1. The Kansas City Royals: I could just as easily nominate “AL Central drama,” but that’s a bit nebulous, so let’s give it to the Royals. Winning in 10 innings after a 103-minute rain delay gave K.C. a series win in Detroit, perhaps even more impressive when you remember that they suffered a tough loss in the ninth inning of the first game when a wild throw to first on a sac bunt scored Anthony Gose from second base. But the Royals beat on David Price in that game, and they beat on Anibal Sanchez on Saturday. Perhaps what was most impressive about Sunday’s win was how the Royals dodged bases-loaded jams in both the ninth and 10th innings after play resumed, with Christian Colon starting a 5-2-3 DP in the 10th for what was perhaps the most timely bit of defensive execution. This series was just a taster for what should be a fun season-long divisional duel, but the Royals came out of it still boasting the best record in the league.
2. Michael Pineda, New York Yankees: OK, so you already know that Pineda’s 16 strikeouts on Sunday were a career high. And in a stunning display of my command of the obvious, as I pointed out back when I tabbed him as one of my pitching picks to click in 2015, the guy really should be something special if he ever pitches a full season. Sunday’s turn was just his 20th career start as a Yankee; in those games he’s put up a 2.20 ERA, a 10-5 record and a 113-to-10 ratio of strikeouts to walks in 122 2/3 IP, or more than 11 whiffs for every walk. For the sake of argument, if the Yankees get into a short series with Pineda and a healthy Masahiro Tanaka, they’re an extraordinarily tough matchup for anybody, making them almost the perfect opposite of the Red Sox as far as a staff-building philosophy.
3. Danny Salazar, Cleveland Indians: Speaking of my picks to click, it was nice to see Salazar tear through the Twins, retiring 21 straight batters -- striking out 11 of them -- after allowing a leadoff homer to Brian Dozier in the Tribe’s 8-2 win. Salazar’s mix of 97-mph heat, a sharp splitter and a power slider makes him a power pitcher to watch, not just to see if he’s about to become the perfect right-handed complement to Corey Kluber atop the Indians’ rotation, or to make sure that his mechanics don’t fall back out of whack if you’re worried about his early-season woes from last year, but simply because it’s fun to watch him carve up a lineup.
4. Felix Hernandez, Seattle Mariners: King Felix ran his record to 6-0 by beating the Oakland Athletics again; he’s won more games against them than any other opponent, racking up a 20-7 record versus the A’s in 37 starts. It’s probably small solace for A’s fans that the King has thrown a complete-game shutout against them, but it’s interesting to note that even while he’s reliably beaten them, none of his wins against them stands out among the best games of his career. Check out Baseball-Reference.com’s career log for Felix, sort for Game Score, and you’ll find his perfect game heading up a list that features great games against the Rays, Rangers, Yankees and Red Sox, but just two wins over the A’s among his 26 best starts. This time around, folks can thank Marcus Semien for his pair of solo shots to keep the A’s close, even if it didn’t alter what has become an all-too-common result. The Mariners have won all seven of Felix’s starts, while going 7-17 in their other games. Think skipper Lloyd McClendon isn’t grateful to his ace?
5. Garrett Richards, Los Angeles Angels: In just his fifth start since coming back from the DL, Richards took a no-hit bid against the Houston Astros into the seventh inning in a game the Angels of Anaheim won 3-1. Through the first six innings, he provided yet another indication that last year’s season-ending knee injury is a thing of the past, allowing just two walks while striking out eight on 80 pitches. However, I’m a little worried about Mike Scioscia having him then throw 30 pitches in the seventh, getting just two outs (both on whiffs) while putting four men on base, and plating an Astro with a bases-loaded HBP of Preston Tucker on his last pitch. He gave up his first hit of the day on his 24th pitch in the inning, but at that point everyone had to know there was no way he’d have been able to complete the game. Was there really a need to leave him in that deep into what was already going to be his last inning?
Christina Kahrl writes about MLB for ESPN. You can follow her on Twitter.