It’s a star-studded baseball Friday, which is something we’ve been waiting for all week. We finally have another stellar pitching duel, and a legitimate handful of aces in isolation as well. Check ’em out!
Stephen Strasburg (WAS) versus Noah Syndergaard (NYM)
7:10 p.m. ET
It’s been since Syndergaard’s last starta��a throttling of Jon Lestera��that we’ve had an honest-to-goodness duel, but we’re back in black for this one as Strasburg and Syndergaard tangle at Citi Field. Strasburg has yet to suffer a loss of his own (the Nats are 14-1 in his starts) and he’s coming off one of his weirder starts of the year. After missing a couple weeks with a back issue, Strasburg returned with 6.2 no-hit innings against the Reds. But his pitch count ran up and he got the gate at 109, with five strikeouts and an uncharacteristic four walks. It speaks to just how good Strasburg is that he doesn’t need to be sharp to still absolutely dominate a team. For the year, opposing batters are hitting just .208 against him, and he has a sparkling 123-28 K/BB ratio in 99.2 innings.
Thor was complicit with the thrashing of Lester, who didn’t get out of the second before allowing eight runs to the Mets. The righty tossed seven strong innings, scattering as many hits with one earned run and an 8-0 K/BB ratio. Pretty much a classic Thor start, quite frankly. After some elbow worries and a clunker of a start against the Nationals in his penultimate start, that was good to see. Now, he gets to try exorcise those Nats demons; they smacked him around a bit for five earned runs in three innings with five strikeouts and three walks, as he was all out of sorts in his 71-pitch outing. To this observer, it seems like pitchers have held the upper hand this season in matchups that came back-to-back or in a close proximity like this one, so we’ll see if that trend holds.
Aces in Isolation
Jake Arrieta (CHC) versus Pittsburgh’s Francisco Liriano
Arrieta’s weird run that stretches almost all the way back to the beginning of June continued last time out against the Mets, as he allowed eight hits and four earned runs in 5.1 innings with four strikeouts and two walks to take his third loss of the season. Arrieta’s ERA spiked up to 2.33, which is more than fine for mere mortals but the highest mark he’s had after any start all season. And that stretch we’re talking about? It goes five games, and he’s got a 3.81 ERA with a .642 OPS against. Again, a solid stretch for mere mortals, but in those 28.1 innings he has 28 strikeouts and 16 walks. Keep this in mind: in one of those five starts he had 11 strikeouts, so his K/BB gap is 17-13 in the other four, and he has just a nine percent swinging strike rate in that five-game stretch. Again that’s cherry picking to some extent, but things just seem… not quite right, ya know? Fortunately for Arrieta, that good start in that stretch came against these same Pirates, so there’s a bit of positive mojo heading into tonight.
Corey Kluber (CLE) versus New York’s Chad Green
The newly-minted All-Star Kluber gets the Yankees on this occasion, and is coming off one of what has become sort of his trademark a�?duds.a�? After consecutive strong outings against the Rays and Braves, Kluber was throttled by the Blue Jays for five earned runs in just 3.1 innings with four strikeouts and four walks. His overall numbers are just finea��3.79 ERA, 114-27 K/BB ratio and .219 BAAa��but he still has these duds from time to time that keep him from being that Cy Young-like contender he was a year or two ago. And maybe part of the issue was putting too much stock in performances against Tampa Bay and Atlantaa��two of the worst MLB teams right now. But until he can clean up these duds, he’ll have to settle for being just really (redacted) good. I’m sure he’ll manage.
JosA� FernA?ndez (MIA) versus Cincinnati’s Dan Straily
It feels like we’re bagging on all these aces but FernA?ndez is also coming off getting tattooed last time out. One night after he drove in a key run with a pinch-hit double, FernA?ndez was rocked by the Braves for nine runs (six earned) in 5.2 innings with a pair of home runs alloweda��to Freddie Freeman and Jace Peterson. With the paucity of power Atlanta’s showed this year, that’s hard to do. But true to form, FernA?ndez still fanned eight batters and walked just one, and now has a nearly 50 strikeout gap between whiffs (146) and innings pitched (100.1). That’s a league-high 13.1 K/9 (as a starter!), as FernA?ndez is just nine strikeouts behind MLB leader Max Scherzer in the raw count. That’s not bad, considering JoFer has thrown 20.1 fewer innings this season. In fact, every pitcher within 15 strikeouts of FernA?ndez has thrown at least 15 innings more than him.
Cole Hamels (TEX) versus Minnesota’s Kyle Gibson
Hamels will be in search of revenge after the Twins roughed him up a bit on Sunday at Target Field. The Twins posted 10 hits and five runs in just four frames against Hamels to hand him his first road loss of the season. It’s most likely a blip on the radar screen for Hamels, who has battled some issues with command this yeara��though he has just one start with more than three walks in his last 10a��but has recently gotten his ERA under 3.00 with a strong stretch. The Minneapolis mauling moved it up to 2.93, but he was still coming off a stretch of just one earned run over the span of three starts (20.2 innings, 21-6 K/BB ratio). He might be DFS streaming gold tonight, FWIW.
Chris Sale (CWS) versus Atlanta’s Matt Wisler
Sale too might be DFS gold at home against an iffy-at-best Braves offense. Sale also hasn’t been perfect of late, but the White Sox have won his last five starts and in that span he’s got a K/BB ratio of 40-6 in those 35 innings. That picks up some of the slack where he hadn’t been striking out guys as much this season, but it does give a little back in the form of an ERA of 3.86. Opposing batters have hit him at a .244/.286/.435 rate, as he’s allowed seven home runs in that time frame. In short, things look pretty gooda��in some circles he’s the presumptive Cy Young favorite right nowa��but he’s still just not the Sale of previous years. There’s still plenty of time to get him there.