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It may be only two starts, but Edwin Jackson has a 2-0 record and an 0.64 ERA. The most encouraging aspect about the two wins is that they have came against the New York Yankees and Seattle Mariners. This could be the year he fulfills the promise the Los Angeles Dodgers had for him when they signed him. In 2007, hitters hit .299 against Jackson. This year, they are only hitting .143 against him.
David Ortiz and Jacoby Ellsbury are off to horrific starts this season with Ortiz having 3 hits in 36 at bats (.083 average) and Ellsbury with a .177 average (3 for 17). Ellsbury has only batted twice in Fenway Park this season. J.D. Drew, like I expected, is hitting a lot better this season hitting .440 and is leading the team in home runs with 2 tying him with Jason Varitek and leading in runs batted in with 7.
The New York Yankees exposed the weakness in the Kansas City Royals starting rotation sending John Bale to his second loss without a win and a 5.84 ERA. The other starter at the back of the rotation, Brett Tomko, is 1-0. Brian Bannister and Zack Greinke have a combined 4-0 record so far with Bannister having a 1.50 ERA and Greinke an ERA of 0.60.
Milwaukee Brewers' Prince Fielder has 2 hits in his last 19 at bats with no home runs in 33 at bats this season. Brewers fans must be wondering if his vegetarian diet has weakened him to the extent that he has lost his home run power. Jon Lieber is 2-1 this season for the Chicago Cubs with a perfect 0.00 ERA. He only won 3 games last season with the Philadelphia Phillies. Adam Eaton is 0-0 this season with a 3.95 ERA. The best thing about Eaton this season is that he has pitched 6 or more innings in both starts while allowing three runs in both games. So at least he is giving the Phillies a fighting chance to win.
The San Francisco Giants have scored only 25 runs in 10 games this season. They have a .231 batting average, which is 29th out of 30 major league teams. On the bright side, they have scored 9 of their 25 runs in their current 3 game winning streak. The Giants are only a game out of second place, but with Barry Zito starting today, they have no guarantee of a win.
The Detroit Tigers need the bat of Curtis Granderson back in the lineup soon. Look for the team to start winning more once he returns from the disabled list. Brandon Inge leads the team in runs batted in with 8, which is a surprise considering that Inge was going to be an extra player this season. Clete Thomas is hitting well with a .500 average but he is not the player that Granderson is. Brandon Inge and Carlos Guillen have 2 homers each to lead the team in that category. Miguel Cabrera is the worst hitter on the team with a .138 average and Gary Sheffield and Placido Polanco are also hitting below the Mendoza line. The Tigers have three starters in Dontrelle Willis (5.40 ERA), Justin Verlander (6.17 ERA), and Nate Robertson (7.84 ERA) who have not pitched well so far. Willis has walked 7 in 5 innings with no strikeouts. I have had my doubts about Willis since his stats have been in a downward trend since his 22 win season in 2005. His ERA in that year was 2.63, but since then, it has been 3.87, 5.17 and 5.40 so far in his career.
For eleven innings, the Oakland A's and Toronto Blue Jays had scored a total of two runs. In the top of the 12th, the A's scored twice in the top of the 12th and Blue Jays scored once for three run total in that one inning. Joey Devine finally won his second major league game last night after four years in the majors and his pitching held the Blue Jays in check long enough for them to win the game in 12 innings.
The surprise teams so far this season have to be the Baltimore Orioles, Florida Marlins, Kansas City Royals, and the St. Louis Cardinals, who are all leading their divisions. The Marlins improved their pitching by unloading Dontrelle Willis who is not the pitcher he was when he won 22 games in 2005.
