Tagged: Jon Lester

Top 5 Moments of Opening Day

Opening DayThis is no April Fools prank: Baseball. Is. Back!

After the Houston Astros dis–hey…stop laughing…it really happened–dismantled the Texas Rangers last night at Minute Maid Park, we had our first full day of baseball today.

Naturally, ESPN kicked it off with proof that they are extremely stubborn as a network, pitting C.C. Sabathia and the hobbled Yankees versus Jon Lester and the completely average Red Sox.

There were so many amazing moments in a long day of ball that it was hard to narrow down to just five. But here is our best shot at it. This is what we do at Three Up, Three Down. We write stuff on baseball-related activities for your enjoyment. So, enjoy!

5. Justin Jacks One

Welcome to Atlanta, where the playa’s play and Upton hits bombs like every day. No disrespect to Freddie Freeman, who also went mammo today, but this Justin Upton blast was put in orbit. And it’s not just a top moment because of the distance–the Braves outfield is the most freakish in baseball, and this is just the first sampling. The Braves faithful have been waiting for this moment since the original trade was made, and the little bro definitely didn’t disappoint.

4. Brewers Bailed Out

One of KP’s least favorite memories of the 2012 season was any blown save by John Axford and Co. If you see our tallest group member, give him a hug. Because Axford was at it again on Opening Day, giving up a no-doubter with two outs in the ninth to the Rockies’ Dexter Fowler, which tied the game. Fortunately for Milwaukee and the home fans, the Rockies pitching staff is deplorable and Jonathan Lucroy was able to score a walk-off sac fly and bail the bullpen out.

3. Bryce Decides Twice is Nice

If there was any debate that last year’s NL Rookie of the Year would suffer from a sophomore slump, he killed it quick. In his first two at-bats of the 2013 season, Bryce Harper absolutely crushed two Ricky Nolasco pitches and put them in the right field bleachers. I’m not buying that his second one has landed yet. In fact, it might currently be traveling over the Atlantic Ocean. Keep an eye out for it. The 20-year-old phenom is on pace for 324 jacks this year. 

2. Stan the Man MUSIAL PATCH

The late Cardinals legend and Hall of Famer Stan Musial is being honored by the team with a cool, classy patch (pictured to the right) on their left sleeves in 2013. But the Arizona Diamondbacks, who hosted the Cards on Opening Day, pulled off a fantastic move by paying homage with a video tribute to Musial between innings. Unfortunately, I don’t have video for you, but the gesture itself was a true act of sportsmanship and remembrance of one of the greatest hitters and humans the world has ever seen.

1. Kershaw Goes Krazy

Let me set the stage: The defending champions travel to their heated rival’s new stadium and face their fancy new team in a battle between two of the best pitchers in the league. A pitcher’s duel turns into a one-man show as Dodgers starting pitcher Clayton Kershaw not only throws a complete game, four-hit shutout, but hits a go-ahead home run that breaks a scoreless tie in the eighth inning. Unbelievable. And in a game that began with a well-choreographed first pitch skit from Dodgers heroes Sandy Koufax and Orel Hershiser. I have to take a second to brag, as humbly as possible. I tweeted THIS about five minutes before magic occurred. Of course it was a coincidence  but it makes me believe in fairy tale endings, and reinforces our love of this magical sport.

Buckle up, baseball fans. This was just day one. Only 161 more regular season games to go! Vote below on which one of these moments should have been in the top five, or comment about any moments we missed!

– Jeremy Dorn (@Jamblinman)

Follow @3u3d on Twitter and like Three Up, Three Down on Facebook! The best baseball coverage, coming at you from five different states and five different fan bases.

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3U3D Break it Down: The A.L. East

A ton happened in the American League East this offseason, the Blue Jays traded for and signed everybody under the sun, the Yankees can’t stay healthy, the Red Sox have a new manager, the Rays said goodbye to James Shields and hello to Wil Myers, and well the Orioles, they didn’t do much.  Who will win possibly the most unpredictable division in the Majors?  Let’s take a look!

Projected Order of Finish: Tampa Bay Rays, Toronto Blue Jays, Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees, Baltimore Orioles

Why the Rays could win the A.L. East: Let’s start off with defending Cy Young winner David Price anchoring a young and talented starting rotation.  James Shields may be gone, but there is still plenty of firepower with maturing Matt Moore, Jeremy Hellickson, Alex Cobb, and Jeff Niemann.  Not to mention Chris Archer and Jake Odorizzi waiting in the wings.  The bullpen is the best in the division with Fernando Rodney coming off the lowest ERA in the history of the league, plus excellent setup men in Joel Peralta and Jake McGee.  We’re still waiting on the superstar break out season from Evan Longoria.  If it happens in 2013, the Rays are in great shape.  I’ve also now gone this entire paragraph without mentioning Joe Maddon, who is the best manager in the game today.

Why the Rays wouldn’t win the the A.L. East:  The young rotation guys aren’t quite ready.  Evan Longoria spends more than half the season on the disabled list like in 2012.  Fernando Rodney reverts back to the Fernando Rodney before 2012 and doesn’t carry over the “magic plantain” powers from the World Baseball Classic.  Desmond Jennings still isn’t ready to take the next step.  Yunel Escobar gets himself in trouble.  The Blue Jays really are that good.

