Lester Throws No-Hitter against Royals, Receives many Hugs

(Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

(Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

With Jon Lester’s no-hitter against the Royals Monday night, the Red Sox have now have two no-hitters in as many years by pitchers under 25. Considering the underwhelming performance of the Yankees’ young arms (Kennedy and Hughes are a combined 0-7), and his now-famous suggestion that Mike Mussina pitch more like Jamie Moyer, Hank Steinbrenner should hopefully have some interesting comments by the morning. I’ll try to keep you posted. In the meantime, congrats to Lester, and Yankee beat reporters.

And now, one more hug shot (the best part of big wins).


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Interleague Roundup: Reds, Mets, White Sox Sweep

(AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
(AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

Kansas City at Florida It didn’t even take a winning team to reveal the Marlins’ flaws. The Royals took two of three from the NL East-leading Marlins, knocking their division lead down to one game. Zack Greinke notched his 8th quality start, tying Brandon Webb and 5 others for the MLB lead.

Cleveland at Cincinnati Cliff Lee was finally defeated by Edinson Volquez and the red hot Reds. Joey Votto delivered the KO with a pinch hit home run in the 6th.

Milwaukee at Boston The Red Sox completed their sweep of the Brewers in an eight home run slugfest. David Ortiz and Ryan Braun hit two each, and have clearly put their early season slumps behind them. Josh Beckett gave up 6 runs, all driven in by home runs, but still struck out 9 and got the win.

Pittsburgh at Chicago For only the second time in the last seven days, Alfonso Soriano failed to hit even a single home run. The Cubs still managed to beat the Pirates 4-3, and my favorite middle reliever, Carlos Marmol, bounced back from yesterday’s loss by striking out the side for his 11th hold.

Chicago at San Francisco The White Sox won their 5th straight against the Giants Sunday, and made many fantasy baseball managers feel pretty smart. This was one of the most obvious series for streaming pitchers, and anyone who put up Gavin Floyd, Mark Buehrle, or John Danks against the less-than-intimidating Giants lineup should congratulate themselves, but not expect the same production next week against the Indians and Angels.

Detroit at Arizona Randy Johnson pitched seven shutout innings against the Tigers for his 288th career victory. 300 isn’t looking so far off anymore, if (and it’s a big if) Johnson can stay healthy.

New York at New York The Mets completed their two-game sweep of the last-place Yankees and handed Chien- Ming Wang his second straight loss. Power came from the less likely sources, as Jose Reyes and Ryan Church both went deep, while Carlos Delgado was robbed of a home run by a bad call at the left field foul pole. Reyes, besides the sudden power, had his second straight two-hit game and may finally be coming out of a slump that dates back to last September. The struggling Yankees have reason to be optimistic — Alex Rodriguez is scheduled to rejoin the team Tuesday.

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Fantasy Baseball: Pitchers to Target

(AP Photo/Alan Diaz)
Joakim Soria – (AP Photo/Alan Diaz)
If you haven’t already begun the process, it’s time to start making trade offers in your fantasy league, and not just of the buy-low / sell-high variety. You should of course be targeting proven commodities that are under-performing, but there are a ton of previously underrated or just under-the-radar players that everyone is just assuming are playing over their heads. Every year a couple hot starts turn into career years — Fausto Carmona in 2007, Justin Verlander in 2006. I’ve broken down trade targets (or pickup options, depending on the depth of your league) into two categories — those pitchers whose value may be at its low point due to a few rough outings, and those pitchers whose numbers appear to be too good to be true, and need to be targeted accordingly. Remember, in both cases perception of interest is key — if your potential trade partner has a couple of hot pitchers, say Tim Lincecum and Cliff Lee, make a somewhat low offer for Lincecum, and in the counteroffer process, grudgingly say you’d be willing to take Lee, whose hot start is obviously unsustainable, because you need pitching badly enough to take the risk. Point to his messy start against the Reds on Sunday as proof that he’s falling back to Earth. If you can get him in a one-for-one deal, say a premier closer or a Spring hitter like Youkilis, or more fairly a solid one-dimensional hitter like Adam Dunn, then pull the trigger. Six straight wins and an ERA and WHIP under 1 don’t happen through sheer luck — Lee is healthy, has great control, and at 29 seems to be hitting his stride.

Buy Low / They’re Only Going to Get Better

Johan Santana — How, you may ask, is Santana a buy-low candidate? He’s 5-2 with a 3.30 ERA, .229 BAA, and 1.12 WHIP. Not too shabby. Except anxious fantasy owners look at Brandon Webb’s 9 wins, at Edinson Volquez’s sub-2.00 ERA, at Ryan Dempster’s .172 BAA, and at Ervin Santana’s 1.01 WHIP, and wonder why their first-round draft pick is being out-performed by not just second-round pitchers like Webb, but undrafted rookies and has-beens. The difference is that Santana is only going to get better (see his career splits), while all of the pitchers above (except, perhaps, Webb) will inevitably regress towards the league average. If anyone is souring on Santana, or just feeling that he is unnecessary on a staff featuring the likes of Lee, Volquez, and/or Ervin Santana, then by all means pursue him.

