What we're watching – June 2

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– The only five-game winner to start Monday was Todd Wellemeyer.
Tonight, we get aces Johan Santana, Tim Lincecum, Roy Halladay, Dan
Haren and Jake Peavy, along with Erik Bedard, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Rick
Porcello, A.J. Burnett, Ubaldo Jimenez and Joe Saunders. Plus, there
are seven-game winners Kevin Slowey and Bronson Arroyo, as well as Zach
Duke, Randy Wolf, Randy Wells and their sub-3.00 ERAs. In other words,
it’s a good night for pitching.

– Unfortunately, that’s going to make it hard to watch the two
starters making their major league debuts: Oakland’s Vin Mazzaro and
Philadelphia’s Antonio Bastardo. Mazzaro, 22, had a 2.38 ERA, 42 hits
allowed and a 44/17 K/BB ratio in 56 2/3 innings for Sacramento. I
suspect that he’ll be a long-term reliever, but he’s worth watching as
a starter with his low-90s fastball and slider.

Seeing Bastardo get the nod over Andrew Carpenter in Brett Myers’
place was a pleasant surprise. The 23-year-old lefty is hardly a sure
thing, but he has a very good changeup to complement an average
fastball. He had a 1.89 ERA and a 51/10 K/BB in 47 2/3 innings between
Double- and Triple-A to start the year.

– The AL’s only two teams with 30 wins will begin another series
tonight. This one will take place in New York after the Yankees won two
out of three in Texas least week. Vicente Padilla will return from the
DL to start for the Rangers. A.J. Burnett will get the ball for the
Yankees. Both right-handers have identical 3-2 records and ERAs in the
4.70s. Mark Teixeira will get another crack at his old team agter going
5-for-14 with two homers and five RBI in the series last week.

Game of the Night

Boston vs. Detroit – Matsuzaka, an 18-game winner last year,
searches again for his first victory of 2009 after giving up seven runs
over 10 innings in his first two starts back from the DL. The Tigers
will counter with Porcello, who has won five straight and lowered his
ERA from 6.23 to 3.48 in the process. As impressive as Porcello has
been, he’s mostly beaten up on weak teams. In his three starts against
the AL’s top five offenses, he’s 1-2 with a 5.06 ERA.

Battle of the Aces: Max Scherzer takes on Clayton Kershaw tonight

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I hope you don’t have any plans tonight at around 10PM Eastern time, because that’s when we get a pitching matchup for the ages as Max Scherzer will take on Clayton Kershaw at Dodger Stadium. When they meet tonight it will be the first time two pitchers with three or more Cy Young Awards have matched up since 2006. That year, and in 2005 and 2000, Roger Clemens faced Greg Maddux. In 2001 Clemens faced Pedro Martinez.

Kershaw won his hardware in 2011, 2013 and 2014, with an MVP award in 2014 to boot. Scherzer collected trophies in 2013, 2016 and 2017. Each has started the 2018 season in Cy Young form. Kershaw is 1-2, but that record is due to poor run support. He has a 1.73 ERA and has struck out 31 batters and has walked only three in 26 innings. Scherzer is 3-1 with a 1.33 ERA and a whopping 38 strikeouts to only 4 walks in 27 innings.

This will be the third time that Kershaw and Scherzer faced each other if you include the playoffs. The first meeting was a decade ago when both were rookies. They most recently faced off in Game 1 of the 2016 NLDS, way back when Scherzer only had one Cy Young Award to his credit. Kershaw beat Scherzer in that playoff game and the Dodgers beat Scherzer’s teams in the two regular season matchups, with neither guy setting the world on fire. As so often happens in baseball, the hype hasn’t been matched by reality.

Still, there’s always a chance it will. And even if, in the end, this turns into a slugfest, the first couple of innings should at least give us some hope of something good. I’ll be watching.