Rockies shortstop Trevor Story

MLB Weekly: Cubs off to a hot start, Story a big story early

Looking Back

This is the first of what will be a weekly (for the most part) look at Major League Baseball, recapping what went on the previous week and previewing the week ahead. We’re now two weeks into the season and, as is usually the case, there are surprising teams and players, both positively and negatively.

One of the biggest surprises in the early going is Rockies SS Trevor Story — who only got the nod as the starter to begin the season because of Jose Reyes‘ suspension — who came out of the gate strong, smacking 7 home runs in his first six games. He hasn’t hit one out of the park since April 10, but he is still hitting .294 through Sunday, which isn’t bad for the first 12 games of his major league career. He has also helped the Rockies to a 7-5 start to the season, getting the team off to a hot start following a 68-94 record last season.

Also off to a hot start, the Cubs. People had high expectations for the Cubs entering the year, and they are exceeding them — and then some, with a 9-3 record after 12 games, giving them a two-game lead over the Cardinals in the NL Central. Pitching has been carrying the team thus far, with SP Jake Arrieta posting a 1.23 ERA with 20 strikeouts in his first three starts, en route to a 3-0 record. The offense is off to a sluggish start, with last year’s breakout hitters 3B Kris Bryant and 2B Anthony Rizzo hitting .229 and .186, respectively, through 12 games. If the Cubs have a .750 winning percentage without getting much offense out of their hitters, things are looking good for the team once the sluggers start doing their thing, as they are bound to do as we get deeper into the season.

The Orioles are off to a surprisingly good start in the AL East with an 8-3 record, ahead of the Blue Jays and Red Sox, who most people expected to compete for the top spot in the division. 1B Chris Davis and OF Mark Trumbo are leading the way with 5 home runs apiece. No one in the starting rotation is having a particularly good year so far, with SP Ubaldo Jimenez the only starter with a sub-4.00 ERA through 11 games.

One of the biggest disappointments thus far as the Astros, who are in last place in the AL West with a 5-8 record after finishing last year at 86-76. The Astros have had some bad luck, with some poor baserunning and a questionable interpretation of the new “neighborhood slide” rule that potentially cost them a game during the first week of the season, so the record may be worse than the team has looked. The Astros have, essentially, the reverse of the situation that the Cubs have — good hitting and bad pitching. Veteran 2B Jose Altuve and rookie 1B Tyler White each have 4 home runs, while SS Carlos Correa and OFs George Springer and Colby Rasmus each have 3. SP Dallas Keuchel, last year’s AL Cy Young winner, appears to be on his way to another good season, with a 2-1 record and 2.18 ERA, but the rest of the rotation has struggled. SP Scott Feldman has a decent 3.48 ERA, but SPs Collin McHugh, Mike Fiers and Doug Fister all have ERAs above 6.30 thus far.

The Week Ahead

Looking ahead to some of the big series on the schedule for the coming week, the Blue Jays and Orioles have a three-game series starting Tuesday in what should be a challenge for Baltimore that might give us an idea about whether the team’s hot start is for real. The battle of Texas gets three games from Tuesday through Thursday, with the Astros traveling to Arlington to take on the AL West-leading Rangers in a series that could help the Astros get back in the division race … or push them into a deeper hole. The Cubs visit the Cardinals Monday through Wednesday in a battle between NL Central contenders. A couple of key NL West series take place this week, with the Giants hosting the Diamondbacks in the first half of the week and the Dodgers heading to Coors field to take on the Rockies over the weekend.

Some pitching matchups to look out for this week include a couple pairings of young pitchers in the MetsPhillies series, with Mets SP Noah Syndergaard and Phillies SP Jerad Eickhoff slated to take the mound on Monday, and Mets SP Logan Verrett scheduled to go up against Phillies SP Vincent Velasquez, who struck out 16 batters in his last start on Tuesday. Wednesday, Diamondbacks SP Zack Greinke, who has struggled so far in 2016, looks to get on the right track against the Giants, who will be throwing their ace, SP Madison Bumgarner, in that game.

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