Biggest Winners and Losers of MLB Week 2
Moving deeper into the 2013 season, teams are starting to tinker with things in the lineup, starting rotation and bullpen. Some of these moves are necessary due to injuries, while others are just a sign of a manager looking for a spark.
As much as everyone always says that it is foolish to panic two weeks into a 162-game schedule, you can feel the desperation in some corners of the Major League Baseball world.
Things are starting to change all over the country, especially on the East Coast and Midwest. Temperatures are rising (supposedly), pitchers are getting their arms loose and throwing more pitches, hitters are getting their timing back.
Now we are going to start to see some of the wheat separate from the chaff. But there is still plenty of work for all 30 teams. Before we look at what is to come in the middle and end of April, here are the biggest winners and losers from Week 2.
Winner: Matt Harvey, SP, New York Mets
Week 2 Stats
April 8 vs. Phi: 7 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 9 K
April 13 vs. Min: 8 IP, 2 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 6 K
Another week, another time to talk about how great Matt Harvey looked for the New York Mets. Yes, the three teams he has defeated this year don't exactly boast a murderers' row of offensive talent. But this is a 24-year-old with just 13 starts under his belt doing special things for a team that needs something to cheer about.
What makes Harvey so special is the way everything just explodes out of his hand, be it his overpowering fastball or ridiculous slider. He had people television viewers baffled by what they were seeing.
Adam Rubin of ESPN New York posted some stats on Twitter to illustrate just how dominant Harvey has been so far in his brief big league tenure:
Matt Harvey's 95 strikeouts are 3rd most in franchise history thru 13 starts of a career, trailing Nolan Ryan (103) and Dwight Gooden (96).— Adam Rubin (@AdamRubinESPN) April 14, 2013
I wouldn't claim to know everything about the game, but when your name gets mentioned alongside strikeout artists like Nolan Ryan and Dwight Gooden, you are doing something right.
Loser: Cleveland Pitching vs. New York
Stats vs. New York
2 G, 18 IP, 25 R, 31 H, 8 2B, 8 HR, 6 BB, 13 K
New York and Cleveland were scheduled to play a four-game series at Progressive Field last week. Due to poor weather, the two teams only made it through half the series.
Indians manager Terry Francona probably wanted to send Mother Nature a "thank you" card for her work on Wednesday and Thursday. Otherwise, his pitching staff would have broken down completely with the way the Yankees were bludgeoning the ball.
To put just how impressive New York's hitting was in this brief series in perspective, even after shutting out Detroit 7-0 last Sunday, the offense had scored just 20 runs through five games. Robinson Cano was hitting .130 with no home runs or RBI.
After leaving Cleveland, the Yankees had more than doubled their run total, and Cano was hitting .303 with three home runs and seven RBI.
Meanwhile, the Indians pitching staff was a complete mess. Ubaldo Jimenez started the home opener on Monday and gave up seven runs in 4.1 innings. Matt Albers and Rich Hill followed in relief by giving up four runs (three earned) in 2.2 innings of work.
On Tuesday, Carlos Carrasco made his return after having Tommy John surgery in September 2011. He lasted just 3.2 innings, allowing seven runs and two home runs before getting ejected after hitting Kevin Youkilis with a pitch.
Brett Myers finished the game for the Indians, and he didn't fare any better. Like Jimenez and Carrasco, he gave up seven runs—though he was able to work 5.1 innings, at least—on 11 hits and three home runs.
All in all, not a good start at home for the Indians. But at least they made up for it by taking a weekend series against the Chicago White Sox.
Winner: Houston Astros Hitting
Key Game in Week 2
April 9 vs. Seattle (16-9 win): 16 runs on 22 hits (three doubles, five home runs)
No one has any illusions about what the Houston Astros are going to be. The battle for the No. 1 pick in next year's draft will, in all likelihood, come down to them or the Miami Marlins.
But this franchise has been beaten up for the last few years, and it is good to see them have a game where everything is working in sync. Sure, the pitching stumbled a bit in giving up nine runs against the Mariners, but they still scored 13 runs in the first four innings (six in the first) and finished with 22 hits.
To put that in perspective, the 16 runs scored were just one fewer than they had managed in the first seven games combined.
