AP Photo/Pat Sullivan
It certainly looked like the potential pitching matchup of the night when Florida's Josh Johnson took the mound in Houston against Wandy Rodriguez on Thursday. However, this is why nothing is ever assured in the great game of baseball. One of these guys was coming off a game in which he fanned 11 Rockies and gave up one hit over seven innings to the wild-card leaders. The other guy had allowed 10 earned runs in his past outing. So guess who won?
Mark down Rodriguez's previous outing as the obvious outlier, and hopefully you left him active as he won this matchup of emerging starters who each own 12 wins and an ERA on the happy side of three. Other than his last time out against Milwaukee, Rodriguez has been terrific, allowing no more than one earned run in any other outing since July 1, including Thursday night when he shut down the streaking Marlins.
Rodriguez's owners probably weren't too eager to leave the pitcher active against Florida, not only because he was coming off the Brewers outing when he gave up eight first-inning runs and was left in to give up a few more later, but also because the Marlins had delivered double-digit hits in a modern record 15 consecutive games, the longest major league streak since 1937. The Marlins were hot. Way-Rod was not. So naturally he permitted a mere four singles in eight-plus innings and nary an earned run. That's baseball. Remove the 10-run game and Rodriguez would have an incredible four earned runs over eight starts and 55 innings, for a 0.65 ERA. That's not a misprint. It's also another reason to trust your studs, even if they have a very bad outing.
As for Johnson, don't panic, despite his giving up seven hits and four runs in 4 1/3 innings. Johnson's ERA rose to 2.99 in his worst outing since April, but he remains a major strikeout pitcher on a team that normally delivers plenty of run support. If Rodriguez proved anything to fantasy owners on Thursday it's that one has to look at the bigger picture and trust aces even when they're coming off a less-than-stellar outing.
• Speaking of rookie hitters discussed in depth by colleague Tristan Cockcroft in Thursday's Out of the Box, Drew Stubbs hit a 10th inning walk-off home run -- the first homer of his career -- to beat Bobby Howry and the Giants. While LaPorta, as Cockcroft notes, will earn his keep hitting homers and knocking in runs, Stubbs is a speedster and strong defensive center fielder, and not a great power threat.
• Minnesota Twins first baseman Justin Morneau hasn't played since Monday, when he left in the fourth inning with what has been diagnosed as an inner ear infection. Morneau experienced dizziness since the weekend, and there remains no timetable for his return. He could play this weekend, or a DL stint could be pending. Morneau leads the AL with 94 RBIs.
• Maybe Delmon Young is going to step in for Morneau and be the Twins' power threat. Young has done nothing but disappoint this season -- some would argue for his entire major league career -- but his fifth-inning home run off Derek Holland was his eighth of the season, and five have come in the past nine games. That's a bit hard to believe for a fellow with a career best of 13 home runs, but if it's a trend and not a fluke, fantasy owners need to pay attention. Young might finally be emerging, and he's still only 23 years old.
• The Phillies swept away the poor Diamondbacks in three straight games, punctuating things with an 11-3 rout as Ryan Howard, Jayson Werth and Carlos Ruiz all homered. Werth hit four home runs in the three games and knocked in six, while getting seven hits in 12 at-bats; in the Phillies' previous two home series he had only two hits in 20 at-bats. Also hitting well are Phillies pitchers, as Arizona was victimized by Joe Blanton, Jamie Moyer and Cliff Lee getting at least two hits in all three games. The last time a team did that was the 1988 Mets. Ah, if only those numbers counted for fantasy owners.
• Maybe Jarrod Washburn should have stayed in Seattle, because he sure isn't helping the Detroit Tigers. Washburn got a chance to beat the Mariners on Thursday and ended up allowing six earned runs in as many innings, the third time in four starts with his new team the lefty had been whacked around like a piņata. All four of Washburn's Tigers outings have come at home; good news, next up he gets the highest-scoring team in baseball, the Angels!
• Closer follies: Washburn got off the hook because Seattle closer David Aardsma imploded in the ninth inning, blowing his fourth save of the season. Clete Thomas delivered the winning hit. ... Rafael Soriano complained of shoulder pain a few days ago, and with his injury history, that's a complaint we all have to take notice of. Soriano looked good against the Mets, registering save No. 18 in 21 chances. ... Jim Johnson continues to thrive as the Baltimore closer now that George Sherrill is gone. Johnson got four outs for his fifth save. ... Angel Guzman was pitching well until this week, then Lou Piniella didn't choose him to replace Kevin Gregg as closer. Uh oh. Russell Martin smacked a grand slam off him Thursday.
J.D. Drew, Red Sox
The Boston right fielder wasn't exactly thriving, as he had hit three home runs since July 1 and was dropped to eighth in the batting order Thursday. Then he swatted two home runs, two of his four hits, against the Blue Jays. Drew isn't a great fantasy option and he's a free agent in two-thirds of ESPN leagues, but he does have 15 home runs.
