What’s on Tap: Previewing Tuesday’s action

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The Mets and Pirates are just about to kick off Game 1 of a doubleheader on Tuesday at PNC Park. Steven Matz will oppose Jon Niese in a battle of the lefties. In Game 2, right-handers Jacob deGrom and Juan Nicasio square off.

Meanwhile, the Astros-Rangers game is interesting for a handful of reasons. It’s an inter-state rivalry, of course, though the Rangers have had the upper hand in recent years. Both teams are surging, having won eight of their last 12 games. And both will send talented lefties to the mound tonight. The Rangers will send out Cole Hamels, who has been as advertised since coming over from the Phillies last summer. The Astros have defending AL Cy Young Award winner Dallas Keuchel.

Keuchel, the defending AL Cy Young Award winner, has been something of an anomaly thus far. He’s 3-7 with a 5.50 ERA and a 64/27 K/BB ratio over 75 1/3 innings. A quick look at the stats reveals what’s wrong, and it’s not just a .329 average on balls in play. Keuchel has yielded home runs on 16 percent of fly balls induced, one of the highest rates in baseball. Hamels, coincidentally, has the highest rate at 24.5 percent and somehow has managed to keep his ERA at 3.39.

Keuchel’s strikeout rate is down below 20 percent after hitting nearly 24 percent last year. His walk rate has jumped up to 8.3 percent after sitting at 5.6 percent last season. The lefty is inducing a few less ground balls, and the rate of hard contact has jumped up over eight percent from 2015. Perhaps most staggeringly, Keuchel has lost a significant amount of velocity on his pitches. Rounding up, the lefty averaged 90 MPH on his four-seam fastball in every month last season, but came in at 88 and 89 MPH in the first two months of this season. Even his slider has lost about 2 MPH, with the cutter losing about 1.5 MPH and the change-up not seeing any difference.

In each of his two most recent starts, Keuchel pitched into at least the sixth inning and gave up three or fewer runs. It’s not quite as impressive considering the hardware he won last year, but it’s a small step towards getting back on track. He’ll try to make it three in a row in tonight’s 8:05 PM EDT game against the Rangers.

The rest of Tuesday’s action…

Chicago Cubs (Kyle Hendricks) @ Philadelphia Phillies (Jerad Eickhoff), 7:05 PM EDT

Kansas City Royals (Yordano Ventura) @ Baltimore Orioles (Ubaldo Jimenez), 7:05 PM EDT

Los Angeles Angels (David Huff) @ New York Yankees (Michael Pineda), 7:05 PM EDT

St. Louis Cardinals (Mike Leake) @ Cincinnati Reds (John Lamb), 7:10 PM EDT

Toronto Blue Jays (Aaron Sanchez) @ Detroit Tigers (Matt Boyd), 7:10 PM EDT

Miami Marlins (Adam Conley) @ Minnesota Twins (Pat Dean), 8:10 PM EDT

Oakland Athletics (Sean Manaea) @ Milwaukee Brewers (Zach Davies), 8:10 PM EDT

Washington Nationals (Joe Ross) @ Chicago White Sox (Mat Latos), 8:10 PM EDT

Tampa Bay Rays (Matt Moore) @ Arizona Diamondbacks (Zack Greinke), 9:40 PM EDT

Atlanta Braves (Aaron Blair) @ San Diego Padres (Colin Rea), 10:10 PM EDT

Cleveland Indians (Cody Anderson) @ Seattle Mariners (Wade Miley), 10:10 PM EDT

Colorado Rockies (Eddie Butler) @ Los Angeles Dodgers (Julio Urias), 10:10 PM EDT

Boston Red Sox (Rick Porcello) @ San Francisco Giants (Albert Suarez), 10:15 PM EDT