Any game is a good game when Jose Altuve is hitting a home run.
Loser: Jose Reyes and the Toronto Blue Jays
The biggest story of the weekend in baseball happened on Friday night, when the Toronto Blue Jays took on the Kansas City Royals.
It was the top of the sixth inning with the Blue Jays leading 8-4. Jose Reyes was on first base after hitting a single. He was stealing second and slid into the bag really late, with his left ankle getting caught underneath him and bending in a position it was not supposed to.
Once you saw Reyes writhing in pain, then got a look at the replay, you could tell that this was not going to be just a 15-day injury. Sure enough, Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos told reporters (via Scott MacArthur of TSN Canada) that it will be three months before we see the electrifying shortstop on the field:
It was a bad loss for baseball, because Reyes is one of the best and most exciting players in the game when he is on the field.
When the Blue Jays made that blockbuster trade with Miami to acquire Reyes, Josh Johnson and Mark Buehrle—and the subsequent deal to bring in R.A. Dickey from the Mets—it seemed fashionable to think they would be a playoff team.
But that was just from people looking at the names at the top of the roster. Once you start breaking down depth, as well as the injury potential for players like Johnson, Reyes and Brandon Morrow, suddenly things didn't look as bright as they once did.
You can't write the Blue Jays off yet—there is no reason to, since we have only played two weeks—but without Reyes for three months and Johnson's stuff looking lackluster (to put it nicely), you have to wonder if injuries are going to doom them again.
Winner: Adam Wainwright, SP, St. Louis Cardinals
Week 2 Stats
April 7 vs. SF: 7.0 IP, 7 H, 2 ER, 6 K
April 13 vs. Mil: 9.0 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 12 K
Following the announcement that Chris Carpenter was unlikely to pitch this season with shoulder problems, there was some concern from St. Louis about how the rotation would hold up knowing one of its most important pieces wouldn't be around.
Never mind the fact that the Cardinals made it through basically all of 2012 without him—and their system is ridiculously stacked with power arms either new to the big leagues (Shelby Miller, Trevor Rosenthal) or not that far away (Carlos Martinez)—and Adam Wainwright, their other workhorse, really found himself late last season after having Tommy John surgery two years ago.
Wainwright finished last year with a 3.28 ERA, 86 hits allowed and 86 strikeouts in 96 innings after the All-Star break. That finish likely keyed the Cardinals' comfort in giving him a brand new five-year, $97.5 million contract through 2018.
He has picked up right where he left off, with a 2.05 ERA and 24 strikeouts in 22 innings through three starts. More impressive than that is the big right-hander hasn't walked anyone.
On Saturday against Milwaukee, Wainwright was dominant. He struck out 12 and allowed just four hits in a complete-game shutout. Just for good measure, he also added two RBI on three hits. Who says pitchers can't swing a bat?
Loser: Milwaukee Brewers Offense
The Milwaukee Brewers signed Kyle Lohse at the end of spring training with the hopes that he could solidify their pitching staff well enough to keep them in contention with Cincinnati and St. Louis in the National League Central.
Even though Lohse has been fine through two starts, the problem for the Brewers during their 3-8 start has been on offense.
After losing Prince Fielder two years ago, many expected Milwaukee's run production to take a step or two back. But last year the team finished in the top five in runs (776), home runs (202) and OPS (.762).
Things have been much different in 2013, at least in the early going. The Brewers have scored just 36 runs in 11 games. They also rank in the bottom half of the league in batting average (.252), on-base percentage (.310) and slugging percentage (.370).
On top of all that, the Brewers have lost every series they have played, including against the Rockies and Cubs.
Ryan Braun had a weekend to forget, going 1-for-12 with six strikeouts. He did redeem himself a bit on Sunday, with a two-run home run in the eighth inning off Cardinals reliever Trevor Rosenthal.
Injuries have torn the lineup apart, with Corey Hart, Aramis Ramirez, Taylor Green and Mat Gamel all on the disabled list. It was always going to be an uphill climb for the Brewers to stay in contention, but this start only makes it worse.
Winner: Atlanta's Early Statement
All offseason, we wondered if the moves that the Atlanta Braves made would be good enough to help them catch the Washington Nationals in the National League East. Both teams made the postseason last year and had even bigger ideas this year.
