The Tenth Inning – Week 2

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The Tenth Inning – Week 2 ]]> include($base_url . “/includes/header.htm”); ?>

By Mike Ivcic

As is usually the case with the start of any season of any sport, some teams didn’t live up to preseason expectations – some in a good way, and some in a not so good way. For this week’s column, let’s look at three teams that lost their first series of the season but will ultimately finish above the team that beat them during the first three games of the year.

1. Philadelphia Phillies
Record: 1-2
Lost to: Pittsburgh Pirates
The Phillies will not score six runs in three games during every series they play this year. Sure, a lineup that includes Laynce Nix, Ty Wigginton, Juan Pierre, and Freddy Galvis sounds more like a team that the Orioles or Royals would trot out during opening weekend, but eventually Ryan Howard and Chase Utley will return. After watching three games, I’m not convinced that this is a team capable of winning a division, but by the end of the season, the Phillies will still be in contention for a playoff berth, while the Pirates will be once again trying to avoid yet another losing season.

2. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
Record: 1-2
Lost to: Kansas City Royals
The start of Sir Albert’s reign in Anaheim certainly didn’t get off to a whopping start. After capturing an opening day win, the Angels – like the Phillies – dropped their next two games. Like the Pirates, the Royals are certainly an improved team capable of still playing relevant games in September. Still, the Angels are a team that should be competing for the best record in baseball and win upwards of 95 to 100 games. A season-opening series loss to Kansas City won’t stop this group from forcing Texas into a race in the AL West.

3. Colorado Rockies
Record: 1-2
Lost to: Houston Astros
The NL West is loaded, and the Rockies aren’t quite up to the challenge of competing with the Diamondbacks and Giants in the division. They’re more at the level of the Dodgers in what should be a pretty good division. That said, there should be no way that the Astros finish with a better record than Colorado at the end of the year. The Rockies boast two of the most dynamic players in all of baseball in Tulowitzki and Gonzalez, but Houston has nothing close to that. Vegas still has the Astros as one of the best chances to earn the top overall draft pick for a second straight year for a reason. They’re simply not good.

Meanwhile there were four other somewhat surprising series results that have left me a little less sure of the end result 159 games from now. While I picked the Yankees and Red Sox to both finish ahead of the Rays in the AL East, Tampa certainly looked like a much more dominant team than either of those two this weekend. The Rays are the least talented team of the three, but talent isn’t everything in baseball. Tampa’s starting rotation is probably better than New York’s or Boston’s, and that could be what vaults them over one or both of those teams. Boston certainly didn’t show themselves well in getting swept by Detroit, but the Tigers are one of the five best teams in baseball at this point, and it won’t affect the Red Sox too much in the division race. The more interesting American League result is Baltimore’s sweep of Minnesota, as the Orioles started 3-0 for the second straight year. Baltimore is, by just about everyone’s account, the worst team in the AL East, but with such a toss-up behind Detroit, it’s entirely conceivable that the Twins could be one of multiple teams in the Central that finish with a worse record than the last place team in the East.

Finally, there’s one other National League result that has a few people rethinking their preseason predictions, except for yours truly. In my NL preview, I said the Mets would beat out at least one team in the NL East, and selected the Braves as the team that would finish last. Sure enough, New York’s second team swept the opening series with Atlanta, providing at least a small glimmer of hope to Mets fans. A playoff appearance is still almost entirely out of the question, but New York’s offense and the return of Santana looks like it might be enough to at least keep the team afloat into the late summer. The Braves, on the other hand, look more like a team that’s about to freefall as opposed to one ready to challenge to a playoff berth yet again, and they can’t get Tim Hudson back soon enough. Since I picked the Mets to have a better record than the Braves at the start, the outcome of last weekend’s series wasn’t a surprise to me, but to most people around the game, it was perhaps the most stunning outcome of the first 45 games.

Three series to watch this week…
1) SFG @ COL (4/9, 4/11-4/12) – Both teams need to rebound after a rough opening weekend. Jamie Moyer pitches Thursday for the Rockies
2) TB @ DET (4/10-4/12) – A pair of 3-0 teams collide for the only time in Mo-town. Verlander faces Shields in the best pitching matchup of the week on Wednesday.
3) LAA @ NYY (4/13-4/15) – Sure, Boston and Tampa also play this weekend, but it’s Albert’s visit to the Big Apple that garners center stage for weekend number two.

Check out my weekly column, “The Tenth Inning,” every Monday at

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