LEADING OFF: Cole-McCullers, Willie Mays’ 90th birthday

Sports

New York Yankees’ Gerrit Cole delivers a pitch during the first inning of the team’s baseball game against the Detroit Tigers Friday, April 30, 2021, in New York. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

A look at what’s happening around the majors Thursday:

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OTHER SIDE OF THE STREET

Gerrit Cole (4-1, 1.43 ERA) starts against Houston for the first time since leaving the Astros for a $324 million, nine-year contract with the Yankees before the 2020 season. He’ll face friend and former teammate Lance McCullers Jr. (2-1, 3.38 ERA) when the American League powers wrap up their three-game series in a New York matinee.

“Lance is certainly one of the premier competitors in the league with fantastic stuff, so I think it’s going to be a fun matchup,” Cole said.

Cole, the AL pitcher of the month for April, struck out 12 and walked none over six innings of four-hit ball last Friday in a 10-0 win against punchless Detroit. He spent 2018-19 with the Astros, going 35-10 with a 2.69 ERA and an average of 301 strikeouts per season. The right-hander made two All-Star teams in Houston, finished second in 2019 AL Cy Young Award voting and helped the Astros reach the World Series that year.

“It was a really special time in my career,” he said. “I was adopted so quickly into the clubhouse. The team was super fun to be around.”

Since getting traded from Pittsburgh to Houston, Cole leads the majors in wins (46) and strikeouts (758), and ranks third in ERA (2.61). He again credited Astros pitching coach Brent Strom and the team’s pitching philosophy for giving him a huge boost.

“I think when I think back the biggest thing I’m thankful for was such a team environment that we could all share knowledge with each other and really forward our careers individually, whether it be with the Astros or whether it took you somewhere else,” Cole said.

SAY HEY KID

Willie Mays turns 90 on Thursday. He is the oldest living Hall of Famer.

A New York and San Francisco Giants great who finished his career with the New York Mets, he had 660 home runs and 3,283 hits with a .302 average and 1,903 RBIs from 1951-73.

He was part of a Golden Era of center fielders in New York, joined by Mickey Mantle of the Yankees and Duke Snider of the Brooklyn Dodgers.

TOP OF THE CHARTS

Kansas City left-hander Danny Duffy leads the American League with a 0.60 ERA going into Thursday’s game with Cleveland and is second to the New York Mets’ Jacob deGrom (0.51).

Duffy is 4-1 heading into his outing against right-hander Triston McKenzie (0-1, 6.27 ERA). Duffy beat Cleveland on April 5 in his first start, allowing two hits in six scoreless innings.

HOT MADBUM

Arizona left-hander Madison Bumgarner (3-2, 5.58 ERA) has won three straight starts for Arizona going into Thursday’s outing at Miami, which starts right-hander Pablo López (0-2, 2.34 ERA).

After winning at Washington on April 18, Bumgarner pitched a seven-inning no-hitter at Atlanta on April 25 in the second game of a doubleheader, a game shortened under pandemic rules and not recognized as a no-hitter by Major League Baseball because it did not go nine innings. He allowed one run and four hits over five innings to beat Colorado on April 30.

FINISHING UP

Milwaukee and Philadelphia conclude their four-game series with an intriguing pitching matchup. Brandon Woodruff (2-0, 1.80 ERA) starts for the visiting Brewers, and fellow right-hander Zack Wheeler gets the ball for the Phillies. Woodruff has permitted four runs in 31 innings over his last five starts. He is 2-0 with a sparkling 0.50 ERA in three career starts against the Phillies. Wheeler is 1-1 with a 2.90 ERA in five starts versus the Brewers.

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More AP MLB: https://apnews.com/hub/MLB and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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