The big buzz of Monday was the first MLB start of one Yu Darvish, the most hyped Japanese import pitcher since the last Japanese import pitcher. Predictions on Darvish this season have ranged from Cy Young potential to almost Cy Young potential to really, really good and likely 2013 Cy Young winner. In his first start, he was tasked with facing iconic Japanese ballplayer Ichiro Suzuki and his team’s lowly offense (seriously, there’s a reason you don’t need an “O” to spell “Seattle Mariners”). A no-hitter seemed likely, a shutout seemed a given. So how good was he? Yeah, about that …
Darvish had a serious case of first-inning jitters, which is understandable considering his whole home country was watching this start with baited breath over tamagoyaki and tsukemono. How bad was Inning Number One? On the plus side, he struck out two batters! On the other hand … everything else. Darvish allowed two well-hit singles and two bloop singles while shuffling three walks into the inning before Chone Figgins (up for the second time in the inning) recorded the final out. After over 40 pitches thrown, Darvish had an inning of Major League Baseball to his credit, one that featured four earned runs.
He would settle down after that, allowing just one more earned run on four hits and a walk in 4.2 more innings while striking out three more Mariners. Even better, the Rangers offense treated Hector Noesi like they had never heard of him before, pounding him for seven runs in three-plus innings of action. His relief wasn’t much better, as Ian Kinsler, Josh Hamilton, Nelson Cruz and Mitch Moreland would all homer by the time the final pitch was thrown. With the Rangers scoring 11 runs in the game, Darvish was gift-wrapped his first win.
What does the ugly effort mean in fantasy? I consider it a buying opportunity. With the world watching, Darvish seemingly failed to fulfill even a fraction of his promise in the first inning. What do you think the general tone of this start will be? You could cash in on a panicked owner looking to unload this unknown property, as Darvish’s best baseball is clearly ahead of him. I think he has a realistic chance at 15 wins and a sub-3.50 ERA along with a healthy K/9. Expect something different? Let us know your Darvish predictions in the comments section.
The Marlins secured an afternoon win against Cole Hamels despite a nine-K, zero-BB effort from the elite fantasy starter. Anibal Sanchez held a non-threatening Phillies lineup to two runs in 6.1 innings, but the big story for the Fish was Omar Infante, who slugged two homers to give him three this year through just five games. He’s topped nine HRs just once in his career, and that came back in 2004. Check page 37 of your Fantasy Baseball Bible … that’s Infante’s picture next to the definition of “Sell High.” Emilio Bonifacio added three hits as well as his fourth SB of the season. Fifty swipes is within reach.
$19 Million Buys a Shutout
Barry Zito, oddly slotted in the back-end of the Giants rotation despite being the club’s most expensive player, pitched brilliantly in his first start of the season, tossing a complete-game shutout while allowing just four Rockie hits and no Rockie walks. Is it too early to put Zito in the Cy Young mix? I say no. Clearly, this young ace-in-the-making is well on his way to earning every penny of his contract. For the Rockies, Juan Nicasio was ineffectively wild, walking five batters and surrendering four runs in four innings.
The Twins made the Orioles rotation look like the second coming of Maddux-Glavine-Smoltz over the weekend, scoring just five runs in three games while getting swept. Again, by the Orioles. They faced a real ace on Monday, and even though C.J. Wilson didn’t have hit best stuff, walking four batters in the outing, the Twins could only muster a Josh Willingham solo shot on the road to an 0-4 start. Six of the nine Twins hitters in Monday’s lineup now have averages under .150. The Twins have scored six runs in four games combined, while the Mariners have scored six runs in a single inning (the fourth in Saturday’s game against the Athletics).
Don’t Sell Sale
While Yu Darvish garnered most of the attention on Monday, another intriguing young pitcher pieced together an excellent debut. Chris Sale didn’t have quite the fanfare of Darvish heading into the season, but many fantasy analysts were buying his transition to the rotation. He showed quite a bit of upside, making several nasty pitches en route to a win with 6.2 innings pitched and five strikeouts to his credit. I’m buying or holding in all leagues. Hector Santiago served up a Jose Lopez solo shot but locked down his second save. He’s the guy to own in the Chicago bullpen right now.
The Catcher and The Captain
The Orioles weren’t able to build off their 3-0 start when the Yankees came to town, as New York righted the ship for the first win of the season. Matt Wieters and Derek Jeter both enjoyed 4-for-4 days, with Wieters hitting his second homer of the season. Seven other Yankees split the seven other Yankee hits, with Andruw Jones hitting one out. Brian Matusz turned back into a pumpkin, lasting just four innings while allowing four runs and doling out four walks. Apparently, four was his magic number on Monday. Ivan Nova posted a nice first start, giving up 10 hits but no walks while striking out seven for the win.
Barney and Gamel Star in Vice Versa
Milwaukee made things interesting in the ninth inning but managed to eek out a victory over the Cubs. Shaun Marcum did well, not walking a batter in six innings while recording six strikeouts and giving up just three runs for the win. The real story was the pair of Darwin Barney and Mat Gamel, who faithfully re-enacted the film Vice Versa in its entirety. After stroking just two HRs in 143 games last year, Barney hit his first bomb of the season just over the left-field fence at Wrigley. Mat Gamel, a supposed slugger, posted his first stolen base of the season after nabbing just five bases in 900-plus plate appearances over the last two years. He also managed his first triple since 2009.
