AP Photo/Jim Mone
Consider the plight of three right-handers in the Thursday afternoon games alone. Justin Verlander fanned 13 hitters through 6 1/3 innings, and left with a 5-0 lead. The Twins quickly scored six runs and won the game. Felix Hernandez tossed seven shutout innings, allowing four measly singles, but he got a no-decision. And in Philadelphia there was Chad Billingsley allowing three hits and one run in seven innings, fanning nine Phillies. Did he win? Sorry, he did not. And yes, this all happened while the sun was still out in the east!
The moral of this story is, wins are almost a bonus to a good outing, and shouldn't be expected. Owners got fantasy goodness from these three aces, and their efforts will not soon be forgotten, either. That's 28 strikeouts and only three earned runs the trio permitted, so it's not like Adam Eaton was delivering one of his patented performances with more runs than outs recorded. Wins remain impossible to predict, and all fantasy owners can reasonably expect is good pitching that hopefully will result in a win.
Of course, the other side of this story is something Johan Santana, as noted in Tuesday's Out of the Box this week, has certainly learned in his somewhat brief Mets career: finish what you started and you don't need to depend on the likes of Bobby Seay to hold a lead. Rangers lefty Matt Harrison was the beneficiary of his team hitting a pair of home runs in the ninth, as he went the distance and won for the second consecutive start. He joins Tim Wakefield, CC Sabathia and some fella named Greinke of the Royals as the only pitchers in the majors to enter Friday with two or more complete games. Harrison also seems to be enjoying the switch from catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia to Taylor Teagarden, as he's throwing more strikes. Maybe this run is for real.
As for those three aces who didn't win Thursday, there shouldn't be any worries from fantasy owners. Verlander certainly had a rough start to the season, but has chopped his bloated ERA in half in four outings, while fanning 44 hitters! Hernandez owns a 3.53 ERA and bounced back after a pair of subpar outings in which he lost twice. Billingsley has a .201 batting average against and has pitched seven or more innings in his past five outings. These guys are all fine. They just didn't win on Thursday, while Craig Breslow, Jason Bulger and Trever Miller, among others, did. That's all.
• At some point, the Red Sox have to do something with David Ortiz, don't they? Boston lost in 12 innings and Ortiz went hitless in seven at-bats and left 12 men on base! That's hard to do. Consider no team left more than 12 men on base Thursday. Ortiz is hitting .208 and showing no signs of power, as he's still sans any home runs. Maybe the Red Sox can't bench him, based on reputation and lack of choices, but you sure can. There was good news for the Sox: Dustin Pedroia and his sore groin returned to the lineup for the first time since Sunday, and he delivered four hits. Shortstop Julio Lugo had five hits in six at-bats and stole his first base.
• Here's a shocker: Mariners lefty Erik Bedard will miss his weekend start with a tight right hamstring, originally reported as a cramp. Bedard has still never reached 200 innings in a season, though he's a major strikeout option and holds much value. Call him the Chipper Jones of starting pitchers. Garrett Olson, who is more like the Eugenio Velez of starting pitchers, should make Bedard's start.
• Josh Johnson certainly didn't have one of his better starts Thursday, throwing more balls than strikes in four messy innings, but he was ultimately pulled from the game not due to performance, but because he "felt something in his shoulder." Uh oh. Johnson is in his second season back from Tommy John surgery and has a 2.50 ERA. He had walked six hitters in his first seven starts, then issued five free passes against the Brewers. Manager Fredi Gonzalez says Johnson will make his next scheduled start, but this situation bears watching.
• First Ryan Theriot becomes a power hitter and now James Loney? OK, we jest, but Loney is the first baseman here, someone who should be hitting the occasional home run. He went his first 126 at-bats this season without one, and has two in two days in Philadelphia, both against southpaws. Loney is a career .300 hitter and he's on pace for 117 RBIs, but it's nice to see him finally hit home runs.
• As alluded to earlier with Hernandez and Billingsley, Brandon Morrow and Jonathan Broxton blew wins for deserving starting pitchers. There's little need to worry about Broxton, fantasy's top statistical closer who partially got that way because he now has eight saves and an amazing four wins (but is also largely unhittable), but Morrow is struggling. He's allowed five earned runs the past two days in Arlington, Tex., and retired only two hitters in blowing two saves. His ERA is 9.72, but he claims he'll be fine when he mixes his pitches better. Fantasy owners are hoping he not only becomes more effective, but avoids injury. This week's Relief Efforts noted the Mariners' bullpen is not a safe one to watch these days.
• In other reliever news, Trevor Hoffman missed most of April but he's already at eight saves, LaTroy Hawkins continues to fill in ably for Jose Valverde, as he got his fifth save, and Mariano Rivera picked up only his second save of the month, closing out the Blue Jays in order. On the injury front, Frank Francisco played catch Thursday, and isn't expected to pitch in a game for at least a few more days. He still could end up on the DL. And former closer J.J. Putz, a key cog in the Mets' machine and very ownable even without the saves, should miss this weekend series as he deals with elbow inflammation. This news doesn't help any Mets starting pitchers, as we saw Thursday with fill-in set-up option Bobby Parnell making the John Maine victory disappear.
