The 2021 MLB season is now in full swing. With most starters now sufficiently stretched out, this week’s top pitching matchups look to be a doozy. Note that all game times below are in EDT and the matchups may be subject to change.
While the 2021 season hasn’t been kind to the future Hall of Famers so far, it would be unwise to underestimate either man. Scherzer had an uneven season debut against the Braves, giving up four runs in six innings, but also striking out nine. Kershaw, meanwhile, was roughed up in his first start to the tune of five runs and 10 hits in 5.2 innings. He then bounced back in his second start, needing only 91 pitches to hold the A’s to one run and four hits through seven innings.
This will be a key rematch between two of the top AL Cy Young contenders. Neither Cole nor Ryu were at their sharpest in the season opener when each man gave up two runs in 5.1 innings. Unsurprisingly, both men performed much more like their usual selves in their second starts. Cole struck out 13 over seven shutout innings against the Orioles, while Ryu efficiently held the Rangers to two runs through seven innings.
Is this finally the year Eovaldi puts it all together? Through two starts it sure looks like it. In 12.1 innings, he’s only given up two runs and seven hits, all while racking up 11 strikeouts. Maeda certainly knows something about breaking out after a few up-and-down seasons. That said, the 2020 AL Cy Young runner up has been middling so far. While a fifth inning jam led to an early exit in his first start, he was great in his second start, going six innings and giving up two runs against the Tigers.
Another divisional showdown between Cy Young hopefuls, Hendricks and Woodruff are about as evenly matched as possible. In their April 7 meeting, Hendricks fired six shutout innings, striking out six and giving up four hits. Woodruff, on the other hand, went seven scoreless, recording eight strikeouts and giving up only one hit. Though the Brewers ultimately came out on top in the 10th inning, it’s still anybody’s game once again.
Burnes enters this game as the hottest pitcher in baseball. Through his first two starts, he’s given up just one run on two hits and zero walks, all while striking out a NL-leading 20 batters. In fact, he’s the first starting pitcher in history to have back-to-back outings of at least six innings with zero walks and only one hit. But this game isn’t all about him. There must be something in the water in Chicago because against all odds, Arrieta is pitching like a stud again. Following some forgettable years in Philadelphia, he’s pitching like his old self again. In both of his starts, he’s gone six innings and given up two runs or less, all while keeping his pitch count below 90.
Has there ever been a more unlucky pitcher than deGrom? After seeing his six shutout innings in the season opener get washed away by the Mets bullpen, he again watched helplessly as his team wasted one of the best outings of his career last Saturday. On just 95 pitches, he put up a career-high 14 strikeouts in eight innings against the Marlins, but was ultimately strapped with the loss as the Mets got shutout. It’s hard to expect things to be different this time, especially as Eflin is one of the better pitchers in the NL East. He was electric in his season debut against the Braves, recording eight strikeouts and needing only 80 pitches to complete seven innings. His second start against the Braves was less impressive (six innings, four runs), but they are one of the best hitting teams in the league after all.
After a rough season debut that lasted just 4.2 innings against the Angels, Lynn was firing on all cylinders in his second start. Facing the Royals, he recorded the second complete game shutout of his career. In it, he struck out 11 batters while surrendering five hits and zero walks. He’ll face stiffer competition this time from the Indians and Civale. In his first outing, Civale went seven innings, giving up three runs on a pair of home runs. Other than those two mistakes, he was unhittable all day. He was even better in his second start, going 7.2 innings and letting only a single run score against the Tigers.
While not as flashy as the other duels on this list, both Smyly and Davies have proven themselves to be consistently above average starters. In his first start this year, Smyly gave up two earned runs in six innings against the Nationals, striking out eight and walking one. As for Davies, he was nearly perfect through five innings in his first start against the Pirates, before allowing a pair of earned runs in the sixth. Unfortunately, he followed up this strong outing with a disastrous one against the Pirates on Saturday. Unable to get out of the second inning, he wound up allowing seven runs to score before getting pulled. Given his stellar track record, though, this type of outing shouldn’t be viewed as the new norm for Davies.
Here’s two guys who really needed to get off on the right foot this season. Still not fully recovered from a forearm injury that derailed a dominant 2019 season, Glasnow had an uneven 2020. Now, two starts into 2021, it’s looking like he may finally make good on all his potential. He opened his season with a one-hit, six-inning shutout of the Marlins, followed by another six innings of one-run ball against the Red Sox who he recorded nine strikeouts against. Not to be outdone, Montgomery also threw six shutout innings with seven strikeouts and zero walks in his season debut against the Orioles. As he looks to solidify his place as a core member of the Yankees’ rotation, continued success like this will be of the utmost importance.
Clayton Kershaw (LAD) vs. Yu Darvish (SDP) (8:40 pm)
Just as this week begins with Kershaw taking on an elite Cy Young hopeful, it ends the same way. At 34 years old, Darvish, the all-time leader in strikeout rate, continues to blow past batters with ease. In 10.2 innings this season, he already has 13 strikeouts. He has, however, given up five runs and 11 hits, including four runs and eight hits in his season debut against the Diamondbacks. Regardless, this matchup will be an important one as both aces will need to be at their best if they want to help their team claim the NL West title.
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