The Cardinals came to Cincinnati ready for a wild, no-holds-barred homer-fest, and they got the party started with three first-inning home runs from Matt Holliday, David Freese and Yadier Molina. It was the second homer of the year for all three guys, and each would later record another hit in the game. They then all took 47 shots a piece, tatted their outer thighs with a picture of the three of them arm-in-arm-in-arm and the words “Best Friends Forever,” and woke up in South Africa with an abrasive macaw, mountains of drugs and diamonds that needed to be smuggled past customs and, worst of all, no recollection of what happened last night or where their friend Albert was.
I (Don’t) Like Ike (Very Much Right Now)
The Mets pulled off the first 4-0 start in their long history (my assumption, based on the attitude of my Met fan friends at this time of any non-Apocalyptic year) when Jon Rauch pitched back-to-back scoreless innings in the eighth and ninth (another sign of the big “A”) and Daniel Murphy’s walk-off single sealed things. With the team on fire, cleanup hitter Ike Davis has to be killing it, right? If by “it” you mean “your fantasy team,” then yes, he’s first-degree murdering it right now. The first baseman went 0-for-4, leaving five people on base and maintaining his .000 average this season. Now 0-for-15, Davis just needs one 4-for-5 effort to get to .200. He won’t get the chance today, as he’s scheduled for a day off. He needs it.
Aceves, or “A Save? Yes!”
Youngsters Felix Dubront and Henderson Alvarez both posted solid lines in their season debuts, with the much more buzzworthy Alvarez giving up just four hits, one walk and one run in six innings, but only striking out two batters. While he deserved a win, Sergio Santos blew his second consecutive save opportunity, allowing three runs on three walks and two hits in 0.2 innings. Francisco Cordero? Get warm. Boston struggled through bullpen issues as well during their 0-3 start, but Alfredo Aceves locked down the ninth inning this time around with a 1-2-3 frame. Hope you hung onto him, as a couple more of those beauties should solidify his role.
Beached By Errors
Brandon Beachy wasn’t exactly on his game on Monday, giving up four hits and three walks in five innings while only striking out three batters, but it didn’t help that someone named Juan Francisco, who I can only assume by his defensive prowess is the backup on your kid’s Little League team, committed three errors. Beachy was forced to throw 98 pitches in his five frames, and only one of the four runs he allowed was earned. Considering his loss came against the Astros, Beachy deserves better. Martin Prado moved from left field to third in the middle of the game, with Francisco’s lineup spot being taken by Livan Hernandez, who probably could have also played a better third base in this game.
Tommy Milone made his first start of the season Monday, giving up three walks while not striking out a batter. Sounds bad, right? Well, he pitched eight shutout innings while allowing just three hits and earning the win. Two of the three guys Milone walked wound up being caught stealing. Lorenzo Cain, a Force To Be Reckoned With in March, went 0-for-3 to drop to 1-for-14 to open the year. The Oakland offense was brilliant, drawing five walks and getting a 3-for-3 effort from Kurt Suzuki. The offensive firepower led to one run, but it was enough.
Shin-Soo Choo took a wild Chris Sale offering to the thumb, and spent a moment on the ground in pain. He made it to first base eventually and promptly stole second. Brandon Phillips suffered a hamstring cramp and left halfway through Monday’s game. He’s day-to-day. Drew Storen is visiting Dr. James Andrews, which is to baseball what wearing a red shit and beaming down with Captain Kirk is to Star Trek. Make sure the Brad Lidge-Henry Rodriguez combo is owned in all leagues. Giancarlo Stanton missed action on Monday with knee pain. It could be nothing, I hope it’s nothing, but I’m anxiously waiting to hear more.
The American League’s only two remaining undefeated teams square off, with Matt Moore facing Rick Porcello as the Tigers and Rays do battle. Clayton Kershaw, Tommy Hanson, Edinson Volquez and Kyle Lohse make their second starts of the season. Start the first two, ignore the other two. Neftali Feliz makes his rotation debut for the Rangers against the Mariners, and he figures to have more success than Darvish (how could he not?). Daniel Bard makes his first start of the season, despite some clamoring for a move to closer before Aceves’s first save.
A lotta aces on Wednesday means sparse streaming options, but I’ll roll with Bruce Chen in Oakland against the A’s. They’re the A’s after all, a team that generally has scoring issues playing in a pitcher’s park. Thursday also features limited options, both because of the list of quality pitchers scheduled and the limited number of games. I’m picking Drew Smyly as my streamer, even against a hot Rays team. The Detroit offense could power him to a win against Jeff Niemann.
R.J. White is the head editor at the Cafe, writes for FanDuel and has previously written for FanHouse and Razzball. Catch up with him in the forums under the name daullaz. Follow him on Twitter; don't follow him in real life.
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