3 2 Pitch by Andy Iskoe | The 2008 season is just a week old and yet there are already several teams, thought of as contenders, that have to be concerned about their poor starts.
Of greatest concern is the 0-6 start not being enjoyed by Detroit and its fans. Considered to have one of the best offenses in all of baseball, the Tigers have scored just 15 runs – an average of just 2½ per game.
To be sure, a couple of key contributors have been sidelined (Curtis Granderson and Gary Sheffield) but that’s hardly an excuse for the performance from the balance of the lineup. The pitching was already a major concern entering the season and the Tigers are the only team yet to win a game entering Week 2.
Last season’s National League pennant winner, Colorado, is also off to a surprising 1-5 start. Again, offense is the problem. The Rockies have scored just 10 runs – less than two per game. In their three home games, Colorado tallied just 1, 2 and 2 runs against Arizona, which swept their weekend series and gained a slight measure of revenge for being swept in last season’s NLCS.
There have also been some pleasant surprises in the season’s first week from teams that are likely to drop steadily in the standings in the coming months.
Surely Baltimore’s 5-1 start is not a sign of things to come. There is some potential for the pitching staff, despite a lack of depth. There really is not a big reliable bat in the order that can carry the team over long stretches. Still, the Birds have surprised with their play during the season’s first week.
Kansas City raised some eyebrows with its road sweep of Detroit to start the season and seems to have begun turning things around. Don’t expect the Royals to challenge for the playoffs this season, but they do have a shot to play .500 ball for a long stretch.
St Louis’ 5-1 start has to also be classified as a surprise considering the lack of depth in their starting rotation. The Cardinals lineup does not provide much support for star Albert Pujols. If the Cardinals can play better than .500 baseball, Tony LaRussa may have done his best managerial job in years.
Injuries are already making news with the Mets’ Pedro Martinez sidelined likely for more than a month. With newly acquired Johan Santana, the Mets have as tough a 1-2 punch as any in baseball.
Here’s a look at four series to be played this weekend.
Cubs at Phillies: Both teams have yet to display the offensive potential that runs up and down each lineup. However, that will change as the weather warms and the batters get their timing down. The Cubs have the better overall pitching staff, but the edge is not great. This has potential for being a high-scoring series.
Plays: Over 9 or lower in any game except if Chicago’s Carlos Zambrano faces Philly’s Cole Hamels. Take Zambrano (Cubs) and Hamels (Phils) as underdogs or -125 favorites at most. Cubs as underdogs in starts by Ted Lilly or Rich Hill.
Padres at Dodgers: LA took 2-of-3 last weekend in San Diego in an expected low-scoring series. A total of just 18 runs were scored in the three games. The six starters in the series each lasted at least six innings. Expect a repeat of well-pitched games by both teams’ starters resulting in effective relief pitching.
Plays: Under 8 or higher in any matchup. Either team as an +150 or higher underdog. Dodgers in any matchup as underdogs or -125 favorites.
Yankees at Red Sox: "The Rivalry" renews with this three-game series at Fenway Park. These teams are evenly matched almost up and down the lineup and both pitching staffs have many similarities. Neither offense has lit up the scoreboard. In their first six games New York has yet to score more than four runs. Boston has averaged barely three runs per game over the first seven.
Plays: Either team as a +150 underdog. Boston -130 or less in starts by Josh Beckett or Daisake Matsuzaka; Under 9 or higher in any matchup.
Angels at Mariners: The Angels and Mariners appear to be the class of the AL West. Both teams have solid starting rotations. The Angels have the advantage in the bullpen especially with Seattle closer J J Putz sidelined for a few weeks at best. Neither offense has been hitting the cover off of the bal. Both lineups will be facing above average starters, making the total play the most attractive option this weekend.
Plays: Under 8 or higher. Take the Angels in starts by righties Jered Weaver or Jon Garland if underdogs in each situation. Take Mariners -140 or less if Jarrod Washburn, Felix Hernandez or Carlos Silva pitch and don’t face either Weaver or Garland.