Texas right-hander set for his first big league start since August 2014
By Chad Thornburg
For the first time since Aug. 8, 2014, Yu Darvish will take the mound in a Major League game.
Darvish rejoins the Rangers rotation today against the Pirates in Arlington, the culmination of a 14-month recovery from Tommy John surgery. The right-hander will provide a boost to an already-strong starting unit that entered Friday with an 18-9 record and a 3.43 ERA, the lowest in the American League.
Fans can catch Darvish's debut outing, as well as the rest of the day's 15-game slate, live on MLB.TV.
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Here's what to watch for throughout the day (all times in ET):
Darvish debuts: PIT@TEX, 7:15 p.m.
Darvish looked like his old self in his Minor League rehab stint. He had a 0.90 ERA through five starts (20 innings) between Double-A Frisco and Triple-A Round Rock, striking out 21 batters against just three walks. He'll look to build upon that against Major League-level talent today when the Rangers host Juan Nicasio and the Pirates at Globe Life Park. The Rangers are aiming for a pitch count of 85-90 for Darvish in his season debut.
"He brings another threat to the rotation and brings some excitement," Rangers right-hander Colby Lewis said. "The fan base goes crazy with his electric stuff and his ability to throw 14 pitches for strikes. He is the type of guy who has no-hit stuff. He gets everybody excited when he takes the mound."
Stat that matters: Darvish has traditionally excelled in Interleague matchups, posting a 1.76 ERA through nine starts against the National League. He's faced the Pirates once before, limiting them to one run over seven innings on Sept. 9, 2013.
Thor, Maeda clash in Queens: LAD@NYM, 7:15 p.m.
A pair of exciting young starters will be on display at Citi Field today when Noah Syndergaard and the Mets host rookie Kenta Maeda and the Dodgers. Since tossing eight innings of two-run ball against the Dodgers on May 11, Syndergaard has allowed just one unearned run across a pair of seven-inning starts. He struck out 21 batters in that span and did not issue any walks.
"Anytime we have Noah on the mound, we know we have a pretty good shot to win," Mets third baseman David Wright said. "It shows you why he's one of the best in the game right now."
Maeda, meanwhile, has cooled since his fast start to his career. After allowing just one run in his first four big league starts, he allowed four runs in four of his next five. But the box score from his last outing is deceiving. Maeda had a no-hitter for four innings against the Padres, and an otherwise solid performance was then undone by the bad luck of a three-run bloop triple in the fifth.
Stat that matters: Opposing hitters are chasing on 41.1 percent of pitches (203-of-494) against Syndergaard this year. That's the highest rate among all qualified starting pitchers.
AL East showdown: BOS@TOR, 1:07 p.m.
Rick Porcello has been among the Red Sox most steady starters this season. The right-hander has limited his opponents to three earned runs or fewer in all but two his starts, resulting in a 3.47 ERA. Rogers Centre hasn't been kind to him, however, as he's just 2-5 with a 7.15 ERA through seven career appearances at the Blue Jays' home ballpark. Opposite Porcello will be Toronto's Marcus Stroman, who rebounded from an uncharacteristic seven-run meltdown against the Rays to allow one run over 7 2/3 innings in a win at Minnesota. Stroman didn't fair as well the last time he faced the Red Sox on April 8, surrendering five runs in a no-decision, an eventual 8-7 Jays' loss.
Stat that matters: Red Sox slugger David Ortiz has hit 39 of his 515 career home runs at Rogers Centre, which is his highest total at any visiting ballpark.
Bumgarner tries to scale Rockies: SF@COL, 4:10 p.m.
Madison Bumgarner did it all in his last start, allowing just three hits in 7 2/3 innings against the Cubs and doubling home the Giants' lone run to secure his fifth consecutive winning decision. After going 2-2 with a 3.64 ERA in five April starts, Bumgarner is unbeaten (4-0) with a 0.98 ERA through five starts this month. He's allowed four earned runs in 36 2/3 innings in that span. He'll look to continue that trend as his Giants take on the Rockies in Denver today.
Stat that matters: Over the last 30 days, just one of the 35 fly balls hit against Bumgarner has escaped the park for a home run (2.9 percent), which ranks third among qualifiers. That may not be the case today at the hitter-friendly Coors Field.
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Chad Thornburg is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.