Pitchers rule early, shutouts pile up all over big leagues
By the time the San Francisco Giants eked out a run in the 12th inning, it was too late. The brand new scoreboard at Petco Park had already run out of room for more zeros.
Seems like a pretty common problem all over the majors.
When Tim Hudson and a half-dozen Giants relievers blanked San Diego 1-0 on Thursday, it marked the 14th shutout in 46 major league games this season.
A big number? Well, there were 13 shutouts through the first 101 games last year.
''Out of the gate, the pitchers are really sort of dominating the league so far,'' Houston manager A.J. Hinch said.
Sure, it's early, not even one turn through the rotation yet. But this comes after the MLB batting average dipped to .251 last year - the lowest in more than four decades - and right after a spring training full of 1-0 final scores.
Hinch is getting a good look.
AL Cy Young winner Corey Kluber held the Astros hitless into the sixth inning in a Monday opener. Then Trevor Bauer and the Cleveland bullpen didn't give up a Houston hit Thursday until Jed Lowrie homered with one out in the ninth.
A familiar story in many places.
No hint, however, that the new speedup rules are throwing hitters out of their rhythm. Or that pitchers are gaining any advantage by trying to work more quickly.
''There's going to be trends in this game, but water always finds its level,'' he said. ''Two weeks from now, maybe everybody will be scoring touchdowns.''
As for his own pitching in this period of diminished offense, he said: ''I don't really sit there and go, `Oh, OK, now I can get away with more middle-middle heaters.'''
A look at this recent shoutout for shutouts:
No hitter likes chilly conditions. After a wicked winter in the Northeast and Midwest, it's been OK at many ballparks. But Yankee Stadium was raw, and it's a long way till summer.
''I think it's true that pitchers are ahead of hitters coming out,'' Washington manager Matt Williams said. ''I think weather has something to do with it. Standing up there with a piece of wood in your hand and having it be 40 degrees and misting is not conducive to offense. It just isn't.''
ADJUSTING THE APPROACH
New York Yankees manager Joe Girardi says the lack of scoring affects how he runs a game.
''I've talked about it a lot, there's less runs in the game now, and I think you do have to manage differently,'' he said. ''I think you might play your infield in a little bit more or you might say, `OK, we'll give them one more here but there's no way we can give them two or three.' I mean, I think you do manage different now.''
Led by David Price, Anibal Sanchez and Shane Greene, the Tigers set a modern-day American League record by starting the season with 24 straight scoreless innings. They did it while sweeping Minnesota, in its first season under manager Paul Molitor, a Hall of Fame hitter.
''You come out the first couple days and get 18 zeros and I'm sure it's a bit frustrating and the longer something like that goes, it's always magnified when you start,'' Molitor said.
''You hope the guys with some experience are smart enough to realize it's just a small sample size of the season. You don't want to get too crazy too early.''
AP Baseball Writers Mike Fitzpatrick, Janie McCauley and Noah Trister and AP Sports Writers Kristie Rieken and Howard Fendrich contributed to this report.