Opening week of the 2012 MLB season is in the books and it certainly didn’t disappoint. There were brooms, walkoffs, comebacks, near no-no’s and just about everything else you could ask for in an opening week.
The Bobby Valentine era got underway this past weekend in Detroit and the early results weren’t what Red Sox fans were hoping for. Andrew Bailey‘s diagnosis of needing thumb reconstruction surgery that will sideline him until at least July had Sox fans worried about the state of the bullpen. Those worries proved to be well founded as the bullpen surrendered two walkoff wins on the way to the Red Sox being swept. Beckett and Bucholz combined to allow 15 hits and 14 earned runs in 8 2/3 innings.
The Yankees were swept by the Rays with a mixture of sluggish bats with RISP, bad starting pitching, and awful tactics by manager Joe Girardi. In the season opener C.C. Sabathia allowed a grand slam to Carlos Pena after a bizarre IBB ordered by Girardi to light hitting Sean Rodriguez with two outs in the first inning to face the power laden Carlos Pena. Mariano Rivera blew his first save attempt of the season then took the loss after Girardi again ordered two IBB’s to face Pena, who then hit the game winning RBI single. In game two of the opening series Hiroki Kuroda incited cries of “bring back A.J.!” with a dreadful outing in which even the outs were hit hard. Girardi’s puzzling use of backup SS Eduardo Nunez at SS lead to a first inning error that was the catalyst for two Tampa Bay runs. The Yankees then wasted a decent outing by Phil Hughes with no offense. Girardi’s decision to use Raul Ibanez in RF to give Nick Swisher “rest” from playing the field(two games into the season) lead to a comical fielding attempt by Ibanez that turned a single into a triple. A horrible weekend for the Yankee manager. Every string Girardi pulled broke. The intentional walk of the light hitting Rodriguez in the first inning with two outs to face Pena was truly one of the most bizarre ever issued. That was only the 4th IBB that Rodriguez had received in his MLB career. The Yankees picked up right where they left off in the 2011 ALDS with the middle and lower part of the order failing to hit anyone in. A dreadful opening weekend that already has the press and fans nervous about the 2012 Yankee season.
Tampa Bay’s acquisition of Carlos Pena already has paid huge dividends. Pena destroyed the Yankees going 6-12 with two walks, a double, two home runs, and seven RBI’s. Evan Longoria hit .600 this weekend to serve notice that he is healthy and ready to bounce back from a sub par 2011 season that was riddled by injuries. Manager Joe Maddon gave a command performance, utilizing spray charts and employing the shift against Mark Teixeira, Curtis Granderson, and Alex Rodriguez. With the Rays strong starting pitching expected to be the best in the AL this year, offensive production like they received this past weekend will make them the team to beat not only in the AL East, but in the AL.
The Baltimore Orioles ended spring training with an embarrassing loss to a community college and thoughts that the bags over the heads of fans could be out early this year. The bags have been put away after a sweep of the Minnesota Twins led by great pitching. The Orioles only allowed five runs in the opening series. Jake Arrieta went seven two hit, scoreless innings to get a win and Josh Hammel took a no-hitter into the 8th inning yesterday before Justin Morneau broke it up with a double. Hammel allowed two hits and one run in eight innings. Nick Markakis and Adam Jones lead the offense for Baltimore, hitting .556 and .333 respectively. The first place Orioles host the last place Yankees for a three game set at Camden Yards starting tonight. We haven’t heard that in a while have we?
The Blue Jays and Indians treated fans to one of the best series you’ll ever see. A record-breaking 16 inning opening day game was followed by a 12 inning game on Saturday with the Jays winning both games by identical 7-4 scores. Yesterday the Jays hit three consecutive singles in the 8th inning to cut the deficit to 4-3 before Cleveland reliever Vinnie Pestano struck out Edwin Encarcion and Brett Lawrie to get out of the jam. Jose Bautista picked up where he left off last year hitting .333 with 4 walks and a home run.
