Opening week of the Major League Baseball season was something else. From Adrian Gonzalez’s record start to the multitude of near no-hitters, drama unfolded up and down North America as our national pastime got going.
Now that the first of many different turns to this marathon is over, it’s time for teams to start bracing themselves for the long season that’s ahead.
In what will be a weekly column here, let’s check in on the top-five series for the upcoming week of baseball.
1. Seattle Mariners at Los Angeles Dodgers
Two teams that could very well vie for a World Series appearance in their league. The series starts Monday with James Paxton (0-1, 3.00) taking the hill for Seattle against the Dodgers’ Brandon McCarthy (1-0. 7.20). This should give us a decent understanding about the depth of each team’s rotation. However, the last matchup in the series is the one that stands out.
The finale will pit the Mariners’ Taijuan Walker (0-1, 24.30), who struggled mightily in his first start against the Oakland Athletics on Friday, against Los Angeles’ Brett Anderson (0-0, 4.50). Depending on how Walker rebounds from the worst outing of his career, this could be an under-the-radar pitching duel—though Dodgers first baseman Adrian Gonzalez (.609 with five homers this season) may have something to say about that. For Seattle, this series represents a chance to continue its two-game winning streak that began over the weekend against Oakland.
2. Oakland Athletics at Kansas City Royals
While we can’t expect a repeat of one of the most dramatic playoff games in recent MLB history, this series promises to be pretty good. Not only is Billy “Country Breakfast” Butler returning to Kansas City for the first time as a visiting player, there are some tremendous pitching matchups set to take place at Kaufman Stadium.
Sonny Gray (1-0, 0.59) will take the hill for Oakland against Jeremy Guthrie (1-0, 5.14) in the opener on Friday night. That will be followed up by Bob Melvin’s A’s sending Jesse Hahn (0-1, 3.09) against the electric Royals’ starter in the form of Yordano Ventura (2-0, 2.31). The important early-season series wraps up with Scott Kazmir (1-0, 0.00) locking horns against Danny Duffy (0-0, 9.00), who struggled in his first start. It seems Oakland has the pitching advantage in two of the games, but the Royals’ bats could be an x-factor here.
3. Cincinnati Reds at Chicago Cubs
It’s way too early to judge these two teams. Chicago has gone through quite the roster shake up and is still trying to find its way. Meanwhile, the Reds are looking to find themselves in contention after struggling big time last year. Yet this early-season series between two National League Central teams could tell us a lot.
Mike Leake (0-0, 4.76) will take the hill for the road-tripping Reds against Jon Lester (0-1, 6.23), who will be making his first start at Wrigley Field as a member of the Cubs. Anthony DeSclafani (0-0, 3.00) will then take the bump for Cincinnati opposite a stellar starter in Jake Arrieta (1-0, 0.00) on Tuesday. Arrieta is coming off a season-opening performance during which he threw seven innings of shutout baseball against the St. Louis Cardinals.
4. Chicago White Sox at Detroit Tigers
Chicago finally got itself off the schnide with two straight wins against the Minnesota Twins this past weekend. It will now take on the defending American League Central champion Tigers, who have started the season 6-0.
The first game will see Jeff Samardzija (0-1, 6.23) take the hill for the Sox against David Price (1-0, 0.00), who has not given up an earned run in two starts (14.1 innings) this season. It’s quite obvious Detroit has the upper-hand in that one. Then on Saturday, one of the best early-season matchups around baseball will take place. Chris Sale (1-0, 1.50) will vie for a win against the Tigers’ Justin Verlander, who has yet to make a start this season.
5. Atlanta Braves at Toronto Blue Jays
Talk about two somewhat-surprising teams. Atlanta finished its opening week with a 5-1 record, while the Blue Jays tallied a 4-2 mark.
Friday’s game looks to be a pretty big mismatch with Julio Teheran (2-0, 1.50) taking the mound against Toronto’s Drew Hutchison (1-0, 6.97). That will be followed up by the Braves tabbing Alex Wood (1-0, 3.86) against R.A. Dickey (0-0, 1.42). If Atlanta can take this series on the road, it could be an indication that the team is much better than most experts think.
Photo: USA Today Images