MLB's 6 Must-See Pitching Matchups This Weekend

Pete Schauer@@Pete_SchauerCorrespondent IApril 27, 2012

MLB's 6 Must-See Pitching Matchups This Weekend

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    The weekend of April 27 to 29 boasts some of the best pitching matchups in recent memory.

    MLB fans will see MVPs, Cy Young award winners, All-Stars, Rookie of the Year winners and hurlers who have thrown no-hitters all facing off against each other in a three-day span.

    Both 2011 Cy Young award winners will toe the rubber this weekend, while a few newcomers will get the nod as well.

    Let's take a look at the best pitching matchups of the weekend.

Justin Verlander (2-1) vs. Ivan Nova (3-0)

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    When: Friday, April 27, at 7:05 p.m. ET

    Where: New York 

    Anytime 2011 AL MVP and Cy Young winner Justin Verlander toes the rubber, you know you're in for a solid performance.

    Add in the fact that Yankees hurler Ivan Nova has won 15 consecutive decisions, and you've got yourself an awesome pitching matchup to begin your weekend.

    Nova is off to a fast start for the Yankees, leading the staff in wins and ERA, at 3.79.

    He's struck out 20 hitters in 19 innings of work and has walked just two batters on the year.

    Nova pitched well in his last outing against the Boston Red Sox in Fenway on April 20, surrendering just two runs on seven hits while striking out five through six innings.

    Through four starts in 2012, Verlander is 2-1 with a minuscule 1.72 ERA and 0.80 WHIP, and he has yet to surrender a homer. 

    He dominated the high-powered Texas Rangers' offense in his last appearance on April 21, throwing six innings of shutout ball, while surrendering just four hits and striking out eight.

    It'll be extremely difficult to match his 2011 performance, but if there's anyone that can do it, it's Verlander.

    My prediction: If the Yankees are going to win this game, they're going to do it against the Tigers' bullpen. Verlander strikes out at least six but takes a no decision.  

James Shields (3-0) vs. Matt Harrison (3-0)

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    When: Friday, April 27, at 8:05 p.m. ET

    Where: Texas 

    It's going to be fun watching James Shields try to figure out this Texas Rangers offense, which, except for Verlander, has yet to be done.

    The 2011 All-Star currently leads the Tampa Bay Rays' staff in wins (three) and strikeouts (20), and he's doing it while posting a 2.76 ERA.

    Last season, Shields led Tampa in wins (16), ERA (2.82) and strikeouts (225), helping them make an improbable postseason appearance.

    He's now put together three consecutive winning starts of at least eight innings, surrendering no more than two runs or six hits during that span. Furthermore, he's given up just one home run this season.

    As for Matt Harrison, he ranks No. 1 in the AL in terms of ERA, showing a microscopic 1.66 ERA.

    He's pitching well below his career 4.35 ERA and has emerged as one of the best in the American League. 

    He's won all three decisions in 2012 and hasn't needed the Rangers' offense to bail him out—he hasn't relinquished more than three runs in a start, highlighted by six shutout innings against the Chicago White Sox on April 8.

    My prediction: Shields out-duels Harrison for most of the game, but the Rangers' offense comes through and gets the win for Harrison.   

Ross Detwiler (2-0) vs. Clayton Kershaw (1-0)

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    When: Friday, April 27, at 10:10 p.m. ET

    Where: Los Angeles

    A 1-0 record after four starts probably isn't what Clayton Kershaw had envisioned.

    Despite winning just one game, Kershaw has pitched well, posting a 1.61 ERA in 22.1 innings pitched.

    He'd likely be 2-0 right now if he wasn't sick for the season opener, when he went just three innings on April 5 against the San Diego Padres.

    Kershaw earned his first win of the season against the Houston Astros on April 21, throwing seven innings of shutout, three-hit baseball while striking out nine.

    The 2011 NL Cy Young award winner always puts on a good show, and it should be fun watching him do battle with the 14-4 Nationals.

    On the other side is a guy you may have never heard of in Ross Detwiler.

    He started 10 games for the Nationals in 2011, going 4-5, but he posted a 3.00 ERA and 1.26 WHIP, making his 2012 performance not much of a shock.

