AP Photo/Charlie Riedel
"Shut up, Gil. Close the deal, close the deal!"
OK, so maybe that's leaning too much on obscure references to infrequently used Simpsons characters. Still, I see a lot of "Ol' Gil" in Meche. He's a bit of a hard-luck fella himself, having somehow gone 26-29 in his Royals career before Tuesday.
Meche actually took a significant step forward in performance in 2008. He set new personal bests with 14 wins, a .255 batting average allowed (counting only qualified seasons) and 7.8 strikeouts per nine innings. For once, he was actually somewhat of a fantasy factor, picked 45th among starting pitchers on average in preseason ESPN live drafts. Then there was a rough patch. He kicked off the season 2-5 with a 4.55 ERA and 1.50 WHIP. Suddenly, Meche was a popular cut.
On Tuesday, Meche hit the pinnacle of his Royals career. He tossed a four-hit shutout against the Diamondbacks, only his third shutout in his nine big-league seasons. After a so-so first 10 starts, in his past four turns, the right-hander has a 2-0 record, 0.93 ERA and 1.03 WHIP, ranking him among the hottest pitchers in the game. Meche also has 26 strikeouts in 29 innings during that span, continuing his growth in that area.
Maybe "Ol' Gil" won't muster much luck in the win department -- expect a lot of "aw, Gil" comments from his fantasy owners after those quality-start no-decisions -- but the seeds of a useful fantasy starter are laid. Meche gets the Cardinals, Pirates and White Sox in his next three starts, which qualifies as a favorable part of his schedule, and with the American League Central a bit thin overall on offense, the Royals' second-half schedule isn't exactly treacherous.
• After swatting only one home run in his first 46 games in April and May, David Ortiz hit his fourth homer in the month of June (in 12 games). He's batting .333 with a 1.123 OPS so far in the month, and if you project his June numbers to a typical 150-game season, he'd have 50 homers and 125 RBIs. I'll let you decide how "back" you feel he is; I stand by my "Travis Hafner 2007" comparison.
• Maybe Cliff Lee should sue for Tim Wakefield's run support. Wakefield notched his ninth win on Tuesday despite a 4.39 ERA for the season. His Red Sox have provided him 8.78 runs of support per nine innings, eighth-most among qualified pitchers. Lee has a 2.88 ERA but four wins to show for it because of 4.73 supporting runs, fourth-least in the majors. Goes to show you how misleading a category wins can be.
• Though the matchup was stacked against him, Wandy Rodriguez's performance on Tuesday can't help but raise red flags. Coming off a quality-start effort at home against the Cubs, "Way-Rod" absorbed his fourth loss in five starts after he was touched up for six runs on six hits, three of them home runs, in four innings. Most distressing, Rodriguez now has an 8.27 ERA and 2.03 WHIP, and has served up eight homers in his past four turns, not to mention walked 12 batters in 20 2/3 innings. Neither his command nor his stuff seems up to snuff right now, and the threat of a possible hidden injury has to concern his owners.
• Rodriguez wasn't the only hot-starting pitcher touched up on Tuesday; Justin Verlander saw his streak of nine consecutive quality starts and seven straight winning decisions snapped when he allowed five runs on eight hits to the Cardinals in four innings. It was a night in which Verlander simply didn't have it, and while I can't erase the bad stats, I'll grant him a mulligan on a talent-evaluating basis. Even the best pitchers have the occasional blip on the radar screen, and Verlander's command numbers (two walks, four K's, no homers, 64.4 percent of pitches were strikes) offered no hidden worries.
• It's a good sign that Mat Gamel earned his first career start versus a left-handed pitcher on Tuesday, in a game in which the Brewers could have otherwise picked any other lefty-mashing right-hander to fill their designated-hitter role. Gamel went 1-for-3 against lefties Jeremy Sowers and Rafael Perez, bringing him to 4-for-12 in his career versus that side. Considering Gamel has immense power, has started 15 of the Brewers' past 18 games versus right-handed starters and usual third baseman Bill Hall has a .396 OPS since May 1, the rookie sure has the makings of a second-half sleeper.
• Though the Padres' rotation has been ravaged by injuries this season -- Chris Young is reportedly a candidate for the DL -- the one bright spot for the team of late has to be Kevin Correia. He lasted eight innings, and limited the Mariners to two runs on two hits, both solo home runs, on Tuesday. He has a 2.25 ERA and .60 WHIP in his past three starts. With Petco Park to help rein in some of the many fly balls he serves up, Correia at least warrants some matchups consideration looking ahead.
