In New York and Boston, there are Yankees fans and Red Sox fans wondering if this is part of the Mayan prophecy. Each team has lost their first three games of the season. Neither team has looked particularly good at times in doing so. Both the Yankees and the Red Sox entered the season with a legitimate vision of reaching the World Series. Their fans come to expect their team to reach the World Series after many recent years of success. Right now, those same fans are just hoping their team can notch a win. Before Yankees and Red Sox fans begin sacrificing their favorite uniform there are plenty of reasons to take a step back and breath in some reality.
The Rays and Tigers can beat you in many ways and they showed it against the Yankees and Red Sox this weekend. In each of the first two games of the Yankees’ series the Rays jumped out to 4-0 leads. They rode the bat of their re-acquired first baseman Carlos Pena in the opener and then rallied against the Yankees’ vaunted closer Mariano Rivera after New York had regained the lead.
In Saturday’s game, the Rays showed how they can take advantage of a sloppy play in the field and erratic pitching. In the series finale, they got a stellar pitching performance from 2011 Rookie of the Year Jeremy Hellickson; something they will expect out of their starters for much of the year.
The Tigers had much of the same affect on the Red Sox. In the Tigers home opener, they received exactly what they figured they would out of 2011 AL Cy Young Award winner Justin Verlander. Verlander threw eight shutout innings with seven strikeouts. He allowed two hits and walked one. The game became interesting in the ninth when the Red Sox got to Tigers’ closer Jose Valverde. He blew the save after converting 51 straight including 49 out of 49 in 2011. But the Tigers came back to win the game in the bottom of the ninth.
The Tigers showed their might on Saturday getting two homers each from Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder. They also showed they could handle adversity as their number-two starter Doug Fister was removed from the game with an abdominal strain. The bullpen finished the game with 5.1 innings of shutout ball. In the final game of the series, the Tigers showed their resiliency coming back from deficits twice to beat the Red Sox in extra innings, 13-12.
So, where I am going with all of this? It’s simple really. The Yankees, Red Sox and their fans need not worry. They got the unlucky draw of playing two of the American League’s best teams at their home parks to start the season. The Rays and the Tigers are going to win 90+ games this season. The Yankees and Red Sox didn’t lose three straight to slouches and they had opportunities to make this column non-existent.
The Yankees could have won the first game if not for the rare Rivera blown save (only rare if you don’t look at some of his past April’s). They had no business winning the second game as starter Hiroki Kuroda was not particularly sharp. Yesterday, Phil Hughes threw a lot of pitches (99) in 4.2 innings and was lucky to have allowed only 2 runs. The bullpen did their job to keep it close. The Yanks were simply out pitched.
The Red Sox were actually in two of the three games in the series. They failed to come back all the way in game one, but received a very fine performance from Jon Lester. In yesterday’s game they showed some heart by taking the lead back from the Tigers on three separate occasions but couldn’t seal the deal. Their bullpen seems a bit unraveled at the moment and most of it is due to the shuffle manager Bobby Valentine was forced into when closer Andrew Bailey went on the DL.
The Yankees and Red Sox will win their fair share of games this season. The last time the Yankees lost their first three games of the season (1998), they went on to win 114 of the next 159 games and rattled off 11 straight in the postseason. Last year’s Red Sox team was abysmal to start the season and by the end of August they were the favorites to win the World Series. It didn’t end well, but the point is, they came back. Both have been through this before. The teams and their fans shouldn’t be down because they are winless. They just played very good teams who happened to get the best of them this time.
The Yankees get to play the Rays another 15 times before the end of the season (9 games at home). It’s easy to envision the Yankees returning the favor in at least one of the three, three-game series in Yankee Stadium.
When teams are expected to win, year in and year out, they place undue pressure on themselves at times. It can make teams edgy and tight when trying to get that first win under their belt. Fans act much the same way. Suffering three straight losses is nothing fun to endure and because it is the beginning of the season they become magnified. But, there are 159 games to go. There is plenty of time for things to get back to ‘normal’ for these perennial playoff caliber teams.
The Yankees will be in Baltimore while the Red Sox will be in Toronto tonight. If they win it’s the first in a long line of victories. If they lose, they’ll probably lose another 60 or so. That’s the game folks; winning 60% of a season’s games is 97 wins, which also means 65 losses and likely a playoff berth. Three losses up front to excellent teams should not suggest doomsday is ahead. Rather, the future brings better times for two of the American League’s finest teams. The marathon has just begun; please don’t burn that jersey just yet.