By Norm Elrod
(CBS Los Angeles/CBS Local) — As the 2019 MLB season continues, the expectation is that teams and players will settle into their predicted roles. That has and hasn’t happened. A quick glance at the standings reveals a jumble that has yet to really sort itself out. The same goes for the league’s stat leaders, as players heal from injuries and shake off the off-season rust.
One familiar face returned to the mound on Monday. Los Angeles Dodgers ace, Clayton Kershaw, pitched his first major-league game of the season against the Cincinnati Reds, turning in seven solid innings of work. The Tampa Bay Rays are already off and running, however, piling up early-season wins against struggling teams. And Baltimore Orioles “slugger” Chris Davis finally managed to get a hit, and then another, and then another.
This week’s Baseball Report looks at Kershaw’s return, the Rays’ hot start, and the end of Davis’s hit-less streak.
Clayton Kershaw Returns
The seven-time MLB All-Star and former NL MVP had a bit of a down year in 2018 — at least, for him. He went 9-5 in 161.1 innings with a 2.73 ERA and 155 strikeouts. He dealt with shoulder inflammation that kept him off the mound for much of spring training and the first few weeks of the season.
Kershaw’s season debut Monday night didn’t start off well. In the first inning, after giving up a one-out single, he served up a two-run home run to Yasiel Puig, who was returning to Dodgers Stadium in a Reds uniform. Kershaw settled down after that, facing the minimum number of batters after the home run through six innings.
The Dodgers ace turned in a solid performance overall, going seven innings, with no walks and six strikeouts. His velocity was off, but the control was certainly there. His presence can only help a Dodgers pitching staff that has struggled at times.
Tampa Bay Rays Stay Hot
The Tampa Bay Rays came into the season with an outside chance of making the playoffs. In an American League East that includes the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees, two pennant favorites, the Rays’ ceiling seemed to be a wild card spot and a quick playoff exit. But at 12-4, after going 7-3 in their last 10 games, they currently lead the division.
The Rays opened the season winning two of three games from the both the Houston Astros and Colorado Rockies. They’ve handled lesser competition as well, taking series from the San Francisco Giants, Chicago White Sox and Toronto Blue Jays.
It’s been a combined effort in Tampa, with strong performances on the mound and at the plate. Their pitching staff sports a 2.44 ERA, the lowest in MLB so far. Second-baseman Brandon Lowe has five multi-hit games and has mashed four home runs with 10 RBIs; while centerfielder Austin Meadows is hitting .357, with six home runs and 15 RBIs.
The strong start may continue this week, as they start a series with the lowly Baltimore Orioles on Tuesday. But six games with the under-performing Red Sox loom large later in the month. And, of course, it’s still only April.
Chris Davis Gets A Hit
Davis finally put bat to ball and ended up on base. His first hit of the season — a 2-RBI single against the Red Sox on Saturday — ended his record-breaking hit-less streak at 54 at-bats. The Baltimore Orioles first baseman ended up 3-5 on the day, with two doubles and four RBIs, and helped the Orioles to a 9-5 win.
In Monday’s series finale, Davis launched his first home run of the season, a 408-foot shot into the right field seats at Fenway. His home-run drought, while not a record, extended back August 24, 2018. Baltimore won the Monday matinee 8-1. Davis is now hitting .089 on the season.