The Detroit Tigers, heavily favored to win the AL Central, shot out of the gate with a sweep. Austin Jackson blazed, going 8-14. Free agent acquisition Prince Fielder hit .417 with two home runs. Miguel Cabrera hit .455 with three home runs and eight RBI’s. Alex Avila and Jhonny Peralta both hit .417. The Tigers served up the most impressive offensive production of an opening week in a very long time.
The Kansas City Royals were thought by most analysts to be a year away from contending for a playoff spot. With their deep young talent and a strong system the future just might be now for them. The Royals went into Anaheim versus the highly touted Angels starting pitching and took the series from them two games to one. Future star Eric Hosmer hit .286 with two home runs to lead the way for the Royals.
The Cleveland Indians came out on the wrong side of two marathon extra inning games but had plenty to be encouraged by this weekend on the pitching side. Justin Masterson, Ubaldo Jimenez, and Derek Lowe all pitched strong outings. The Cleveland offense was nonexistent but Carlos Santana, Shin-Soo Choo, and Asdrubal Cabrera figure to hit this season and the Indians narrowly missed a sweep even with no offensive production.
The Chicago White Sox went into Arlington and lost 2 of 3 to the Rangers but those losses were only one run games. Adam Dunn, fresh off a humiliating 2001 season, managed a home run while hitting .222. Paul Konerko was the lone bright spot at the plate, hitting .217.
The Minnesota Twins were stunned by the Baltimore Orioles this weekend. As low as the expectations were for the Twins heading into this season, this was an ugly way to start the season. The lone bright spot was the return of Justin Morneau to being Justin Morneau. Plagued by aftereffects of a concussion last season, the former MVP hit .400 this weekend.
The two-time defending AL champion Texas Rangers rode the hot bats of Ian Kinsler, David Murphy and Josh Hamilton this weekend in their opening series. If there were concerns about Hamilton’s offseason transgression from his battle with sobriety, he put them on ice for a while hitting .455 this weekend with a home run. Texas failed to work out an extension with Kinsler, who now appears to be playing for a new contract. Kinsler had a good start in his attempt to run up his value this year, hitting .364 with a home run. Murphy hit .556 with a home run. Matt Harrison threw 6 innings of four hit, shutout ball to get his first win of the season.
Seattle and Oakland had their opening games of the 2012 MLB season on American soil following their season opening games against each other in Japan. The Mariners took both games this weekend in a series highlighted by Oakland’s poor pitching.
The Angels started out a season in which many favor them to win the World Series on a low note. The return of Kendrys Morales after almost two full seasons on the IR due to the freakish injury incurred on a walk off home run celebration was nice to see. Even nicer was Morales hitting .417 this weekend. Morales has struggled through rehab and embarrassment over how his young and promising career came to a screeching halt. It was just one of those things. Walk off celebrations have become raucous affairs in MLB and occur on almost a daily basis just like the one Morales was injured in. Hopefully he stays healthy and gets back to the place where he was before he was injured. Albert Pujols made his highly anticipated debut in an Angels uniform, hitting .300 with two doubles. The story of the series for the Angels was their highly touted starting pitching, expected to be among the top two staffs in the Al along with the Rays, getting hammered in the form of Ervin Santana and Dan Haren. While Jered Weaver was his usual stellar self, allowing only 4 hits and no runs with ten strikeouts in eight innings to get his first win, Santana and Haren were crushed and exited before getting through six innings.
The New York Mets were the butt of jokes all winter. With owners under pressure from the fallout of the Bernie Madoff scandal and even their own GM taking to Twitter to poke fun at the team’s plight, no one was expecting an opening season sweep of the Atlanta Braves. David Wright, playing under the possibility that he could be moved by the Mets before the deadline or after the season, hit .667 with three walks and a home run. Pitcher Jonathon Niese flirted with a no-hitter yesterday. For at least a day, the Mets can say they are a first place team.
The Phillies starting pitching was expected to be the strongest in the NL for yet another season. Roy Halladay quickly silenced rumors that he had some sort of problem after his awful spring. Halladay allowed only two first inning singles on opening day in eight innings of shutout ball to get his first victory of the year in a 1-0 victory. The Phillies were then stunned by two walk off victories by the Pirates. Philadelphia’s offense may be a concern this year with the injuries to Chase Utley and Ryan Howard.
