Monday, April 13, 2009

Keeping Things Interesting: April 13, 2009

The first full week of the season is in the books, with every team now having played either six or seven games. There are no undefeated teams left in the league, but there is still one winless team: the Washington Nationals, who have now been swept by the Marlins and the Braves, making each of them look good in the standings. The leaderboard looks rather interesting, with Adam Lind leading the majors with 12 RBIs and Evan Longoria tied with Alfonso Soriano for the ML lead with 4 home runs (the series in Milwaukee was very good to Soriano). On the pitching side of the leaderboard, Jake Peavy sits atop the majors with 18 strikeouts in his two starts, while Felix Hernandez leads the AL with 14. At least that side of the board seems to make sense.

The story of yesterday's games seems to be about weird things happening to ace pitchers. In San Diego, the Giants' Tim Lincecum had his second rough outing of the year, giving up 4 runs and 10 hits in 5 1/3 innings. In Florida, Johan Santana pitched a gem, striking out 13 in 7 innings, and giving up no earned runs. However, he did give up two unearned runs and his teammates only managed one run in the ninth, saddling Santana with the loss. Last year, Santana was frustrated by a sorry bullpen blowing his great starts. Today, at least, he didn't even get that option. In Arizona, Dan Haren faced down the Dodgers' Randy Wolf. Haren pitched well, giving up two runs in 6 innings, but it wasn't enough, as the D-backs only managed three hits and one run in the 3-1 loss. Finally, Josh Beckett took the hill in Anaheim for the Red Sox, but could not earn the win, giving up 4 runs in 6 innings pitched. The Angels' Dustin Moseley didn't pitch too fantastic for them, giving up two home runs, but it was enough to get the win for the Angels.

Looking ahead to the games today, there seems to be a few intriguing matchups and even a few home openers still to play. The Mets officially open Citi Field against the Padres tonight. It's exciting, I suppose, but no more so than when the Nats opened up Nationals Park last year or when the Cards opened up Busch Stadium a few years back. I don't know if it deserves the type of press it'll be getting this week (two games on ESPN this week?!). Other home openers today include the Phillies at Nationals, Rockies at Cubs, Astros at Pirates, and Yankees at Rays.

In Milwaukee, the battle of young and future aces should be a sight to see, as Edinson Volquez takes on Yovani Gallardo. Volquez had a rough first start against the Mets, while Gallardo shined against the Giants, including hitting a three-run home run that proved to be the winning runs. Kansas City will also host a good battle between a couple of young guns, as Zach Grienke of the Royals faces Fausto Carmona of the Indians. Grienke's first game was a gem, striking out seven batters in six innings with only three hits and no runs. He'll try to do the same for his hometown crowd as he hopes to give the Royals' fans something to root for all season.

However, the most interesting game of the day today has to be San Francisco Giants at the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Dodgers will not only be hosting their home opener, but they'll be doing it against their biggest rival. It may be hard for some non-West Coasters to believe, but the Dodgers-Giants rivalry is just as big and intense as the Red Sox-Yankees or Cubs-Cardinals, with a history going all the way back to the New York Giants-Brooklyn Dodgers days. In a world these days where "rivalries" (like Red Sox-Rays) are hyped up at the drop of a dime and where true rivalries (like the Cubs-Cardinals) are way too overhyped, the Giants-Dodgers rivalry stands out as underrated and maybe even forgotten. This is the third time in five years, and second consecutive year, that the Dodgers have opened up Dodger Stadium against the Giants, with the Dodgers winning both Openers.

Randy Johnson will take the hill for the visiting Giants, looking for career win number 296, while the Dodgers will throw their young ace, Chad Billingsley, who pitched only "well enough" in his first start of the year. It should be a loud and exciting game this afternoon in Los Angeles and is, by far, the most interesting game of the day.

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