Seattle ace returning from injury, faces Majors' best team
By Ben Weinrib
After six teams got a day off on Thursday, each team returns to play in a full slate of games tonight, streaming live on MLB.TV.
Friday brings the return of King Felix along with the Major League debut of the Reds' No. 5 prospect, Luis Castillo. We also see a matchup between two of the greatest Japanese pitchers of the decade and a matchup between the top two teams in the American League Central and the National League West.
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Here's what to watch for throughout the day (all times in ET):
Return of King Felix: HOU@SEA, 10:10 p.m.
Felix Hernandez has been out since April 26 with right shoulder inflammation, and after three rehab starts for Triple-A Tacoma, he's ready to get back into action. It'll be a tough task, as he faces the Astros, who became the fourth team since 2000 to reach 50 wins in their first 74 games.
Through 26 2/3 innings over five starts this season, Hernandez has a 4.73 ERA with 22 strikeouts and three walks. He held the Astros to two runs on five hits over five innings in his first start of the season.
Hernandez is facing off against right-hander Joe Musgrove, who will be facing the Astros for the third time this season. In his other two starts, his first two overall this season, he held the Astros to five runs on 12 hits over 10 1/3 innings with four strikeouts and walks.
Castillo's MLB debut: CIN@WSH, 7:05 p.m.
With a depleted rotation, the Reds will turn to Castillo, whom they acquired from Miami in January for Dan Straily. Castillo, 24, held a 2.58 ERA in 14 starts for Double-A Pensacola with 81 strikeouts and 13 walks in 80 1/3 innings.
Castillo will face off against Stephen Strasburg, who has been excellent of late. Strasburg has held opponents to two or fewer runs in five of his last six starts with 56 strikeouts to just nine walks during that stretch.
Japanese aces: TEX@NYY, 7:05 p.m.
Since coming to America in 2012, no Japanese pitcher has accumulated more WAR than Yu Darvish with 16.8. Close behind him is Masahiro Tanaka, who has accumulated 10.1 since he signed with the Yankees in 2014.
This will actually be the first time Darvish and Tanaka have faced each other in the Major Leagues, despite Darvish making three starts against the Yankees and Tanaka starting once against the Rangers.
Darvish has a 3.35 ERA in 94 innings this season and had held opponents to three or fewer runs in 10 straight starts before giving up five runs to the Mariners in his last outing. Tanaka has struggled to a 6.34 ERA through 76 2/3 innings.
Battle of the West: COL@LAD, 10:10 p.m.
The Rockies were a favorite sleeper pick for many people coming into the season, but few thought they would be neck-and-neck with the Dodgers for the NL West lead in June. They'll meet for the 11th time this season on Friday in MLB.TV's Free Game of the Day.
It will be an excellent matchup with rookie left-hander Kyle Freeland taking the bump for Colorado. Freeland has held opponents to three or fewer runs in 11 of his 14 starts, thanks to his league-leading 58.7 percent ground-ball rate. He'll face off against fellow lefty Alex Wood, who has given up four total runs in his last six starts over 37 innings.
Battle of the Central: MIN@CLE, 7:10 p.m.
The Indians were expected to lead the Central, but the Twins have been a pleasant surprise this year. They'll open their three game series on Friday with the Indians leading the season series 8-2.
Indians starter Trevor Bauer is coming off one of the best start of his season, holding the Twins to two runs on four hits over seven innings with eight strikeouts. He's going against rookie left-hander Adalberto Mejia, who held the Indians to two runs over 4 2/3 innings in his last start.
Ben Weinrib is a reporter for MLB.com based in Cleveland. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.