Offensive production up in MLB’s first week

By Janie McCauley The Associated Press

SAN FRANCISCO – Tim Hudson laughed off his two rough outings to start the season. Atlanta’s ace knows he’s far from the only one with an extra-high ERA after the first week.

“I think it’s just stumbling out of the box from a pitching standpoint,” Hudson said after watching his ERA balloon to 12.38 with a weekend loss to the San Francisco Giants. “We just have to get some confidence back.”

Hitters have had little trouble producing so far. The .270 major league batting average in the first week was the highest in an opening week since the expansion era began in 1961, the Elias Sports Bureau said yesterday.

Home runs in the first week were up 10.6 percent from last year and scoring increased 5.3 percent.

Teams hit 216 home runs last week and the average of 2.40 per game was the highest in the opening week since 2.49. in 2001. Runs per game (10.51) reached a level that hadn’t been seen since 2000 (10.68).

“It is unusual,” Giants manager Felipe Alou said. “Of course you see no-hitters early and shutouts. I don’t know, maybe something is going on. … There have been a lot of wet fields, even in California. That probably has something to do with commanding the baseball. Then, it’s been cold and cold weather helps pitchers and not hitters. It’s one of those things that’s hard to explain.”

Baseball toughened drug testing last year, suspending first offenders for 10 days. Home runs dropped 8 percent to their lowest per-game average since 1997, and some thought there was a link. This year, first offenders will be suspended for 50 games.

Barry Zito was on the losing end of Oakland’s 15-2 rout by the New York Yankees on opening day in which the left-hander lasted only 1 1/3 innings – the shortest outing of his career. Zito, tagged for seven runs, was done after 59 pitches, the first time he failed to last two innings.