Dustin McGowan — Burnett and Halladay are the most familiar names in the Toronto rotation, and Shaun Marcum is the least hittable of late, and for those reasons, McGowan should be the best bargain. He pitches efficiently and with good control, but has struggled a bit so far to a 2-3 record with a 4.38 ERA. His high .338 BABIP (batting average on balls in play) compared to his low HR/9 of 0.58 shows that bad luck has been a factor in his results. Only twice in 9 starts has he allowed more than 3 earned runs. Go after him now before the memory of last month’s 9-run pounding by the Indians fades.

Justin Verlander — He’s 1-6 with an ERA just over 6. He’s not hurt, his stuff is still great, and his run support has to improve. It may be too late for Verlander to win 20 games or the Cy Young, as many of us anticipated, but 10 wins from here on out is still pretty good production and not unthinkable if he can just get his mechanics straightened out. There’s some risk here, but that’s why you should be able to get him at a deep discount.

Buy High / They’re More Real Than You Think

Joakim Soria — His numbers so far are unbelievable: 17 saves, 1.04 ERA, 0.40 WHIP, .088 BAA. Everything except the saves look very real. Kansas City probably won’t continue to give Soria save opportunities at this rate, but with Greinke and Bannister looking like legitimate top-of-the-rotation starters, that drop-off won’t be as severe as some may think. Even correcting for the team he plays for, Soria should quietly be a top-five closer this year. His ratios are outstanding, and if you can find an owner nervous about having a closer on a losing team, see if he’ll bite on Jon Lester.

Cliff Lee — As I said above, his numbers are too good to ignore or write off as a fluke. He’s locked in, and as long as the Tigers struggle, the AL Central is a pretty cushy place to pitch.


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Mets, Yankees fail to score again

Mercifully, they can blame it on the rain…this time.

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Mets vs Yankees: Someone has to Win Tonight

Interleague play begins tonight, and New York has to be grateful that someone is going to win a game — even a series — assuming the rain stops. The Yankees look to climb back over .500 and out of last place, while the Mets look to save Willie Randolph’s job. Unless they want him out, in which case they’re right on track.

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Big Fish

It’s May 12th, and every day it’s getting harder to ignore the Marlins, now tied for the best record in the NL. But Tampa Bay has a better chance of finishing where they are (2nd in the AL East) than the Marlins do of staying atop the NL East. Sure, Hanley Ramirez is insanely talented without any of the usual qualifiers (…but raw, …but troubled). But the rest of the offense is chock full of buts — Uggla’s got power but strikes out too much (4th in the NL with 39 Ks); Hermida strikes out four times as often as he walks; Luis Gonzalez is off to a decent start, but is 40, and last year hit 40 points lower in the second half. That offense has a plenty of talent, but there’s no way they keep this up.

Now the pitching: The bullpen is legitimately improved. Gregg has settled in well as closer. Pinto looks great in the setup roll. And that’s the last positive thing I can say about this staff.

Scott Olsen, the Marlins “ace”, walks too many and doesn’t get the strikeouts to balance out. Two of Olsen’s four wins have been against the Washington Nationals. When he’s eventually forced to pitch more in the strike zone — there’s only so long “effectively wild” works, just ask Daniel Cabrera — the hits will go up, his ERA will rise, and by mid June everyone will laugh at his once near-universal fantasy ownership. And a bad outing or two might be all it takes to awaken Olsen’s personal demons.

Trade him now.

Mark Hendrickson leads the Marlins with five wins, but as the oldest pitcher on the staff, and with a career BAA of .289, is the least likely candidate for a breakout season. 22-year-old Andrew Miller may be a superstar someday, but right now the league is hitting .340 against him — and that’s with three starts against the Nationals.

The Marlins have played one series against a team with a winning record (at the time of the series), and were not only swept, but outscored 25-10 by the Dodgers. They’ll face the Diamondbacks, Mets, and Phillies in the second half of May…

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Maine pitches into 9th, Mets avoid sweep

A Mets starter finally pitched past the 7th inning Wednesday, with John Maine coming just two outs short of a complete game against the Dodgers. The position players did their part, pounding out 12 runs on 13 hits, and knocking Dodger ace Brad Penny out in the 5th. After a rough opener to the series and passive play throughout April, the Mets offense played out the three-game series with renewed aggression, combining for 24 hits and 4 stolen bases. Perhaps a corner has been turned.

Fantasy Notes
Ryan Church went 5-for-12 with 2 HR in LA. Jose Reyes went 1/11, David Wright went 1/13. The Mets have suffered too many overlapping cold streaks early in the season, but if they can carry some momentum from Wednesday, that offense could get scary.

On a side note, former Met Carlos Gomez hit for the cycle against the White Sox, with a lead-off homerun in the first, a triple in the 5th, a double in the 6th, and a single in the ninth.

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