Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Yankees, Angels improve but Astros MLB’s team to beat

Yankees, Angels improve but Astros MLB’s team to beat

Jose Altuve holds the Commissioner's Trophy after the Houston Astros defeated the Los Angeles Dodgers 5-1 in game seven to win the 2017 World Series at Dodger Stadium on November 1, 2017 in Los Angeles, California. AFP
Jose Altuve holds the Commissioner's Trophy after the Houston Astros defeated the Los Angeles Dodgers 5-1 in game seven to win the 2017 World Series at Dodger Stadium on November 1, 2017 in Los Angeles, California. AFP

Yankees, Angels improve but Astros MLB’s team to beat

Slugger Giancarlo Stanton joins a mighty New York Yankees line-up and Japan’s Shohei Ohtani adds spark for the Los Angeles Angels but the World Series champion Houston Astros remain the team to beat when the 2018 Major League Baseball season opens on Thursday.

No team has won consecutive World Series crowns since the Yankees in 1999-2000, but the Astros have kept the core of their lineup and added some talent to bolster a repeat bid.

Astros second baseman Jose Altuve, last year’s American League Most Valuable Player, and All-Star shortstop Carlos Correa, who had MVP-like numbers before a thumb injury, ignite Houston hitters while pitcher Justin Verlander has a full season after arriving in a deal with Detroit last August.

“We won the World Series last year and we got better this year,” Verlander said. “That’s a pretty good recipe for success. I’m excited.”

Altuve comes off his second consecutive AL batting title and third in four seasons, hitting a major-league best .346 with an AL-best 204 hits plus 32 stolen bases. Both he and Correa hit 24 home runs and batted in 84 runs.

“Being the MVP last year, it’s something I’m never going to forget,” Altuve said.

AL Championship Series MVP Verlander, 35, won 183 games in 13 years with the Tigers, then went 5-0 with a 1.06 earned-run average. Left-hander Dallas Keuchel went 14-5 with a 2.90 ERA. Joining the superstar duo is right-hander Gerrit Cole, who pitched five seasons for Pittsburgh.

“It’s impressive to be around guys with such accolades,” Cole said. “It’s a really cool opportunity.”

Stanton, Ohtani in spotlight

But it’s far from a Houston runaway and the AL-rival Yankees and Angels are major threats.

New York added National League MVP Stanton, who led the NL in homers with 59 and runs batted in with 132. He goes from a Miami team where he endured eight losing seasons to a Yankees team that last suffered such humiliation in 1992.

“Fans expect a lot. I expect a lot too. So we’re in the same boat,” Stanton said.

Adding Stanton to homer blaster Aaron Judge, who swatted an AL-best 52 homers as a rookie, on a team that led the AL with 241 homers last year makes the Yankees formidable against any pitcher.

“He’s not satisfied with last year,” Stanton said of Judge. “He wants more and more and to get better, which is exactly what you need after a season like that – that ‘it’s not enough’ attitude.”

First-time manager Aaron Boone also has catcher Gary Sanchez, who hit 33 homers last season.

“What’s exciting about our team is the young talent that’s there, the passion these guys play with,” Boone said. “These are real high-character guys.”

And then there’s Ohtani and the Angels, who could use a rare six-man pitching rotation to allow the 23-year-old Japanese star to have a regular mound appearance and bat in the lineup three other days a week.

Ohtani could be the first player since legend Babe Ruth in 1918 with 100 innings pitched and 200 at-bats in a campaign.

“We have a real good idea that Shohei’s going to be able to do things we’re going ask him to do,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. “Hopefully it’s going to lead us to a championship.”

Can Nats solve playoff jinx?

In the National League, the Washington Nationals boast star outfielder Bryce Harper and top pitchers Stephen Strasburg and Max Scherzer, but haven’t won a playoff series since 1981 when they were the Montreal Expos.

A five-game playoff ouster cost Dusty Baker his job and new manager Dave Martinez knows the postseason is where the Nats will be judged.

“We’ve got a chance to do something very special,” Martinez said. “But we’ve got to focus on the here and the now. They get that.”

The Chicago Cubs, last year’s NL Championship Series losers after winning the 2016 World Series, saw top pitchers Jake Arrieta and John Lackey leave, but added Japan’s Yu Darvish from the Los Angeles Dodgers.

The Dodgers, powered by ace pitcher Clayton Kershaw, lost to Houston in a seven-game World Series thriller and should threaten again.

MOST VIEWED

  • Over $3M in traffic fines collected in two months

    Traffic police officers collected over $3 million in fines throughout the Kingdom during the past two months when officers strictly enforced the law in accordance with a May sub-decree, officials said. As incentives, law enforcement officers received between 200,000 and two million riel ($50 to $500) each. The figures

  • More than 10,000 workers suspended

    More than 10,000 workers at 18 factories in Svay Rieng province have been suspended because of Covid-19, said provincial deputy governor Ros Pharith. Home to 11 special economic zones, Pharith said Svay Rieng has not been spared as the pandemic takes a toll on the global economy. “There

  • Accused not treated equally, says CCHR

    The Cambodia Centre for Human Rights (CCHR) has urged the Court of Appeal to do more to ensure that an accused’s right to a fair trial is fully respected. In a bulletin released on Monday, the CCHR said it had monitored 273 cases at the

  • Investors’ $14.4M projects approved

    New investments from local and foreign sources continue to pour into Cambodia despite the Covid-19 pandemic remaining a lingering threat to regional and global economies. This comes as the Kingdom’s gross domestic product (GDP) is expected to contract between one and 2.9 per cent this

  • NagaWorld casinos set to reopen, schools to follow

    NAGACORP Ltd has requested that it be allowed to reopen its NagaWorld integrated resorts in Phnom Penh after the government recently approved casinos to operate again, provided they follow Covid-19 prevention measures set by the Ministry of Health. Mey Vann, the director-general of the Ministry

  • Rubber exports stretch 17%

    Cambodia exported 97,175 tonnes of natural rubber in the first five months of this year, surging 17 per cent compared to the same period last year as the Covid-19 pandemic stretches on, Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries official Khuong Phalla told The Post on Thursday. Phalla,

  • ASEM supports Kingdom’s proposal to postpone meeting amid Covid

    The 13th Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM13) scheduled to be held in Cambodia in November has been postponed until mid-2021 due to the Covid-19 pandemic, a Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation press statement released on Saturday said. The decision was made during a two-day meeting

  • Coffee maker roasted for producing fake product

    The Ministry of Interior’s Counter Counterfeit Committee will send a suspect to court on Monday after she allegedly roasted coffee mixed with soybeans and other ingredients, creating a product which could pose a high risk to consumers’ health. On the afternoon of July 2, the

  • Cash handout programme 80% complete

    Minister of Social Affairs, Veterans and Youth Rehabilitation Vong Soth confirmed on Thursday that the implementation of the Cash Transfer Programme For Poor and Vulnerable Households During Covid-19 had been implemented for more than 80% of the over 560,000 families. The programme was introduced one week ago.

  • Cambodia armed with money laundering laws

    Money laundering will now carry a penalty of up to five years in prison while those convicted of financing terrorists will be jailed for up to 20 years, according to new laws promulgated by King Norodom Sihamoni and seen by The Post on Thursday. Comprising nine