17 April 2008

Pitchers with Something to Prove, AL Edition

Continuing a theme today...

American League:

The Junior Circuit has no shortage of intriguing starting pitching matchups either.

The marquee matchup (and by "marquee" I mean, "The only one I really care about") is Josh Beckett vs. Mike Mussina. Beckett was decent in his last start, especially considering that it came against the Yankees, but in neither of his two starts this year has he much resembled the ace who won 20 games for the BoSox last year. With the Yankee bats starting to heat up, he'll have his work cut out for him.

Thirty-nine year old Mike Mussina, unlike John Smoltz, has been showing his age of late. While he hasn't been terrible, exactly, in any of his three starts this year, he's hardly dominated anyone either, and he's yet to throw more than 91 pitches in a start. Given the drubbing that Chein-Ming Wang took last night, and the efforts put forth by the bullpen to keep the Red Sox at bay, Moose should be trying to figure out how he can go 6+ innings tonight and instill Joe Girardi with some confidence in him.

Simultaneously, Chicago's Gavin Floyd will be starting against Baltimore. Floyd is hardly a big-name, big-game or big-contract pitcher, as many of these others are, but after throwing 7+ no-hit innings against the pre-season favorite Tigers last week, Floyd will want to demonstrate that he's not just a flash in the pan.

Speaking of the Tigers, their alleged ace, Justin Verlander starts for them tonight against Fausto Carmona in Cleveland. Verlander had 35 wins in 2006-07 combined, more than any pitcher in baseball except Wang (38) and Beckett (36). Unfortunately, he's 0-2 with a 6.52 ERA this year, and none of his three starts has been close to "quality", though that trend won't likely continue. Granted, four of his 14 earned runs have been allowed to score by his alleged bullpen "support" but then they were only there in the first place because of Verlander's efforts, so he's got nobody to blame but himself.

Carmona won 19 games last year for the Tribe, and was off to an amazing start this year when the Clevelands signed him to a contract extension last week. The next day he allowed 3 runs in 3 innings to the Oakland A's, who can't hit worth a damn. Hopefully without the pressure of the recently-announced contrat on his mind, he can get his head back in the game and pitch like he showed he could last year. With that said, it appears that the sleeping Tigers' bats are starting to wake up, so Fausto had better work fast-o and get out-o there before he's eaten alive.

One of three former Cy-Young Award winners pitching tonight (along with Smoltz and Peavy), Roy Halladay is 2-1 with a 3.00 ERA. He's coming off a complete game win against the Rangers last week (One run, 110 pitches) and before that an 8-inning win against Boston. We'll see if he can continue to dominate Texas or if he'll revert to his more typical performance against them (He's only 7-5, 5.45 against them in his career).

In Los Angleles of Anaheim of Orange County (which is still a stupid name) Jon Garland faces Brett Tomko. Tomko was 4-12 last year, but has inexplicably pitched pretty well so far this year, one of the reasons that the Royals have a (gasp!) winning record. Temporarily, at least. His opponent, Jon Garland, was traded during the off season for shortstop Orlando Caberea and some cash, and while the South Side fans decried the trade at the time, Chicago GM Kenny Williams is looking like a genious at the moment. Because the moment happens to be one during which Garland is 1-2 with a 5.10 ERA. If, at the end of the summer, Garland has somehow amassed 18 wins (as he did in 2005 and 2006), Williams will have some 'splainin to do.

And finally, but not last, the late game features Oakland's Lenny DiNardo against Seattle's Carlos Silva. The former is nothing special (unless you're his mom, I guess) but the latter was signed to a 4-year, $48 million contract in December (my birthday, in fact), and obviously much is expected of him. Silva's basically a LAIM, though in SafeCo's friendly confines, he'll look a little better than that. Other than that, his one claim to fame was that he virtually never walked anybody back in 2005.

If he can keep that up, the damp northwestern air will help keep his offerings on the ground, and the good people of Washington State should be reasonably happy with their acquisition. Fortunately for him, the Athletics aren't athletic enough to hit their way out of a paper bag, but the tiniest slip in his control will make him a below-average pitcher "earning" $12 million a year, and he'll get real unpopular, real fast.

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