Ten surprises from first month of the 2013 baseball season

Mike Oz
Big League Stew

Here we are on May 1, with a month of baseball in the books. There are still many months ahead of us, but with 30 days upon which to reflect, we can already pick out some pleasant surprises from the first chapter of the 2013 baseball season.

We're not talking about Justin Upton leading the league in home runs or Bryce Harper having a stellar second season. We're talking about John Buck being a stud and the Colorado Rockies being in first place. Will these records and these stats hold up long term? Eh, probably not. Maybe in a few cases. But, if not, they'll always have April.

1. The highs and lows of the Boston Red Sox: Literally no one could have predicted everything that happened to the Red Sox in April. After a tragic bombing sent their city into hysteria, the Red Sox rallied to put together the best record in baseball at month's end. Adopting the "Boston Strong" mantra, the Red Sox are 18-8 and lead the AL East. Their +38 run differential is tops in baseball. Quite an achievement for a team that finished in last place in 2012, and didn't even have one of if its biggest bats, David Ortiz, for a majority of April.

2. Who the heck is John Buck? The New York Mets found an unlikely offensive juggernaut in catcher John Buck, a 32-year-old playing for his third team in four years. He leads the NL in RBIs (27) and is second in homers (9) behind Justin Upton. Those numbers are in 23 games. Last season, in 106 games, he hit 12 home runs and drove in 41 runs.

3. The Rockies and Diamondbacks start sharp in NL West: Think this division is all about the Los Angeles Dodgers vs. the San Francisco Giants? Not in April. The Rockies lead the division after a 16-11 record. Yes, they fed on the Padres for six wins, but they also lead baseball in hits and have a team ERA of 3.75 after a league-worst 5.22 last season. Meanwhile, the D-backs are 15-11 after a month in which they've played the Yankees, Dodgers and Giants.

4. Matt Harvey owns April: Savvy baseball pundits knew a Matt Harvey breakthrough year was a possibility, but that doesn't discount the fact that he's been the breakout star of the first month of the season. On an otherwise boring New York Mets pitching staff, the 24-year-old Harvey has been pitching more like Stephen Strasburg than Stephen Strasburg has. Harvey is 4-0 and is in the top five for strikeouts, ERA and WHIP.

5. Chris Davis should get a rake endorsement: Baltimore Orioles slugger Chris Davis was on fire in April, particularly to start the season. He had a good 2012, so it's not a complete surprise that he's been potent with the bat, but this good? He's near the top in the American League in all the Triple Crown categories — hitting .348 (fourth), slugging nine homers (tied for first) and driving in 28 runs (tied for first).

6. Who leads baseball in runs scored? Would you believe it's the Oakland A's? When you think of Oakland, you think of pitching and "Moneyball," but the Athletics lead the league with 158 runs. They finished a middle-of-the-pack 14th last year in runs scored. In 2013, they've been getting it done thanks to household names such as Josh Donaldson, Seth Smith and Brandon Moss. Of course you know those guys, right?

7. Redemption thy name is Evan Gattis: He's the feel-good story of the first month of the season — a former highly-touted prospect who gave up baseball, worked as a janitor and contemplated suicide before eventually getting a shot with the Atlanta Braves. Gattis is an injury replacement for catcher Brian McCann, one who has played well enough to stick around. He's hit six homers, driven in 16 runs and is slugging .566. If he keeps it up, Gattis' story of redemption might be baseball's best since Josh Hamilton.

8. The hotly competitive NL Central: Most people thought the NL Central this season would be a two-team race between the Cincinnati Reds and the St. Louis Cardinals. There's still a good chance it still will be. But in April, the NL Central proved to be one of baseball's most interesting divisions. On May 1, it's the only division with four teams above .500. Since April 22, the Pirates, Reds and Cardinals have all been in first place in the NL Central. Even the Cubs were in first way back on April 2. Hope they enjoyed that.

9. The Royals are royally interesting: While they shouldn't schedule a crowning anytime soon, the Kansas City Royals are in second-place in the AL Central and could be, after Wednesday's games, in first place. It's still the Detroit Tigers' division to fumble away. But the Royals, a sexy pick for a sleeper team this season, have showed they may be sticking around longer than usual. They're 14-10 — and that's without Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas hitting well.

10.What is this, 2002? Doesn't it feel weird that with all the pitching talent in the Bay Area, Barry Zito and Bartolo Colon are two guys who had great Aprils? They've each won three games and looked (mostly) sharp doing so. Colon, who is 39, is 3-0 with a 3.38 ERA. He's walked only one batter. Zito, meanwhile, is 3-1 with a 3.29 ERA that is much-needed with Matt Cain struggling. These are two guys who were 23-5 (Zito) and 20-8 (Colon) in 2002.

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