Home MLB Weekly Hit Ground Ball: The 2017 MLB Opening Week

Weekly Hit Ground Ball: The 2017 MLB Opening Week

by Matt Smith

It’s a Scorchio Sunday in Britain today and what better way to relax in the evening after a glorious day in the sun than catching a baseball game or two.

Or maybe catching some more baseball if you’ve spent the afternoon at a British baseball league game.

Games to watch

Every team is playing during the day-time in the States (therefore in the evening for us) other than the usual ESPN Sunday Night game (Marlins at Mets) on at 1am. None of the day-games are being shown on the BT Sport channels, unfortunately, although the MLB.com Free Game (available for everyone to watch via MLB.com) is Dodgers at Rockies from 20.05 BST.

The rest of the games can be watched or listened to on MLB.TV and MLB Gameday Audio.

The first week

The Baltimore Orioles are the one remaining team that are yet to be defeated. They put their 4-0 record on the line against CC Sabathia and the Yankees today looking for their second consecutive series sweep to start the season.

New York suffered a blow yesterday as Gary Sanchez came out of the game, likely on his way to the Disabled List, with a strained bicep injury. Sanchez, Greg Bird and Aaron Judge – their three top young position players – have all scuffled in the first week. Most players will have a week or two when the hits don’t come so we shouldn’t read too much into that, yet it is perhaps a reminder that most young players take a couple of seasons to really hit their stride in the Majors.

The Minnesota Twins took their first loss of the season yesterday having started out 4-0. Even Twins fans will not be putting too much stock in their early wins, but it’s been good to see Byron Buxton and Max Kepler showing their talent in the outfield and, considering they started 2016 with nine consecutive losses, some early victories gives them something to cheer about after a string of dismal campaigns.

In the National League, it’s two teams from the NL West that have shot out of the traps. You might have expected that to be the LA Dodgers and San Francisco Giants, but instead it’s the Arizona Diamondbacks and Colorado Rockies who have picked up the victories and both have 5-1 records.

The D-Backs needed a positive start after their horror show in 2016 and that’s what they’ve had, even getting a mildly encouraging pitching performance from last-year’s flop Shelby Miller in the process.

As for the Rockies, hopes that their third-placed finish (albeit with a 75-87 record) from 2016 could lead to better things in 2017 seemed to have been dashed by a string of injuries. That may still prove to be the case, but when you can get the better of Clayton Kershaw – as they did on Saturday, including Kershaw giving up back-to-back home runs for the first time in his career – then you just might be on to something.

On the other end of the scale, the Giants and Seattle Mariners haven’t given their fans much to cheer about over the first week as they’ve both lost five of their six games played.

The Giants were undone by their bullpen in 2016 and responded by signing closer Mark Melancon to a four-year, $62m contract over the off-season. His first act as a Giant last Sunday was to cough up a  5-4 lead in the bottom of the ninth inning against Arizona.

Matt Cain also looked shaky in his first start of the season on Friday against the San Diego Padres. For all he has done for the Giants, you have to wonder how much more he has left to give. Cain has pitched less than 100 innings in each of the past three seasons and has had an ERA over five in the last two campaigns.

As for the Mariners, it was expected that their batting lineup would be a strength but their bats have been absent in the first week. They lost three from four against the Houston Astros and now the first two games of their series against the LA Angels. More concerning is the sight of losing off-season recruit Drew Smyly to an elbow injury that will see him out of action until June at the earliest.

The M’s could get into the play-off running; however they look like a team that needs plenty of things to break right for that to happen. Maybe they’re just getting their bad luck out of the way early.

Finally, I have to include a mention for the Oakland A’s and Kendall Graveman in particular. He was the A’s Opening Night starting pitcher, with Sonny Gray’s start to the season delayed by an injury, and it would be fair to say he isn’t a classic ace-type hurler.

However, he’s been brilliant in his first two appearances, winning both and taking a no-hitter into the seventh inning of last night’s game against the Texas Rangers. If he can keep that sinker moving the way he wants to and getting ahead of hitters, this could be a break-out season for the right-hander.

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