If the Angels had felt better about their bullpen, Garrett Richards likely would have opened the season in Triple-A as the team’s sixth starter. Since they didn’t, he was quickly emerging as a major league setup man. However, Jered Weaver’s left elbow injury has changed all that, and the Angels announced that Richards would move into the rotation and start Saturday.
Richards pitched in relief in four of the Angels’ first six games, allowing one run in 4 1/3 innings and striking out five. He’ll probably be on a modest pitch count in his first start against the Astros. While he did throw 6 1/3 innings in a start against Milwaukee on March 23, he hasn’t pitched more than three innings in an outing since.
Richards should prove to be a decent enough replacement for Weaver, but the Angels’ lack of depth is already being tested. Richards’ departure will from the pen will weaken that group and force the team to rely more on Kevin Jepsen and Mark Lowe. If another starter gets hurt, they’d likely dip back into the pen for Jerome Williams. Their most advanced pitching prospect, Nick Maronde, no longer appears to be an option after the Angels announced he’d be treated as a reliever this year.
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.