The Braves' Justin Upton is on fire out of the gate.
The return of spring gave way to more than just mild, 70-degree weather. Spring ushered in what’s looking like another gripping and adrenaline-pumping season of Major League Baseball.
In just a little over a week, fans have seen everything from a record-breaking home run streak to a near perfect game. 10 teams have already hit double-digit home runs in what looks like the infancy of an offensive-heavy season.
For those of you college basketball fans depressed after Monday night’s thrilling tournament climax, here are six reasons why you should get back into your baseball groove.
Rangers' starter Yu Darvish.
Marvin Gonzalez’s single with two outs in the ninth was the only thing between Yu Darvish becoming the first Japanese-born pitcher to throw a perfect game in MLB history.
Granted, it was against a Houston Astros team whose expectations are comparable to the ’62 Mets, but a feat of that magnitude is always impressive.
Davish’s outing was the pitching performance to define the season, thus far. Darvish would pitch 8.2 innings of no-hit ball until Gonzalez placed one right between his wickets and into center field. Darvish was pulled after the hit, but not before he fanned 14 Astros.
Astros’ starter Lucas Harrell had himself a game as well, letting up just one run through six innings. Unfortunately for him, his counterpart would steal the win with an outstanding performance.
Rockies' outfielder Carlos Gonzalez.
The Colorado Rockies were undoubtedly one of the worst teams in baseball in 2012.
Injury on top of poor pitching and questionable managing led them to a 98-loss season. Their 5.22 team ERA was one of the worst in recent memory. This season, the Rockies have come out of the gate looking like a well-balanced and playoff-worthy team.
The Rockies offense leads MLB in home runs with 15, two more than the next closest team. The offense isn’t surprising, as this team ranked sixth in baseball in runs last season. The real surprise lies in the pitching staff.
Ace Jhoulys Chacin has been phenomenal in two starts, posting a 1.35 ERA with eight strikeouts and a WHIP under one. Longtime Rocky Jeff Francis surprised some people in his first start as well, allowing just one run on five hits in six innings. His fastball was clocked in the mid-90s, something he hasn’t done in years.
The Rockies’ record currently sits at 5-3, tied for first in the NL West, with a team ERA of 3.82.
Nationals' outfielder Bryce Harper.
Bryce Harper entered the league last year as one of the most highly anticipated prospects to step foot on the big league diamond in history.
Now, while many questioned whether or not Harper could avoid the sophomore slump, he has delivered and is off to a hot start. Harper is batting .379 with three homers, thus far. He’s recorded a hit in six of the first seven games and is playing a solid left field for the Washington Nationals.
On Opening Day, Harper supplemented a fantastic start by Strasburg with two homers in his first two at-bats of the season, silencing the critics.
Harper will play a key role in the battle against the Braves for the NL East. When all is said and done, expect Harper to outplay his AL counterpart, Mike Trout, and work his way into the MVP talks.
Rays' Ben Zobrist arguing a strike three call to end Monday's game against the Rangers.
Entering the season, it was no secret that the AL East housed some of the most complete teams in baseball.
A week in, it’s becoming clear that it’s going to be a battle for the division down to the final week.
The Baltimore Orioles lead the AL East in one incalculable statistic…chemistry. After ending last season by clinching their first playoff berth since ’97, they’ve basically picked up where they left off. Adam Jones is batting a ridiculous .500 through the first week and Nick Markakis is right behind him, batting .355. If they can get their pitching rotation in check, the Orioles can definitely make another run in 2013.
The Toronto Blue Jays spent some serious money this offseason—starting out 2-5 is definitely not what upper management had in mind. That being said, with arguably the best rotation in the division and a well put together offense, the Jays will be fine down the stretch.
The Tampa Bay Rays are 3-4, but with a talented young rotation, they should be able to improve that record.
The New York Yankees are in trouble. With Alex Rodriguez likely out for the season and Derek Jeter out for at least a month, injury will keep the Yankees stagnant in the division. Granderson’s fractured forearm and Teixiera’s wrist will also keep the Yankees out of the hunt for at least the next six weeks.
Finally, in what could be the most unexpected start in the division, the Boston Red Sox have overcome last season’s chronic injuries with an impressive 5-2 start. Clay Buchholz and John Lester have been lights out and youngsters Jackie Bradley Jr., Jose Iglesias and Will Middlebrooks have come up with some clutch hits.
Orioles' first baseman Chris Davis.
Chris Davis had a respectable, but rather quiet season in 2012 with a .270 average, 33 homers and 85 RBI.
This season, it won’t be so quiet.
Davis made history out of the gate with a home run in each of his first four games. He became the first player in MLB history to accomplish that feat.
He’s currently batting .417 and leading the league with 17 RBI. He’s on pace to end the season with 393 RBI.
Braves' outfielder Justin Upton.
With the warming temperature of spring, Justin Upton and the Atlanta Braves are heating up.
Back in January, when the Braves acquired Justin and B.J. Upton, the organization solidified itself as having the most dominant outfield in all of baseball.
Now, over a week into the season, the deals seem to be paying dividends.
The Braves own the best record in baseball at 7-1 and the Upton brothers are contributing mightily in the win column. Justin is batting .400 with six home runs—tied for first in the NL—and nine RBI through the first eight games.
To supplement Justin Upton’s hot hitting, the Braves also hold the lowest ERA in baseball, thus far. Starters Tim Hudson, Kris Medlen, Paul Maholm and Mike Minor have all pitched superb.
The bullpen, led by closer Craig Kimbrel, also owns the lowest ERA among bullpens at 1.88.
This is a very dangerous team that’s really clicking out of the gate. Look for them to have continued success and battle what might be the second best team in baseball, the Washington Nationals, throughout the season.
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