    Now in his fifth year as a starter, Detwiler appears to be hitting his stride—though he hasn't gone more than six innings in any of his three starts this season, he's given up just 11 hits and one earned run in 16 innings, making his ERA just 0.56.

    In his last outing against the Miami Marlins on April 20, Detwiler was impressive, going six shutout innings, while striking out seven and walking one.

    My prediction: After his last outing, Kershaw is beginning to heat up, and he's going to carry that into this start. Kershaw strikes out at least seven and earns his second victory of the season. 

Jon Lester (0-2) vs. Jake Peavy (3-0)

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    When: Saturday, April 28, at 7:10 p.m. ET

    Where: Chicago

    Jon Lester is off to a slow start, but then again, isn't the entire Boston Red Sox club?

    Lester pitched well in his first two starts—he went seven innings on April 5 and eight on April 11—but received no run support from his offense, as he surrendered just four combined runs in those two starts.

    He was roughed up the following start, however, relinquishing seven earned on eight hits in a mere two innings of work in what amounted to be an 18-3 slaughtering at the hands of the Texas Rangers.

    Despite his record and bloated 6.00 ERA, Lester is still a top-of-the-line starter in the AL.

    Jake Peavy is looking like his old 2007 self in the early going of 2012, earning a win in three consecutive starts after picking up a no-decision on April 7 against the Rangers.

    April 13 and April 18 starts saw him strike out eight batters each, while surrendering just three combined runs against the Detroit Tigers and Baltimore Orioles.

    He pitched a gem against the Oakland A's in his last outing on April 23, throwing a complete-game shutout to go along with five Ks and two walks.

    Peavy's 1.88 ERA ranks him No. 4 in the AL, making Saturday's pitching matchup one of the best this weekend. 

    My prediction: Peavy and Lester both pitch well, combining for at least 14 Ks. Lester and the Red Sox get the win and Peavy takes the no-decision. 

Stephen Strasburg (2-0) vs. Chad Billingsley (2-1)

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    When: Saturday, April 28, at 9:10 p.m. ET

    Where: Los Angeles

    The re-emergence of Stephen Strasburg is great for baseball, and more importantly, great for the Washington Nationals.

    He's currently striking out a batter per inning and ranks No. 4 in the NL in ERA with a minute 1.08.

    Even in the two starts where he earned a no-decision, Strasburg pitched extremely well—he went seven innings and gave up just one run on April 5, and surrendered zero runs over six innings in his last outing on April 21.

    Collectively, he's given up just three runs in six starts and has yet to surrender a home run to an opposing hitter.

    Strasburg is opposed by Chad Billingsley, who's off to a solid start in 2012, if you can look past his most recent outing against the Houston Astros on April 22 when he gave up five runs in just 3.1 innings pitched.

    What makes this matchup interesting is that I want to see if Billingsley can bounce back from his last performance.

    Prior to April 22, Billingsley had surrendered just three runs in 20.1 innings of work, highlighted by his first start of the season when he tossed 8.1 innings of shutout baseball, giving up just three hits and one walk while striking out 11 against the San Diego Padres.

    My prediction: Strasburg holds the Dodgers' offense in check, surrendering no more than three runs while striking out at least seven to improve to 3-0.

David Price (3-1) vs. Derek Holland (2-1)

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    When: Sunday, April 29, at 8:05 p.m. ET

    Where: Texas 

    Coming off of a complete-game shutout of Albert Pujols and the Los Angeles Angels in his last outing on April 24, David Price will be riding high heading into Texas.

    And for good reason.

    He currently leads the Rays' staff in wins (three), ERA (2.63) and strikeouts (20) despite a rough outing in Boston on April 13.

    Price was yanked after just three innings, surrendering three runs and walking three before his Rays were spanked 12-2 by Boston.

    Derek Holland will take the mound for a Rangers staff that has been rolling of late.

    Holland won 16 games for the Rangers in 2011 and looks poised to surpass that mark in 2012, especially given Texas' potent offense.

    In both of his victories this season, Holland has given up just two runs while striking out eight and seven, respectively.

    His last outing was shaky against the Yankees, as he went six and gave up seven earned and walked four.

    Nonetheless, this will be a fantastic matchup to conclude the weekend.  

    My prediction: David Price gets roughed up by the Rangers while Holland cruises to his third win of the season, holding the Rays' offense to less than three runs.