Two of the biggest surprises of 2017 also happen to be two of the best pitchers this season -- and nobody saw either coming.But as the season sprints toward its halfway point, neither Ervin Santana nor Jason Vargas have slowed down. On Friday, they become the first pitchers with double-digit
Two of the biggest surprises of 2017 also happen to be two of the best pitchers this season -- and nobody saw either coming.
But as the season sprints toward its halfway point, neither Ervin Santana nor Jason Vargas have slowed down. On Friday, they become the first pitchers with double-digit wins to face off this year when the Twins and Royals play at 8:15 ET at Kauffman Stadium.
The numbers sparkle for both starters: Santana is 10-4 with a 2.80 ERA, 1.05 WHIP and MLB-best three shutouts; Vargas is 11-3 with a 2.29 ERA and 1.13 WHIP, as his win total and ERA are the best in the American League.
This matchup may have looked unflashy in April. But now, in June, it's a must-watch.
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Here's what else to watch for throughout the day (all times ET):
Cueto vs. Cole: SFG@PIT, 7:05 p.m.
For another matchup of talented starters, look to Pittsburgh. Johnny Cueto and Gerrit Cole both probably aren't thrilled with their first-half performances, but they are both still two of the more dynamic pitchers when on their games.
Tigers' time?: CLE@DET, 7:10 p.m.
The Tigers will have a say in whether Cleveland holds onto its recent reprisal of the AL Central. The two teams still play each other 13 more times, including seven of their final 10 games before the All-Star break. The Tigers need to make up ground now, especially with Jose Cabrera and Ian Kinsler finally heating up and Friday's starter, Anibal Sanchez, enjoying a revival of sorts.
Serious slugfest potential: NYY@HOU, 8:10 p.m.
Aaron Judge at Minute Maid Park? That sounds too good to be true for the Yankees, who need everything out of Judge they can get with Matthew Holliday and Starlin Castro suddenly sidelined by injuries. Judge and the Yankees face Lance McCullers, though, who has been one of the best pitchers this season.
Cold as the Rockies: COL@ARI, 9:40 p.m.
The Rockies are dying to get Jon Gray back, as they slog through their most challenging stretch of the season. Colorado has lost eight straight, and, in the process, lost its hold on the NL West standings. It now sits behind Los Angeles and Arizona, which makes this weekend's series all the more important. Gray returns to the mound for the first time since April 13, when he broke his left foot. But more than anything, the Rockies just need a win. That won't be easy against Arizona's Robbie Ray (8-3, 2.87 ERA).
Joe Trezza is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York. Follow him on Twitter at @joetrezz.