Zimmermann-Cole, Salazar-Archer among the pitching duels set for the afternoon
By Andrew Simon
This is the kind of day when you just might get distracted at your desk -- or better yet, be tempted to call in sick.
After all, seven of today's 12 Major League games start between 12:35 and 4:05 p.m. ET, giving fans quite a feast of afternoon baseball. So get those sunglasses out and get ready for a slate that includes some intriguing pitching matchups and several intradivision battles.
Here's a look at the best of today's schedule (all times ET):
Duel at PNC Park: DET@PIT, 12:35 p.m. Jordan Zimmermann's Tigers debut hardly could have gone better, as the right-hander -- who signed a five-year contract this winter -- allowed only two hits over seven scoreless innings against the Yankees last Friday. Now Zimmermann returns to familiar territory, facing a National League opponent, this time in Interleague play. He draws a tough matchup against Pirates righty Gerrit Cole, who held Detroit to three runs and struck out 14 over 12 2/3 innings last season. However, Cole did not fare so well in his first outing of 2016, giving up three runs over 4 2/3 innings at Cincinnati.
"I was just a little rusty," Cole said afterward. "We're going to have to do some work the next time I take a turn."
Stat that matters: While it's only one start, a tiny sample, Zimmermann has MLB's second-lowest swinging-strike rate (4.0 percent), having induced five missed swings in his first outing. He had the 20th-lowest rate among qualified pitchers last season (8.4 percent).
Welcome to Philly: SD@PHI, 1:05 p.m.
When the Phillies dealt closer Ken Giles to the Astros this offseason, right-hander Vince Velasquez was part of the package they got back. The 23-year-old provided an immediate return on investment when he made his club debut last Saturday at Citi Field, striking out nine while shutting out the Mets over six innings. Now Velasquez gets to pitch in front of his new home fans in the series finale against the Padres.
"I don't think since I've been here we've really had a true power pitcher," Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said after Velasquez's first outing. "It's good to see a guy with that kind of arm and that kind of a demeanor pitch."
San Diego counters with lefty Drew Pomeranz, who also is coming off a solid first outing with his new team. Pomeranz picked up a win at Coors Field in that one, striking out seven and allowing two runs in five innings.
Stat that matters: Velasquez turned up the heat in his first start for the Phillies, generating seven swings-and-misses with his four-seam fastball, which averaged 94.1 mph and reached 96. Through Tuesday, only five pitchers had caused more whiffs with their four-seamer in a start this season.
The Ks are coming: CLE@TB, 1:10 p.m.
In 2015, the Rays' Chris Archer and the Indians' Danny Salazar finished second and fifth, respectively, in strikeouts per nine innings among qualified American League pitchers. Today the right-handers go head-to-head at Tropicana Field. Archer will try to record an out in the sixth inning for the first time in three starts this season, though he has racked up 17 strikeouts over 10 frames. Salazar made his season debut in less-than-ideal conditions last Friday at U.S. Cellular Field, where the first-pitch temperature was 39 degrees with a side of snow flurries. Nonetheless, he allowed only one run and two hits over 5 1/3 innings, striking out seven.
Stat that matters: Right-handed batters have managed only a .611 OPS against Archer in his career, including .622 last season, but early in 2016 they are 11-for-31 (.355) with three home runs and three walks off him. That's good for a 1.089 OPS.
Second act in Hollywood: ARI@LAD, 10:10 p.m.
The Dodgers' Ross Stripling will carry a career no-hitter into the series finale at Dodger Stadium. The righty, who had never pitched above Double-A before making his Major League debut last Friday in San Francisco, threw 7 1/3 no-hit innings before manager Dave Roberts pulled him when he issued his fourth walk on his 100th pitch of the game. Unfortunately for Stripling and L.A., reliever Chris Hatcher served up a tying two-run homer to the next batter, and the Giants went on to win, 3-2. Stripling, who found his way into an injury-riddled rotation to begin the season, will take on the D-Backs and lefty Robbie Ray in his second outing.
"That start was fun. I was able to make some big pitches when I needed to," Stripling said. "As far as taking something into the next outing, I think the scouting report will be out that I have a curveball. I'm sure the Giants had an idea, but now that's out there. I throw a big 12-6 curveball. If they adjust to that, then I'll start throwing other pitches. Cutter, changeup or sticking with the fastball. It can turn into a bit of a chess match."
Stat that matters: On Wednesday, D-backs first baseman Paul Goldschmidt reached base safely for the 18th straight game against the Dodgers, and his 22 career home runs against them is tied with the Cardinals' Matt Holliday for first among active players.
Andrew Simon is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @AndrewSimonMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.