With one week in the books, let’s take a look at the winners and losers of the NL East. Four of the five teams are at .500 or above with only one team (guess who) garnishing a losing record. If things continue at this rate, the division race will be close throughout the year, but it is only a week of games so far.
The Braves won both of their series last week. They lost the first game of the year but came back to win the final two against the Brewers. Atlanta then took two of three from the Nationals and currently sit in second place in the division. They continue with a stretch of 16 games against division opponents including a six-game home stand with the Mets and Nationals this week.
All-star Freddie Freeman is the team’s leading hitter with a .421 average and has two home runs. He has picked up right where he left off in 2013. Unfortunately for Atlanta, B.J. Upton has also played like he did last season, as he is only 3-25 with a .120 average to start the year. The Braves may need to insert pitcher Julio Teheran into a hitter’s role, as he is the second leading hitter on the team at .400 and has an RBI on the stat sheet.
Free agent signee Ervin Santana is set to make his Braves’ debut this week at home against the Mets. He is scheduled to throw on Wednesday and is looking to fill the void left by the injuries to Kris Medlen and Brandon Beachy. Mike Minor will also return soon after returning from an injury that has delayed the start to his season.
Miami sits atop the NL East with a 5-2 record. The Marlins won series against the Rockies and Padres and open up their division schedule with the Nationals and Phillies this week. Miami’s opponents will no doubt become better as they take to the road for the first time this season.
Right fielder Giancarlo Stanton is off to a very hot start. He has a team-leading 12 RBI and two home runs while going 10-29. He is joined surprisingly by third baseman Casey McGehee who is batting .375 in 24 at-bats. In fact, only two everyday starters are hitting below the .300 mark. Miami has one of the hottest offenses in baseball so far.
The other standout player on Miami’s roster to start the year is none other than Jose Fernandez. The sophomore is 2-0 with a 0.71 ERA and has 17 strikeouts in his first two games. Despite being on pace to win every game he pitches this season, Fernandez will have to continue that success on the road with stiffer competition if the Marlins are to continue their winning ways in 2014.
New York Mets
No surprise here. The New York Mets are in the cellar of the NL East after a week of play. They dropped their first series to the Washington Nationals but rebounded to take two games from the Reds in a three-game series. New York will also play their first road games of the year this week as they travel to Atlanta and Los Angeles to take on the Braves and Angels.
Hitting has not come easily for the Mets so far. Only Ike Davis and Juan Lagares are hitting over the .300 mark. Lagares has been impressive as a leadoff hitter. Davis is on the trade block and is no longer guaranteed to play every day. He did come through in the clutch in the first game against the Reds hitting a walk-off grand slam in his lone at-bat of the game.
Pitching hasn’t made up for the lack of offensive production for New York. Starters Dillon Gee and Bartolo Colon both have an ERA of 4.50. Every pitcher seems to have an issue, whether it is a high batting average from opponents or giving up walks. Jenrry Mejia gave up five walks in only 6.0 innings in his season debut, a trend that cannot continue. The pitching will have to find ways to get hitters out on a more consistent basis if the Mets’ offense continues to sputter as it has so far.
The Phillies started off their 2014 campaign with a series loss vs the Rangers and a series win against the Cubs. Philadelphia sits at .500 with a 3-3 record and begins a 10-game home stand including their home opener on Tuesday with the Brewers. The game was scheduled for Monday but was postponed. Opening Day for the Phillies will also be a celebration of the tenth anniversary of Citizens Bank Park
Age is nothing but a number when it comes to Chase Utley. The all-star second baseman is hitting .458 with two home runs and six RBI. Utley has only struck out twice so far is six games and is off to a hot start in 2014. His double play partner Jimmy Rollins also has six RBI but is only batting .211. After recent trade rumors, Rollins looks to have a secure spot in the lineup as long as he around. Jayson Nix isn’t a much better option at shortstop and is 2-12 on the year.
Cliff Lee has two wins under his belt despite giving up eight runs in his season debut. The veteran bounced back to throw 7.0 scoreless innings in his next start. Closer Jonathan Papelbon made headlines when he blew a save opportunity against the Rangers last week. He walked in the winning run with Shin-Soo Choo in a miserable outing for the former Red Sox. Starter Kyle Kendrick had an impressive start to the year going 7.0 innings and giving up only five hits in his debut. He’ll look to stay hot against the Brewers in the Phillies’ first home game on Tuesday.
One of the playoff favorites in the NL East, the Washington Nationals are 4-2 after sweeping the Mets and then losing two of three against division rival Atlanta. The Nationals take on the Marlins at home and then take on the Braves again to close out the week. Washington won’t get their first taste of interleague action until April 21 when they host the Angels.
Part of the success for Washington so far has been their offense. Anthony Rendon is batting .391, Jayson Werth sits at .381, and Ryan Zimmerman has a .350 average. Their production has made up for the slow start by slugger Bryce Harper, who only has three hits through the first two series of the season. With catcher Wilson Ramos on the DL, backup Jose Lobaton has filled the void despite his slow base running ability.
Three Washington starters have an ERA 1.80 or under. Stephen Strasburg isn’t one of them. The former number one overall pick has a 6.10 ERA and has given up ten runs so far. He does have 16 strikeouts, but he has not pitched like an ace yet this season. Jordan Zimmerman had a strong first outing as he gave up one run on four hits with nine strikeouts in 5.0 innings of work in his debut against the Braves.