Detroit Tigers a surprise in MLB's first month, but not the biggest

By Rob Parker - Sports Columnist
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DETROIT - There were a few surprises in the first month of the baseball season.

The Tigers were one of them.

The only thing consistent about them In April was that they were inconsistent.

Yes, they entered Friday night's game in Houston against the Astros 16-11, in second place.

One stretch in April, they lost four straight. In three straight games of those losses, they scored just one run, almost impossible when Miguel Cabrera is batting .373 and 30 RBI and newcomer Torii Hunter is batting .355.

Against the hot Atlanta Braves, we saw the powerful Tigers. They swept ATL at Comerica Park and scored 25 runs in three games.

On the pitching side, the only thing more shocking than Doug Fister being 4-0 is Justin Verlander just 3-2, despite an impressive 1.83 ERA.

Here are other surprises around baseball. There's the Boston Red Sox in first place in the toughest-to-date American League East. The Washington Nationals, who were picked by many experts to go to the World Series, are lousy.

The Braves came out of the gate charging with crazy pitching. Plus, the Los Angeles Dodgers and Toronto Blue Jays have been more hype than true contenders despite stocking their roster with stars in the offseason.

Still, the biggest surprise of all happened in Da Bronx. The Yankees haven't just survived, but thrived.

 Before the season, many experts looked at the Yankees and saw four players from their starting lineup -- Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira and Curtis Granderson -- on the disabled list to start the season.

Most thought it spelled doom. Many picked the Yankees to finish in last place.

But here we are, in early May, and the Yankees are in second place in the division, 2.5 behind the BoSox.

Yankees: They might be down a lot of heavy hitters, but they have pitching.

CC Sabathia (4-2, 3.35 ERA, Hiroki Kuroda (4-1, 2.25 ERA) and Andy Pettitte (3-2, 3.86 ERA) have flourished and a healthy Mariano Rivera (converted all of his first 11 save opportunities) has been spectular.  

Nationals: It was easy to pick Washington coming into the season.

First, they went to the playoffs last year. Secondly, their pitching -- an outstanding group led by Stephen Strasburg -- improved in the offseason when they added stud closer Rafael Soriano to their bullpen. Plus, there wasn't going to be a silly decision to hold Strasburg out of the postseason in fear that he would get hurt like the team did in 2012.

The Nationals, though, are just an inconsistent .500 team so far. Worse, their ace, Strasburg, is off to a terrible season. No one in their right mind would have expected the hard-throwing, right-hander would have lost four of his first five decisions this season. Last year, he was 15-6 with a 3.16 ERA. He also had a forearm issue in his last start, a concern. The staff overall is in the middle of the pack with the eighth-best ERA.

Dodgers: This season was supposed to be Magic for the Dodgers.

After all Magic Johnson's ownership group went out and spent $210 million to upgrade their pitching with the addition of Zack Greinke and Hyum-Jin Ryu in the off-season after adding big-money players Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford and Josh Beckett last season.

But the Dodgers have not lived up to the Hollywood hype at all. If they were a movie, they would be a bomb, box office poison.  They are just .500 and having trouble scoring runs (29th in baseball).

Worse, Matt Kemp, one of their key big bats, is off to a slow start with only one homer and 11 RBI in the first 26 games.

Blue Jays: The only team more disappointing than the Dodgers so far have been the Blue Jays.

Can you say, "Stinky!"

You want to talk about hype, the machine was on full blast north of the border after the Blue Jays went wild in the off-season, picking up star players, including Jose Reyes, Melky Cabrera, R.A. Dickey, Mark Buehrle and Josh Johnson.

It was all that new pitching that made experts pick Toronto to win the AL East. In truth, the pitching has been a disaster with the 13th-best ERA in the 15-team league.

Still, there's plenty of baseball left, five more months, in fact. And remember it isn't always how you start, but how you finish.

That formula got the Tigers to the World Series last season.

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