It is obviously still too early to make any real judgement about players or teams, but the Braves left D.C. this weekend with all the confidence in the world after sweeping the Nationals in three very different games.
On Friday, Washington's bullpen collapsed and allowed five runs (four earned) in three innings of work. Rafael Soriano, who had worked the previous three games, had the night off. So Drew Storen tried to shut things down in the ninth, but he allowed three hits and two runs to give the Braves life. Then Ramiro Pena hit a two-run homer to seal the victory in the 10th inning.
Saturday was a pitching duel between Tim Hudson and Stephen Strasburg. The Braves jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the third inning on Evan Gattis' two-run homer off Strasburg after an error by Ryan Zimmerman kept the inning alive. That would be all Atlanta would need, as Hudson and two relievers combined on a four-hitter.
Then, in the finale, the Braves brought out the big guns against Gio Gonzalez. Justin Upton and Andrelton Simmons homered in the third inning to blow things wide open at 7-0. That was more than enough support for Paul Maholm, who struck out seven in 7.2 innings of work.
There is a lot of season to go, but for right now at least, the Braves look like the best team in baseball after sweeping their division rivals. Oh, by the way, they also swept the Cubs and Marlins before taking care of business in Washington.
Loser: Cincinnati Reds
One of the great things about baseball is when you try to apply logic to the game, things happen that completely and wholly defy logic.
Take, for instance, the Cincinnati Reds going into Pittsburgh to take on the 3-6 Pirates, who had scored just 21 runs in their first nine games.
The Reds are expected to be the best team in the National League Central—and one of the best in baseball—so this was exactly what they needed to give their lackluster start the jolt it needed.
Then the Pirates swept the series by scoring 19 runs in three games and hitting four home runs in the process.
No one expects the Pirates to compete for a playoff spot, but they have given their fans the illusion of contention over the last two years. We don't know—at least not with any level of certainty—if they will make this the year they at least break the .500 barrier.
On top of everything else that went wrong for the Reds this weekend, Johnny Cueto got hurt in the fifth inning with an arm injury and will apparently be going on the disabled list, according to Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports.
There is one silver lining, as Cueto's injury does open the door to promote Tony Cingrani, who is the Reds' No. 2 pitching prospect, according to Baseball America, and has racked up 26 strikeouts in 14.1 innings at Triple-A. If he succeeds, he could join Cueto in the rotation all year.
For the Reds to improve upon their start, the key is to make the peaks last longer than the valleys.
Winner: Los Angeles Angels' Big Three
Mike Trout, Josh Hamilton and Albert Pujols were the three biggest reasons that people were picking the Los Angeles Angels to win the American League West or at least return to the postseason as a wild-card team.
After a rather uneventful first week together, the Angels' big three displayed their talents in grand fashion over the weekend against Houston.
Let's start with Hamilton, who has been under a lot of scrutiny for the way he started the season with 10 strikeouts in his first 20 at-bats. He got the big contract in the offseason and has been one of the game's preeminent offensive players for the last five years.
But considering how his Texas tenure ended—with a lackluster final week that saw him flailing at any pitch even close to the strike zone and making a costly error in a game against Oakland—and his slow start this year, Hamilton was starting to hear a lot of loud whispers about his ability.
So it had to be a great relief for the 2010 American League MVP to hit his first home run of the season on Saturday night and follow it up with another big fly on Sunday.
Trout had even higher expectations than Hamilton coming into this season on the heels of his historic Rookie of the Year campaign. He was the best player in baseball at the age of 20, and it wasn't particularly close.
This is a once-in-a-generation talent who got off to a rather pedestrian start, with a .245 average and .635 OPS after Saturday's game. But the young superstar was up to his old tricks on Sunday, going 2-for-3 with a home run and a double.
Then there is Pujols, who has been off to a terrific start this year. He came up in a huge spot for the Angels on Saturday night—down a run with runners on first and second in the bottom of the ninth inning.
Never one to let the moment stand in his way, Pujols ripped a double down the third-base line that scored two runs and gave Los Angeles a much-needed victory against Houston.