Joel Piniero, Cardinals
The guy with the career 4.55 ERA tossed 7 2/3 innings of four-hit, one-run ball at San Diego, winning his 12th game and lowering his ERA to 3.15. He also fanned seven Padres. You might not have noticed, but Piniero has been a strikeout pitcher lately, with five or more K's in four of five outings. His last loss came in June.
Johan Santana can't win 'em all, and apparently he can't beat the Braves no matter how well he performs. Santana pitched well Thursday in another loss to Atlanta, dropping his career mark to 1-5 in eight starts against Chipper's crew, but his ERA is 2.21. His average run support in those games is 2.5 per outing, or 20 runs total. Tough to win that way, but at least he doesn't hurt fantasy owners in the process.
• The Mets didn't have anything to save Thursday, and if they did it would have been Francisco Rodriguez for the save, but it was nice to see the relatively quick return of Billy Wagner from Tommy John surgery. He is, after all, the No. 3 active saves leader in baseball. Wagner might get dealt any minute now, but for now he's an active Met, taking the roster spot of the most hittable starter in baseball this decade, Livan Hernandez. Tim Redding will fill the rotation spot, but really, anyone young with a future would make more sense. Hernandez had a 5.47 ERA. Redding has one win in nine starts and a 6.99 ERA as a starter.
• Johnny Cueto was Hernandez-like for the past six weeks, ever since the Phillies got nine runs off him in the first inning in a game in the first week of July. His ERA rose from 2.69 to 3.45 that night, and seven ugly starts later it's 4.61. He has gone winless in his past eight starts with an ERA over 10. Johnny can't hurt anyone now, because the Reds mercifully placed the right-hander on the DL with shoulder inflammation. Word is Cueto will return soon, but fantasy owners should look elsewhere. Micah Owings, who is average at best when healthy, comes off the DL and takes the rotation spot.
• Fantasy owners got a nice surprise when Nelson Cruz came off the DL, then hit his 26th homer in the sixth inning. The Rangers didn't farm out speedy outfielder Julio Borbon, who was the DH on Thursday and delivered three hits and three RBIs. He's hitting .485 with eight stolen bases in 10 games and gives the team another leadoff option so Ian Kinsler can hit in a power spot. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, only two other players who debuted in the major leagues in the past 75 years had as high a batting average through 10 games as Borbon does with at least 30 at-bats: Luis Salazar for the 1980 Padres and Craig Wilson for the 1998 White Sox.
Jason Grey: Fowler's hit .305 and slugged .488 since the break, so just experience. People forget he just started switch-hitting as a pro and is a natural right-handed hitter that already hits lefties well. Just more experience with that left-handed swing.
-- Full chat transcript
Friday's fantasy chat schedule:
Stephania Bell, 11 a.m. ET
James Quintong, 3 p.m. ET
• Brett Myers pitched for Class-A Clearwater and struck out the side in his one inning of work while on rehab. Myers also allowed two singles. The Phillies aren't rushing their Opening Day starter back, but certainly wouldn't mind having another bullpen -- or closer -- option for September. Meanwhile, in Double-A, Kyle Drabek won again with seven shutout innings, improving his Reading record to 8-2.
• Another Pennsylvania pitcher hoping for a chance with the major league club in September is Daniel McCutchen of the Pirates. The right-hander, who is no relation to future teammate and center fielder Andrew McCutchen, improved his mark to 13-6 by beating Triple-A Louisville. McCutchen isn't overpowering, but 28 walks against 107 strikeouts is a very good rate. He should get a promotion soon.
• The Padres can use some middle infield help in the future, and might get it soon from second baseman Eric Sogard, who delivered two home runs for Double-A San Antonio on Thursday. Sogard won't make his name with power, but he is hitting .295 with 48 walks and only 36 strikeouts in 100 games. The Arizona State product bats left-handed and is hitting .326 against right-handed pitching. Teammate Logan Forsythe, a 22-year-old third baseman, hit three singles and is batting .305 with a .437 on-base percentage in the minors this year.
• The Phillies and Mets renew their rivalry, but with far less on the line than in previous Augusts for one of the franchises. Cole Hamels is winless in his past three starts and has walked eight hitters in his past 9 1/3 innings. Opponent Mike Pelfrey has one more win than Hamels and nearly the same ERA.
• The Cubs and Dodgers have a little rivalry as well after Lou Piniella's bunch couldn't win a game in their playoff series. Randy Wells was in the minors last year, but now he might be Chicago's ace. No Cubs starter has more wins or a lower ERA. Randy Wolf hurls for Los Angeles, coming off a 10-strikeout win in which he homered and had three hits.
• Speaking of rivalries, any Yankees-Red Sox series will always be intense, but the Yankees are tied for the largest division lead in baseball, while the Red Sox cling to the wild-card lead. Andy Pettitte has a 2.08 ERA against Boston this season, while Brad Penny didn't allow a run in his lone outing against New York.• For more on Friday's games, check Daily Notes.