Fantasy Forward: Dueling southpaws overshadowed by their bullpens

While many ponder when and if the Cubs will be good again, two of the top teams so far in the National League locked horns in Los Angeles. Arizona tried to salvage a game in the series sending Robbie Ray to the mound last night. Ray responded with six strong innings, giving up five hits, one earned run and four walks with 13 strikeouts on 18 swinging strikes. The Dodgers countered with Rich Hill, who is turned his season around of late, striking out nine on 14 swinging strikes while allowing one earned run on two hits. Then, the bullpens.

It started with the Dodgers Luis Avilan. He served up home runs to Jake Lamb and Ketel Marte in the top of the eighth giving the Diamondbacks two run lead. This performance prompted Dodgers beat writer Andy McCullough to tweet out to followers: “You will be hearing the names Brad Hand, Justin Wilson and Sean Doolittle as the deadline approaches”. Josh Fields also yielded a run in the top of the ninth to Arizona, then Fernando Rodney entered. This column suggested selling high on him two weeks ago. Rodney did not record an out, allowed two hits, four walks and four earned runs to blow his fifth save of the season and absorb his third loss. Arizona will show patience with the veteran closer due to his strong performances in May and June, but fantasy owners need to be privy to the upcoming regression.

On the injury front, Michael Taylor left Thursday night’s game and will land on the disabled list with an oblique injury. This hurts since his long-awaited breakout seemed to be in progress. Xander Bogaerts owners may have dodged a bullet. He took a pitch off his hand in Tampa Bay forcing him to leave the game. X-rays returned negative, but expect him to take Friday off at least with the All-Star break three days away. Danny Salazar appeared in a Triple-A rehab game lasting 3.1 innings giving up three hits (all solo home runs), two walks and striking out four on 60 pitches – thirty of which were strikes. Zach Duke also made another rehab appearance and could rejoin the Cardinals any day to bolster the bullpen. Off to the recaps.

Starting Pitcher Observations

In the year of tumult for pitchers, Anibal Sanchez won his first decision since rejoining the Tigers rotation. Sanchez pitched six innings giving up five hits, two earned runs and striking out eight with only eight swinging strikes. He reentered the rotation on June 19th, and crediting Paul Sporer, since then, his ERA sits at 3.09 with a 1.12 WHIP, 24 strikeout percentage, and four percent walk rate. Just when you start to trust Anibal, things happen, but if desperate for a starter, kick the tires.

Michael Wacha provided a bounce back start with nine strikeouts over 5.2 innings. He yielded six hits, two earned runs, and two walks en route to his sixth win.

Zach Davies won his 10th game of 2017 after a rough start to the year. Davies allowed five hits, two earned runs, and struck out three in six innings against the Cubs.

Rookie Sal Romano tallied his first win pitching five innings in Coors Field giving up six hits, two earned runs and a walk with six strikeouts on 11 swinging strikes.

Mike Foltynewicz could be turning the corner. He won on the road in Washington, bending, but not breaking, giving up eight hits, only one walk, and two earned runs with five strikeouts. It’s his seventh win of the year.

Jacob Faria did not turn in a pretty line, but won his fourth start anyways. Faria allowed four hits, one earned run and four walks with only two strikeouts against Boston. Chris Sale struck out 12 on a whopping 22 swinging strikes to become the first American League starter with more than 170 strikeouts (178 in fact) in the first half since 2002. Sale did allow four earned runs on seven hits to take the loss, his fourth.

Just when one thinks it’s safe to avoid Josh Tomlin, he faces the Padres. Tomlin struck out six over seven innings giving up four hits and two earned runs for his fifth win. His spot in the rotation could be in jeopardy when Salazar returns, stay tuned.

Jose Berrios won his eighth game, lasting six innings and allowing seven hits, four runs (three earned) with four striking.

Bullpen Musings

In the Cardinals closer carousel, it was Seung-Hwan Oh’s turn last night, and he responded with two strikeouts against a hit allowed and a walk for his 17th save. Raisel Iglesias pitched two innings in a non-save appearance giving up a run on two hits with four strikeouts. He threw 33 pitches and may not be available in Arizona on Friday night.

With Felipe Rivero receiving a much deserved day off, Juan Nicasio stepped in for his first save of the season striking out one. Tony Watson did record his fourth hold, but should not be able to leapfrog Rivero moving forward.

Jim Johnson notched his 19th save giving up a hit with two strikeouts in Washington. Brandon Kintzler recorded his 23rd save with a hit against.

In a much-needed no runs allowed outing, Alex Colome recorded his 23rd save, giving up a hit while striking out one. Roberto Osuna saved his 22nd for the Blue Jays, but drew some ire from the Astros due to his celebration. Something to monitor over the weekend.