Those three have to carry this team if they are going to go anywhere, especially with the news last week that Jered Weaver will miss four to six weeks with a broken left elbow.
Loser: St. Louis' Bullpen
Mitchell Boggs vs. Cincinnati (April 8)
0.1 IP, 2 H, 7 R (6 ER), 4 BB, 0 K
The Achilles' heel for the St. Louis Cardinals last season was a faulty bullpen that cost them a lot of games in the later innings. It ultimately didn't make that much of a difference, as the team still went on to win one of the two NL Wild Card spots and was a win away from reaching the World Series.
Two weeks into the 2013 season, things look a lot like they did last year for the Cardinals. And not in a good way.
Things started in disastrous fashion with Mitchell Boggs' awful outing on Monday against Cincinnati. He faced eight batters, recorded just one out and gave up seven runs after entering a tie game in the ninth inning. The Reds would go on to win 13-4.
On Wednesday, the Cardinals announced that they were shutting down closer Jason Motte—who has been on the disabled list to start the season—with a muscle tear in his right elbow that could require Tommy John surgery.
Fast-forward to Sunday, with the Cardinals leading Milwaukee 3-0 in the eighth inning. Trevor Rosenthal, a postseason hero last October, gave up a two-run homer to Ryan Braun for Milwaukee's first runs of the series. Yuniesky Betancourt hit a game-tying RBI double in the ninth inning off Boggs, and Jonathan Lucroy won the game in the 10th with a solo home run.
No one doubts that St. Louis is one of the best teams in the National League and will be battling for a playoff spot. It is just a little alarming to see all these bullpen problems crop up yet again, especially for a team with a system as loaded with quality throwers in the high levels.
Winner: Roy Halladay, SP, Philadelphia Phillies
Stats vs. Miami Marlins (April 14)
8.0 IP, 5 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 2 K
Looking at the bigger picture, Halladay's first win of the year isn't that impressive. He shut down a Miami lineup that was without Giancarlo Stanton and has scored just 20 runs in 12 games. (For perspective, Tampa Bay is 29th in runs scored with 33 in 11 games.)
But to see the two-time Cy Young winner having success again was a very welcome sight. Frankly, watching Halladay's first two starts of the season was painful and a little sad.
Against Atlanta and New York, Halladay went just 7.1 innings, gave up 12 hits, 12 earned runs, six walks and three home runs and tossed 12 strikeouts. Jayson Stark of ESPN.com talked to a scout after his loss to the Braves who said that, if you didn't know the name on the back of the jersey, you would think he was a "journeyman."
This is a pitcher that just two years ago was considered the best in baseball. But an injury-plagued 2012 and dip in velocity to start this season has made Halladay fallible.
No one should expect that Halladay's performance against the Marlins, which earned him his 200th career victory, is a sign of bigger things to come. For one day, however, it was nice to see him up to his old tricks.
Dud of the Week: Carlos Quentin, OF, San Diego Padres
I could have just put Carlos Quentin in the "loser" category and been done with it, but that didn't seem harsh enough considering how dumb, pointless and idiotic his actions were against Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Zack Greinke.
By now, you have all seen the video where Greinke hits Quentin on the arm with a 3-2 fastball. This is nothing new, as Quentin has been hit more than anyone else in baseball since the start of the decade three years ago, and it isn't particularly close.
For some reason, on this particular day, Quentin had enough of Greinke plunking him—these two have a history, as Greinke hit him twice before in his career. So the Padres outfielder charged the mound in a bull rush and plowed right into Greinke.
Greinke, in either a rush of adrenaline or act of stupidity, decided to put his slight 195-pound frame up against Quentin's 240-pound body. The results were predictable, as the Dodgers pitcher broke his collarbone and will miss eight weeks.
Meanwhile, Quentin received an eight-game suspension. He starts serving his penalty, ironically, against the Dodgers on Monday night.
Some people, including Dodgers manager Don Mattingly, wanted Quentin to be punished for as long as Greinke would be out, but that never seemed like a viable option.
Regardless of how you feel about the punishment handed down, Quentin was completely and totally in the wrong for his stupid actions. It doesn't matter that it happened to a marquee player like Greinke, because this would have garnered media attention even if it was just a journeyman.
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