LEADING OFF: Darvish-Tanaka for first time in US; Felix back
A look at what's happening all around the majors today:
DARVISH VS. TANAKA
The last meeting between Yu Darvish (6-5, 3.35 ERA) and Masahiro Tanaka (5-7, 6.34) was six years ago and nearly 7,000 miles away from Yankee Stadium. The Japanese pitchers will start opposite each other for the first time in the majors when the Rangers play a series opener in New York. "I think it's something hopefully that Japanese baseball fans are looking forward to," Tanaka said through an interpreter. In four head-to-head matchups in Japan, Darvish was 2-1 with a 1.36 ERA and Tanaka 1-3 with a 2.90 ERA. The last was July 20, 2011, the year before Darvish went to Texas. Both threw complete games, with Darvish's team winning 3-1. "I remember he threw it away on a pickoff at first," Darvish said through his interpreter.
KING OF THE NORTHWEST
Felix Hernandez will rejoin the Mariners rotation as they open a three-game series against the Houston Astros. Hernandez hasn't pitched since April 26 because of inflammation in his right shoulder. The rehab took a little longer than expected, but Hernandez was excellent in his final start with Triple-A Tacoma, throwing six shutout innings and striking out eight. Returning against Houston is a tough task. Hernandez has lost his last three starts against the Astros.
Ubaldo Jimenez and the Orioles try to avoid a bit of ignominious history as they open a series at Tampa Bay. Baltimore has allowed at least five runs in 19 straight games, one shy of the major league record set by the 1924 Philadelphia Phillies. Jimenez (2-2, 6.25) is making his second turn after returning to the rotation with seven innings of two-run ball against St. Louis on Sunday.
Last season, Boston's Rick Porcello won the AL Cy Young Award, and the Angels' Alex Meyer posted a 5.68 ERA while getting traded and shuttling back and forth from the minors. But that was last year. Porcello (3-9, 5.05) has struggled to replicate that form, losing his last four decisions, while the 6-foot-9 Meyer (3-3, 3.53) has a 1.19 ERA in four June starts. The pair square off in the opener of a three-game series at Fenway Park.
While the Red Sox are struggling to get production at third base, former Boston infielder Travis Shaw is having a breakout season with the NL Central-leading Brewers. Milwaukee acquired Shaw in December from the Sox in a package for reliever Tyler Thornburg, who is going to miss the entire season following surgery for thoracic outlet syndrome. Shaw is batting .298 with 14 homers and 51 RBIs for Milwaukee, which opens a series against Atlanta.
A pair of promising left-handers will start as the Rockies and Dodgers open a big three-game series in Los Angeles. Alex Wood (7-0, 1.90 ERA) has allowed just four runs over his past six starts for the Dodgers, including one over eight innings against Cincinnati last time out. Kyle Freeland (8-4, 3.42) is 1-0 with a 1.80 ERA in two career starts against L.A.
Mark Leiter Jr. (0-0, 4.74) was in the Phillies clubhouse Thursday and is expected to be recalled from Triple-A Lehigh Valley to make his first big league start against Arizona. The 26-year-old right-hander, who made 12 relief appearances earlier this season, is the son of former big league pitcher Mark Leiter and nephew of former pitcher Al Leiter.
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