Though it was a typical short slate of games Thursday, the night was jam-packed with big names and big stories. There was the much-anticipated match-up between Justin Verlander and Yu Darvish, Bryce Harper was back on the field to lend his support to teammate and fellow superstar Stephen Strasburg who was still looking for his first win since Opening Day, the Mariners were looking for their first series win at Yankee Stadium in what seemed like a bazillion years, and there were aces abound with the likes of Adam Wainwright, Jose Fernandez, Mat Latos and Matt Cain all taking the hill. Yet with all of that star power front and center and in the spotlight, none of it compared to what was actually my favorite part of the night.
I’m not normally a sucker for this kind of stuff, but for whatever reason this one got me. If you spend your late evening locked into MLB Network’s Quick Pitch, you’ve seen the highlight multiple times. If not, it went a little something like this: Ceremonial first pitch for the Rays game. Nine year old Alayna Adams was selected from among a group of military families to throw out the first pitch; her father, Lt. Col. Will Adams, soon to arrive home from a year-long tour in Afghanistan. On the stadium video screen she watched a message of love and encouragement from her dad, took the ball, and headed to the mound. After tossing a one-hopper towards the plate she locked eyes with the catcher who stood and removed his mask. Yes, it was her father. She sprinted towards home and leapt into his arms and the two stood there in the embrace you see here for a good thirty seconds.
Again, not sure why this tugged at my heartstrings so much as I’ve seen reunions like this hundreds of times, but it was a spectacular moment. Kudos to the Rays and the United Service Organizations for the collaborative effort and a big thanks to not just all of those who serve, but to their families as well for staying strong and supporting from back home. If you haven’t seen the video, check it out here in the Tampa Bay Times.
Now let’s talk some fantasy baseball from around the league…
OK, so how crazy was this match-up between Darvish and Verlander? The expectations of an incredible pitchers’ duel were high and numerous hot-hitting stars were being ignored in a variety of daily fantasy games. Well, that stupid Murphy guy and his moronic law made another untimely appearance and with two outs in the top of the third, Verlander was walking towards the dugout having given up eight earned runs. Darvish had allowed three of his own through the first two and Jhonny Peralta led off the bottom of the third with a solo home run, tagging Darvish for his fourth run of the game. I suppose the silver lining to be had was that Darvish insisted on staying in the game and tossed another five scoreless innings to smooth out that ERA, but again, what a disappointment from the perspective of someone hoping for an old-time classic pitcher’s duel. Not to mention what your WHIP and ERA looked like afterwards.
Getting back to the Rays/Red Sox game, if there’s one thing you can take away from this one it’s this: No, not that Alex Cobb is a stud, which is actually a proven truth these days; it’s that next season you need to smarten up, loosen the purse strings and buy yourself the Baseball Guys Draft Guide by Ray Flowers. Had you done that, Fernando Rodney’s three blown saves and 5.28 ERA would be someone else’s problem. In case you missed Ray rightfully patting himself on the back last week, here’s another look.
Overall, there wasn’t a whole lot of excitement from the Yankees/Mariners game, but a note of fantasy baseball importance was the injury to Andy Pettitte. Apparently concern isn’t all that high, but the 40-year old southpaw left with two outs in the fifth inning with a strained trapezius muscle, that place between your neck and shoulders where, if Mr. Spock grabs you, you lose consciousness. The team will wait to see how he feels Friday morning, but for now, there is no MRI scheduled which, I guess, is somewhat encouraging. We’ll find out over the weekend if he is going to make his next start.
I’m very curious to see what the White Sox do when Gordon Beckham, beginning a rehab assignment this weekend, returns from the disabled list. In his absence, Jeff Keppinger was moved over to the keystone and the team brought up Conor Gillaspie to man the hot corner. Keppinger has, surprisingly, been a complete disaster, batting .188 and striking out more often than usual. Gillaspie, on the other hand, is batting .294 with three home runs and seven RBI over a 36-game span. Sure, he’s being helped by a .360 BABIP, but what happens if he doesn’t cool off by the time Beckham is ready? He deserves to stay up and play and Beckham, who I had tabbed as a potential comeback player this year, should get the opportunity to play. That would put Keppinger on the bench which, I think, is where he needs to be. But we’ll obviously have to see how Robin Ventura handles it.