Ian Kinsler, Rangers
Just when it seemed like he had completely cooled off -- he was batting .184 with a .572 OPS in his first 12 games of June -- Kinsler put forth one of the standout games he commonly enjoyed during April and the first half of May. He went 3-for-4 with two home runs, and is now batting .346 with a 1.117 OPS in home games this season.
Felix Hernandez, Mariners
Though beating up on the Padres is becoming almost routine for the game's better pitchers -- they have now been shut out four times in their past 16 games -- "King Felix's" performance Tuesday shouldn't be overlooked. He tossed a two-hit shutout, striking out six and inducing 12 ground-ball outs. Hernandez, who hit a brief four-start slump in early May, now has a 3-0 record and 0.72 ERA in his past five starts.
With his 4-for-4 performance on Tuesday, Joe Mauer's batting average is at that number, putting him in exclusive company. Among players with at least 150 plate appearances through June 16, only he and Andres Galarraga have batted .425 or higher since Ted Williams hit .406 in 1941. Mauer's .429 average is also the highest for any player past the 150-at-bat mark since Paul O'Neill was batting .431 through 167 at-bats in 1994.
• After placing Jason Waddell on the 15-day DL with a non-baseball related medical issue, the Cubs recalled a familiar name from Triple-A Iowa: Jake Fox. Fox spent six days in Iowa after mostly rotting on the Cubs' bench before that, and he might continue to do just that for the remainder of this week. Prospective Fox owners, might like that the Cubs play six games in American League parks next week, where they'll have the designated hitter to slot him in fairly regularly.
• Perhaps sick of his streak of 27 consecutive hitless at-bats, the Giants optioned Emmanuel Burriss to Triple-A Fresno, replacing him on the roster with Matt Downs, a 25-year-old utilityman who averaged 17 homers and 27 steals per 150 games in the first four years of his professional career. Downs earned the start at second base on Tuesday, and might get a bit of a look there, so keep tabs on him, NL-only owners.
• The Astros replaced one injured infielder on the roster with another, activating Kazuo Matsui from the DL at the same time they placed Geoff Blum on the 15-day DL with a strained left hamstring. As promised, manager Cecil Cooper slotted Matsui in the bottom third of the lineup, keeping his No. 1 and No. 2 hitters, Michael Bourn and Miguel Tejada, in place. Matsui's return also didn't affect the playing time of Edwin Maysonet, who at one point started 12 of 13 Houston games at second base. On Tuesday, Maysonet merely slid over to third base, starting his third consecutive game at the hot corner.
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AJ Mass: This is the misconception I get hammered on a lot from people. Let me clarify. When I am asked who to sell high on, that doesn't mean I am recommending you trade this person. As I said before, to be included on this list, you have to be doing quite well. And while I love Justin, I do think he is slightly overachieving with his current stat line -- that's all I mean by "sell high." It's a player with negative "momentum."
-- Full chat transcript
Brendan Roberts: He isn't right now, but he has for much of the year. Yeah, I think he's a bit dinged cause of that hamstring, but he doesn't put much stress on it and will be fine soon. Remember, at least recently, he has been a second-half hitter.
-- Full chat transcript
Wednesday's fantasy chat schedule:
Tristan H. Cockcroft, 11 a.m. ET
Eric Karabell, 3 p.m. ET
• Tim Alderson had perhaps his best start yet for Double-A Connecticut, not that his previous six were all that much less impressive. He tossed seven shutout innings of two-hit baseball, and through seven starts, is now 3-1 with a 1.82 ERA and 0.96 WHIP in seven starts for the Defenders. It's beginning to seem conceivable that the 20-year-old could see some time at the big-league level late this year, but it remains more likely he'll get a long look in the spring before a probable midseason call-up in 2010.
• David Price gets a tough assignment in Coors Field in his sixth career big-league start. On raw talent alone, he'd seemingly be worth using anywhere, but a couple things stand out as concerns. One, he has been inefficient with his pitches in his previous four starts this year, never lasting more than six innings and posting an unsightly 1.63 WHIP to go with his sparkling 2.37 ERA. Two, at least as a big leaguer, Price has been a bit more a fly-ball pitcher than ground-baller, and that won't play well at Coors. Heck, I'll throw in a three: The Rockies are in a groove right now. Be cautious.
• The Blue Jays have made trips to Citizens Bank Park in each of the past two seasons, and faced Jamie Moyer both times, handling him well overall. Something to think about: Lyle Overbay, Alex Rios and Vernon Wells are a combined 28-for-70 (.400 BA) with four home runs in their careers against the veteran left-hander.
• For more on Wednesday's games, check out the Daily Notes.