Josh Beckett's season debut in what should be a pitcher's duel with counterpart Roy Halladay highlights Sunday's slate of games. There should be many good pitching performances, as up to 16 pitchers their respective teams could call their ace or No. 2 pitcher are starting. It also represents a special time where pitchers like Tim Redding, who pitched seven shutout innings in his season debut, can masquerade as aces. Mmmm, small sample sizes.
Matchups for Sunday, April 6th
All times are ET. Statistics are from the 2007 regular season.
David DeJesus, OF, Royals (ankle)
Chris Duncan, OF, Cardinals (hamstring)
Ray Durham, 2B, Giants (shoulder)
Tony Gwynn Jr., OF, Brewers (hamstring)
Jeremy Hermida, OF, Marlins (hamstring)
Conor Jackson, 1B, Diamondbacks (chest)
Kelly Johnson, 2B, Braves (knee)
Victor Martinez, C, Indians (hamstring)
Freddy Sanchez, 2B, Pirates (shoulder)
Gary Sheffield, OF, Tigers (finger)
Javier Valentin, C, Reds (hamstring)
Jack Wilson, SS, Pirates (calf)
Start 'em, sit 'em
Hitters: Alex Gordon is hitting third in the Royals' lineup and already has two home runs on the season. He may add a third Sunday, as Boof Bonser has serious trouble against lefties, with a .349/.406/.563 line against last season. [e] Only the Yankees (.854 OPS) had a higher OPS at home than the Rockies' .853 mark last season, so the slow offensive start to the season is just a small sample size. Edgar Gonzalez, the opposing pitcher, is a thoroughly mediocre starter who was bombed against the Rockies in limited time last season; expect to see hitters like Brad Hawpe (.182 average) and Troy Tulowitzki (.250) break through soon.
Pitchers: Ian Snell struggled in his first Opening Day start, allowing four runs in six innings, but has an easier test against the Marlins. Playing on the road actually helps Snell here, as Dolphins Stadium is a severe pitchers' park. [e] The Giants have scored just eight runs through their first four games, and that's without facing a pitcher as good as Ben Sheets. Anything less than a great start would be shocking. [e] The Tigers murdered lefties last season (.828 OPS, fourth), and Mark Buehrle had a 4.64 ERA and 1.55 WHIP against the Tigers in three starts. Considering the vaunted Tigers offense also hit much better at home and is throwing out their own ace, Justin Verlander, there's zero upside to starting Buehrle.
Hitters: Nate McLouth hits righties much better than southpaws, and he'll see Rick VandenHurk on the mound, hardly much of a threat. McLouth has an extra base-hit in each of his first three games. [e] Geoff Jenkins historically gets off to a quick start, hitting well in April, and is still capable against right-handers. Jenkins has a favorable setting: Great American Ballpark is a good hitters' park, and he's facing Edinson Volquez, who has allowed 14 home runs in 80 career innings. [e] Even during Bill Hall's struggles last year, he still hit significantly better off lefties and at home, trends that have remained consistent since 2005. And Barry Zito may not be a particularly good lefty anymore, either.
Pitchers: Jon Garland should do well at home versus the Rangers. The Rangers often struggle away from home, and in terms of run support the Angels had one of the largest home-away offensive discrepancies last season. [e] There's a decent chance Cliff Lee turns back into an average pitcher, and while it's a risky spot start, facing an offense as weak as the A's provides the upside to make it worth it.
Showers are expected in New York well into the afternoon, so expect wet conditions. [e] Thunderstorms are expected in Miami, persisting all afternoon and evening long; the game could be threatened.
Adam Madison is a fantasy baseball analyst for ESPN.com.