottom, with
the top starting pitching in the majors.
Pittsburgh has overcome an anemic lineup with solid
pitching to begin the season at 4-1. The Pirates perch atop the NL Central
should be short lived following the coming weekend in which co-favorites Houston
and St. Louis will have met six times within the season’s first two weeks.
The Yankees dropped their first game of the season before
reeling off five straight wins, including three consecutive shutouts. The most
impressive was the eight inning, one-hit performance turned in by “El Duque,”
Orlando Hernandez. El Duque, considered to be the Yankees’ weakest link,
appears to be fully recovered from the injuries and off-field problems that
plagued him last season. If so, the rest of the AL East can quickly say,
Cleveland and Minnesota are also off to solid 5-1 starts in
the AL Central. The division also boasts Detroit, the lone winless team
beginning the week.
Oakland and Seattle have played well in the first week
while Texas has started 1-5. What is alarming about the Rangers start is that
their weakness was expected to be their pitching. Yet in the opening week Texas
got several solid efforts from their starters but the feared bats did not
produce. The lack of offense is a temporary condition but the Rangers cannot
afford to waste good pitching.
Here’s a look at four series to be played this weekend. Keep in mind that because of a greater likelihood of weather related postponements, projecting starting pitchers is much more of an iffy exercise now than in the next few months when temperatures warm up.
Braves at Marlins: Atlanta needed a 14th-inning
homer by Marcus Giles last Sunday to avoid being swept at home by the Mets.
Atlanta’s offense is expected to be among the league’s best but they tallied
just 10 runs in the three games against New York. The Braves begin the season
without ace Greg Maddux, who was put on the Disabled List for the first time in
Florida got some decent starting pitching in the opening
week but the bullpen has been horrible. Fundamentally this should be a low
scoring series with both teams having pitchers capable of delivering seven solid
innings per start. Florida, as an underdog, is worth a look in games started by
Brad Penny or Ryan Dempster. The OVER results would be in starts by Florida’s
Julian Tavarez or Atlanta’s Kevin Millwood should they see action.
D’backs at Rockies: The Rockies opened the season
by dropping four of six road games and the offense averaged barely three runs
per game. That should change at Coors Field. This is a four game series that
begins Thursday and both Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling should get starts.
Both hurlers are likely to win 20 games this season but they won’t win every
start. Colorado’s conditions present a likely scenario for at least one of the
two to suffer a setback.
Both Johnson and Schilling will be favored and the Rockies
are worth playing in both games. In the other two games not started by
Arizona’s aces the preferred play will be on the OVER even though the line is
likely to be 14 or 15. Over the 320 games played at Coors Field in the past four
years, the total runs average has been slightly under 14.
Yankees at Red Sox: Both teams got encouraging
second starts from aces Roger Clemens and Pedro Martinez after each was rocked
in their 2002 debuts. The Yanks have gotten incredible starts after Clemens’
opening day struggles. Over their next five games Yankee starters allowed just
one earned run in 352/3
Boston won three of their first four games with only
Derreck Lowe and Frank Castillo starting in addition to Pedro. The Sox scored 11
runs on opening day but then totaled the same number in their next three games.
The 18 games between these teams averaged just under seven runs per game. Eight
produced five runs or less. The UNDER is again the preferred play in each day in
the four-game series. The Yanks are a play should they be underdogs in any of
A’s at Angels: Both teams opened the season with winning weeks. Darin Erstad and Tim Salmon are being counted upon to rebound from subpar seasons in 2001 for Anaheim. The Angels are also without closer Troy Percival who was placed on the DL. Anaheim has a solid though unspectacular starting rotation with no true ace. All five Angels starters can go deep into games which suggests the UNDER.