Yu Darvish is making it look easy in Houston.
The 26-year-old right-hander has retired the first 21 batters he’s faced, and will carry a perfect game into the eighth inning at Minute Maid Park. He has his entire arsenal working against a weak Astros lineup — seriously, look at this slider — and boasts a career-high 12 strikeouts through seven frames.
Darvish is already up to 93 pitches and it’s his first outing of the 2013 regular season, so he might not be allowed to finish this thing off. But there isn’t a single pitcher stirring yet in the Texas bullpen.
We’ll provide regular updates as the night rolls on.
UPDATE, 10:39 p.m. ET: Darvish struck out Chris Carter swinging, Rick Ankiel looking and got Justin Maxwell to ground out in the eighth innings. He’s up to 14 strikeouts and 107 total pitches. Still perfect.
Darvish will face the bottom of the Astros’ order in the ninth inning. Texas leads Houston 7-0.
UPDATE, 10:58 p.m. ET: Darvish induced two groundouts in the ninth inning but then allowed a single up the middle to Astros shortstop Marwin Gonzalez. Darvish was pulled right after — at 111 pitches.
Right-hander Gerrit Cole is set to take the mound for the Pirates on Opening Day, according to a team announcement on Saturday. It’s a spot that was most recently occupied by former Pirate Francisco Liriano, who made three consecutive Opening Day starts for the club before getting dealt to the Blue Jays last August.
The 26-year-old produced career-worst numbers during his fourth run with the Pirates in 2016, due in large part to bouts of inflammation in his right elbow. He finished the year with a 3.88 ERA, 2.8 BB/9 and 7.6 SO/9 over 116 innings before getting shut down in September to avoid further injury to his elbow. When healthy, however, Cole has been lights-out for the Pirates. Prior to his injury-laden campaign last year, he touted a career 3.07 ERA, 2.2 BB/9, 8.5 SO/9 and cumulative 10.2 fWAR from 2013 through 2015.
Cole will go toe-to-toe with the Red Sox during Boston’s home opener on Monday, April 3. Right-hander Jameson Taillon is scheduled to make the second start of the year, while fellow righty Ivan Nova will cover the Pirates’ home opener against the Braves on April 7. The Pirates’ third and fifth starters have yet to be announced.
Cubs’ manager Joe Maddon hasn’t selected a fifth starter for his 2017 rotation yet, but told reporters that he could envision left-handers Brett Anderson and Mike Montgomery sharing the spot throughout the year. Neither pitcher was stretched out to the full 200-inning threshold last year, Maddon added, and suggested that the two could alternate innings out of the rotation and bullpen as needed (via MLB.com’s Carrie Muskat).
Anderson, 29, was acquired by the Cubs in January on a $3.5 million deal. He’s coming off a rough 2016, during which he underwent back surgery and missed all but 11 1/3 innings of his last season with the Dodgers. His last full, healthy year in the majors yielded a 3.69 ERA, 2.3 BB/9 and 5.8 SO/9 over 180 1/3 innings with Los Angeles in 2015.
Montgomery, meanwhile, is vying for a rotation spot after pitching almost exclusively from the bullpen during the second half of the Cubs’ 2016 run. The 27-year-old lefty put up a 2.82 ERA, 4.7 BB/9 and 8.9 SO/9 over 38 1/3 innings for Chicago last year, returning in the postseason to post a 3.14 ERA during the Cubs’ championship finish.
Maddon also mentioned the possibility of throwing a sixth starter into the mix, which would help prevent his other starters from getting overworked too early in the year. Either way, Anderson and Montgomery are expected to get a lot of looks early in spring training as rotation spots are finalized in the weeks leading up to Opening Day.