If you havent been paying attention to the MLB so far in 2008, or ESPN for that matter, the AL East is scattered about (in comparison to previous years) after the first week and a half.
AL East Standings as of April 10th, 2008
1. Baltimore Orioles: 6-1
2. Toronto Blue Jays: 4-4
3. New York Yankees: 4-5
4. Boston Red Sox: 4-5
5. Tampa Bay Rays: 3-5
At the moment, the Baltimore Orioles are the MLB's best with a 6-1 record, riding a six-game win streak into today. Both the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees are outside the top two, which is where the oddities appear outside of just seeing the O's as #1. Both the Yankees and Sox have had their issues to begin the season; New York splitting a series with the Rays, and are now on the verge of being swept by the Kansas City Royals. For the Red Sox, its been starting the year without Josh Beckett on the hill, the absence of Curt Schilling, losing Mike Lowell yesterday, and being swept by the Blue Jays. The bigget issue obviously is pitching, and more specifically it's the rotation. Josh Beckett has since made his first start, one that he'd like to forget back against the Blue Jays. Curt Schilling isnt expected to be fully healthy anytime soon, and guys like Tim Wakefield, Jon Lester, and Clay Buchholz have a combined ERA of 4.80.
Out of all that mess, there's one guy that's having no issues, and is among league leaders: Daisuke Matsuzaka. Dice-K has made three starts so far this season, winning two of them and being handed a ND in the other. Through the three starts, two being against the Athletics and the most recent against the struggling Tigers, Matsuzaka boasts a 1.47 ERA and a MLB leading 22 strike outs. Matsuzaka has made it through the sixth inning twice this season, averaging out at 5.8 innings pitched per-outing.
Through three games last season Matsuzaka was 1-2, showcasing a 2.70 ERA. The two losses had been in games where his offense only put up one run combined, and like this year his K total was high -- 24. But in 2007, right after that hot start in his first three starts, Dice-K immediately started to roll down hill, that fourth game being at Fenway versus the Yankees where he gave up six earned runs.
And like last season, Matsuzaka's fourth start of the season will be against the New York Yankees, and again at home on ESPN. All Red Sox fans should tune in to see how he fares, and to see if he's going to repeat himself in the same fashion as he did in '07; if he's just starting hot, and is inevitably going to decline; or if he's on the rise in this league, and looking to establish himself.
If there's any good news for his upcoming start against the Bronx Bombers, it's because it's a home game... and the Yankees are so far 10th in BA, 13th in R, 14th in OBP, 13th in SLG, and 14th in OPS. Looking into the actual lineup of the Yankees, the likes of Bobby Abreu, Alex Rodriguez, and Hideki Matsui are hitting a combined average of .323. What's killing their team ranking are the five-some of Jorge Posada, Derek Jeter, Robinson Cano, Jason Giambi, and Johnny Damon. All are hitting a combined average of .169.
Of course, they are the Yankees, and it is a rivalry. The competitive drive shoots up everytime these two teams play, thus the motivation can overcome the numbers. Lets just see if Matsuzaka can handle that... because as of right now, he's the man in the Red Sox rotation.
Boston faces off at Fenway tonight against the 1-7 Detroit Tigers.
Pitching Matchup: Nate Robertson versus Tim Wakefield.