ANGELS AND YANKEES ALREADY TALKING ABOUT A PLAYOFF PREVIEW
Yes, it's just the second weekend of the 2012 Major League Baseball season. But, the Angels, the Yankees, and big market media outlets were already selling the showcase LA-NY showdown as a potential preview of the AL Championships.
New York is projected to win the AL East thanks to a monster payroll.
Los Angeles is projected to win the AL West because they started spending money left and right because they got tired of being outclassed by the Texas Rangers the past two seasons.
New York still has Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez, two names that will go down amongst the biggest in the history of the sport after they've retired.
Los Angeles added Albert Pujols, a man who's dominated the sport offensively since the end of the steroid era.
The first game of the weekend set was a disappointment in terms of drama. The Yankees won easily 5-0 Friday afternoon in the official home opener of Yankee Stadium. Rodriguez and Curtis Granderson homered for the Bronx Bombers, and Nick Swisher had a three-run double. The big news was newly acquired Hiroki Kuroda throwing eight inning of shutout ball. We're skeptical that he's going to have great stats this year in that park. But...he sure shut us up with a gem in his Gotham debut.
Pujols was 1 for 4 on the day, lifting his batting average to a disappointing .222 for the year. He's only slugging .296. The Angels fell to 2-5 with the loss, well off the pace of the first place Texas Rangers. They have to be disappointed because the Halo's had a lucky early draw with Kansas City and Minnesota out of the gate. They sure expected to do better than 2-4 in those matchups. Of course, when Pujols warms up...which he invariably does...this team is going to be quite a handful.
The key acquisition in our minds is C.J. Wilson. Wilson had amazing numbers as a starting pitcher who had to throw his home games in Arlington. If he had pitched for the Yankees or Red Sox, or a West Coast team in either league, he would have at least received Tim Lincecum-type treatment by now. Many experts believe the Angels have the best rotation in the American League entering the season. It's their title to lose in our view.
Wilson will get the start Saturday in the national FOX telecast. Phil Hughes will go for the Yankees. Hughes allowed two earned runs in 4.2 innings at Tampa Bay in his only start of the season. Wilson threw seven strong innings at Minnesota in a 5-1 victory back on Monday.
The Angels and Yankees meet again Sunday Night on national television, with ESPN doing the honors. Jerome Williams will make his 2012 debut for the Halos after dealing with a recent hamstring injury. Ivan Nova goes for his second win of the season after shutting down Baltimore earlier this week.
Other notes of interest this weekend in the bases...
Yu Darvish makes his second start of the season Saturday afternoon in Minnesota in a game that some of you will see on FOX instead of Angels-Yankees. We're very interested to see if Darvish will settle down after his shaky debut in Arlington. If he's as good as advertised, he's going to dominate lesser teams like Minnesota in parks that don't favor hitters. If he's overrated, it's going to show up in games like this early on. Big test in our view.
Tampa Bay at Boston is a big series because there aren't enough playoff spots for all the top contenders once again this year...and because Boston is trying to bounce back from a poor start to the season. Note that this matchup will be the Sunday game on TBS. The pitching matchups is Moore vs. Doubrant.
- The Washington Nationals have made headlines already this year. Good test for them this weekend as they try to beat Cincinnati with the backend of their rotation. If the Nationals are going to compete all season in the NL East, they'll need a balanced staff rather than Strasburg and a bunch of finger crossing. We've had our eyes on these guys from first pitch. Be sure you're following them closely as well.
Teams with the most sense of urgency to get things going this weekend after poor starts:
San Francisco, who needs some home wins against Pittsburgh to make up for sluggish divisional results. The Bay Area is concerned about the slow start for Lincecum.
Miami sure didn't expect to be 2-5 after their first seven games, and they're also dealing with the fallout from their managers big mouth. Houston should be just what the doctor ordered. If the Marlins aren't back on track by Monday, then we all may have overrated them.
Atlanta took two of three from those Astros to help make up for an 0-3 start against the Mets. If they don't take at least two of three at home from Milwaukee this weekend, there will be doubts about the Braves making a run at the playoffs this year. We're not suggesting that fate is decided in baseball before tax time. But, the TONE of a season often is as teams try to take advantage of a hot start, or make up for a cold start. Atlanta and Miami don't want to be looking up at the Mets very long.
We already mentioned earlier that both the Angels and Red Sox were early disappointments. Big weekends for them vs. challenging opponents.
According to the standings page at ESPN's website, the Texas Rangers have already established an 80% chance of making the playoffs as we write this. Detroit isn't very far behind. The National League is a bit more muddled, with only Philadelphia looking like a lock in terms of their longterm hopes.
Have you been paying attention to the Los Angeles Dodgers. News about new ownership may have inspired a change in attitude for the team. They were 6-1 through the first week of games and have a chance to pad their record with a home series against San Diego. The NL West is a division known for surprises. Does the favorite ever take the divisional pennant? The good news for handicappers is that oddsmakers usually get the prices wrong with this hunk of teams. If you can recognize early who has the pieces in place, you can profit for months. We've shown that to you on these very NOTEBOOK pages over the years.
JIM HURLEY may or may not be playing the big TV games we outlined, or releasing plays on other teams we discussed. He takes each game, and each pitching matchup as it comes. We can assure you that you'll be getting the best plays on the board each and every day in Major League action. And, you'll also get strong basketball plays as the NBA continues to race to its finish.
NBA Games of Interest Saturday:
Utah at Memphis
Indiana at Milwaukee
Phoenix at San Antonio
Sunday will bring a Miami-New York game that hoop fans will be watching intently, along with the first Dallas-LA Lakers matchup since the Lamar Odom story ended so badly. Be sure you check the ad boxes on this website every day for big TV features from NETWORK.
April is a great month for Las Vegas sports bettors because you have such heavy daily schedules in baseball and basketball as you gear up for the Kentucky Derby in early May and the rest of horse racing's Triple Crown. YOU SHOULD BE MAKING BIG MONEY EVERY DAY!
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