Maybe it was just a simple neck problem that was killing the numbers for Jonathon Niese after all. I’m certainly going to wait and see how he fares in his next start, but this was certainly an encouraging outing for fantasy owners. He’ll face another tough lineup in the Reds for his next outing so tread lightly but be hopeful.
The Brewers may have dropped one to Francisco Liriano and the Pirates, but fantasy owners are still enamored with them for one reason – Jean Segura. Oh baby is this kid good. The naysayers are coming down on this kid for his unexpected power displays and a high BABIP, but let’s focus on the real reason we drafted him and show some love for 14 stolen bases.
Now the Cincinnati/ Miami game, that’s where we saw a killer pitcher’s duel. Mat Latos and Jose Fernandez each looked amazing and it was unfortunate that the bullpens ruined this one. Steve Cishek was atrocious and it was a rare, poor outing for Aroldis Chapman. But for me, the big moment of this game was one of the rarest of sightings – a Juan Pierre home run! Pierre had hit a total of five home runs over the last six seasons, his last coming on June 23, 2012, so when he led the game off with a long ball, you expected a Bizarro night. Of course he got back to business and went hitless in his next four at-bats with one strikeout.
More trouble in pitching paradise as Matt Cain was, again, victimized by the long ball and coughed up a total of six earned runs over the first three innings of last night’s Rockies/Giants game. Sure, the Giants waged a comeback from the six-run deficit and Cain settled down to pitch effectively into the seventh inning, but the ace of the Giants staff is now sporting a 5.43 ERA through nine starts this season. The big question is why? His strikeout and walk rates are fairly close to his career averages and the batted ball data looks pretty normal save for an embarrassing 18.3-percent HR/FB. Perhaps it’s because he’s throwing more sliders and not getting ahead in the count early? Hitters just seem to be waiting on his fastball and when they guess right, BOOM! Something need to be fixed here and fixed fast.
And finally, a shout out to Stephen Strasburg who, for the first time in his professional career, pitched into the eighth inning. I’m sure there are a number of old-school hurlers out there laughing that it took the kid so long to go so far, but this is what we’re stuck with when teams coddle their starters. They get soft and can’t go the distance. Here’s hoping that the Nationals let him do it again, otherwise I’m going to have to stop addressing the team’s pitching situation and spend more time ridiculing Bryce Harper’s ridiculous haircut.
|Travis Snider, OF PIT||3-5, 2 R, HR, 3 RBI, SB|
|Wilin Rosario, C COL||2-4, 2 R, HR, 3 RBI|
|Daniel Murphy, 2B NYM||4-4, 2 R, 2 2B, RBI, BB|
|Stephen Strasburg, SP WAS||W, 1.13 ERA, 0.75 WHIP, 4 K|
|Jonathon Niese, SP NYM||W, 2.45 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, 3 K|
|Ike Davis, 1B NYM||0-5, 4 K|
|Mike Napoli, C BOS||0-3, BB, 3 K|
|Raul Ibanez, OF SEA||0-4, 3K|
|Justin Verlander, SP DET||L, 27.00 ERA, 3.00 WHIP, 3 K|
|Fernando Rodney, RP TB||L, BS, 40.50 ERA, 7.50 WHIP, 2 K|
Jarrod Dyson, OF KC – ankle (expected to land on 15-day DL)
Travis Hafner, DH NYY – shoulder (day to day)
Andy Pettitte, SP NYY – neck/shoulder (day to day)
Chris Stewart, C NYY – groin (day to day)
David Price, SP TB – triceps (15-day DL)
Ross Detwiler, SP WAS – undisclosed (day to day)
Howard Bender has been covering fantasy sports for over a decade on a variety of web sites. You can find his personal musings on RotobuzzGuy.com and for questions, thoughts or comments, you can follow him on Twitter at @rotobuzzguy or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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