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Saturday’s early MLB games: Zambrano, Felix, CC and more

by Matt Smith

CovHlSqIt’s the first Saturday of the MLB regular season.  Although Steve probably will not be able to write his ‘Out of Left Field’ column today, there are seven ‘early’ MLB games to enjoy live during the British evening.  All times are in BST.

18.05. Minnesota Twins at Chicago White Sox (Scott Baker – Freddy Garcia). * ESPN America.

It took eleven innings to separate the Twins and White Sox last night, with Minnesota coming out on top 4-3 thanks to J.J. Hardy singling home Joe Mauer for the game-winning run.  The Twins will look to make it 5 wins on the spin today.

18.05. Cleveland Indians at Detroit Tigers (Mitch Talbot – Jeremy Bonderman)

The Tigers won the series opener last night 5-2. Bonderman has been plagued by injuries over the last two seasons, yet he only needs to look to his rotation mate Dontrelle Willis for inspiration.  Willis had a good outing in his return on Thursday and Tigers fans are hoping that Bonderman can follow his lead.

18.10. Chicago Cubs at Cincinnati Reds (Carlos Zambrano – Aaron Harang)

He didn’t have an injury, but Zambrano needs to make a comeback as well.  He had a nightmare start on Opening Day, lasting just 1.1 innings and giving up eight earned runs to the Braves.  The Reds will be full of confidence after coming from behind to beat the Cubs 5-4 yesterday, a victory set up by Drew Stubbs’ eighth-inning grand slam.

18.10. Washington Nationals at New York Mets (John Lannan – Oliver Perez)

Jeff Francoeur and Rod Barajas both went deep twice yesterday as the Mets evened up their season record (2-2) following an 8-2 win over the Nats. Who said it was difficult to hit homers at Citi Field?  An Oliver Perez start is always worth watching because he’s the prototypical ‘box of chocolates’ pitcher: you never know what you’re going to get from him.  Jose Reyes is also rumoured to be making his season debut, although Mets fans will not believe it until they see him out on the field.

20.10. St. Louis Cardinals at Milwaukee Brewers (Jaime Garcia – Yovani Gallardo) * ESPN America.

The Cardinals and Brewers are likely to spend most of the 2010 season producing exciting contests while battling at the top of the NL Central.  Yesterday’s series opener was no exception as the unheralded Nick Stavinoha hit a two-run homer off legendary closer Trevor Hoffman with his team trailing 4-3 and down to their last out.  Ryan Franklin secured the 5-4 win for the Cardinals with his second save of the week.  Jaime Garcia wasn’t expected to make the Cards’ rotation, but he had a strong spring and deservedly won the fifth starter’s spot; however, Yovani Gallardo is a formidable pitcher to come up against.

20.10. Seattle Mariners at Texas Rangers (Felix Hernandez -  Matt Harrison)

No one’s panicking after just five games, or at least they shouldn’t be, but a 1-4 record coming out of the gate was not how the M’s were expected to start the season after being picked by many to win the AL West.  Their solitary win came on a King Felix start on Opening Day against the A’s (although he didn’t get credited with the ‘W’) and he’s the guy they would want on the mound to bring a four-game losing streak to an end.

20.10. New York Yankees at Tampa Bay Rays (CC Sabathia – Wade Davis)

The Rays welcomed the Yankees into Tropicana Field yesterday by pummelling Javier Vazquez on his second debut in pinstripes.  The former Brave was hit for eight earned runs in 5.2 innings, while David Price started his 2010 season with a very solid start against arguably the best lineup in baseball.  Mark Teixeira, one of the key parts of that lineup, has gone hitless in his first four games and it seems only a matter of time before he breaks out in a big way.  Wade Davis and the Rays will hope he puts it off for a few more days yet.

All the above games can be followed via various resources on MLB.com (Gameday, At Bat with Gameday Audio and MLB.tv), while ESPN America is broadcasting the Twins-White Sox and Cardinals-Brewers games. A complete schedule of MLB games can be found on MLB.com.

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