Break Up The Royals and the Pirates (But Keep the Braves Intact)
After the first few games of the regular season, a number of teams that were expected to contend for playoff spots are looking pretty good. The Yankees, Twins, Cardinals, and Giants continued their success from last year and stand at 3-0. Most of the other expected playoff contenders are playing well, too with a couple of exceptions. The Braves are their beleaguered pitching staff got swept by the Expos, who I think may surprise those people who consigned the Expos to failure after the Colon debacle.
Pittsburgh took three from the supposedly contending Reds at their brand spanking new ballpark, the Great American Ball Park Franks (evidently it plumps when you cook it). The Pirates outscored the Reds 24-10 and batted .304 with a .949 OPS and 8 home runs. Picking up Barry Bonds' old outfield mates look pretty good so far: Reggie Sanders is batting .636 with 3 homers and an ungodly 2.091 OPS. Lofton is batting .333 with a 1.067 OPS.
The Reds' weak staff has looked pretty poor: 7.33 ERA, 1.67 WHIP, and only one starter getting out of the fifth. What a way to open a new stadium. And for the umpteenth time I ask, where is Chris Reitsma? That Bob Boone is a super genius of the Wiley Coyote variety.
Possible the oddest series was the White Sox, who are expected to challenge the Twins for the AL Central title (Heck, I picked them to win) were unceremoniously swept by the lowly Royals. It hasn't even looked close. Game one saw Runelvys Hernandez and the Royal bullpen shutout the Sox on three hits. In game two, the Royals won a close cat-and-mouse game, 5-4, spoiling Bartolo Colon's White Sox debut. In game three, the Pale Hose bullpen blew a one-run lead in the eighth and lost 12-6, after a 7-run Royal ninth. The setup men (Tom Gordon and Damaso Marte) loaded the bases on two walks and hit batsman and there were two outs. Billy Koch, the offseason import, came in to protect the lead. Koch would face six men and get none out: he gave up a single (relinquishing the lead), 3-run home run (10-6), double, man reached on an error (11-6), single, and finally a walk to load the bases. Rick White walked the next batter and the score was 12-6.
The Royals outscored the Sox 20-10 in the series and two of those games were started by aces Marke Buehrle and Bartolo Colon while KC used their inexperienced staff. The Royals haven't been 3-0 to start a season since before George Brett discovered pine tar.