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Diamond Digits: Longoria looking MVP-worthy after Week 1


One week into the 2009 baseball season, arms -- both good and bad -- a rookie and two sophomores take center stage in the first regular season installment of Diamond Digits.

Complete game shutouts thrown in the NL Central on Sunday, by Cincinnati's Aaron Harang and St. Louis' Kyle Lohse.

Harang shut down the Pirates, allowing just three hits while walking none and striking out nine en route to his sixth career shutout. Against the Astros, Lohse also allowed just three hits and also avoided walking a batter in his fifth career blanking. Coincidentally, Lohse's last shutout came as Harang's teammate in 2007, when he also shut out the Pirates, 4-0, on May 28. Last season, two pitchers notched shutouts on the same day only three times, and it's almost unheard of for the feat to occur this early in the season. In fact, it's been 17 years since two pitchers threw shutouts on the same day during the first week of the season, though during that first stretch of the 1992 season it happened twice. Atlanta's Tom Glavine and Texas's Kevin Brown recorded the first two by whitewashing the Astros and Mariners, respectively, on April 7. Then four days later, San Francisco's Bill Swift blanked the Braves while Seattle's Randy Johnson took care of the Royals.

The Washington Nationals' NL-worst team ERA during the first week of the season.

The Nats' promising pitching went south in three road loses to the Marlins and three to the Braves. The rotation's top two starters, John Lannan (10.00 ERA) and Scott Olsen (14.63), each pitched twice, posting the first and third worst ERA's in the majors, respectively, among those with at least six innings pitched. Meanwhile, third and fourth starters Daniel Cabrera (7.50) and rookie Shairon Martis (9.00) weren't much better in their single starts. Dating back to the end of last year, Manny Acta's charges have lost 10 straight games and 15 of their last 16 and are in danger of getting off to the worst start in the Expos/Nationals franchise's less than illustrious 40-year history. The only other time this franchise went winless during the first six games of the year was in 1998 when the Expos lost a pair to the Pirates, four to the Cubs and one to the Brewers before breaking through with a win in their eighth game of the year. That team went on to finish the year 65-97, 41 games out of first, but even matching that mediocre mark will likely be a tall order for this current group, which plays in what is shaping up to be baseball's deepest division.

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Hitters who launched a home run in their first major league at-bat.

Braves rookie center fielder Jordan Schafer took Phillies righty Brett Myers out to left-center in the second inning of Atlanta's season-opening Sunday night win over the defending champs, raising the membership of that exclusive club to triple digits. Three days later, when Schafer took reliever J.A. Happ deep over the right field fence, he escaped a rather dubious distinction: players who hit home runs in their first big league at-bat but never hit another. Nineteen of the first-time home run hitters never slugged another (although there's still probably some time for injured Padres reliever Mark Worrell and Astros infielder Mark Saccomanno). Conversely, of the 100 on the list, Twins third baseman Gary Gaetti went on to hit the most home runs (360) over his 20-year career. Attempting to match that feat would be a solid goal for Atlanta's young power-hitting prospect.

Evan Longoria, 3B, Rays

The 2008 AL Rookie of the Year came out of the gates looking like he's got his sights set on the 2009 AL MVP award. Longoria went wild last week, batting .481 (13-for-27), with a major-league leading five home runs, 1.185 slugging percentage, 10 RBIs and five runs scored in six games. Longoria wasn't the only player who got off to a blazing hot start, however. Toronto's Adam Lind (.400 avg., 12 RBIs), New York's Nick Swisher (nine RBIs in just 17 at bats), Detroit's Brandon Inge (four home runs) and Florida's Emilio Bonifacio (.500 avg., four steals, nine runs scored) tore it up in the batter's box and on the base path, while Florida's Josh Johnson (2-0, 0.57 ERA, 15 strikeouts) and New York's Johan Santana (1-1, 0.71 ERA, .136 opp. avg., 20 Ks) dominated on the mound.

Andy LaRoche, 3B, Pirates

The Pirates have to be concerned that LaRoche, who batted a paltry .166 last year, has gotten off to an 0-for-14 start and committed three errors. His starting spot is hanging by a thread, which earns him this weekly dishonor over Texas' Chris Davis, who managed only one single through his first 22 at bats of the year while striking out 10 times and failing to drive in a runner, but who is not in danger of losing his spot in the Rangers lineup. Brewers catcher Jason Kendall (0-for-15) and Reds shortstop Alex Gonzalez (0-for-14) are probably also wishing for a Week 1 do-over.