The Marlins opened the 2012 MLB season on American soil in their new stadium on Wednesday. It didn’t take long to see that home runs will be hard to come by there. Mike Stanton crushed two balls that he said he thought were out and one didn’t even make the warning track. The Marlins got off to a 1-3 start this week largely in part to a lack of offense. Don’t expect that trend to continue.
The Nationals started their season on the right note, taking two of three from the Cubs. Super prospect Bryce Harper is in Syracuse with the triple A farm team and should be called up sometime this summer.
Defending World Champion St. Louis Cardinals may be without longtime star Albert Pujols and longtime manager Tony Larussa but they opened the season in fine style, going 3-1. 2011 postseason star David Freese continued blazing along, hitting .421 with a home run and six RBI’s
The Reds started the season on a winning note taking two of three from the Marlins. Rookie Zack Cozart hit .545 and homered while Jay Bruce had three home runs and eight RBI’s to lead the offense. Johnny Cueto had a huge outing, going seven innings and allowing only 3 hits and no runs.
The Astros took two of three from Colorado to open the season and for at least one day this season woke up over .500.
The Cubs started the Theo Epstein rebuilding era by dropping two of three games. The brightest spot on the Cubs roster is Starlin Castro and he hit .385 this weekend while stealing four bases.
The Pirates were game, stunning the Phillies with consecutive walk off wins to start the season. Andrew McCutchen started out the right way, batting .364.
The Brewers opened the season with all eyes on MVP Ryan Braun. Braun’s PED positive that was overturned on appeal was the focus of much of the offseason. Braun hit .333 and homered to start his season and Corey Hart hit .444 and homered three times as those two try to pick up the slack from Prince Fielder’s departure. The Brewers are talking extension with Zack Greinke who started his season out with seven scoreless innings of four hit ball.
If the Diamondbacks were trying to show that last year’s surprising NL West title was no fluke, they sure started the right way. The Diamondbacks capped a sweep of the division rival Giants by rallying from six runs down on Sunday. Playing the only hitter’s park in the NL West, the Diamondbacks hung up seventeen runs in three games against a pitching staff that is supposed to be one of MLB’s best.
The Giants had good news in the form of the return of Buster Posey, who hit .333 to open his season. The bad news was that Tim Lincecum, recently extended Matt Cain, and Madison Bumgarner got hammered while being swept.
The Dodgers started a new era of optimism taking three of four from the Padres. MVP runner up Matt Kemp hit .412 while homering twice and driving in 8 runs. Chad Billingsley went 8 1/3 innings of three hit, shutout ball while fanning eleven hitters in a huge start.
The Padres got off to a horrible start offensively in 2012. Only one batter hit over .250 this week and that was Cameron Maybin. It’s going to be a long year for them.
The Rockies got off to a disappointing start, losing two of three to the Astros. Michael Cuddyer hit .417 and homered as the bright spot in the Rockies weekend offensively. 49-year-old Jamie Moyer gave up five hits and three earned runs to take a loss in his season debut.
Tweet Of The Week
“Can we get A.J. back? At this point I’d take Ed Whitson back too if we can get him” – Irate Yankee fan Eric after watching Hiroki Kuroda toss batting practice in his season debut
The 2012 MLB season opened with a total of five sweeps. In four of those sweeps the team who was swept is a leading playoff contender. The Yankees, Boston, Atlanta, and the Giants are all expected to battle for playoff spots but will now do so from three games in the hole. The other sweep was surprising because the Orioles had recently lost an exhibition game to a community college.
Mark It On Your Calendar
On the morning of April 9th, 2012 the Mets, Mariners, and Orioles were all in first place in their divisions.
.32 Cents a Gallon
The last time the Yankees and Red Sox both started a season at 0-3 was in 1966. At the time the cost of a gallon of gas was 32 cents.
Could Get Ugly Early
Yankee fans have good reason to worry after being swept by the Rays. Of the Yankees’ twenty remaining games in April, twelve of those games are with leading playoff contenders Detroit, Texas, Anaheim, and Boston. With a much deeper AL East this season, a poor April could place the Yankees in a hole they’ll struggle to get out of.