As I drove down to Minute Maid Park in rainy Houston on Sunday night for the inaugural game of the 2013 baseball season, I had a knot in my stomach. I kept thinking to myself things like “What if the Astros lose 21-0? Will the MLB initiate a 10-run rule just for the 2013 Astros? What if they don’t win a single game this season? What if I’m the only Astros fan at the stadium?” Looking back, they were pretty ridiculous thoughts to consider, especially after THE ASTROS BEAT THE RANGERS 8-2. It was one of the best atmospheres I had ever experienced at MMP. There was definitely a Rangers presence at the game but I would estimate that the Astros fans outnumbered them 3:1. The only seats remaining were “standing room only” and the stadium was absolutely rocking when the first pitch of the season was thrown at 7:10.
It was good to see the Astros get a win in game 1 but even though they scored 8 runs, I was concerned about the 13 strikeouts. To put real stock of any kind into a sample size this small would be dumb, but it is worth noting that the Astros struck out a total of 43 times over the first 3 games. That equates out to 14.3 per game and at this rate, 2,316 over the course of the entire season. That would set the new Major League record by almost 800. 800! Is it time to panic? Not at all. It was no secret that the Astros would be a rather high strikeout team but to think that Carlos Peña, Brett Wallace, Chris Carter, and Rick Ankiel will all strikeout over 50% of the time is just plain wrong. The Astros will strike out a lot and maybe even set the record, but the players will start to settle in as the season goes on. The Astros host the A’s over the weekend before heading to the west coast to face the Mariners, Angels, and A’s again.
I can’t stress enough how little the first three games of the season mean (not only because of the fact that the Astros won the first game but also because Yu Darvish’s isn’t going to throw 28 near-perfect games) but here are 3 teams that are up and 3 teams that are down after the first few games of the season.
Boston Red Sox – Boston is 2-0 after taking the first 2 games on the road at Yankee Stadium. Pitching, their biggest question mark, has been sharp and kept the Yankees bats in check. If the Yankees want to have a shot at the post-season, they’ve got to get healthy before they fall too far behind in the division.
Cleveland Indians - Another 2-0 team, Cleveland has looked good in the first couple of games of the year as well by beating the Blue Jays in Toronto. Cleveland definitely has talent this season so it’ll be interesting to see how long they can keep the momentum going.
Atlanta Braves – The Braves have scored a total of 16 runs and only given up 7 en route to their 2-0 start. We knew that they were going to be a potent offensive team. The series next weekend in D.C. will be a fun one to watch as one of the best offenses takes on one of the best pitching staffs.
Philadelphia Phillies – It’s not a great sign when your top 2 pitchers, Cole Hamels and Roy Halladay, get knocked around in their first start. If the Phillies hope to compete in the NL East, they’ve got to have huge seasons from both of those guys.
Miami Marlins – The Marlins dropped both of their first 2 games to the Nationals and there doesn’t really seem to be any bright spots. The Astros at least have young talent in the minors. The Marlins? What you see is what you get.
San Diego Padres – It was no secret that pitching was going to be an issue for the Padres this season, but giving up a total of 19 runs over the first 2 games isn’t a good sign that they would outperform my expectations. It doesn’t get any easier knowing that they face the Dodgers and Giants in 9 out of the next 15 games.