Daily MLB pitcher duels: April 17

Samardzija vs. Price highlights the Friday pitching matchups.
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Not only does today bring a pair of truly fantastic pitching matchups, but there are also a number of under the radar games as well. Check ’em out:

Jeff Samardzija (CWS) vs. David Price (DET)

1:08 PM ET

The upcoming free agents do battle in this one, as the Shark and Price meet for the first of possibly a few matchups as new division foes. Samardzija has struggled a bit out of the gates, with dustups coming against Kansas City, which might be expected, and Minnesota, which was probably a little more unexpected. The thing that’ll be most interesting to watch is his raw stuff, as through two starts he’s posted swinging strike rates of 4.3 percent and 8.8 percent via Baseball Reference. For a total, that’s just 6.9 percent—well below the typical usual league-average range of 8–9 percent. Of course—and we can’t emphasize this enough—this is early in the season and it’s a pitcher pitching with his third team in about nine or 10 months, so good things may be coming up around the bend for Shark.

On the other hand—literally—it has been business as usual for Price as he begins his first full season (we think) in Detroit. Price has yet to allow an earned run over two starts spanning 14.1 innings, and has struck out 11 while walking just three in that time frame. Price summarily dispatched the Twins on Opening Day, allowing nary a runner to even reach third base in an outing that came one out short of a complete game shutout. Cleveland provided a bit more of a challenge, with six strikeouts in 5.2 innings but all three of the walks the lefty has issued and three unearned runs. Price only recorded 17 outs thanks to running up a pitch count of 104 as the Indians worked walks and hit a ton of fly balls at Progressive Field. One thing to watch: Price’s velocity has been good—average 94.1 mph on his four-seamer—but it did drop as the season wore on last year, bottoming out around 92.9. We’ll see if there’s more of that to come. Also of note: Price’s second pitch tonight will be the 20,000th of his big league career (regular season and playoff games).

Johnny Cueto (CIN) vs. Michael Wacha (STL)

8:15 PM ET

If Cueto’s goal is truly to secure a $200 million deal in the offseason, he’s off to about as good of a start as one could muster. Through two starts (0–1), Cueto has thrown 14 innings while allowing just one earned run—a solo home run to Wacha’s teammate Matt Adams—with 14 strikeouts. We’ll say it multiple times this year because it bears repeating, but it’s certainly possible that the Reds move Cueto as the season wears on. A contender would likely be willing to give up a fair amount for him, and most places are pretty bearish on the Reds’ chances—5–4 coming into today—of contending in the NL Central. That’s a good thing for everyone involved, because if Cueto can’t be slapped with a qualifying offer, there’ll be no draft-pick compensation tied to him in the offseason. That’s still a bit off, but it’s a situation worth monitoring.

If this matchup seems familiar, it’s because we just saw it back on Saturday. Wacha was pretty good last time out in his first start of the season, when he garnered the win over Cueto, going 6.1 innings with one earned run and just five hits. Wacha fanned just two, walked one and allowed a home run to Todd Frazier. Keep an eye on Wacha’s velocity. It was pretty good last time out against the Reds—93.9 mph average four-seamer—but it’s not quite the 95–96 he was getting coming off shoulder issues at the end of last year. That could have been more due to rest he got while recuperating, but it’s something to monitor nonetheless.

Warm-Up Tosses

James Shields is making his third start as a Padre at Wrigley Field against Jason Hammel. Early returns have been fantastic for the 33-year-old righty, as he’s allowed just three earned runs in 13 innings (2.08 ERA), with 15 strikeouts (10.4 K/9) and just two unintentional walks. This’ll be his first start out of the NL West after holding down the Dodgers and Giants … Max Scherzer is also making his start for a new club, against Sean O’Sullivan and the Phillies. Scherzer has allowed just one earned run (0.66 ERA) with 16 strikeouts in 13.2 innings (10.5 K/9), but is 0–1 after taking a tough-luck loss on Opening Day against the Mets when the bullpen couldn’t hold a 2–1 lead before ultimately beating the Phillies. He gets another crack at them again today, though … Julio Teheran vs. Drew Hutchison has some real potential to be a nice matchup. Teheran has been strong (2–0, 1.50 ERA) for a Braves team that’s overachieving a bit right now, while Hutchison is struggling somewhat to find his stuff from last year, though it’s still far too early to worry about that at all … Corey Kluber’s Cy Young defense runs through Minnesota and Mike Pelfrey tonight. Kluber is still seeking his first win of the season, but has pitched well and would seem to have a good shot to get it this evening. Keep an eye on Pelfrey’s velocity, though. He was throwing 95–96 mph in his first start, which is a bit of a change of pace for the tall veteran righty … The contrary is true for Jered Weaver, whose average fastball has dipped to an unbelievable 83.3 mph, just one tick above the MLB-average changeup (83.2) according to Fangraphs’ Jeff Sullivan.

Statistics courtesy of Baseball Reference and Fangraphs.

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