It’s the first Sunday slate of the 2021 MLB season, so we’ve got a ton of afternoon baseball on tap. It’s also Easter Sunday if you’re celebrating with family or baseball, both are fine. In terms of pitching matchups, we’re getting into the middle of most rotations now that the season is four days old. We’ve got a few heavy hitters on the mound, so let’s go over the best matchup among them.
Best matchup: Dylan Cease vs. Shohei Ohtani
Nothing against Cease, but the reason we’re highlighting this matchup is because it’s the first time Shohei Ohtani will be on the hill this season for the Los Angeles Angels. Ohtani missed all of the 2019 season and only pitched 1.2 innings in 2020, so this is essentially the first time he’s been back in a while. Ohtani had to get Tommy John surgery and the Halos didn’t want to push him, giving the phenom plenty of time to recover.
Ohtani has gotten off to a slow start at the plate this season, batting .154 over 13 ABs in three games. He got the day off from the field on Saturday and was the DH. When 100 percent, Ohtani has some nasty stuff. He mostly works a four-seamer and mixes in a slider with a splitter and curve ball occasionally. When Ohtani first came into the Majors in 2018, his fastball reached upwards of 99 mph. His off-speed stuff ranges in the mid 80s and early 90s.
During the Spring, Ohtani’s fastball was clocked at almost 102 mph. He struck out 14 batters in 8.0 innings pitched. If we see anything close to that and the Ohtani that came into the League, we should be in for a show on Sunday Night Baseball. In 2 of 3 games vs. the Chicago White Sox, the Halos have held them to 3 runs. We’ll see if the sluggers on ChiTown can handle Ohtani on the hill.
Let’s not forget about Cease, though. He had a great Spring Training with 22 Ks in 17.0 IP and just 2 ER in four starts. It’s just exhibition games, but Cease can be the wild card for the White Sox in their quest to make a postseason run. Cease is behind some heavy hitters in the rotation in Lucas Giolito, Lance Lynn and Dallas Keuchel. The youngster can make an impact if he keeps the ball in the park and limits mistakes. He’s got a great breaking ball to get batters out but if he hangs it against Mike Trout and Co., things won’t go well.
Sleep Matchup: Ian Anderson vs. Zach Eflin
Anderson got a taste of the big leagues in 2020 and didn’t look lost. The 2016 first-round pick actually looked a lot like an ace. That’s why the Atlanta Braves took the New York native so high (third overall). Prior to the season, Anderson was +750 to win NL Rookie of the Year. He’ll begin making his case on Sunday against the Philadelphia Phillies.
The Braves are known for their top-notch pitching and Anderson could be the guy to bring them back to those glory days in the 90s with Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and John Smoltz. Anderson has great command and his fastball sits in the mid-90s. His changeup is the real put away pitch, fooling batters left and right. When Anderson needs to, he can dial it up to the high-90s. He was in the top 30 among Brian Murphy’s top 100 SPs for the 2021 season in fantasy baseball.
Eflin had a very strong Spring and did well in limited time in 2020 with the shortened season. If he can build off of that, Eflin is another name who can make an impact toward the back-end of a rotation on a team with a strong offense. The Phillies haven’t hit much in two games but both of them were wins. This game could be another pitchers duel with Anderson on the hill opposite Eflin, who got his ERA under 4.00 last season with a 10.7 K/9 and only 8 HRs in just under 60 IP.
Here’s a look at the pitching matchups for Sunday’s 12-game MLB slate on April 4th.
Braves vs. Phillies: Ian Anderson vs. Zach Eflin
Blue Jays vs. Yankees: T.J. Zeuch vs. Domingo German
Orioles vs. Red Sox: Bruce Zimmermann vs. Garrett Richards
Indians vs. Tigers: Aaron Civale vs. Tarik Skubal
Cardinals vs. Reds: Carlos Martinez vs. Jeff Hoffman
Twins vs. Brewers: Michael Pineda vs. Adrian Houser
Rangers vs. Royals: Jordan Lyles vs. Brady Singer
Pirates vs. Cubs: Mitch Keller vs. Zach Davies
Dodgers vs. Rockies: Julio Urias vs. Austin Gomber
Astros vs. A’s: Jose Urquidy vs. Sean Manaea
Diamondbacks vs. Padres: Taylor Widener vs. Chris Paddack
White Sox vs. Angels: Dylan Cease vs. Shohei Ohtani