Brian J. Myers/US Presswire
Be careful what you wish for because you just might get it
Fantasy owners were waiting for Jay Bruce to get back in the Reds' lineup. Dusty Baker gave Bruce a few days off to "clear his head," as his average had fallen from .268 on May 8 to .208. Bruce also had homered only twice in his past 20 games. Baker told reporters he wanted Bruce to "study" other hitters by watching carefully what worked and what didn't work for them.
Unfortunately, Bruce will have plenty of time to watch hitters from the dugout now because he's going to be sidelined for quite some time. Back in the lineup on Saturday, Bruce fractured his wrist while attempting to make a sliding catch of a David Wright blooper in the first inning. He's going to fly back to Cincinnati to get some tests on the wrist, but when the Cincinnati Enquirer quotes Baker as saying, "I hope that we don't lose him for the year," you know it's going to be a while before Bruce is back in the lineup.
Chris Dickerson replaced Bruce in right field on Saturday, and one would think that between Dickerson and Jonny Gomes, you had identified the guys likely to have the biggest increase in fantasy value with Bruce's injury. However, you might be wrong. Lance McAlister of 1530 Radio in Cincinnati reported Reds GM Walt Jocketty as saying Drew Stubbs, batting .280 with 33 stolen bases for Triple-A Louisville, would be "the first guy we will consider." Stubbs might be worth a flier in NL-only leagues.
As for the rest of the game, things did not go well for the Reds. Johnny Cueto had his second straight shaky outing, allowing three runs in the first inning and four runs over five innings. In his past six starts, Cueto has a 7.31 ERA, and is clearly not the same pitcher who started the season 4-1. You simply cannot hand Johan Santana a lead like that and expect to win, and well, Cueto didn't.
Santana threw seven shutout innings to pick up his 10th win of the season, allowing only five hits in the process. Santana finally got some run support, thanks to unlikely sources Angel Pagan, who went 2-for-4 with a triple and two steals in the leadoff spot, and newly acquired Jeff Francoeur, who went 2-for-4 with two RBIs in his Mets debut.
• On Friday, Jonathan Sanchez gave the Giants' bullpen the night off with his no-hitter. That's a good thing because it needed to be pressed into action early on Saturday after Matt Cain had to leave the game, after getting hit in his pitching arm with a line drive in the second inning. X-rays showed no break, and he's not expected to miss any time for the Giants, though they may want to hold him out of the All-Star Game as a precaution. Five Giants relievers held the Padres to one run and five hits the rest of the way, and Pablo Sandoval hit a two-run homer to lift San Francisco to a 2-1 victory.
• Jarrod Washburn was sharp against the Rangers, lowering his ERA to 2.96 and evening his record at 6-6 on the year by throwing seven innings of one-run, four-hit ball. Catcher Rob Johnson hit his first home run of the season for the Mariners in the victory, as he continues to battle Kenji Johjima for the bulk of time behind the plate.
• Kevin Youkilis went 3-for-4 with two home runs and four RBIs as the Red Sox pounded the Royals 15-9 on Saturday. Despite the high score, starter John Smoltz actually pitched well for Boston, allowing only one run over five innings with seven strikeouts for his first win of the season. He's probably not going to give you a lot of innings going forward, but if his starts remain at this quality, he's certainly going to have some fantasy value in the second half of the season.
• Justin Upton went 4-for-4 with a triple and two runs scored to snap out of a .103 funk for July. It was more than enough for Arizona starter Jon Garland, who threw eight innings of one-run ball against Florida, to win for the first time in 10 starts. A few more solid outings like this one and the Diamondbacks just might be able to unload his contract to a contender.
• After not hitting a home run for 50 games and 190 at-bats, the longest homerless drought of his career, Melvin Mora finally connected off Toronto's Jesse Carlson in the bottom of the 12th inning on Saturday. The walk-off shot gave Baltimore a 4-3 victory.
• Maybe the rookie is the White Sox's savior just don't put too much pressure on him. Gordon Beckham went 3-for-4 on Saturday against the Twins, scoring three runs and stealing a base in Chicago's 8-7 victory. The game, of course, was in Minnesota. How can you tell? On the road, Beckham is hitting .371. At home? A measly .135.
• Nick Johnson, Josh Willingham and Adam Dunn hit back-to-back-to-back jacks off Houston reliever Felipe Paulino in the sixth inning, in a span of eight pitches, as the Nationals smoked the Astros 13-2. Willingham added a two-run shot in the seventh, his 12th of the season, and the first that wasn't a solo shot. Washington finally won its 10th road game in its 44th game away from D.C.
• What to do with Carl Pavano? He was solid again against Detroit, allowing only two runs in eight innings and improving to 8-7 on the season. When he wins, he's a fantasy stud; his ERA in those eight games is 2.56. When he loses, he's abysmal; his ERA in his seven defeats is 9.74. Having an all-or-nothing pitcher like this is extremely frustrating, but if you can play the matchup game correctly with Pavano, he has surprising fantasy value. Just don't guess wrong.