Why the Blue Jays could win the A.L. East: The talent the Jays assembled is the best that they’ve had since their 1993 World Series championship team.  The starting rotation is talented and experienced with Cy Young award winner R.A. Dickey, the spectacular, but oft-injured Josh Johnson, the bulldog Mark Buerhle, and “awesome when his stuff is on” Brandon Morrow.  It’s not just the rotation that’s revamped though.  Jose Reyes now sits atop an explosive lineup with two-time home run champion Jose Bautista and WBC teammate Edwin Encarnacion, who hit 42 home runs last season.  The Jays also added Melky Cabrera, who was leading the National League in batting average, before he was suspended for fifty games.

Why the Blue Jays wouldn’t win the A.L. East:  It’s not very often the team built to succeed immediately actually succeeds.  Just ask the Angels and the Marlins last year.  The bullpen still has a ton of question marks.  Is Casey Janssen ready to be a big-time closer on a winning team?  Is Sergio Santos completely healthy?  Can Darren Oliver keep it up at 42 years-old?  The Blue Jays better hope the answer is yes to two of three of those.  Edwin Encarnacion could have had a fluke season instead of a breakout one.  Plus, can Colby Rasmus and Adam Lind keep their heads on straight and hit the way they were supposed to as highly touted prospects?

Why the Red Sox could win the A.L. East:  First off, maybe they really just disliked Bobby Valentine so much that they went into tanking mode to ensure he was gone.  John Farrell will provide an upgrade in the dugout and in the clubhouse.  Jon Lester looks ready to return to form after a terrible 2012.  The lineup is solid enough, especially when David Ortiz is healthy.  Shane Victorino provides enough of a clubhouse presence and more importantly, enough of a bat, to keep Boston in contention.  Jackie Bradley is everything Red Sox fans think he really is.

Why the Red Sox wouldn’t win the A.L. East:  The heels of David Ortiz and Jacoby Ellsbury get the Sox off on the “wrong foot”.  Jonny Gomes is primarily involved defensively.  The starters after Jon Lester (and even Jon Lester if he’s in 2012 form) aren’t top-notch.  Ryan Dempster needs to be the first half of 2012, not the second half.  Clay Buchholz has fallen apart after showing so much promise in 2010.  John Lackey is John Lackey.  The bullpen is revamped with closer-quality pitchers in Joel Hanrahan, Andrew Bailey, and Koji Uehara, but they all need to stay healthy.

Why the Yankees could win the A.L. East:  They’re the Yankees and you can never count them out.  They rally around Mariano Rivera, who’s retiring at the end of the season, to get him one more chance in the playoffs.  The injuries that they’ve experienced in Spring Training aren’t as bad as originally thought for Curtis Granderson, Mark Teixeira, Derek Jeter, Phil Hughes, and Alex Rodriguez and they can provide enough, especially in the 2nd half.  The pitching keeps it together (minus Hughes) with experience at the top (CC Sabathia, Huroki Kuroda, and Andy Pettitte) and youth at the bottom (Ivan Nova and David Phelps).  The bullpen with a returning Rivera, David Robertson, and a fully-healthy Joba Chamberlain could be the best in the division.  Robinson Cano plays completely out of his mind for a contract and is the clear-cut AL MVP.

Why the Yankees wouldn’t win the A.L. East:  The injury bug is just too much.  The names “Vernon Wells”, “Juan Rivera”, “Lyle Overbay” and “Travis Hafner” are predominantly involved in the lineup after the All-Star break.  They stick to their payroll to stay under the luxury tax and it prevents them from going after what they need at the trade deadline.

Why the Orioles could win the A.L. East: Winning one-run games (MLB best 29-9 in 2012) was actually skill and not luck.  The bullpen of Darren O’ Day, Pedro Strop, and Jim Johnson doesn’t wear down in a bullpen than threw the 4th most innings in MLB last season.  Buck Showalter continues to work his magic in Charm City and wins A.L. Manager of the Year.  Baltimore calls up Dylan Bundy and he immediately becomes a lights-out staff ace.  Manny Machado excels in his first full year in the Majors, while Adam Jones continues his path to super-stardom evolving into a near 30-30 player.

Why the Orioles wouldn’t win the A.L. East:  The statistics guys are right and the Orioles regress to the mean in one-run games.  The starting pitching doesn’t hold up like it did last year.  Seriously though, this is the worst rotation on paper in the division.  With the lineups in the A.L. East it might be tough for them to keep afloat.

Awards Watch

AL MVP

Robinson Cano-Yankees

Evan Longoria and David Price-Rays

Jose Reyes and Jose Bautista-Blue Jays

Jacoby Ellsbury and Dustin Pedroia-Red Sox

Adam Jones-Orioles

Cy Young

David Price and Fernando Rodney-Rays

CC Sabathia and Mariano Rivera-Yankees

Jon Lester-Red Sox

R.A. Dickey and Brandon Morrow-Blue Jays

Rookie of the Year

Wil Myers and Chris Archer-Rays

Dylan Bundy-Orioles

Jackie Bradley and Jose Iglesias-Red Sox

Who do you think takes the crown in the A.L. East?  Let us know in the comments!

-Bryan Mapes (@IAmMapes)