Yankee fans are fuming!

The New York Yankees had a great opportunity last night to steal Game 2 from the Cleveland Indians in the ALDS after roughing up potential Cy Young award winner Cory Kluber, but then Joe Girardi made some questionable decisions and the Yankees blew an 8-3 lead in an instant classic.

Needless to say, Yankee fans are fuming and the New York media is piling on:

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Five Big Surprises Through the First Month of the 2012 MLB Season

With April now in the books, what were some of the biggest surprises through the first month of the 2012 MLB Season? I’ve outlined five shockers below.

Pujols suddenly can’t hit.
It’s not completely surprising that Albert Pujols is slumping at the plate to start the season. After all, midway through April last year he was hitting just .222 for the Cardinals with only one home run. But who could have predicted that Pujols would look this bad in his first full month with the Angels? He has zero home runs, is hitting just .217 and has collected only four RBI. He’s clearly pressing right now and it doesn’t look like he has a clue on how to shake out of his funk. He’ll eventually come around but thus far, his struggles at the dish have been national news.

The Cardinals’ pitching staff.
Who would have thought that Adam Wainwright would be the biggest issue facing the Cardinals’ pitching staff through the month of April? Entering Tuesday’s action, Wainwright was sporting a 0-3 record with a 7.32 ERA. Meanwhile, Kyle Lohse and Lance Lynn are both 4-0 and Jake Westbrook is 3-1 with a 1.30 ERA. In fact, Wainwright is the only Cardinals’ starter that has an ERA over 2.78. When Wainwright eventually figures it out (and he will), and Lohse, Lynn, Westbrook and Jaime Garcia continue to pitch as well as they have, the Cardinals will be extremely tough to beat in the National League again this year.

The Washington Nationals are in first place.
Ask the Pirates – being in first place after the first month of the season or even at the All-Star Break (as Pittsburgh was last year) doesn’t mean squat. But the Nationals have been fun to watch regardless. Adam LaRoche has been fantastic, as he’s leading Washington in average (.329), home runs (4), RBI (17), OBP (.415) and total hits (27). But the other story has been the Nationals’ pitching, as four of their five starters have ERAs south of 2.00. The organization just brought up rookie phenom Bryce Harper too, which virtually guarantees that the Nationals will be relevant for a little while longer.

The Tigers aren’t in first place in the AL Central.
Blame the media for this one. Once the Tigers signed Prince Fielder last offseason, everyone just assumed that the rest of the AL Central would just roll over and play dead. But while the Tigers have had issues with their starting pitching, the Indians (11-9, first place) and White Sox (11-11, tied for second) have played well. Justin Verlander continues to be the rock of the rotation and Drew Smyly has been a pleasant surprise, but Rick Porcello and Max Scherzer have been disastrous. Porcello is currently sporting an ERA of 6.45 while Scherzer’s ERA is an abysmal 7.77. It doesn’t matter if Fielder and Miguel Carbera continue to hit the snot out of the ball – if the Tigers’ pitching doesn’t come around then there could be an upset brewing in the AL Central.

The Dodgers have the best record in the NL.
Ah, the power of Magic. Apparently all it took for the Dodgers to start playing well was for them to be sold. Los Angeles is currently sitting atop the NL West standings at 16-7, which includes a dazzling home record of 10-2. Matt Kemp has been ridiculous through 23 games, leading the league in batting average (.417), home runs (12) and RBI (25, tied with Texas’ Josh Hamilton). Better yet for L.A. Andre Ethier (.276, 5 HRS, 24 RBI) is actually contributing as well. If the pitching continues to be as good as it has (Clayton Kershaw is 2-0 with a 1.78 ERA while Chad Billingsley is 2-1 with a 2.64 ERA), then the Dodgers will prove that their hot start isn’t a fluke.

Grady Sizemore now a free agent

Cleveland Indians Grady Sizemore connects for an RBI double against the Toronto Blue Jays during the second inning of their American League MLB baseball game in Toronto, May 31, 2011. REUTERS/Mark Blinch (CANADA – Tags: SPORT BASEBALL)

The Cleveland Indians announced today that they have decline to pick up the $9 million option on Grady Sizemore for the 2012 season. The Tribe was hoping to negotiate an incentive-laden deal for the often injured Sizemore, but that didn’t happen so they let him go.

Sizemore was a rising star and an excellent all-around player before he injured his knee. In 2008, Sizemore clubbed 33 home runs and stole 38 bases. But in the last three seasons, he’s only played in 210 games with 28 home runs and 17 steals. This year he didn’t steal a single base, and with all the injuries nobody knows if he can return to his previous form.

The Indians couldn’t afford to take that chance. They desperately need to add some reliable bats to go with their solid pitching staff and Sizemore was too big a risk, particularly since they are stuck with the brittle Travis Hafner for one more season at $13 million.

Sizemore will get plenty of interests from other teams, and the upside is there if he can stay healthy. The big-money teams can more easily absorb the risk.

Report: Indians acquire Derek Lowe from Braves

Atlanta Braves starting pitcher Derek Lowe. REUTERS/Tami Chappell (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT BASEBALL)

ESPN’s Buster Olney is reporting that the Atlanta Braves have traded Derek Lowe to the Cleveland Indians. WKNR in Cleveland is reporting that the Indians parted with minor-league pitcher Chris Jones.

This is a salary dump by the Braves. Olney reports that the Braves will cover $10 million of Lowe’s 2012 salary of $15 million. So the Indians get an experienced starter for the bargain price of $5 million for next season.

Lowe didn’t have a great 2011 season in Atlanta as he went 9-17 with a 5.05 ERA. He’s also 38 years old. Yet Lowe eats up innings and his stats from 2005-2010 we excellent and then solid. The Indians have a strong pitching staff led by Justin Masterson and Ubaldo Jimenez, with Josh Tomlin and Fausto Carmona as well (the Tribe picked up Carmona’s 2012 option today for $7 million). But injuries have hurt their depth in the rotation, and Lowe gives them an experienced starter to add to the mix.

Ubaldo Jimenez strong in Tribe home debut

It was a great night at Progressive Field for Indians fans last night, as the Tribe thumped the Detroit Tigers 10-3 behind a 5-5 night from Jason Kipnis and a stellar home debut by Ubaldo Jimenez. Jimenez looks dominating when you see him in person as I did last night.

The Indians took a real gamble by sending two #1 picks to Colorado for Jimenez, but so far he looks like the real deal. With Justin Masterson, the Indians now have two front-line starters at the top of the rotation, with a very capable Josh Tomlin as the #3 starter. Then you have an inconsistent but sometimes dominating Fausto Carmona and several young starters like Carlos Carrasco and David Huff.

The offense is also starting to heat up, with young players like Kipnis providing a spark. Kipnis reminds me of a young Lenny Dykstra. The Indians are now within two games of the Tigers after taking the first two games of this series. Shin-Soo Choo should be back soon, and possibly Grady Sizemore as well. They definitely need Choo to come back strong and Sizemore would be a bonus.

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