Thursday slates are typically short, but not this one. We have a quartet of aces in isolation and a young righty charging down the back nine like he’s got something to prove. Check ’em out!
Ace in Isolation
RHP Jacob deGrom (NYM) versus Philadelphia RHP Vince Velasquez
deGrom got touched up a bit by a great Dodgers offense last time out—three earned runs in five innings, including a pair of home runs—but still managed eight strikeouts in a 6-0 loss at Citi Field. It continued a stretch of five starts in a row where deGrom had allowed three or fewer earned runs. And, it was the first in that stretch that did not qualify as a quality start. It was also the first time in that stretch where deGrom’s ERA did not go down, which has been a constant for the righty since his ERA peaked at 4.75 a couple months ago. He’s now at 3.36, and has a good chance to improve against an iffy Phillies offense (87 wRC+, 27th in MLB) which will get a shot in the arm from the call-up of Rhys Hoskins.
RHP Sonny Gray (NYY) versus Toronto RHP Marco Estrada
Gray’s first start in pinstripes was respectable, as the 27-year-old righty tossed six innings of four-run ball (just two earned, though) with six strikeouts and three walks. Three first-inning errors started the game off on the wrong foot. But, Gray hung in there in a 5-1 loss to the Indians. The Blue Jays (94 wRC+, t-17th in MLB) will be a bit easier on the eyes—or the arm—but they did just see him in his final start in an A’s uniform. It was also at Rogers Centre, and the righty tossed six innings of four-run ball—zero earned in an odd coincidence—with nine strikeouts and a pair of walks.
The dynamic of how an offense fares when facing a pitcher twice in such a close proximity is fascinating. But in the three-year history of this column, I’m not sure if we have a concrete answer. We’ve seen all different types of situations play out.
RHP Yu Darvish (LAD) versus Arizona LHP Anthony Banda
Whatever it was the Marlins picked up on in the last Rangers start for Darvish was nowhere to be found in his first start for the Dodgers. The righty sliced and diced the Mets in seven shutout innings, scattering three hits with 10 strikeouts and just one walk in a 6-0 win. Darvish makes for great insurance with the injury potential with the lefty trio of Alex Wood, Clayton Kershaw and Rich Hill, sure. But it’s also dangerous to think about what that quartet would be capable of if they’re all healthy come October. This’ll be a good matchup, though. The Diamondbacks are in the midst of a terrific season as well (64-49). The Dodgers can clinch a .500 season with a win here.
LHP James Paxton (SEA) versus Los Angeles LHP Tyler Skaggs
Paxton has quietly taken over as the ace in the Pacific northwest with a 2.70 ERA and well, well over a strikeout per inning for the M’s this season. Paxton hasn’t allowed more than three earned runs in any of his last nine starts—including eight straight quality starts—and his ERA has dropped from 3.39 to its present-day mark over that stretch. Here’s what he’s done to opponents over that time frame: 2.18 ERA, 70-12 K/BB ratio in 57.2 innings and an OPS against of .526. Paxton has allowed five home runs all season. But in an odd quirk, they all came in June—one apiece in each of his five starts that month. Symmetry is weird, man.
Danny Salazar isn’t quite there yet (4.32 ERA), but he’s been a man on fire since coming back from the disabled list. He’s allowed just three earned runs in 20 innings with 28 strikeouts and just five walks. That’s dropped his ERA more than a run. And if the Indians needed anything for the stretch run, it was obviously another stud pitcher behind Corey Kluber and Carlos Carrasco, right?