With pitchers and hitters getting over some rust and early season jitters, division races are rounding into form. Some surprise teams, such as the Mets, are flying high to start the season, while others, the Brewers, are dragging their feet. There’s drama afoot, so let’s recap week 2:
Marlins Have Yet to Figure It Out
Way back before the season started, the Miami Marlins were sort of a hipster pick to contend in the National League East. After a busy offseason, in which the Marlins resigned cornerstone Giancarlo Stanton and acquired Dee Gordon, Mat Latos and Martin Prado (among others), the Marlins looked like a dangerous under-the-radar club. Suffice to say, the Marlins are not playing like the competitive club they hoped to be. At 3-10, the Marlins sit at the bottom of the NL East, behind even the Phillies. 12 games into the season is far too early to write off a team or make any assumptions. Yet, the fact that Stanton is already questioning his team’s desire to play all nine innings is unsettling. Some questioned why Stanton agreed to a long-term deal with Miami when he had previously hinted that he wanted to play somewhere more competitive.
A Fierce Rivalry in the Making
Most will remember the hotly contested American League Wild Card game between the Athletics and Royals last season. The game had the type of feeling that could lead to a rivalry between the two talented clubs. Any chance for a friendly rivalry went out the window this weekend, but the season series between the two teams is going to mean considerably more, now. To summarize, Oakland’s Brett Lawrie slid hard into Alcides Escobar on Friday, spraining the knee of the Royals’ shortstop. A bean ball war erupted and lasted into Sunday, with a multitude of players and coaches being ejected over the duration of the series. Kansas City’s Kelvin Hererra managed to get the last word in by throwing a triple-digit heater behind Lawrie and furthermore, pointing to his head.
Rodriguez Closing in on Mays
Alex Rodriguez continues to near Willie Mays’ career home run total, after hitting number 658 this weekend against the Tampa Bay Rays. Rodriguez is two shy of tying The Say Hey Kid. When signing Rodriguez to the monster contract that they did roughly 10 years ago, the Yankees included bonuses for Rodriguez reaching career benchmarks. Rodriguez is just a few swings away from one of those $6 million bonuses, and the Yankees are reportedly going to try to block him from earning that money. This isn’t news, per se, as the reports surfaced several months ago. Rodriguez had a big week, though, and is right on the doorstep, and the Yankees are nearing a very big decision: bench the hottest hitter on their team, or pay him.
The stars of tomorrow are starting to separate themselves from the pack. Diamondbacks’ pitcher Archie Bradley pitched well again this week, going six strong innings and allowing two runs. He has two quality starts in two opportunities. Dodgers’ center fielder has been impressive from both sides for Los Angeles, reaching base at a .438 clip early on. Jorge Soler is off to a similar start, with two home runs and a .275 average. More rookies are on the way, as White Sox top prospect Carlos Rodon will make his Major League debut some time within the next few days, presumably out of the bullpen for the Sox. The former N.C. State pitcher was the third overall pick in the 2014 MLB Amateur Draft. The Mets are calling up one of their top prospects, as well, as Kevin Plawecki will take over for Travis d’Arnaud, who will be out indefinitely with a fractured hand.
Injuries Becoming a Story
Injuries, like that of D’Arnaud, were not a big story during the first week of the season, but they definitely surfaced through the second week of action. The most notable ailment to keep an eye on might be to Felix Hernandez, who is pitching through forearm tightness. Why would the Mariners allow the face of their franchise to risk injury in this fashion? Keep in mind that this is the same organization that had Felix throw bunt practice several years ago. Brewers’ center fielder Carlos Gomez recently injured his hamstring, and in the midst of a DL stint. The Upton brothers, whom the Padres acquired both of during the offseason, are both out with injuries. Melvin, formerly Bossman Junior, has the more serious injury of the two, as he is battling a toe injury and is not expected back for several weeks.
Cubs Still Looking Good
The Cubs might not be leading the Central anymore, but with the hype of Kris Bryant making his debut, that has temporarily been put on the back burner. The Cardinals possess the top spot, with the Cubs in second and Pirates in third. Milwaukee is bringing up the bottom of the division, with just two wins in 12 games. Probably due to their lack of success, the Crew are experimenting with batting Ryan Braun lead off. Back to the Cubs, Kris Bryant’s early returns are very encouraging. Bryant is showing unprecedented patience for a rookie in his first weekend of Major League Baseball, and is making pitchers throw strikes. Jon Lester, while not at the high level he is capable of, is making strides towards getting back to his old ways. He allowed three earned runs in 5 1/3 innings against the Padres on Sunday.
Oddity of the Week: For those who haven’t seen Robinson Cano’s base running blunder yet, look it up. Cano was on third with another runner on second. The batter walked, and Cano started to trot home, believing he was forced in. The bases were not loaded, however, and Cano was, as they say, thrown out on the bases like a nincompoop.
MVP of the Week: Nelson Cruz has 6 home runs since Monday. Let that sink in.
Cy Young of the Week: Max Scherzer has been dominant through his first three outings, especially in his last one. Over eight innings, Scherzer allowed one earned run and fanned nine Phillies.