The Yankees, Red Sox, Phillies, and Angels are the top four teams in baseball in payroll for the 2012 season (in some order), and this quartet that was expected to run roughshod over the league has a grand total of two wins (and ten losses) after the first weekend of the MLB season. The Yankees were swept by the division rival Rays, while the Tigers swept away the Red Sox. The Phillies and Angels each lost two of three to small market teams not expected to head up the standings this year in the Pirates and Royals. What the hell is going on here? Well, it’s just one weekend. Crazy things can happen when you look at a three game sample of a 162 game season. There are what, somewhere in the neighborhood of 54 series during an entire season for each team? When you look at a one series sample, you’re looking at less than 2% of the total games a team plays over the course of the six month season. Fans of those teams really shouldn’t panic….yet. If we get to the middle of May and you’re looking up at a few teams in the standings…then you can start to sweat a little bit.
Game of the Night: Tigers 13, Red Sox 12 (11 innings). This one was an absolutely ridiculously entertaining game for fans of offense. The Tigers jumped out to a 4-0 lead in the first inning, and led 5-2 after two. Then, the Red Sox tacked five runs on in the third to chase Max Scherzer from the game after just eight outs. Detroit got two more in the fourth to tie it at seven, and got Clay Buchholz out of the game. Boston then took a 10-7 lead going into the bottom of the ninth and handed the ball to newly minted closer Alfredo Aceves. Of course, Aceves allowed hits to all three batters he faced, with the final one being a game-tying homer hit by all-world Tigers slugger Miguel Cabrera. No runs were scored in the tenth, but Boston got two in the eleventh to take another lead. This time, it would be up to Mark Melancon to close it out. Unlike Aceves, Melancon managed to record a pair of outs. But just like Aceves, he allowed three hits, topped off with a walkoff two-run homer to Tigers catcher Alex Avila to give the Tigers an improbable 13-12 victory that saw them rally back from being down multiple runs three times. The teams combined for 35 hits and 25 runs, and we have one of the most memorable games of the 2012 season just three games into the year.
Hitting Line of the Night: Miguel Cabrera went 3/5 with three runs, five RBI, and a homer in Detroit’s amazing win over Boston. Cabrera’s got three homers already on the season, and the pair of him and Prince Fielder are making one hell of a combination so far. I’ll give a tip of the cap to Jay Bruce as well, who hit a pair of homers and drove in three (including a game-tying bomb off of Heath Bell in the ninth) against the Marlins in the Reds 6-5 comeback victory.
Pitching Line of the Night: There were a few contenders for the title yesterday, so I’ll run them down one by one. Jeremy Hellickson finished one out shy of throwing a complete game shutout against the Yankees, but Fernando Rodney finished the job to preserve the shutout. Hellickson allowed three hits, walked four, and struck out four for the 3-0 Rays. The Baltimore Orioles are also 3-0, and Jason Hammel had a no hitter through seven yesterday against the Twins. He finished up his day going eight innings, allowing two hits and one run while walking three and striking out five. Hammel also got an eyepopping 16 groundball outs in his masterpiece. The final top performer of the day is Jeff Samardzija of the Cubs, who allowed just one earned (and two more unearned) run in 8 2/3 innings, allowing just four hits without a walk and eight strikeouts. In a series where the Cubs bullpen blew leads in the first two games, Samardzija did everything in his power to not let that happen again.
Series Spotlight: I just talked about Jeff Samardzija’s excellent outing in Chicago, where the Cubs salvaged a game in their series against the Nationals with a 4-3 victory. Starlin Castro had a good day for the Cubs, going 2/4 with a double, an RBI, two runs scored, and two stolen bases. Across the diamond, the Nationals offense only had four hits, two of which coming from Ian Desmond. Adam LaRoche hit a two run homer in the ninth inning to draw the Nats within a run, but they ended up coming up short. Washington got a great start from Jordan Zimmermann too, as he allowed one earned (and one unearned) run over seven innings, allowing six hits with four strikeouts and no walks. It was a hard-luck effort for the Nationals’ starter, but an encouraging outing.
Other Games: The Mets are 3-0 after sweeping the Braves. Who would have imagined that? Toronto threatened to beat the Indians bullpen again, but Chris Perez hung on, and Cleveland won 4-3. The Pirates and Reds were both walkoff winners over struggling NL East teams Philadelphia and Miami. The Astros are above .500 for the first time since 2009 after being the Rockies 3-2. The Cardinals pounded the Brewers 9-3 to take two out of three in a very diverse series. Jonathan Sanchez outdueled Ervin Santana to give the Royals a series win over the highly touted Angels. The Padres beat the Dodgers 8-4 after Aaron Harang had a disastrous start a day after Chris Capuano turned in a similarly bad effort. The Giants blew a 6-0 lead to the Diamondbacks and lost 7-6 in a game that saw both teams combine for eight errors.
Today’s Games: In Philadelphia, the Marlins come to town and will send Anibal Sanchez to the hill against free agent to be Cole Hamels. Yu Darvish debuts for the Rangers against Hector Noesi and the Mariners. The rest of the matchups around the league are generally mediocre overall though, as we get to the back-end of many teams rotations.
Enjoy your day of baseball, everyone!