The New York Times’ Benjamin Hoffman looks at how the Astros moving to the AL West has made life easier for the A’s and Rangers and harder for the AL East teams who may be trying to nab a wild card spot. After noting how Texas and Oakland have fattened up on Houston, he says:
Unfortunately for the Yankees, and the other four teams in the A.L. East, their division has no weak link. The Toronto Blue Jays are in last place, but they had an 11-game winning streak until the Rays beat them Monday.
I hate the unbalanced schedule in the wild card era. Teams are competing for the same playoff spots against varied competition and that’s just unfair.
That said: it has been thus since they went back to the unbalanced schedule many, many years ago. And while there are no weak links in the AL East now, there were many years when the Rays were doormats and the Orioles and Blue Jays used the big spending of the Yankees and Red Sox as excuses for not competing. So yes, it stinks that the setup is this way, but it something that goes around and comes around.
Clayton Kershaw had nothing left to prove when he exited the mound during his last Cactus League start on Friday. He finished camp with a 0.00 ERA, made all the more impressive after he extended his scoreless streak to 21 1/3 innings following 6 2/3 frames of one-hit ball against the Royals.
In six spring training starts this year, the Dodgers southpaw racked up 12 hits, four walks and 23 strikeouts. His velocity appeared to fluctuate between the high-80s and low-90s from start to start, but manager Dave Roberts told reporters that he expects Kershaw to get back up to the 93 m.p.h. range next week. Kershaw is tabbed for his eighth consecutive Opening Day start on Thursday.
The 30-year-old lefty is poised to enter his 11th season with the club in 2018. He went 18-4 in 27 starts last year and turned in a 2.31 ERA, 1.5 BB/9 and 10.4 SO/9 over 175 innings. He suffered his fair share of bumps and bruises along the way, including a lower back strain that required a five-week stay on the disabled list.
The Dodgers will open their season against the Giants on Thursday, March 29 at 7:08 PM ET. Given the sudden rash of injuries that hit the Giants’ rotation earlier today, Kershaw’s Opening Day opponent has not yet been announced.