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The week ahead: Five big things to watch

1. Can the Detroit Tigers and Kansas City Royals keep up their hot starts?

The impressive thing about their 6-0 start is the run differentials: The Tigers were plus-31 and the Royals plus-25. Here are the last 15 teams to start 6-0, with their run differential over those six games and then their final record for the season:

2011 Rangers (+22): 96-66

2003 Giants (+20): 100-61

2003 Royals (+19): 83-79

2002 Giants (+36): 95-66

1998 Indians (+21): 89-73

1996 Rangers (+28): 90-72

1994 Braves (+21): 68-46

1992 Blue Jays (+13): 96-66

1992 Yankees (+20): 76-86

1991 White Sox (+18): 87-75

1990 Reds (+22): 91-71

1987 Brewers (+13): 91-71

1987 Astros (+13): 76-86

1985 Tigers (+16): 84-77

1985 Mariners (+18): 74-88

The Tigers' plus-31 differential ranks second only to the 2002 Giants, who allowed just five runs in their first games. The Royals' plus-25 would rank fourth out of the 17 teams.

While starting 6-0 is certainly impressive, keep in mind that a six-game winning streak at any point during the season -- which is a better way to look at this -- isn't that unique. There were 30 such streaks of at least six games last year, by 19 different teams (the Tigers and Angels each had four such streaks). Among the teams with six-game streaks were the Astros, Braves, Marlins, Rangers, Rays, Red Sox and Rockies, all of whom finished under .500.

Still, these are dominating starts for the Tigers and Royals. The Tigers are hitting .355 -- Miguel Cabrera is hitting .520 after back-to-back four-hit games -- and the Royals have hit nine home runs. The Tigers have three games in Pittsburgh and then three at home against the White Sox while the Royals have three in Minnesota and then three at home against Oakland.

2. Archie Bradley versus Madison Bumgarner.

This is my favorite pitching matchup of the week, taking place on Thursday. In his major-league debut for the Arizona Diamondbacks, Bradley drew Clayton Kershaw -- and beat him. Now he gets Bumgarner in his second. Bradley was effectively wild against the Dodgers, walking four in six innings but allowing just one hit. He's definitely confident on the mound, although not cocky, and was quick to praise catcher Tuffy Gosewisch after the game. The stuff showed why he's a top-20 prospect, but his command and refinement are certainly still in development. Bumgarner, meanwhile, is coming off one of the worst outings of his career: He surrendered 10 hits and five runs over just three innings.

3. Is the Washington Nationals' offense really this bad?

Jayson Werth returns from the disabled list, so that should help, but minus Werth, Anthony Rendon and Denard Span, the Nationals scored 13 runs while going 2-4 in their first six games. The Dan Uggla experiment at second base is going about as well as expected with a .111 average, no walks and five strikeouts. What are the odds that would work out, knowing he's a poor defender to start with? That ranks right up there with the Reds using Kevin Gregg as a setup guy as the worst decisions of the first week. The Nationals have three at Fenway and then four at home against the Phillies.

4. Strikeouts and shutouts.

Guess what? Strikeouts are up early, from 7.70 per game in 2014 to 7.86 so far. In turn, the MLB batting average so far is .241, down from .251 (although runs per game are up slightly, from 4.07 to 4.17). We also had 20 shutouts the first week, giving us a pace of 534 shutouts -- compared to 353 last season. You know who's not striking out? The Tigers and Royals.

5. Series of the week: Cincinnati Reds at St. Louis Cardinals (Friday-Sunday).

As much as for any team, I think it's important for the Reds to get off to a good start -- in part to limit all the rumors and trade talks involving Johnny Cueto and Aroldis Chapman if the Reds start slipping under .500. Good matchup on Friday: Cueto versus Michael Wacha. The Reds had a good first week with Joey Votto and Todd Frazier each slugging three home runs and Billy Hamilton posting a respectable .357 OBP from the leadoff spot, and going 7-for-7 on steals.