It’s been an interesting start to the young baseball season, full of slow starts and flashes of brilliance – enough to make even the more rational fan jump to wild conclusions… things like Boston is currently on pace to finish 36-126, good for the worse record in baseball modern history. Meanwhile, the Rangers project out to 144-18…which would be a pretty decent season.
The point is – relax Sox fans. Part of the beauty of baseball is the ebb and flow; the comfortable steady rhythm of the season that accompanies the change of the season from spring to summer and all the way to near-winter weather. It’s a marathon – and over the course of 162 games, things have a way of evening out.
Still, it is nice to get off to a racing start. As more than one baseball manager has remarked over the years, a win in April counts the exact same as a win in September.
That said; let’s kick off my first baseball column of the young season with a few April wins…
Today’s Free Major League Baseball Picks:
Tampa Bay Rays @ Boston Red Sox
Jeremy Helickson vs. Diasuke Matsuzaka
These two AL East favorites have started the season a combined 3-15; not exactly the start fans were expecting, especially in Boston. The Sox were nearly everyone’s pick to win the American League this season, especially after the free-agent acquisition of former Rays star, Carl Crawford.
The Red Sox scuffled early, but appear to be back on track after taking 2 of 3 from the Yankees this weekend. Tampa, on the other hand, shows little signs of emerging from their offensive coma. In Saturday’s lone win, the Rays needed a huge 9th inning comeback to edge the Chicago White Sox.
The Rays have led for a total of one half inning on the entire season, and have totaled just 11 runs in nine games, good for a meager 1.2 average. I don’t care how great your pitching is, you are not going to win many games hitting like that.
Things get even tougher for the Rays tonight, facing Dice-K tonight. Though he has struggled with the Rays in the past, going just 2-6 with a plus-five ERA, he still has pretty commanding stuff – and when no one is hitting, facing a power arm with deadly breaking stuff is not a good recipe to get right.
I think Crawford welcomes his old mates to Boston by breaking out of his season-beginning slump and helping the Rays’ slump continue…
Cleveland Indians @ Los Angeles Angels
The Indians certainly qualify as one of the pleant surprises of the early season, off to a 7-2 start and winner’s of seven straight after completing the sweep over Seattle yesterday. The reason for the success is two-fold; not only are they hitting (scoring 5.6 runs per game), but their staff 1.68 ERA is best in the American League.
I’m not sure if the Indians can hold on all season, but if they are even close, there might be more to this “Orlando Cabrera signing = Playoff appearance” correlation that needs investigating. Seriously, no matter WHERE this dude plays, they are playing in October. It’s still REAL early, but if he brings that magic in back-to-back seasons to Cleveland and Cincinnati, it’s time to start giving the man his due.
The Angels were originally slated to start proven star Dan Haren tonight, however changed their rotation to make room for the major-league debut of 21-year old Tyler Chatwood. The rookie righty makes his big league debut despite throwing only 6 1/3 inning of Triple-A baseball.
Making things a little easier on the rookie is the fact that the Angels have been hitting well, and get to come home to their home ball park tonight. At .288 on the season, the Angels are actually hitting a few points higher than the hot-starting Indians.
Mitch Talbott takes the ball for the Indians. Talbott looked OK in his last start, earning a no-decision in Boston in the Tribe’s 8-4 win. The fact that he only lasted 4 2/3 innings is a bit of a concern, as Cleveland’s less-than-stellar bullpen would be wise to avoid over-using early in this West Coast road trip.
The Indians’ start has been pleasant, but I think the Angels give them a little reality check this week in Anaheim. I like the Angels tonight scoring some runs, and I expect a little bit of wildness from a rookie making his first big league start. It seems like a good recipe to get up over the 8 run total tonight. Take the Angels if you’d like, but my official play is the OVER.