by Ray Kuhn
Some Monday’s are better than others throughout the baseball season, and this was one of the better ones. We had just about a full slate of games, and none of them started prior to 7 pm on the east coast. While it is always nice to have a game or two during the day, it is equally (if not more) as nice to have those few extra hours when setting your lineup for the week. Let’s take a look at some of the stories that stood out from last night in baseball.
1) Nathan Eovaldi Flirts With History
Last season Eovaldi was far more valuable to the Yankees than fantasy owners thanks to his high ERA; 4.20 despite winning 14 games. This year, it appears that more of the same is in store for the Yankees hurler. After 7.2 innings of shutout baseball, Eovaldi’s ERA dropped to 4.38 on the young season as he picked up his first victory of 2016. Along the way though, it could have been a historic night for the right-hander. Eovaldi took a no-hitter into the seventh inning before it was broken up by rookie phenom Nomar Mazara (who is hitting .354). After pitching to one batter in the eighth inning, Eovaldi departed having allowed just two hits and two walks on the night while striking out six batters. Generally you would like to see a few more strikeouts from Eovaldi, but it is hard to argue with that performance. If only he can become more consistent moving forward he would be a viable fantasy option.
2) Miguel Cabrera Finds His Power Stroke
It has not been a banner start to the season for Cabrera. However as far as his season stats go, he made some progress correcting that on Monday. Cabrera went deep twice, a solo shot in the first inning and a three run bomb in the fifth to chase Oakland starter Kendall Graveman, to raise his season total to three and his RBI total to 10. Cabrera also added a double and a single to go 4 for 4 on the night. The good thing, in this situation, about early season batting averages is that they are still very volatile. In just one night, Cabrera saw his average go from a dreadful .206 to at least a respectable .254. One more game like this, and you will quickly forget Cabrera’s early season struggles.
3) Albert Pujols Makes History, Again
This is becoming repetitive, but Pujols continues to move up all time lists. Last night, it was Reggie Jackson he passed for 13th all time on the home run list. Pujols slugged two long balls on Monday which now gives him five on the season. It is a bright spot in what has been an otherwise rough start to the season for the first baseman. The power numbers are there for Pujols, five HR’s and 14 RBI, but little else as he is batting just 171 on the season. Mike Trout is now rolling, he added his fourth HR of the season last night, and Kole Calhoun is a solid protection for Pujols, but that is the extent of the Angels’ fantasy worthy bats. At this point, there is no reason not to continue riding with Pujols, as better days are likely ahead. However, you should likely temper your expectations slightly.
4) Chris Archer Bounces Back
After having such a strong 2015 campaign, optimism was the prevailing sentiment for Archer entering this season. However, his first few starts have not led to continued optimism. Last night though, it appeared that the Orioles were just what he needed. Archer dominated a hot hitting and powerful Baltimore lineup as he kept them off the scoreboard for 6.2 innings. It was Archer’s first victory of the season as he held the Orioles to just five hits and didn’t walk a batter while lowering, yes I did say lowering, his ERA to 5.47 and his WHIP to 1.75. On the night, Archer also struck out 10 batters, and that is the one part of his game that hasn’t suffered this season (39 in 26.1 innings).
5) Michael Conforto Looks at Home Batting Third
After hitting third in high school and college, Conforto has now found his way here in the majors. Conforto continued his success on Monday against the Reds and their only viable starting pitcher; Rasiel Iglesias. The left fielder got things started in the first inning with his third home run of the season. He then went on to single in his next at bat, ahead of the now hot Lucas Duda’s fourth HR of the season, before getting a bloop double down the left field line and walking as he came up a triple shy of the cycle. Conforto scored the winning run after his eighth inning walk on power dynamo Neil Walker’s eighth HR of the season. At this point, it appears that Conforto has found his permanent home in the Mets’ lineup; expect most likely against tough southpaws.
6) Giancarlo Stanton Adds Another HR
For those of you expecting great things from Stanton now that he is healthy, for now, and teamed up with Barry Bonds, they haven’t come immediately. On Monday, he went deep for the fifth time this season while also adding an RBI double to bring that total to 13 on the season. After Monday, Stanton is hitting just .250 on the season, but over the past week that mark jumps to .320. While they are nothing spectacular, the power numbers are right where they should be through the first month of the season considering he hasn’t really found his groove or gotten hot yet.
7) Taijuan Walker the Strikeout Machine
It took Walker a little bit to get going on Monday, but once he did all was good for the Seattle right-hander. Walker continued his early success last night by limiting Houston to just one second inning run as he never really was in trouble all night. He scattered six hits while only walking one and keeping the ball on the ground for the most part (all of his outs were either on the ground or via the strikeout). Walker struck out 11 Astros on the night, and that included the last six batters he faced as he lowered his ERA for the season to 1.44. This is a good sign for Walker as it is what we have been expecting from him.
8) Jean Segura the Power Hitter?
Let’s just start by saying essentially every home run Segura gets after this point in the season is just gravy. While you can say you expected a rebound and success from the lead off hitter, you can’t say that you expected a power display. After hitting a three run HR last night, Segura is now up to four home runs on the season; although one didn’t leave the park and was the result of Kyle Schwarber’s season ending injury. Of more consequence though, Segura went 4 for 6 last night to raise his NL leading hit total to 32. Segura is now hitting .352 on the season with 15 RBI and he doesn’t show any signs of slowing down. However, if you are looking to trade for him, exercise some caution.
9) Zack Greinke Continues to Struggle
Yes, Greinke did pick up the win last night, but it wasn’t pretty. Greinke truly was the beneficiary of Arizona’s offense as he won his second game of the season and allowed more than four runs in a game for the third time already in 2016. The right-hander turned it into a slug fest as he allowed seven runs on 11 hits while only striking out two. It is getting to the point where Greinke and his 6.16 ERA need to figure things out from your bench.
10) Angel Pagan Shines Batting Ninth
The first thing to note here, is that Pagan is currently healthy. While we can’t expect that to last all season, it is a welcome development after the past three years of injury and ineffectiveness. Pagan went 3 for 4 on Monday, including his fifth double of the season, as he raised his average on the young season to .356. The issue though, is that even though the Giants scored five runs and Pagan was on base three times, he didn’t factor into any of those. While Pagan has had success batting ninth, his counting stats do suffer at times. However, it is hard to argue with his 14 runs scored and 11 RBI thus far in 2016.