Royals making it a start to remember

Updated: April 8, 2008

AP Photo/Charlie Riedel

Tony Pena steals one of five bases for the Royals in their 5-2 win over the Yankees on Tuesday.

TRUE ROYALTY

The Royals look pretty good through seven games under new manager Trey Hillman, who has implemented an aggressive, player-friendly style that was on display in their win over the Yankees on Tuesday afternoon. Kansas City improved to 5-2 and one of the primary reasons why has been the play of Alex Gordon.

WEDNESDAY NIGHT BASEBALL

• Phillies at Mets, 7:10 p.m. ET, ESPN2

Gordon set the tone for a much better start to the season with an Opening Day home run in a win (and an eventual three-game series sweep) over the Tigers. He added two hits and two runs scored on Tuesday as the Royals danced around the basepaths, stealing five bases in a game against the Yankees for the first time since 1969.

The AL Central standings to this point are a bit surprising, with the Royals tied for first and the Tigers in the basement. Go figure, but Kansas City looks like it could have something to cheer about this year.

KANSAS CITY'S KINGS
Through seven games:
2007 2008
W-L 2-5 5-2
Team ERA 4.06 2.57*
Gordon's batting average .045 .300
Team stolen bases 2 9
* 0.86 bullpen ERA

Past Baseball Tonight Clubhouses: April 7 | April 6 | April 3 | April 2 | April 1 | March 31

ORIOLES FLYING HIGH

The last time the Baltimore Orioles started a season 7-1 was 1998. Do you remember '98? It was the year of Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa. The two men who "saved" baseball in the short term ended up apparently killing any long-term chance they had of being remembered for anything but using performance-enhancing drugs. Both appeared before Congress when appearing before Congress was actually novel. Since then nearly everyone affiliated with the game has either appeared or been invited to appear in front of Henry Waxman and Tom Davis.

But back to 1998, the Orioles finished 35 games out of first place, and since then have averaged finishing 26½ games out of first place. Only once in the last 10 seasons has Baltimore not finished in fourth place. They managed to finish in third in 2004. Whoppee. Is this year going to be different? It already feels that way.

As Aubrey Huff said on Tuesday after the Orioles pushed their record to 6-1 with a win over the Rangers, "we've already had more fun than at any time last year." Baltimore's secret to success has been its bullpen, which has an era of 0.84 in 21 1/3 innings. George Sherrill, who is the O's closer, came to Baltimore in the six-player trade involving Erik Bedard (who didn't come to the Orioles in that deal?), and has been terrific.

The Birds won't bump into the Yankees until the third week of April and the Red Sox until mid-May. Right now, they are flying high and more importantly to manager Dave Trembley, they are beginning to believe in themselves.

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FORWARD THINKING: WEDNESDAY

• Dodgers at Diamondbacks, 3:40 p.m. ET: Hiroki Kuroda (1-0, 1.29) will get the start for the Dodgers. The Japanese righty impressed in his first start, allowing one run on three hits in seven innings against the Padres. He'll be opposed by Micah Owings (1-0, 1.35), who was equally impressive in his first start as he pitched 6 2/3 innings and gave up one run on two hits in a win over the Rockies.

• Tigers at Red Sox, 7:05 p.m. ET: Jeremy Bonderman (0-1, 5.68) will make the start for the winless Tigers. He's 0-3 with a 5.73 ERA in four career starts at Fenway Park. Jon Lester (1-1, 3.38) will counter for the Red Sox. The lefty was 1-0 with a 4.30 ERA in five outings at home last season.

• Cardinals at Astros, 8:05 p.m. ET: The Cardinals will hand the ball to Braden Looper (1-0, 1.50) was 2-1 with a 3.28 ERA and didn't allow a single home run (24 2/3 innings pitched) in four starts against the Astros last season. He'll be opposed by Chris Sampson (0-0, 2.70), who was 1-1 with a 4.26 ERA in two starts against the Cardinals last year.

Complete list of pitching probables for Wednesday's games


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BBTN ON THE AIR: WEDNESDAY

TIME WHO'S ON?
1 a.m. ET
ESPN
Host: Steve Berthiaume
Analysts: Eric Young, Eduardo Perez

BASEBALL TONIGHT MINUTE: ORIOLES' GREAT START

TUESDAY'S NOTEWORTHY PERFORMANCES

GOOD
Daisuke Matsuzaka pitched 6 2/3 innings of shutout ball, lifting the Red Sox to a 5-0 win over the Tigers. Matsuzaka, who lowered his ERA to 1.47, has allowed only one run in his last 17 1/3 innings pitched.
BAD
A.J. Burnett allowed six runs on 10 hits, five of which went for extra bases, in 4 2/3 innings pitched in the Blue Jays' 9-8 loss to the A's. Oakland sent nine batters to the plate in the second inning and scored five runs off of Burnett.
UGLY
Alex Rodriguez went 0-for-4 with four strikeouts, three of which were looking, in the Yankees' 5-2 loss to the Royals. It was only the fourth time in Rodriguez's career that he struck out four times in a game.

THREE THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW

FANTASY: PREVIEW OF WEDNESDAY'S GAMES

Sean Allen examines the pitching matchups in store for the 15 games on Wednesday's schedule in the American League and National League.

Sean also looks at current injuries and details player reports that could help shape the way you put together your roster for Wednesday's slate of games. Daily Notes

GAGNE BLOWS SAVE, BUT BREWERS PREVAIL

THIS DATE IN MLB HISTORY (APRIL 9)

1913: With league approval, the Dodgers played the first regular-season game at Ebbets Field a day ahead of the rest of the league. Cold weather kept the Opening Day crowd down to about 12,000 fans as the Phillies' Tom Seaton beat the Dodgers' Nap Rucker, 1-0.

1993: Chicago's Bo Jackson homered on his first swing after coming back from hip replacement surgery. The White Sox, however, lost the game to the Yankees, 11-6.

1994: Recently retired basketball legend Michael Jordan made his professional debut by going hitless for Double-A Birmingham. Chattanooga was a 10-3 winner over Birmingham, a White Sox farm club.