- Steve Berthiaume, ESPNEWS anchor
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Less than two weeks into the 2011 season and we're already seeing starting pitching performances that could make 2010 look like the year of the hitter and stat lines that could read like an old Times Square scrolling news marquee that would resemble a 1940s version of Twitter for passersby: "Germany surrenders ... Josh Beckett vs. Yankees Sunday night: 8 IP, 2 H, 1 W, 10 K in 4-0 BoSox win ... Ray Milland wins Oscar for "The Lost Weekend."
Beckett's performance Sunday night was his best since his signature win with Boston: his start in Game 5 of the 2007 ALCS at Cleveland, with Boston trailing 3 games to 1, when he dominated as the epitome of a postseason ace, forcing the series back to Fenway Park for an eventual AL pennant and World Series championship. He and Jon Lester combined to pitch 15 scoreless innings with five hits and 19 strikeouts in their latest starts.
Sunday against the Blue Jays, Jered Weaver struck out a career-high 15 batters, the most by an Angels pitcher in 16 years. Weaver's season line reads like a misprint: 3-0, 0.87 ERA, 20.2 IP, 9 H, 2 ER, 9 BB, 27 SO, 0.83 WHIP.
After a search of several months, the nickname for the Phillies' rotation may have finally been found: "The Dubee Brothers," after Philadelphia pitching coach Rich Dubee. Cole Hamels silenced the Braves Sunday, with eight strikeouts over seven innings of four-hit ball. Hamels' performance came just three days after the White Sox's Edwin Jackson and Oakland's Trevor Cahill combined, in separate games, to allow just two runs and seven hits over 16 innings while striking out 20 and walking only one. However, it's not just the Times Square marquee names that have stood out.
If you like the "Dubee Brothers" nickname, how about "The Narvelous"? That's what Brewers closer John Axford has called Milwaukee starter Chris Narveson. Here's another impressive stat line: how about an ERA of zero? Narveson pitched seven scoreless innings in Saturday's 6-0 win over the Cubs, helped by all the work he's put in on his changeup. "The Narvelous" has pitched 13 scoreless innings and is challenging Jim Slaton's Brewers record of 20.2 scoreless innings by a starting pitcher to open a season, set in 1976. Not bad for a guy whose Cactus League ERA was 6.23.
The Red Sox, who sent Justin Masterson to Cleveland in the 2009 trade deadline deal for Victor Martinez, have reportedly been trying to bring Masterson back to Boston (according to Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer). Masterson certainly has hit some bumps in the road as an Indians starter after his tenure as a promising and reliable Red Sox reliever, but he had manager Manny Acta calling him "filthy" after a dominant start in Seattle. Masterson's sinker/slider repertoire, combined with sharp movement on his fastball, have put up a 2-0, 1.35 ERA.
Kevin Correia as an Opening Day starter might make anyone shrug, but Correia has been very effective leading what has been a surprisingly competitive Pirates rotation (3.39 ERA, fifth-best in the NL). Correia is 2-0 and has his fielders behind him admiring the late movement on his pitches.
Baltimore's Opening Day starter was Jeremy Guthrie, who earned the respect of his manager, Buck Showalter, on Sunday when he threw six innings of four-hit ball at the Rangers only days after being hospitalized with pneumonia. Guthrie's ERA and WHIP so far both sit at 0.64.
One day earlier in that series, Texas' 6-foot-4, 240-pound lefty Matt Harrison retired 18 straight Orioles. His velocity has been impressive and he's 2-0 with a 1.29 ERA and 11 K's in 14 IP.
The Mets have made the 1-year, $1.1 million signing of Chris Young look like a steal so far. Shoulder problems kept Young to just 18 starts over the previous two seasons in San Diego but he's allowed only six hits in 12.1 innings with 12 strikeouts and a 0.97 WHIP. On Sunday, Young held the Nationals to one hit over seven innings while retiring 18 of the last 19 he faced.
I'll see you all this week on "Baseball Tonight" at 10 p.m. and midnight ET. Follow me on Twitter.
Steve Berthiaume is a regular anchor for "Baseball Tonight" and "SportsCenter." He'll be contributing all season to the SweetSpot blog.