The only bad April in baseball is when there isn’t April baseball at all, the way it was last season, because of COVID. But so far this season, this has pretty much looked like the best and most interesting April ever — maybe everywhere except Yankee Stadium, of course.
An outlook like this might be about to change with the Dodgers, too, if Mookie Betts is out after taking a 95 mph fastball on the right arm in the ninth inning of the Dodgers’ 4-3 loss to the Mariners on Monday night.
It has still been an April full of great stories. Here are the starting nine.
1. Let’s be alphabetical and talk about the A’s to start the conversation. They started out 0-5, and it was classified as a historically bad start for them — because it was, they hadn’t started 0-5 since 1987. That is such a long time ago Billy Beane hadn’t even invented Moneyball by then.
From that point on, the A’s have won nine out of their next 11 games and look as if they are going to contend in the AL West the way they always do.
2. Then there are the Boston Red Sox. They opened their season at Fenway Park against the Orioles, and promptly got swept — a sweep that included an 11-3 beatdown on a Sunday afternoon before the Orioles mercifully left town at that point. The Red Sox didn’t just look like a bad baseball team in that series, they looked like the worst team.
They then proceeded to win nine games in a row, including a sweep of the Rays, last year’s AL East champs, before going to Target Field and winning three out of four against the Twins, last year’s AL Central champs. The Red Sox woke up on Tuesday morning, after beating the White Sox on Patriots’ Day in Boston, tied for the second-best record in the whole sport, behind only the Dodgers.
Already Red Sox fans are giddily invoking the spirit of 2013, when the Sox won perhaps the most improbable of the four World Series they’ve won in this century. And you know why? It’s April, that’s why.
3. We’ve already had one amazing April series between the Dodgers and Padres in San Diego, one that featured six runs in the top of the 12th in one game and Clayton Kershaw and Yu Darvish pitching 13 innings between them and giving up a total of three hits and one run.
And guess what? They do it again with a four-game series at Dodger Stadium this weekend. And you know the old line in sports about how “these two teams don’t like each other”? The Dodgers and the Padres really don’t like each other.
4. Mr. Ronald Acuña Jr. All he has been so far is the best ballplayer on the planet. Seven home runs, 16 RBIs and an OPS of 1.373. And did I mention that he’s hitting a fast .419?
5. And we sure do have Jacob deGrom this April. He only has a 1-0 record because, well, because he is Jacob deGrom. But the guy who has won two of the past three Cy Young Awards in the National League and finished third last season has pitched 20 innings so far in 2021. He has given up 11 hits and a grand total of one earned run and struck out 35 batters and currently has an earned run average of 0.45.
Shane Bieber is on a rather historic strikeout tear for the Indians, and been something to see. The Bieb has been great. Not as great as Jake deGrom. Nobody is.
6. Shohei Ohtani is … well … doing Shohei Ohtani things now that he is healthy again. There was the game on Sunday Night Baseball when the Sho Hey Kid threw a 100 mph pitch and then came up to the plate and hit a home run that had an exit velocity of 115.
He wasn’t scheduled to bat when he returns to the mound on Tuesday night against the Rangers, having not started since that Sunday night because of a blister on his pitching hand. But in that one start he struck out seven in 4 2/3 innings. As a hitter? He is batting .309, has 12 RBIs and has already hit four home runs.
In the best possible baseball season, for all of us, he stays healthy and stays on the field and just continues to expand his own amazing possibilities.
7. Will Leitch wrote today about all the unlikely first-place teams: Red Sox, Royals, Reds, Mariners. Maybe it won’t last for any of them. It sure will be fun in those cities for as long as it does last. It’s only six years since the Royals won it all. It seems like longer ago. It sure would be big fun for them to be in play again.
8. Yermín Mercedes. He has been as much of a surprise and as much of a story as any player or any team. Everybody is starting to learn about the 28-year old rookie for the White Sox who has been knocking around pro ball since the Nationals signed him to a Minor League contract in 2011. Now he’s hit four homers, has 12 RBIs, a batting average of .397, an OPS of 1.108.
9.) Mike Trout is still Mike Trout, and that’s no surprise. Maybe the surprise is that he might have a real team around him at last. Four home runs so far, 10 RBIs, a batting average of .354. And you get the idea that he is just getting warmed up.
And you want to know the best part of all of this? We’ve still got a week-and-a-half to go before we get to May. April might get even better.