MLB: 3 Bad Omens for Frontrunners in the Earlygoing

MLB: 3 Bad Omens for Frontrunners in the Earlygoing

Shawn Tolleson | Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

In what was a wildly entertaining and bitterly cold opening week of the 2016 MLB season, offense has ruled the day. We saw Trevor Story make his debut for Colorado by mashing 4 HR in his first two games. Picked by no one to win anything this season, the Rockies happily slugged their way through their first series with Arizona, posting 20 runs in the three-game set.

Though Diamondbacks manager Chip Hale took exception to the high expectations placed on his club, not too many have picked Arizona to beat the Giants and Dodgers in the NL West, so it could be worse. Around the league, frontrunners from the AL West to the NL West had gut-checks in the season’s opening series. Though there’s no huge cause for concern yet, here are three bad omens that could haunt division favorites in the coming months.

1. Bullpen trouble in Texas

The season opener went as scripted for the Rangers, who many believe have the edge in the AL West. Cole Hamels (7.0 IP, 2 ER, 8 SO) started, Jake Diekman (IP, 0 ER, 1 SO) was the bridge, and Shawn Tolleson (IP, 0 ER, 2 SO) shut the door. In the second and third games, the formula unraveled.

Tom Wilhelmsen surrendered 5 ER (2 HR) without recording an out on April 5, which was enough for that game to slip completely out of control. The following afternoon, Texas took a 5-4 lead into the ninth only to have Tolleson allow 5 ER, also without retiring a single Mariner.

With a game the following day in Anaheim, Calif., there was no time for the Rangers to wallow in their sorrows. Unfortunately, Tolleson was once again on the bump as the Angels orchestrated a walk-off win in the ninth. (Sam Dyson got the loss.) After such an excellent year in 2015, the Texas bullpen is off to a terrible start.

2. Astros pitching is getting pounded

MLB: 3 Bad Omens for Frontrunners in the Earlygoing

Mike Fiers | Al Bello/Getty Images

Dallas Keuchel had a good start (7.0 IP, 2 ER), but otherwise the Astros pitching staff was bludgeoned by the Yankees in the opening series. No. 2 starter Collin McHugh (0.1 IP, 5 ER) got the worst of it — he left New York with a 135.00 ERA — but the rest of the staff didn’t fare much better, allowing 27 runs in the three-game set.

Mike Fiers (5.0 IP, 5 ER, 2 HR) was hit hard and often in the third game, making the rotation look ragged. Maybe the darkest omen of all came from new bullpen stud Ken Giles, for whom Houston paid dearly in a deal with Philly.

Giles kicked off his 2016 season by serving up a laser of a home run to Didi Gregorius in the first game, then surrendered a three-run bomb to Mark Teixeira two days later that lost the game for Houston. After allowing 2 HR (neither of the go-ahead variety) the entire 2015 season, Giles matched that in two games.

3. The Dodgers offense looks menacing

What’s good for the Dodgers would have to be seen as a negative for the Giants, who many (most?) consider the favorite in the NL West after the club’s big free-agent buy. Thus the offensive explosion by LA hitters would be a bad omen for San Francisco. The Dodgers rotation is stretched thin, so if the offense can thump its way to a few wins, the front-end pitchers could do the heavy lifting. Yasiel Puig (8-15, 2 3B, 1 HR, 4 R, 4 RBI in 4 G) looks especially lethal so far, which is bad for pitchers in any division.

Connect with Eric on Twitter @EricSchaalNY

Statistics courtesy of MLB.com.

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