Philadelphia Phillies (0-1) vs. Cincinnati Reds (1-0) (7pm ET Wednesday, ESPN2)
The Reds rallied in the 8th on Monday to defeat the Phillies 6-2, behind 6 strong innings from Raisel Iglesias, a 3-hit day for Zack Cozart and a tie-breaking bases-loaded single from Joey Votto. Iglesias left the game trailing 2-1, despite striking 7 and surrendering 6 hits and zero walks, but Cozar made it 2-2 in the 8th with a sac fly, and two batters later Votto singled to center off James Russell to make it 4-2. Hector Neris came on in relief and promptly hit Brandon Phillips with a pitch, which was followed by a Jay Bruce single that plated 2 more runs.
Aaron Nola gets the start for the Phillies, coming off a rookie year in which he went 6-2 with a 3.59 ERA and 68 strikeouts in 77 ⅔. He did, however, cough up 11 dingers after surrendering just 7 in 109 ⅓ innings between AA and AAA that year – most painful among those longballs was likely the one he served up during his big-league debut to the Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher Nate Karns, which proved to be the deciding factor in a 1-0 final. Still just 22, Nola was the #7 overall pick in the 2014, and was in the top 40 of MLB and Baseball America’s prospect rankings heading into last year.
Brandon Finnegan came over to the Reds last summer in the trade that sent Johnny Cueto to the Royals, and after a pair of relief appearances Cincinnati moved him into the rotation where he made four starts, going 2-2 with a 4.71 ERA and struck out 20 in 21 innings. But, like Nola, Finnegan was bitten by the homer bug, giving up 5 to just 89 batters. But the Reds’ starting pitching staff is in tatters, as they sent Cueto packing, lost Mike Leake to free agency, and Homer Bailey, Anthony DeSclafani, Jon Moscot, John Lamb and Michael Lorenzen on the DL, and so Finnegan is listed as the #2 starting pitcher on ESPN’s depth chart for the Reds. In a perfect world, Finnegan would remain in the bullpen, where he’s excelled, picking up a spot start here or there. But this is not a perfect world; this is Cincinnati.
Chicago White Sox (2-0) vs. Oakland A’s (0-2) (10pm ET Wednesday, ESPN2)
The ChiSox have taken the first two games of the series. On Opening Day, Chris Sale threw 7 innings, striking out 8, and giving up 3 runs on 7 hits and a walk, and centerfielder Adam Eaton went 2-for-3 with a triple, a run scored and an RBI, in a 4-3 win. The following day it was shortstop Jimmy Rollins who was the hero, as he hit a 9th-inning homer to break a 4-4 tie and lead the team to glory and a 5-4 win, despite the absence of Drake LaRoche.
As a 22-year-old rookie last season, the Chicago White Sox’ Carlos Rodon scuffled for much of the year, awaking on August 6 to the reality that he was 4-4 with a 5.00 ERA and a gruesome 1.80 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 84 ⅔ innings. But from that day forward, he was probably the staff ace, going 6-2 with a 1.81 ERA and a better, though not great (not even good, to be honest), SO/BB ratio of 2.33, and benefitted from a good deal of luck, as he surrendered a BABIP of just .243 and allowed only 4 homers.
A’s starter Chris Bassitt had to be among the most snake-bitten pitchers in baseball in 2015. In 11 starts last year, he totaled 75 ⅓ innings, gave up just 4 home runs, and had a 3.58 ERA – and for his efforts he was hung with a 1-8 record. What happened? Miserly run support, as his mates plated just 2.26 runs per game in his 13 starts, the worst support in the majors among guys who threw at least 60 innings. On 7 occasions they managed just 1 run – if those dudes had hit a little, Bassitt could’ve easily been 6-4. Fortunately, the A’s saw past his won-loss record and have slotted him into the third spot in their rotation.