Aces up: Pitchers take center stage today

King Felix holds court at Yankee Stadium; Arrieta, Price among others taking the mound

April 16th, 2016

If pitching is your thing, there is plenty to choose from today.

The full 15-game Major League schedule will begin with Felix Hernandez on the mound at Yankee Stadium for a 1:05 p.m. ET game and end with the Giants' Johnny Cueto dueling the Dodgers' Scott Kazmir for the second time in less than a week at 9:10 p.m. In between, the list of starting pitchers slated to go includes the Cardinals' Adam Wainwright (vs. the Reds), the Cubs' Jake Arrieta (vs. the Rockies), the A's Sonny Gray (vs. the Royals), the Red Sox's David Price (vs. the Blue Jays), the Mets' Matt Harvey (at the Indians), the Nationals' Max Scherzer (at the Phillies) and the Tigers' Justin Verlander (at the Astros).

Here is a look at the best that is on tap for today (all times ET):

The King in the Bronx: [email protected], 1:05 p.m.

Hernandez has been good just about everywhere he has gone during his fine career, but there is no place he has pitched better than at the current Yankee Stadium. In eight career starts there, King Felix has posted a 1.38 ERA, his best at any ballpark where he has taken the mound more than once. Hernandez has allowed more than two runs there only once, back in 2012, and held the Yankees to one run on five hits over six innings last July 19 in the Bronx. This time he will take on another former Cy Young Award winner in CC Sabathia, who allowed three runs over six innings in his season debut last Saturday at Detroit.

Stat that matters: When Hernandez has gotten to two strikes this season, in his first two outings, opponents have missed on 15 of their 26 swings (57.7 percent), which was the highest rate among 102 qualified pitchers as of Friday.

Jake can rake: [email protected], 2:20 p.m.

Arrieta's defense of his National League Cy Young Award is off to a solid start, as the Cubs right-hander has a 1.93 ERA and 12-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio through two starts. But while his season debut came in an AL ballpark against the Angels, Arrieta also took advantage of his first chance to swing the bat last Sunday at Arizona, demolishing a home run to left-center field that Statcast™ projected at a robust 440 feet. Each of Arrieta's three career homers -- plus a double and a triple -- have come within his past 16 regular-season games at NL ballparks, so Rockies righty Christian Bergman would be wise to tread carefully with his opponent as he makes his first start of 2016.

"I was ready," Arrieta said of his latest big fly. "I can hit a fastball, I can't hit much else. … Fortunately, I was able to get the ball in the air and get us on the board early."

Stat that matters: Opposing hitters have chased 38.2 percent of the pitches Arrieta has thrown out of the strike zone this season, fourth highest among qualified pitchers as of Friday.

Price faces old 'mates: [email protected], 4:05 p.m.

Price was only a Blue Jay for a few months, but he played a major role in helping Toronto reach the playoffs for the first time since 1993. Now comes the first of what should be many battles with his most recent former team, as Price takes the ball for the third time since signing a seven-year contract with the Red Sox. The left-hander will try to make a better impression on the Fenway faithful than he did in his home debut on Monday, when the Orioles got to him for five runs -- all in the third inning -- over five frames. He takes on Marco Estrada, who held the Sox scoreless during his seven-inning season debut last Sunday at Rogers Centre.

"I enjoyed having the fans behind me," Price said after his last start. "Even after I gave up that five-spot, they were still behind me. It was huge. It didn't go the way I wanted it to, but that's part of it. I'll be out there again in five days."

Stat that matters: Toronto's Jose Bautista is the only player to have five career home runs against Price, and his 11 RBIs are tied for first with Robinson Cano. In 58 career plate matchups between the two, Bautista carries a .327/.414/.694 line.

Another LA rematch: [email protected], 9:10 p.m.

Last Sunday, Cueto and Kazmir were introduced to their teams' fierce rivalry when they matched up at AT&T Park. Neither enjoyed the experience all that much, both allowing six earned runs, although Cueto settled down following a five-run first and managed to complete seven frames for the win.

"For him to go seven innings tells you a couple of things," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. "It tells you how tough he is. And he's a pro. ... He was just a different pitcher after the first inning."

Both pitchers now get another shot at it at Dodger Stadium. It will be the home debut at Chavez Ravine for Kazmir, who signed as a free agent this offseason and allowed only one hit over six scoreless innings at San Diego in his first outing.

Stat that matters: Out of all qualified pitchers through Thursday, none had thrown a higher percentage of first-pitch strikes than Cueto (80 percent), or induced a higher rate of swings in those situations (48.3 percent).