• Derrek Lee left Saturday's game against the Cardinals before the sixth inning with neck spasms after sliding into second base with a double in the fifth. After the game, Lee was positive, and he told the Cubs' official Web site, "I'm good. I'll be in the lineup tomorrow." However, they are playing a doubleheader against St. Louis in the Windy City next, so we don't like the odds of Lee getting the call for all 18 innings. This might be the time for a "hard-core" fantasy player to get Micah Hoffpauir into the lineup.
Ryan Howard, Phillies
Cole Hamels spotted the Pirates a 5-0 lead in the top of the first, but Howard came through in a big way, going 3-for-3 with a game-tying home run in the bottom of the ninth off eventual loser Matt Capps, as the Phillies came back to win 8-7. Howard now has 22 home runs and 66 RBIs on the season. He also stole his fourth base of the year, one of five steals Philadelphia had on the night, taking advantage of a rusty Ryan Doumit behind the plate.
Ted Lilly, Cubs
Lilly held St. Louis to one run and four hits over eight innings, and earned himself the 100th victory of his career on Saturday. But while he was happy to reach the milestone, Lilly was already looking forward to the rest of the season, telling the Chicago Sun-Times, "They're all important if we're going to try to get ourselves in first place. We have the talent and ability to win this division, but by no means do I expect those other clubs to step aside."
Alex Rodriguez and Eric Hinske each had two home runs for the Yankees, but that's not the four we're talking about. Led by Mike Napoli's home run and three RBIs, the Angels came back to beat the Yankees on Saturday 14-8. It marked the fourth time in nine games on their current homestand that the Angels won a game in which they trailed by four or more runs. That's the first time a team has overcome that many four-plus run deficits in a single homestand since the St. Louis Browns did it back in 1940 and that was a 20-game stay in Missouri!
• Oakland traded third baseman Jack Hannahan to Seattle in exchange for minor league pitcher Justin Souza. The move makes sense for Seattle since it didn't have a natural third baseman when Adrian Beltre went on the disabled list and Chris Woodward's defense at the position had left plenty to be desired. Hannahan immediately joined the Mariners' lineup on Saturday, batting eighth, and went 1-for-3 with a run scored. However, he's batting only .197 on the season, so don't expect too much for fantasy purposes here.
• With the acquisition of Hannahan, the Mariners needed to send somebody to Triple-A Tacoma, and that somebody was starter Brandon Morrow. The move wasn't so much a demotion as an opportunity for the pitcher to get work over the next two weeks so that he can jump back into the rotation when the team next needs a fifth starter. At least, that's what Morrow told the Tacoma News Tribune, "I wasn't expecting it. I understand the situation knowing there are no promises when I'll come back. We'll need a starter on July 25th, and we'll see what happens."
• Geovany Soto was placed on the 15-day disabled list because of a left oblique strain, and may well be out for a full month. The team reportedly tried to claim Chris Coste off waivers to help fill the void, but the Astros nabbed him first. For now, Koyie Hill will do most of the catching, but with a doubleheader scheduled for Sunday, don't be surprised to see Jake Fox behind the plate for at least one of the games. Outfielder Sam Fuld was recalled from Triple-A Iowa to fill Soto's spot on the roster.
James Quintong: It sounds like Beltran likely won't be back until sometime next month. While I think he can still play up to his expected level when he returns, it's a matter of when. If you've got bench space, you might as well hold on to him, but I'd temper expectations of how much playing time he'll have.
-- Full chat transcript
Thursday's fantasy chat schedule:
Christopher Harris, 11 a.m. ET
Matthew Berry, 3 p.m. ET
• Even in the minors, some pitchers are plagued by no run support. Astros' prospect Bud Norris, pitching for Triple-A Round Rock, threw five no-hit innings on Saturday and eventually allowed two earned runs over seven innings to go along with eight strikeouts. However, that was enough to get tagged with the loss. Norris is now 3-8 on the season, but in his past four starts, his offense has only scored more than one run for him once.
• While the Indians flounder in the AL Central cellar, two of their Triple-A players are flourishing on the farm. Matt LaPorta hit his 11th home run and drove in three runs on Saturday for Columbus, to raise his average to .310 on the year. Meanwhile, Trevor Crowe was just 1-for-4, but it was enough to extend his hitting streak to 17 consecutive games, and he hasn't needed a day off in that stretch.
• Expect Erik Bedard to have his pitch count bumped up a bit in his second start since returning from the disabled list, perhaps throwing as many as 90 pitches, maybe 95.
• Kyle Lohse did throw six shutout innings of two-hit baseball in his most recent start for Triple-A Memphis, and he has a 3.21 ERA and 1.07 WHIP in his three career starts at Wrigley Field. Still, he might need a little time to get back into his groove.