What to watch for in today's games

Royals' Ventura back to oppose Tigers' Price; Mets' Harvey eyes 6-0

What to watch for in today's games

Today puts a spotlight on a host of division rivalries, but none are more compelling than the collision atop the American League Central. The Tigers and Royals are separated by a thin margin at the top of the division, and they'll both start ace-caliber arms when they meet in Friday's series opener.

Kansas City will go with the combustible Yordano Ventura, who's returning from a seven-game suspension stemming from an incident against the White Sox on April 23. Ventura, a fiery right-hander, has gone 2-2 with a 4.94 ERA in five starts this season, but he logged a 3.20 ERA last year.

The Tigers will counter with David Price, who threw a five-hitter and just missed a shutout in a start against Kansas City last Saturday. Lorenzo Cain took Price deep for the Royals' only run in that game, and the left-hander has completed at least eight innings in three of his first six starts.

Here are a few other matchups and games to look forward to tonight.

Harvey and Hamels: NYM @ PHI, 7:05 p.m. ET
Matt Harvey can become the first pitcher in the Major Leagues to get six victories, and he'll have to get past Cole Hamels and the Phillies to do it. Harvey is 5-0 with a 2.41 ERA in his first five outings, and he's managed to hold the opposition to three earned runs or fewer four times.

Harvey improves to 5-0

Hamels, the 2008 World Series Most Valuable Player Award winner, has met some greater adversity. The southpaw is 1-3 with a 4.14 ERA through his first six starts, and he's already allowed eight home runs this season. Last year, Hamels allowed just 14 homers in 30 starts en route to a 2.46 ERA.

The surprising Mets have placed a firm grip on the National League East, and Philadelphia is trying to keep from getting too far behind the pace. The Phillies are 6-6 at home this season.

Marquee attractions: SD @ ARI, 9:40 p.m. ET
The Padres splurged on a rejuvenating offseason makeover, and they'll send prized acquisition James Shields to the mound in Arizona. The right-hander has gone 3-0 with a 3.72 ERA in his first six games with the Padres, and five of the outings have been quality starts.

Shields' 12 strikeouts

San Diego has also gotten production from its imported outfield of Matt Kemp, Wil Myers and Justin Upton. Upton, in particular, has crushed seven home runs in his first 28 games.

Arizona will pitch Jeremy Hellickson, who has notched a 1-3 record and a 5.20 ERA in his first five outings. Hellickson has allowed more than four earned runs in two of his first five starts. Rookie Yasmany Thomas is hitting .310 through his first 15 games in the Majors for Arizona.

Return of the Freak: MIA @ SF, 10:15 p.m. ET
Tim Lincecum may be five seasons removed from his peak, but he may also be experiencing a renaissance. The two-time Cy Young Award winner has managed a 2-2 record and a 2.40 ERA in his first five starts, but he hasn't logged a season ERA under 3.00 since his 2.74 mark in 2011.

Lincecum's scoreless start

The Marlins will counter with Jarred Cosart, who has a 2.97 ERA to show for his first five outings. The 25-year-old gave up three earned runs in his last outing, but in his prior two starts, he pitched 14 innings and was charged with just one run. Cosart has 18 strikeouts and eight walks this year.

Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.