Harper mashes, deGrom deals, and the Orioles and Rays start strong in this week’s inaugural East Coast Bias.
Bryce Harper Collecting Decks
Bryce Harper’s first weekend with the Phillies put the best of the Bryce Harper Experience on display. There were shout-outs to the Phanatic and Gritty, the NHL’s Philadelphia Flyers’ crazy-eyed mascot. There was a lot of bowing and interacting with the Citizens Bank Park crowd (the Harper bow might actually be a thing), who showed up in sold-out droves. And then there were muscle-up bombs to right. Here’s his first:
465 feet. Harper is a first-month monster for his career, and a fast start shouldn’t surprise anyone. He has the most home runs and the highest OPS of any player in March/April since 2012 (minimum 100 games). With 21 of Philadelphia’s first 29 games through April against N.L. East opponents, the Phillies could create some space while setting the pace. If their offense continues to roll (they drove in 23 runs in the first three games of the season), Philadelphia could break out the gate with a cushion in a division that was expected to be jam-packed.
deGrom vs. Scherzer I
Opening Day in D.C. kicked off with a matchup of the two most-recent N.L. Cy Young winners. Round one went to the incumbent. Jacob deGrom and the Mets bested Max Scherzer and the Nationals 2-0, but both pitchers did everything aces should.
Beating your opponent’s ace is so very important, especially in the division. Somehow, Scherzer pitched against the Mets only twice last year, deGrom only three times against Washington, and neither lined up against each other. But you could start against a given division opponent four to six times a season and grabbing a win in a start against their best is extra valuable.
Changeups That Look like Forkballs
You Lose Some
No, the Yankees weren’t going to sweep the Orioles on the season; that’s not how baseball works. But it is a little disappointing to lose two of three to an awful-looking Baltimore team, which I had unranked on a scribbled list of “Bad teams that might be fun to watch.”
New York got behind early on Sunday and hit .207 with runners in scoring position for the series. It’s three games, but it is at least a little surprising.
The Red Sox are also off with a whimper in 2019. Boston got touched up over three games by the Mariners. For all the concerns about Boston’s bullpen, it was the starting rotation that looked atrocious over the weekend: Chris Sale, Nathan Eovaldi and Eduardo Rodriguez all failed to get beyond the fifth inning—Sale went three. The starters gave up 18 combined runs on 22 hits with a +13 ERA in only 12.1 innings of work.
A Good Team That’s Fun to Watch
A.L. Cy Young winner Blake Snell got touched up on Opening Day by the Astros, and the Rays responded by shutting down one of baseball’s better offenses over three games after that. Tampa Bay gave up four total runs over three games from Friday to Sunday, with Charlie Morton, Tyler Glasnow, and Yonny Chirinos dealing, while their bullpen allowed ten total baserunners. Chirinos and the pen held Houston to three hits to end the series, and Tampa generally dominated Houston’s table-setters, with the top of the order in George Springer, Jose Altuve, and Alex Bregman hitting .235 for the series.
The Week Ahead
Harper heads back to Washington for the first time as an opponent Tuesday night. Many people think he’ll get cheered, but a return this early, coupled with the weekend in Philadelphia, equals raucous boos.
The Mets and the Marlins face off for three before New York heads to Flushing for their home opener against the Nationals. The Braves get their home slate started against the Cubs.
In the A.L., the Blue Jays open up their division slate with the Orioles before heading to Cleveland to finish their first full week. Baltimore will host the Yankees for their home opener series starting Thursday.
The Rays and the Red Sox will be playing the left coast, with Tampa Bay starting the week against Colorado and looking to ice another potent offense before heading to San Francisco for three games with the Giants. The Red Sox are headed to Oakland, then Arizona, which means a lot of 10pm est first pitches, which means the BtB East Coast Bias team will be up all night.