Can the sequel possibly top the original?
When Miami’s Jose Fernandez and Atlanta’s Alex Wood faced each other Tuesday night, they combined to strike out 25 hitters – with no walks – in eight innings. The 21-year-old Fernandez fanned 14, allowing only three hits in a 1-0 win for the Marlins.
The same two pitchers – both sporting ERAs under 2.00 – will be on the mound Tuesday night when Miami hosts the Braves.
“You know it’s going to be a low-scoring ballgame so you know what you’ve got to do,” Wood said after last week’s loss. “You’ve got to bring your best.”
Of course, baseball can be unpredictable, so perhaps the hitters will make the necessary adjustments for the rematch?
“You just never know,” Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. “I’ve seen situations where you think you’ve got a great matchup and then both starters are out by the third inning.”
Fernandez highlights an impressive group of young pitchers – all born in the 1990s – who have shown plenty of potential through the first few weeks of the season. That group includes Wood, Martin Perez of Texas, Julio Teheran of Atlanta, Yordano Ventura of Kansas City and Michael Wacha of St. Louis.
With young arms like that all over baseball, no wonder strikeouts keep increasing.
Here are five things to watch around the majors this week.
MARQUEE MATCHUPS: Oakland’s Sonny Gray wasn’t born in the `90s, but the 24-year-old right-hander still qualifies as a rising star after his impressive debut last year. His clash with Yu Darvish of Texas on Monday night should be a nice appetizer before Fernandez-Wood II on Tuesday.
On Thursday, Ventura takes the mound for the Royals against Mark Buehrle of the Chicago White Sox.
ROBBIE’S RETURN: Robinson Cano returns to Yankee Stadium as a member of the Seattle Mariners on Tuesday night. After leaving New York as a free agent, Cano is hitting .301, but has only one home run in 93 at-bats this season. The Mariners have not looked good at all offensively, and at 10-14 are already 4 1/2 games behind AL West leaders Oakland and Texas.
RUNNING RAJAI: The Detroit Tigers expected to be a bit faster on the basepaths this season, and Rajai Davis has certainly helped in that regard. Davis has eight stolen bases already. Last year, Austin Jackson led the team with that same number.
The Tigers are on the road this week against the White Sox and Royals.
ATLANTA’S ARMS: It looked like the Braves were in trouble when Kris Medlen and Brandon Beachy went down with elbow injuries before the season, but Atlanta leads the NL East anyway thanks to a terrific start by its rotation. Wood, Teheran and Ervin Santana have been outstanding, but it’s right-hander Aaron Harang who has really stood out, allowing only three runs in 31 2-3 innings so far.
Harang starts Wednesday against Miami.
BRAUN’S BOUNCEBACK: Much has been made of Albert Pujols’ resurgence this year, but Ryan Braun’s return also is worth noting. After his 2013 was derailed by an injury and then a drug suspension, Braun is hitting well again in Milwaukee, with a .318 average and six home runs.
That powerful start has helped the Brewers become surprise leaders in the NL Central. They begin a three-game series at second-place St. Louis on Monday night.
STAT OF THE WEEK: On Sunday, five National League games ended in shutouts, with the Braves, Cardinals, New York Mets, Chicago Cubs and Philadelphia Phillies all blanking the opposition. It was the first time that had happened in the NL since September 26, 2012, according to STATS.