David Wright, Mets
Slow start, what slow start? Wright went 3-for-3 and knocked in the go-ahead run in the ninth inning, but also stole four bases against the Giants, giving him nine on the season. For all the silly whining about Wright, he's hitting .333, is on pace for 114 runs, 95 RBIs and 43 steals, and the homers will come. And nobody cares how many times he gets caught stealing.
Wandy Rodriguez, Astros
Still think Way-Rod can't win on the road? He not only won at Coors Field on Thursday, but struck out 11 Rockies with nary a walk, and won his fourth game. Rodriguez lowered his ERA to 1.90 and his WHIP to an even 1.00. Sure, the guy is great at home, but now he's a must start anywhere. He also hasn't allowed a home run in 305 at-bats, the longest current streak in the majors.
Don't worry about Jonathan Broxton. The Dodgers reliever entered Thursday having permitted no hits to left-handed batters in 26 at-bats, and it wasn't like he was getting ripped by right-handers, either, who were 2-for-24. Yes, Raul Ibanez snapped the lefty streak, and Carlos Ruiz doubled to blow the save, but Broxton remains arguably the nastiest pitcher out there. He's allowed four hits in 55 at-bats, with 30 strikeouts.
• Meanwhile, the Blue Jays welcomed back former closer B.J. Ryan from the DL, but there are no guarantees he returns to saving games. Scott Downs has a 2.08 ERA, 0.81 WHIP and no blown saves. Oddly enough, fantasy owners weren't dropping Ryan, who last pitched April 22. He remains owned in nearly 83 percent of ESPN leagues; Downs still hasn't risen to 60 percent. Folks, you're owning the wrong southpaw if you want saves.
• Jeremy Sowers didn't show much in his two starts with the big club, allowing 12 earned runs in nine innings, so he was sent to Triple-A Columbus, along with relief pitcher Vinnie Chulk, while well-traveled Luis Vizcaino was signed and should be put to major league work soon. Vizcaino will be pitching for his seventh big league team in six seasons, and isn't likely to threaten Kerry Wood for saves. The other news here is Aaron Laffey will not be moved back to the rotation to replace Sowers.
• Dodgers right-hander James McDonald was on many sleeper lists back in March, but he struggled in his four starts with the big club, walking 14 hitters and striking out six in 13 1/3 innings. As a relief pitcher he was much better, but the Dodgers have sent him to Triple-A Albuquerque to work on his overall command. It's not clear yet whether he'll start or relieve. Eric Milton was called up and is likely to replace Jeff Weaver in the rotation this weekend.
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AJ Mass: I think Werth does, though I'm not in the "No Coors, No Stats" camp with Matt -- he'll improve once he gets around the league another time.
-- Full chat transcript
Jason Grey: If someone has dropped Nolasco in your league, pick him up. If you have him, hang on. In the absence of any new information, there is nothing wrong with him. His velocity is right where it should be. It's just horrible luck -- with a .387 BABIP and only 50 percent of his runners left on base. He's pitched like a hurler with an ERA in the low fours at worsy, but the luck has ballooned his numbers.
-- Full chat transcript
Friday's fantasy chat schedule:
Stephania Bell, 11 a.m. ET
AJ Mass, 3 p.m. ET
• Speaking of enjoying themselves, the Iowa Cubs ripped Colorado Springs for 17 runs and 21 hits, as journeymen outfielders Jason Dubois and Brad Snyder each hit two home runs and combined for seven RBIs. The hitter to watch is first baseman Jake Fox, who managed only one home run, but contributed four hits and raised his batting average to .420. He's also slugging a Bonds-like .955. If Derrek Lee can't stay on the field and Micah Hoffpauir doesn't hit, Fox can absolutely make a fantasy impact soon. Also of interest was Jeff Samardzija starting the 17-4 road win, allowing two runs in four innings. His ERA for Iowa is 4.26.
• Derek Holland is already with the Texas Rangers, and Oklahoma City right-hander Neftali Feliz could soon join him. Feliz has really struggled for the RedHawks this season, and he's dealt with shoulder soreness, but on Thursday he allowed only one hit in five innings, and fanned seven. It was Feliz's best start of the season, and lowered his ERA to 4.38.
• Indianapolis center fielder Andrew McCutchen delivered four hits against Rochester, raising his batting average to .297. While McCutchen isn't hitting home runs, he has eight triples and seven steals in eight attempts, so it's not like he's been unproductive.
• For more on the top prospects, check out the minor league update.
• The new Yankee Stadium will host the same ol' inconsistent Phil Hughes, he of the 8.49 ERA. Sure, Hughes is capable of big things in the majors, but we rarely see them. He faces Francisco Liriano who, frankly, has been disappointing as well.
• The last game of the day features Tim Lincecum against Livan Hernandez. One of these guys recently won a Cy Young and strikes out an awful lot of hitters. The other has a 5.08 ERA and last helped fantasy owners in 2005. You know what? Both are 3-1. See, you can't predict wins. Have a great weekend.
• For more on Friday's games, check out Daily Notes.