This weekend the Mets will play in front of their home crowd for the first time this season, while the Yankees travel to Detroit to face the Tigers.
The Mets’ opponent is the moribund Phillies, and getting the home-opening assignment is Jacob deGrom, who was brilliant in 2015 (14-8, 2.54 ERA). However, deGrom was slow to begin last year, as he was 2-3 in April with a 3.34 ERA and a WHIP of 1.315, his worst mark in any month last season.
Opposing deGrom on Friday afternoon is Jerad Eickhoff, who faced the Mets three times last year despite starting just eight games as a rookie. He went 1-2 in those contests with a 2.70 ERA, but the win came in a game on October 1 in which the Mets sent out their “B-team.” Michael Conforto, who DH’d in both games in the Kansas City series earlier in the week, is 4-for-8 against Eickhoff.
Bartolo Colon makes his first start of the year for the Mets on Saturday (he pitched 1.1 innings in relief on Opening Day). He started five times against Philadelphia in 2015 and was very successful (4-1, 2.81 ERA).
Vince Velasquez counters for the Phillies; the 23-year-old was called up in June of last season and recorded a 4.03 ERA in seven starts for the Astros before being relegated to the bullpen and getting mixed results; he ended 2015 with a 4.37 ERA, then was traded in December. The only Met with any experience against Velasquez is Alejandro de Aza (1-for-2).
Sunday’s series finale features the Opening Day starter for both teams, as Matt Harvey squares off with Jeremy Hellickson. Harvey had his stuff on Opening Day but the Royals out-gamed him, tagging the ace for eight hits and four runs. Harvey’s had no problem shutting down the Phillies’ best hitters in the past; Ryan Howard and Carlos Ruiz are a combined 4-for-23 against “The Dark Knight.”
Hellickson was spot-on in his Phillies debut, allowing one run on three hits in a no-decision against Cincinnati on Monday, but the Mets have hit Hellickson well in the past; New York’s roster has hit .288 in 66 ABs against the journeyman right-hander.
The Yankees’ starters for the Tigers series will be Luis Severino, C.C. Sabathia and Masahiro Tanaka, assuming they get Thursday’s game with Houston in.
Severino was electrifying as a rookie (5-3, 2.89 ERA in 11 starts in 2015), and looks to start the new year strong off a sharp Spring Training.
Jordan Zimmermann, the former Nationals ace who bolted for Detroit in the off-season, responds for the Tigers on Friday. Few Bombers have substantial experience against the ex-National Leaguer, and those that do have struggled; Starlin Castro, Brian McCann and Chase Headley are a combined 12-for-59 versus Zimmermann.
The Yankees’ starter on Saturday is expected to be Sabathia, who had to push himself in order to earn the fifth starter’s spot over Ivan Nova. He’ll be hoping for a better beginning in 2016 than he had last year (0-4, 5.96 ERA in four starts last April).
Mike Pelfrey, the former Met who toiled with the Twins for parts of three seasons, counters for the Tigers in what promises to be a slugfest. All-time, Pelfrey is 2-3 with a 4.72 ERA against the Bombers.
Sunday night’s series finale should be a little less volatile, as Opening Day starters Justin Verlander and Tanaka take the mound. Verlander has managed to shut down some of the Yankees’ biggest power bats over the years (Mark Teixiera is 3-for-36, Carlos Beltran 1-for-13), but Alex Rodriguez has always had his number (11-for-32 with five homers).
Tanaka will try to buck the trend against Detroit, as his two lifetime starts against the Tigers have been nightmarish (0-1, 4.76 ERA, 1.500 WHIP in 11.1 IP).