2011 MLB: Boston Red Sox, AL East Provide Plenty of Surprises on Opening Weekend
We may only be three days removed from Opening Day, but there have been plenty of surprises in the AL East to begin the 2011 MLB season.
The Red Sox are already two games behind the Yankees, and there are only 160 games to go! Believe it or not, some fans out there are already in panic mode, while others have taken strong showings as a sign their respective teams might be instant contenders.
While I know the division winner will not be decided in April, let alone opening weekend, it’s hard to argue that a strong (or weak) start to the season could have a lasting impact on what appears to be an uber-competitive AL East. In some cases, may there be reason to worry? And in others, is it simply just hype?
You be the judge.
No. 5: Yankees, Teixeira Come Out Swinging
It’s no surprise that the Yanks look good through the first couple of games. They are expected to win, and they are paid to win.
The surprise here is Mark Teixeira, who is notorious for being slow out of the gate. Through the first two games, Teixeira appears to be in midseason form with two home runs while driving in six of the Yankees' 16 total runs.
If he can stay hot through the early going, will it even matter who the Yanks send to the mound each fourth and fifth day?
No. 4: Orioles Pitching Opens Strong
In an earlier piece, I noted that a key to the Orioles' success this season is in the hands of their starting rotation. How would they fare opening the season against a bat-heavy Rays squad?
Check out this line: 14 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, 4 BB, 13K.
Jeremy Guthrie and Chris Tillman held the Rays in check, and Tillman even pitched six no-hit innings before being pulled due to a high pitch count. If the duo continues to anchor a young O’s rotation, will they be able to hang around come September?
No. 3: "Baby" Rays Swing and Miss
The revamped Rays didn’t open many eyes to start the year, at least not in the way expected of a team which has won two AL East titles in the past 3 seasons. You can’t blame their pitchers, who did enough to keep them in each ballgame. The real worry here is their suddenly suspect hitting.
Batting to the tune of two runs and eight total hits through two games may be reason to panic, especially when prized third baseman Evan Longoria is already leaving games with muscle soreness.
While key free-agent additions Johny Damon and Manny Ramirez have combined for only one hit thus far, you have to wonder how soon an early season slide could lead to “Manny being Manny?"
No. 2: Blue Jays Impress with Arms, Bats
No team in baseball has looked as dominant through their first two games as the Toronto Blue Jays, and against a supposed contender in the Minnesota Twins no less. They have put up a whopping 19 runs, while only giving up four in return.
Ricky Romero pitched a solid game in the opener, and Kyle Drabek’s gem on Saturday may prove he is as good as advertised. We already knew they could hit, so there is real promise in Toronto considering their previous two Opening Day-starters are suiting up in different uniforms.
This team may be the real deal, but will they be consistent enough to hang with the likes of the Yankees and Red Sox?
No. 1: Red Sox Pitching Woes
I don’t care who they are playing, the Red Sox have no business giving up 21 runs in two games.
Not only did staff ace Jon Lester look shaky from the get-go in the opener, but last year’s prized free-agent addition John Lackey has all but proven to be a bust for the Sox, giving up nine runs in just over three innings.
Unless Josh Beckett has a strong rebound year, the Red Sox may require a whole lot of run support to stay in ballgames. Adrian Gonzalez has looked good in his debut with the team, but the Red Sox World Series dreams rest in the arms of their starting rotation. At this point, that seems to be a big question mark.
Were these just two poor outings versus a powerful Rangers' lineup, or will their rotation ultimately lead to the Red Sox' demise?