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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Monday, April 10, 2017 at 3:12 PM



Hey, MLB fans, weren't the Toronto Blue Jays, the Cleveland Indians and the Texas Rangers supposed to be world-beaters in the American League this year?

Hmm, that's not exactly been the case just one full week into this here-and-now baseball season as the Jays/Indians/Rangers troika exited Sunday's action a combined 6-12 and the fact of the matter is things could get even worse before they get better for all three AL squads ... we'll explain:

Toronto (1-5) just dropped the last three games of the four-game road set in Tampa Bay where Blue Jays' LHP Francisco Liriano surrendered five runs (all earned) and four walks while not getting out of the first inning in last Friday night's game at "The Trop" - and, yes, Toronto was the betting favorite for that clash - and then on Sunday RHP Marco Estrada was pummeled to the tune of five earned runs and seven hits in five innings of work in a 7-2 loss to the Rays.

Will the boo-birds be out in Toronto for Tuesday's home opener versus the Milwaukee Brewers? We're shaking our heads "yes"! Maybe Toronto does have to worry big-time about its starting rotation.

The defending AL champ Cleveland Indians, meanwhile, have been feast or famine so far with a season-opening three-game road sweep of the Texas Rangers that was immediately followed by a three-game sweep at the hands of the National League's Arizona Diamondbacks—the 7-3, 11-2, 3-2 broom job featured two unearned runs scored by the Tribe in Sunday's loss and new DH Edwin Encarnacion is batting just .217 with just one home run in 20 at-bats.

If Cleveland (3-3) thinks all be well soon enough - basically the sentiments espoused by cool/calm manager Terry Francona - then consider his team's a quick -7 in runs differential and that's with what figures to be one of the top three lineups in MLB.

Finally, let's chart about the Rangers (2-4) who - as we pointed out - started with getting swept three straight by Cleveland before the Arlington gang copped two-of-three against the visiting Oakland A's.

True, Texas has averaged a healthy 5.5 runs per game thus far and fiery 2B Roughned Odor already has whacked three dingers to go along with a .944 slugging percentage but that pitching staff (see 5.80 ERA to rank next-to-last in the junior circuit) has major holes and anyone laying significant prices with this starting rotation may need to re-think his/her nightly plays.

The bottom line is the Blue Jays, Indians and Rangers all have plenty of time to straighten out their situations and make this a fun/profitable year but so far lots of warts have popped up and we won't be totally shocked if a couple of these squads never "fire" this whole '17 season.

Jim Hurley and his Network of Handicappers/Bloggers are hitting their stride these days in pro hoops and we'll be cashing in big with the NBA and Major-League Baseball each and every day this month. Just go online or call our exclusive toll-free telephone # of 1-800-323-4453 and we'll send you straight into the winner's circle. Remember: The NBA Playoffs will begin on Saturday, April 15th


No question these final few nights of NBA regular-season action will feature some truly wacky/memorable moments but let's simply preview some Monday/Tuesday action from a wild Eastern Conference ...

On Monday night, it's ...

CLEVELAND (51-29) at MIAMI (39-41) - 7:35 p.m. ET
How about the fact the defending NBA champion Cavaliers are knotted atop the Eastern Conference with the gritty/gutty Boston Celtics and here's Cleveland megastar (and former Miami Heat two-time champ/icon) LeBron James fighting for his #1 seed life back in his old haunts in South Beach?

James and Company were trimmed 126-125 in overtime at 5-point underdog Atlanta on Sunday afternoon as The King piled up 32 points, 16 rebounds and 10 points but he fouled out late in overtime and the Cavs could not get "mission accomplished" without 'em.

Can James go 36-to-40 minutes here? Hmm, might be a problem especially against a Heat club that has some momentum following last Saturday's 106-103 triumph at 3.5-point fav Washington.
Remember the Heat's tied with Chicago for the final playoff spot in the East.

ORLANDO (28-52) at CHICAGO (39-41) - 8:05 p.m.
Speaking of the born-again Bulls who've won five of their last seven games SU (straight-up) to climb back into this race for the post-season, the return of G Dwyane Wade (14 points, 7 rebounds, 2 assists) in last Saturday's painful 107-106 loss at 3-point home dog Brooklyn was nonetheless encouraging after he missed nearly a month following a fractured elbow. But can Wade and G Jimmy Butler (33 points versus the Nets including 5-of-5 triple makes) squash the pesky Magic here and give the Chitowners a fighting chance to pull out a playoff berth with a home game on Wednesday against the aforementioned Nets still on the docket?

On Tuesday, it's ...
CHARLOTTE (36-44) at ATLANTA (42-38) - 7:35 p.m. ET The Hawks cannot rest on their collective laurels following that OT win against Cleveland; after all, Atlanta is trying hard to hold off challengers Milwaukee (41-39) and/or Indiana (40-40) for that #5 seed for the seemingly more palatable first-round playoff showdown against Washington. One note here regarding the Hawks: They are getting a major boost these days from G Tim Hardaway Jr. (21 points, 9 rebs and 4 assists against the Cavs on Sunday) while All-Star F Paul Millsap continues to light it up (22 points versus the Cavs). Atlanta's won three in a row and Mike Budenholzer's club may be peaking at precisely the right time.

NOTE: Catch more NBA News/Notes/Previews plus there's MLB Updates and our NFL Draft Reports in the coming editions of Jim Sez.

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