April 8, 2013
What You Need to Know
The Weekend Takeaway
As soon as first-year Indians manager Terry Francona named Justin Masterson his Opening Day starter, the former Red Sox prospect was dealt a rather intimidating early-season schedule: His first start, on Opening Day, would be a duel with Dickey; his second, five days later, would pit him against the American League’s reigning Cy Young Award winner, David Price.
Naturally, Dickey and Price combined to allow 12 runs (11 earned) over 11 innings in their outings versus the Tribe, issuing seven walks while recording only seven strikeouts. Masterson, meanwhile, worked 13 frames and permitted only one run between the two starts, the latter of which paved the way for a 13-0 rout yesterday afternoon. In doing so, the Indians’ number-one starter became the first pitcher in major-league history to defeat each of the defending Cy Young Award winners in his first two starts of the subsequent season.
By the end of the day on Sunday, Masterson’s ERA stood at a cool 0.69. Price, who led all qualifying American League starters with a 2.56 ERA in 2012, saw his 2013 mark rise to 8.18. And Dickey, also the victim of a 13-0 shellacking—this one at the hands of the Red Sox—and the runner-up in the National League ERA race (2.73) last year, was left to ponder the exchange rate on his newly minted 8.44.
But Dickey and Price weren’t the only aces sent off early on Sunday, following uncharacteristically poor efforts. Cole Hamels, who had not been charged with more than seven earned runs in an outing since July 16, 2011, coughed up eight in 5 2/3 innings to the Royals. Matt Cain, who cruised through the first three innings of his date with the Cardinals on 30 pitches, threw 36 pitches before exiting in the bottom of the fourth inning, and was ultimately saddled with a career-high nine earned runs. Earlier in the day, Stephen Strasburg needed 114 pitches to record 16 outs against the Reds and hit the showers with six earned runs on his line for the third time in his career.
And then, in a fitting conclusion to a topsy-turvy slate, the widely anticipated Sunday Night Baseball duel between Yu Darvish and Jered Weaver quickly devolved into a game of “who can have more trouble finding the strike zone.” The right-handers both lasted only five innings, and each doled out four walks, in what eventually became a 7-3 Rangers win. For Weaver, who suffered a strained left elbow on a fielding play, the dud marked his first April defeat since 2009. Darvish, who seldom missed his intended target in a near-perfect game against the Astros on Opening Day, was dealing with a blister on his right ring finger last night. His outing marked the first time that he had issued four or more walks in a start since August 12, 2012. Darvish had met or exceeded that total in half of his first 22 major-league outings, but had avoided doing so in each of his last eight.
Matchup of the Day
The 25-year-old righty’s biggest challenge may well be posed by Carlos Beltran, who has had no trouble finding the seats in their past encounters. Beltran is 4-for-11 lifetime versus Latos, with three homers, three walks, and only one strikeout. That’s good for a 1.682 OPS, the highest mark owned by any hitter that has faced Latos at least 10 times.
After serving up a gopher ball in his first meeting with Beltran, back on September 14, 2011, Latos has tried a host of different approaches. He threw consecutive, full-count curveballs the next time Beltran dug in but issued a walk, and then began Beltran’s ensuing plate appearance with a pair of benders, only to cough up another homer on a sinker.
More recently, though, the battle has turned in Latos’ favor. Since Beltran drew one more walk and slugged one more home run last April 18, Latos has limited him to only a single and a walk over eight plate appearances, typically choosing to establish his fastball (or sinker) to begin their showdowns. The single came on the second pitch of a curveball-only at-bat, while the walk came after three consecutive sliders, so establishing the hard stuff to set up the breaking arsenal may be Latos’ best bet this afternoon (4:15 p.m. ET).
What to Watch for on Monday