We may not have a duel worth featured billing on this baseball Wednesday, but there’s still plenty of pitching worth keeping an eye on. Check ’em out!
Aces in Isolation
RHP Masahiro Tanaka (NYY) versus Chicago’s RHP Dylan Covey
Tanaka is still working his way back from being absolutely bombed by the Rays in his first start of the season (seven earned in 2.2 innings). His ERA is down to 8.36, which is more telling as to where it started (23.63) than anything else. The last two starts have been more encouraging, if not all that great. He’s allowed six earned runs over 11.1 innings in splitting a pair of decisions (for the team, not him) against the Orioles (loss) and the Cardinals (win). So far, Tanaka is flashing good stuff on his slider (20.3 percent whiff rate) and his splitter (23.4). Better days appear to be ahead.
RHP Chris Archer (TBR) versus Detroit’s RHP Jordan Zimmermann
Archer has been terrific for the Rays through three starts. And, his rough first half last season looks like it couldn’t be further from his mind with a 2.21 ERA through 20.1 innings. His last start was the first time this season he didn’t twirl a quality start. Yet, he still managed to allow just one earned run and six hits in 5.2 innings on the way to a 10-5 win. As one might expect, he did battle command just a little bit against the Sox, running up 102 pitches while facing 25 batters. But everything else was pretty much up to snuff on a night where the Rays bats did the talking.
LHP Madison Bumgarner (SFG) versus Kansas City’s LHP Jason Vargas
Bumgarner is off to a great start, as his 3.43 ERA doesn’t exactly portray just how great he’s been. Nor does the fact that the Giants have lost all three of his starts, with him taking it on the chin twice. Bumgarner has a sparkling 24-3 K/BB ratio through 21 innings and has posted three straight quality starts to open the season. But he’s been supported by exactly two runs total over his last two starts in taking tough-luck losses. Here’s to hoping better things are ahead for Bumgarner luck-wise. Then again, he’s taking care of business the only way he can, short of hitting a bunch of homers. Don’t test him; he’ll do that too. Just… not today, because the game is in Kansas City.
LHP Clayton Kershaw (LAD) versus Colorado’s LHP Tyler Anderson
Other than an iffy start against the Rockies—for mere mortals, four earned runs in six innings at Coors Field would be considered alright, but not for Kershaw—the lefty has been vintage Kershaw with a 22-1 K/BB ratio in 21.1 innings and a 2.53 ERA. He’s got a WHIP of 0.70 and opposing batters, as always, have virtually no chance. They’re hitting just .179 against him, with righties hitting a collective .143/.156/.270 overall. Want to impress your friends? Tell them you know the only person walked by Kershaw this year was Paul Goldschmidt. Wait, that won’t impress your friends? Hey, come back here!
Ordinarily Gerrit Cole against Michael Wacha would be one of our top matchups. But Cole is off to a clunky start. Meanwhile, Wacha has been up and down with shoulder issues the last year or so. Cole was solid against the Cubs last time out (two earned in six innings, 5-1 K/BB ratio) so better days may be coming up. Wacha is off to a fairly good start with 15 strikeouts and just three walks in 13 innings with a 2.77 ERA. He did, however, allow a pair of home runs in a loss at Yankee Stadium last time out.
After a strong 2016 season, Kyle Hendricks is off to a rough start with a 5.73 ERA through two outings. This’ll be his second look at the Brewers, who beat him up for a pair of home runs and four earned runs in six innings in his season-opening start. This one will be delayed a bit by rain, if they even get it in at all.
Like Hendricks, defending AL Cy Young winner Rick Porcello is also off to a rough start with a 7.56 ERA through three outings. Last time out was his worst, with the Rays pounding him for eight earned runs and four home runs in just 4.1 innings. Previously he had been at least adequate to start the season (4.26 ERA). Today he’s facing a desperate Blue Jays team, so something’s got to give.
Edinson Vólquez versus Félix Hernández could be a decent matchup. Vólquez has done a decent job with grounders (21 through three starts) and strikeouts (18-6 K/BB ratio) through 15.2 innings. But his WHIP (1.40) is a bit worrisome. The King is looking like he’s ready to reclaim some of his former glory. The next batter he walks will be his first with 15 strikeouts in 18.1 innings. He’s found the groundball stuff too—like when he’s at his best—with 23 grounders over the last two starts. With a 2.95 ERA, he looks like the Félix of old.
Vince Velasquez against Robert Gsellman has the highest boom-or-bust factor today. Both have big-time stuff but have also burnt out fairly quickly at points this season. Both have ERA marks at or above 9.00, so obviously this will be a 2-1 game played in a tight two hours and 20 minutes, right?
Dallas Keuchel is off to a very strong start and will look to continue that against the Angels this evening. Keuchel is back to doing what he does best, which is inducing grounders. So far, he’s posted three straight quality starts that are virtually carbon copies of one another. In all, he’s allowed two earned runs—both solo homers—in 21 innings (7.0 per start, exactly) with more than a dozen grounders induced in each outing. Sure, the strikeout numbers could use a little work (6.4 K/9). But when you’re dicing grounders at 73.1 percent, nobody cares.