Major League Leaders
Batting Average: Jason Kendall - .538
Hits: Nate McLouth - 18
Home Runs: Mark Reynolds - 5
Runs Batted In: Mark Reynolds - 13
Total Bases: Nate McLouth - 30
Strikeouts: Chris B. Young - 15
OBP (with at least 20 at bats): Jason Kendall - .567
Slugging Percentage: A.J. Pierzynski - .786
Extra Base Hits: Nate McLouth - 9
Wins: 16 tied with 2 wins
Losses: 19 tied with 2 losses
ERA (with at least 10 innings): Justin Germano - 0.00 (13 innings)
Shutouts: Ben Sheets - 1
Saves: Jason Isringhausen - 5
Earned Runs: Justin Bergmann - 12
Home Runs: Bronson Arroyo - 5
Walks: Jon Lester 10 (16 innings)
Strikeouts: Daisuke Matsuzaka - 22 (18 innings)
Lowest Opponent Batting Average (40 plate appearances): Ryan Dempster - .095
First True Minor League Game in 32 Years
Last night, my wife, stepson, and I traveled 28 miles to Kodak, Tennessee to see the Tennessee Smokies (affiliated with the Chicago Cubs) play the Jacksonville Suns (affiliated with the Los Angeles Dodgers) and it was the first time to see a true minor league game since 1974. We have had an independent team in Alexandria, Louisiana off and on since 1994 where we lived until August of last year before moving to Knoxville, Tennessee. Only one player from that independent team has ever reached the Major Leagues and that was Alan Newman, a pitcher for the Tampa Bay Rays and Cleveland Indians who totaled 17 innings pitched for those two teams with a 2-2 record and a 7.94 ERA.
The last true minor league team were when the Alexandria Aces played in the Texas League from 1972-1975. Since we moved in 1974 to Monroe, Louisiana for a newspaper job we hadn't seen a Minor League team that was affiliated with a major league team for the last 34 years before last night. The Aces were in the Texas League in those years and sent 12 players from one year's roster to the Padres.
Some of the players that wound up in the majors were Randy Jones (who went on to win a Cy Young Award while with the San Diego Padres), Mike Ivie, John Grubb, Dave Friesleben, Dan Spillner, Bill Almon, and some lesser known players.
Anyway, that brought us to last night when we saw two of the top pitching prospects in baseball facing each other. The Suns sent Clayton Kershaw on the mound. Kershaw was one of the last cuts the Dodgers made at the end of spring training. He is only 20, so that was no surprise but for him to pitch that well at that age had to be encouraging. The Smokies started one of highest rated Cubs pitching prospects in Jeff Samardzija, and it turned out to be a pitching duel since Kershaw pitched well after giving up the first two inning runs. Ryan Harvey did hit three doubles off of Kershaw.
The local Smokies scored twice in the bottom of the first and that was all the scoring in the game as they won 2-0. Jeff pitched 7 innings and was in control all the way except for one inning but he struck out the side so it didn't matter. I am totally impressed with Jeff and think he will be ready for majors by end of season if not sooner. If he is not called up by Cubs or promoted within the next two months I will be surprised.
The game only took 1:58 to play, which is what happens when two top notch hurlers face each other. It was good to see the DH was not being used, as the pitchers batted for themselves. Kershaw gave up 2 runs and 7 hits in 5 innings. Jeff gave up no runs and allowed 4 hits in 7 innings and is 2-0 with a 0.75 ERA. Kershaw's record is now 0-2 and he has a 3.38 ERA after the game. Kershaw was the youngest player on the field at the age of 20. The Dodgers are in no hurry to call him up at his age so he should continue to improve at Jacksonville.
The main difference between independent baseball and Minor League baseball is that these players could be called up at any time to the majors. Then you get to see them with the big club and hope they can stay up there once they get to the majors.
Tyler Colvin is one of the Smokies that should be in majors someday. He was the 13th overall pick in the 2006 amateur draft. Two of the players in the game have fathers who have played in the majors. They are Kyle Reynolds, son of Craig Reynolds, who played for the Houston Astros, and Ivan DeJesus Jr., whose father is Ivan DeJesus, who played for the Chicago Cubs and Philadelphia Phillies. Reynolds plays for the Smokies while DeJesus is playing for Jacksonville.
It cost a total of $26 for the three tickets and we sat 3 rows behind the Smokies dugout. It probably would be slightly higher to sit 3 rows behind the Yankees dugout in Yankee Stadium.
The Smokies have a new $500,000 scoreboard that had color images of the players, but there were no stats, which was a big minus since fans would at least like to know the current batting average of each player. That might be a way of encouraging fans to buy programs plus the Jacksonville team didn't have names on the back of their uniforms.