The first series of the 2013 baseball season is in the books for every team in baseball. So, while no team has made it all the way though their rotation, and there are still plenty of columns left to fill, I thought it might be fun to take a quick look at the best and worst performances of the season's opening series.
1. Yu Darvish, SP, Rangers
Season Stats: 8 2/3 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 14 K
Darvish retired the first 26 Astros he faced Tuesday night, striking out 14 of them, before the 27th, shortstop Marwin Gonzalez, hit a single through his legs. That made Darvish just the 11th man in major league history to lose a perfect game on the 27th batter. I started watching this game, a 7-0 Rangers win, in the fourth inning, and from what I saw, only two balls were hit hard, both coming in the fifth inning when Chris Carter flew out to the warning track in left and Rick Ankiel followed by hitting a line drive that Rangers first baseman Mitch Moreland was able to snare before it reached right field. Gonzalez's single came on Darvish's 111th pitch, prompting his removal immediately after. That made him the first man ever to lose a perfect game on the 27th batter not to face the 28th, and just the second, after the Reds' Ron Robinson in 1988, not to eventually record the 27th out.
2. Clayton Kershaw, SP, Dodgers
Season Stats: 9 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 7 K; 1-for-3, HR
One could argue that Kershaw's performance was more impressive than Darvish's given the quality of his competition. Darvish dominated a terrible team. Kershaw shutout the defending world champions. Not only that, but he broke a scoreless tie in the eighth inning with a leadoff home run, the first of his career. All Kershaw's teammates had to do in this game was play defense. Kershaw allowed just four singles, and the only Giants baserunner to reach second base did so in the first inning on a wild pitch.
3. Chris Davis, 1B, Orioles
Season Stats: 7-for-11, 3 2B, 3 HR, 11 RBI
Davis, who homered in each of the Orioles games against the Rays this week, leads the majors in batting average (.636), slugging percentage (1.727), OPS (2.420), total bases (19), extra-base hits (6), and RBI (11), and has struck out just once, that coming on Opening Day. He has also been involved in 12 run scoring plays (either driving a run in or scoring one) in three games. Curiously, his best game was the only one the Orioles lost. On Wednesday, Davis went 4-for-4 with two doubles and a three-run home run, driving in four runs in total and scoring a fifth, but the Orioles lost 8-7 after their bullpen allowed six runs in the final 2 1/3 innings. Maybe Buck Showalter should have handed the ball off to Davis and his change-up in relief again if he wanted the job done right.
4. Matt Harvey, SP, Mets
Season Stats: 7 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 10 K; 1-for-3
Harvey just edges out Madison Bumgarner, who allowed just two hits and no walks in eight scoreless innings on Tuesday, at one point retiring 18 straight batters. I chose Harvey instead because he struck out ten men to Bumgarner's six and because both of the hits Bumgarner allowed were doubles, while Harvey didn't allow a runner past first base. In fact, two of the three baserunners Harvey allowed came in the fourth inning of his start against the Padres on Wednesday. The first, a leadoff single by Everth Cabrera, was erased when Harvey picked Cabrera off first base. The second, a walk to Will Venable, was erased on a subsequent double play. As a result, Harvey faced the minimum through his first 20 batters.
5. Michael Morse, LF, Mariners
Season Stats: 6-for-16, 4 HR, 6 RBI
Morse is your major league home run leader having hit two on Tuesday and one both Wednesday and Thursday. He has no other extra-base hits and hasn't drawn a walk, but the Mariners traded for him to add power to their lineup and he's thus far exceeding their expectations.
1. John Axford, CL, Brewers
Season Stats: 1 2/3 IP, 6 H, 4 R, 0 BB, 3 K, 3 HR, 1 BS
Brought in for the save with a 4-3 lead over the Rockies in the ninth inning on Monday, Axford struck out the side, but gave up a two-out, game-tying solo home run to Dexter Fowler in between. The Brewers rallied to win the game in the tenth, so no harm done. However, when Ron Roenicke brought him back out with the Brewers trailing 4-3 in the ninth inning of Wednesday's game, things got ugly. The first two men Axford faced singled and homered. Then, after a fly out, Fowler stepped up and hit another home run. Carlos Gonzalez followed with a hard out to left field after which Axford gave up two more singles and got the hook, leaving Tom Gorzelanny to clean up his mess. That wasn't a blown save, but he turned a one-run deficit into a four-run deficit and has given up six hits, including three home runs, in the process of recording just five outs. Axford lost the closer's job briefly last year due to poor performance and appears well on his way to doing so again.
2. Chris Carter, LF, Astros
Season Stats: 0-for-11, 7 K, E7
Carter not only hasn't reached base this season, he hasn't advanced a baserunner, either. In addition to his 0-fer at the plate, Carter made an error in the field on Wednesday afternoon that gave the Rangers an extra baserunner, though that runner did not come around to score. The highlight of his season thus far was having the hardest hit ball against Darvish on Tuesday, though that was just another out, a fly ball to deep left.
Season Stats: 0-for-11, 7 K
Like Carter, Upton hasn't so much as advanced a baserunner. In Monday's game, he made the final out of an inning four times, stranding a pair of runners in the process. On Wednesday, he struck out in all four at-bats. Thursday, he struck out twice and led off the fifth with a groundout. There are a handful of regulars who have yet to reach base this season, but other than Carter, none has had a collection of at-bats as utterly useless as Upton's.
Photo credit: USA TODAY Sports
4. Edinson Volquez, SP, Padres
Season Stats: 3 IP, 6 H, 6 R, 3 BB, 4 K
By some measures there were pitchers who pitched worse than Volquez this week. After all, two of the runs charged to Volquez scored after he left the game, and he did strike out more than a man per inning. However, Volquez's stands as the shortest non-injury-related start in the majors thus far this year. Volquez did come back out for the fourth inning on Monday, but the first two Mets he faced walked and doubled, prompting Bud Black to remove his Opening Day starter. Of the last 13 batters Volquez faced, nine reached base and six scored.
5. Clayton Richard, SP, Padres
Season Stats: 4 1/3 IP, 7 H, 8 R (7 ER), 2 BB, 1 K, 3 HR
Not only did Richard allow three home runs in this start against the Mets, but he had a man on base for each of them. Still, one of his runs was unearned, another scored after he was removed from the game, and he recorded four more outs than rotation mate Volquez.
Dishonorable mention: Danny Espinosa, 2B, Nationals - Espinosa is 0-for-11 and has hit into a double play. He has also reached on an error and scored a run, but the thing that most caught my eye about his opening week performance is that he has seen just 15 pitches in those 11 at-bats.