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

Jacob deGrom, oft-injured Rangers ace, to have season-ending right elbow surgery

rangers degrom
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ARLINGTON, Texas — The Texas Rangers signed Jacob deGrom to a $185 million, five-year deal in free agency last winter hoping the two-time NL Cy Young Award winner could help them get back to the playoffs for the first time since 2016 and make a push toward winning a World Series.

They also knew the risks, with the pitcher coming off two injury-plagued seasons with the New York Mets.

Even with deGrom sidelined since late April, the AL West-leading Rangers are off to the best start in franchise history – but now will be without their prized acquisition until at least next year. The team said Tuesday that deGrom will have season-ending surgery next week to repair a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow.

“We’ve got a special group here and to not be able to be out there and help them win, that stinks,” deGrom said, pausing several times with tears in his eyes. “Wanting to be out there and helping the team, it’s a disappointment.”

General manager Chris Young said Tuesday the decision on surgery came after an MRI on deGrom’s ailing right elbow, but the extent of what is required might not be determined until the operation is performed next week.

Tommy John surgery, in which the damaged ligament is replaced, is often needed to fix a torn UCL, but Young and the Rangers didn’t go as far as saying the pitcher would have that particular procedure. After being drafted by the New York Mets in 2010, deGrom made six starts in the minors that summer before needing Tommy John surgery and missing all of 2011, three years before his big league debut.

DeGrom last pitched April 28 against the New York Yankees, when he exited early because of injury concerns for the second time in a span of three starts. The announcement about surgery came a day after deGrom was transferred to the 60-day injured list.

Young said the latest MRI showed more inflammation and significant structural damage in the ligament that wasn’t there on the scan after deGrom left the game against the Yankees.

“The results of that MRI show that we have not made progress. And in fact, we’ve identified some damage to the ligament,” Young said. “It’s obviously a tough blow for Jacob, for certainly the Rangers. But we do feel this is what is right for Jacob in his career. We’re confident he’ll make a full recovery.”

Young and deGrom, who turns 35 later this month, said the goal is for the pitcher to return near the end of next season. Both said they were glad to have clarity on what was wrong with the elbow.

Texas won all six games started by deGrom (2-0), but the right-hander threw only 30 1/3 innings. He has a 2.67 ERA with 45 strikeouts and four walks. He threw 3 2/3 scoreless innings against the Yankees in his last start before leaving because of discomfort in his arm.

The Rangers went into Tuesday night’s game against St. Louis with a 39-20 record, the first time they were 19 games over .500 since the end of 2016, their last winning season.

Before going home to Florida over the weekend for the birth of his third child, deGrom threw his fifth bullpen last Wednesday in Detroit.

“I’d have days where I’d feel really good, days where I didn’t feel great. So I was kind of riding a roller coaster there for a little bit,” deGrom said. “They said originally there, we just saw some inflammation. … Getting an MRI right after you pitch, I feel like anybody would have inflammation. So, you know, I was hoping that that would get out of there and I would be fine. But it just didn’t work out that way.”

DeGrom spent his first nine big league seasons with the Mets, but was limited by injuries to 156 1/3 innings over 26 starts during his last two years in New York.

He had a career-low 1.08 ERA over 92 innings in 2021 before missing the final three months of the season with right forearm tightness and a sprained elbow.

The four-time All-Star didn’t make his first big league start last year until Aug. 2 after being shut down late in spring training because of a stress reaction in his right scapula.

His latest injury almost surely will trigger Texas’ conditional option on deGrom’s contract for 2028.

The option takes effect if deGrom has Tommy John surgery on his right elbow from 2023-26 or has any right elbow or shoulder injury that causes him to be on the IL for any period of 130 consecutive days during any season or 186 days in a row during any service period.

The conditional option would be for $20 million, $30 million or $37 million, depending on deGrom’s performance during the contract and health following the 2027 season.

“I feel bad for Jake. If I know Jake, he’ll have the surgery and come back and finish his career strong,” second-year Mets manager Buck Showalter said. “I know how much it means to him. He enjoys pitching. It’s certainly sad news for all of us.”