Hitter Highlights

Denard Span and Joe Panik each recorded a hit and a run scored for the Giants. Justin Upton doubled, scored twice, and walked for the Tigers. Nick Castellanos went 2-for-5 with a run, triple, RBI, and walk. Alex Presley tallied two hits with two RBI, and Dixon Machado hit his first home run of 2017, driving in two.

Dee Gordon finished with two hits, scored three runs, and stole two bases to raise his total to 31 this year. J.T. Realmuto, Christian Yelich, Marcell Ozuna and Ichiro all recorded multiple hit games. Ichiro set a major league record for hits by a foreign-born player with 3.054 over his major league career. Respect.

Jonathan Villar stayed atop the Brewers lineup and scored two runs with a hit, walked, drove in one, and stole his 16th base. Domingo Santana went 4-for-5 with three runs, two doubles, two RBI and stole his ninth base. Ryan Braun launched his 10th home run, driving in two and walked twice before getting rest. Jesus Aguilar racked up three hits, scored once, and drove in one. Keon Broxton did not get a hit, but walked three times and stole his 16th base. Willson Contreras hit his 11th home run for the Cubs.

Scooter Gennett keeps on going with a double, two runs scored, and two walks for the Reds. Adam Duvall doubled, homered (20) and drove in two. Scott Schebler also doubled, scored, and drove in one. Raimel Tapia hit lead-off with Charlie Blackmon shifting to third in the lineup and Nolan Arenado getting the day off. Tapia and Blackmon each finished with two hits. Blackmon also stole his seventh base. Trevor Story went 2-for-4 with a run and an RBI in the loss.

Andrew McCutchen keeps hitting with three more in four at-bats, scored two runs, and hit two doubles. Josh Bell doubled, homered (16), and drove in two. Gregory Polanco turned in a perfect day at the plate going 4-for-4, scored two runs, hit his seventh home run, and stole his eighth base. His buy low window may be expiring soon. Maikel Franco went 2-for-4 with a run, and Aaron Altherr drove in two with two hits and walked.

Ender Inciarte doubled and scored two runs. Freddie Freeman hit two doubles and drove in two. His second double represented his 1,000th hit as a Brave becoming the 19th player in team history to do so. Kurt Suzuki doubled and hit his seventh home run. Brian Goodwin tallied three hits and his seventh home run for the Nationals.

Jose Altuve stayed hot with three more hits, drove in two, and stole his 18th base. Carlos Beltran added his 11th home run along with Marwin Gonzalez hitting his 15th. Alex Bregman is quietly turning the corner going 3-for-3 with two runs, two doubles, and stealing his seventh base. Russell Martin is also heating up with three more hits, scoring two runs, and hitting his ninth home run. Josh Donaldson needs to spark this offense; he recorded two hits and two RBI last night. Kendrys Morales, Troy Tulowitzki and Ryan Goins each drove in one with a hit.

Logan Morrison went 3-for-4 with a run and a double. Wilson Ramos led the way for the Rays with a double along with his third home run, driving in three runs. Peter Bourjos provided the other run with his fourth of the year.

Michael Brantley scored three runs, tripled, and drove in one for the Indians. Jose Ramirez continues to fly below the radar with three hits, his 16th home run, and three RBI. He is 14th overall right now on the ESPN Player Rater. Edwin Encarnacion could be in store for a big second half going 4-for-5 with his 18th home run and two RBI. Lonnie Chisenhall drove in three and doubled along with Yan Gomes adding his fifth home run.

Jonathan Schoop tallied three more hits. Mark Trumbo launched his 13th home run to drive in two, and Trey Mancini recorded two doubles scoring twice. Miguel Sano scored and drove in one while Max Kepler knocked in two runs. Eduardo Escobar went 2-for-4 with a triple, drove in two, and scored in the Twins win.

Jake Lamb not only hit two more home runs last night, each came against a southpaw on the mound. Lamb has hit 20 this year, and if he improves versus left-handed pitching, look out. Ketel Marte entered the game in a double switch and hit a moonshot home run off of Luis Avilan for his first of the season. Logan Forsythe could be heating up for the Dodgers. He finished 2-for-4 with two runs, his third home run, and two RBI. Chris Taylor racked up four more hits including the game winner.

Marcus Semien returned to the A’s lineup with a hit, two runs, and stole his fifth base. Yonder Alonso scored two runs, doubled, and drove in one. Khris Davis launched his 24th home run with three RBI. Bruce Maxwell hit his first home run of 2017. Jean Segura went 4-for-4 with a double, and Robinson Cano went 2-for-3 with a run. Danny Valencia hit his ninth home run to drive in three. Mitch Haniger has struggled since returning from the disabled list, but doubled and hit his seventh home run last night.

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Greg Jewett

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I am a father, PE teacher & fantasy baseball writer. Using saber metrics & information to evaluate players & trends is exciting to me."Passion is the oxygen of the soul." Bill Butler