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MLB: NL East Preview For The Week Of April 8-14

Scott Cunningham, Getty Images

After a wild week of baseball featuring the worst beat-down in Nationals history and a big week for a catcher no one knew existed, it’s time for the second installment of the NL East Preview.

So far, I’ve accurately hit two out of five teams, which isn’t bad compared to the self-proclaimed experts at “Yahoo! Sports.” Plus, if I were a ball player, I’d probably be the Indians’ Mark Reynolds (.300, 4 home runs, 6 strike outs). I nailed the Mets fairly good start and the Marlins early demise; everything else was off by a single game. Haren blew his opening start, but the 20 year-old Jose Fernandez showed that the Marlins could have new life in a couple years after a smooth five-inning stint.

With all that said and a week under our belts, let’s delve deeper into the NL East.

 

Atlanta Braves:
Current 2013: 5-1
Estimated 2013: 4-2
This Week: 4-2

Justin Upton, where did you come from?! After a good but not spectacular 2012, Upton comes out swinging in ’13, complete with brother B.J. in tow. Upton has high marks for the team in both batting average and home runs and should not be slowing down during this series. Expect him to take batting practice against Kevin Slowey, then cool down a little later in the series, perhaps against Sanabia. Freddie Freeman also looks strong, leading the Braves in RBI, but he can also pick up some hits against a pretty weak Miami pitching staff. Get out the broom because this is going to be an easy sweep.

The Nationals will prove to be a bit tougher for the Braves, especially with the so far spotless Ross Detwiler on the mound. I worried about him at first this season, but he has matured since joining the team, serving time in the minors and being demoted. The Braves may slow down with him, Strasburg and what I’m assuming will be a start by Gio Gonzalez. Teheran and Hudson will be strong, but not enough for the Braves as they hit the skids, dropping the series 1-2.

Miami Marlins:
Current 2013: 1-5
Estimated 2013: 1-5
This Week: 2-4

Oof. The Marlins could not have been worse coming out of the gate, scoring a resounding one run to start their opening series with the Nats. They followed that up with an anemic 1-2 showing against the always luke-warm Mets. Things aren’t going to get easier for the team as Giancarlo Stanton has produced bupkiss for the hapless team. The only shining star is Greg Dobbs, whose put together one home run and four RBI.

Don’t even bother showing up, because things aren’t going to work out this time. Like a bad Ben Stiller movie, you hope that things will turn around with a clever plot twist or some kind of conflict, but alas, you’re left wondering what could have been. With a lack of defined pitching and a nearly empty corps of worthy hitters to provide any safety net, the Braves will bloat their stats faster than Bartolo Colon at Golden Corral.

A likely match up here could pit the bottom of the barrel against a slightly less awful Philadelphia team. Workaday Joe, John Lannan, will do his usual damage by going about six innings, giving up three runs on six hits and hit the showers. It won’t be exciting and it won’t be efficient, but there it is. Hamels and Halladay will do their very best, but it won’t be enough. Miami will find some kind of groove and win this series.

Al Bello, Getty Images

New York Mets:
Current 2013: 4-2
Estimated 2013: 4-2
This Week: 3-3

It’s tough to gauge the Mets, because they have the opportunities to become a great team, but their pitching staff holds them back in a lot of ways. With a bullpen staffed by has-beens and wanna-bes, it’s safer to assume that the Mets will rely on their bats more than their arms.

The series begins with a three game set against the Phillies, who have a powerful staff taking the field against the Mets. Halladay Lee and Kendrick are three strong arms that can blaze when they need to, but have the control necessary to keep you guessing. Still, the Mets will figure it out and hit a couple homers, especially off the bat of newly-acquired beast John Buck. I’ve liked his style since he was in Toronto and he is a great addition to New York’s second team. Mets light up Lee and Kendrick and take the series 2-1.

Next, the Mets hit the AL with a series against the lowly Minnesota Twins. They won’t be so lowly this time, though. Buck will lose out, and Captain America (David Wright) won’t be able to pick up all the pieces. Still, look for Cowgill to continue showing signs of success and for Lucas Duda to simply show some signs of life. Three close games will be played, and two of them won’t go New York’s way. 1-2 series with Minnesota breaking through for the win.

Brian Garfinkel, Getty Images

Philadelphia Phillies:
Current 2013: 2-4
Estimated 2013: 3-3
This Week: 2-4

Since I don’t much care for the Phillies, I choose to slight them this week, especially since the docket seems so weak. In the same way no one worries about the nerd in high school, someday he’ll be the guy denying your days off and making you work in the cubicle next to the droning air vents as you begin to contemplate your life and where it all went wrong.

I suspect the shiny veneer of the Phillies will wear out quickly, as their awful bullpen will shatter and the lack of home run potential will become apparent. Although Chase Utley can plate other runners, outside support is slim. The Mets starting pitchers will handle themselves well, but the bullpen will inevitably screw it up and leave the Phillies with a chance to take home at least one win. I still say they lose the series, but the contests will be close.

Following that is yet another disconnect in the Miami Marlins. I’m not worried about who wins, but rather, who shows that this is going to be a rebuilding year. (Don’t you love that term? It implies that the team sucks, but hasn’t gotten enough time to throw a real team together. As a Cleveland Browns fan, I’ve heard it since 1999.) I suspect that Utley will play to his full potential with Jimmy Rollins and Ryan Howard in tow, but there won’t be enough pop to beat a team led by Jose Fernandez and a surprisingly resurgent Ricky Nolasco in this series. Philly drops another in a low scoring affair.

Washington Nationals:
Current 2013: 4-2
Estimated 2013: 5-1
This Week: 3-3

Although I thoroughly enjoy the Nats, it pains me to think that they will be just another team this week. A sweep against Miami was backed up with decimation at the hands of Cincinnati. Dan Haren should be demoted back to Little League after that open, though Zach Duke was none better.

Starting off with the Chicago White Sox, the Nats could loom large but will drop two of three. When your entire team is led by a second year standout there isn’t much else to do but hope for the best. Jayson Werth is still putting himself together after a shortened 2012, but will work in tandem with Espinosa, Ramos and Zimmerman to take a win from the White Sox. The other two games will be toss-ups, though I’m not so hopeful of a winning combination. Haren will struggle again and Jordan Zimmermann will perform his usual duties.

Atlanta is the true test for the World Series bound team, where hits will be plentiful and home runs could abound. I can’t wait to see this series, especially with Detwiler, Strasburg and Gonzalez on the hill. Although Stras has been a little less than spectacular this spring, he’ll hit his groove. Gonzalez and Detwiler will also maintain their sparkling ERAs. But, someone has to fall in this one. Sadly, I’m going with Stras. Washington still takes the series though, 2-1.

So there you have it. Another week down and another batch of half-baked random estimates have been unleashed onto the unwitting public. Hopefully, I don’t come back next week with an apology. If you have any comments, suggestions or complaints give me a holler at news@wibx950.com.

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