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Two seasons ago, Buehrle no-hit the Texas Rangers. On Wednesday, he took the accomplishment to another level, tossing a perfect game against the Tampa Bay Rays, only the 18th in major league history. He also becomes the 24th pitcher with multiple no-hitters and arguably one of the most unlikely. Mark Buehrle? Isn't that the same fellow who routinely allows more hits than innings pitched, and has led the AL in hits allowed three of the past four seasons? Well, sometimes he can be pretty unhittable, too.
Buehrle is having another fine season, which featured his fourth All-Star berth earlier this month, and he might end up with the best stats of his career. For years, he's been underrated by fantasy owners searching for dominant strikeout pitchers, but those same owners drafting Homer Bailey every year overlook that Buehrle's one of the most durable winners this decade.
After his average live draft position fell to an embarrassing 213.4, meaning he was taken late in some leagues and was a free agent in many others, Buehrle is owned in 99.1 percent of ESPN leagues. Then again, he was active in only 90.6 percent of those leagues for his perfecto. If you own the guy, why not use him at all times? See, Buehrle is like the Rodney Dangerfield of pitchers.
On the field, Buehrle stymied the high-scoring Rays, inducing a near-equal amount of ground balls and fly balls with his 86-mph fastball and much slower changeup, and he struck out six, which actually tied a season best. It was Buehrle's fourth win in five outings, and certainly helped erase the stigma of allowing eight runs and 10 hits at Minnesota the final game before the All-Star break. Since then, Buehrle has allowed one run and no walks in 16 1/3 innings, dropping his season ERA to 3.28 and WHIP to 1.10. Each of those peripheral numbers is top 10 in the AL.
Fantasy owners shouldn't expect dominance every outing from Buehrle, but will any of his owners leave him on the bench again this season? They shouldn't. Starting pitchers like Buehrle, who can be better appreciated for the cumulative effect of their numbers over six months, don't seem to make good spot-starters. Sure, every so often you'll get a clunker of a performance, but then they'll shock you with a perfect performance against a team with the second-best OPS in baseball.
• Maybe Jarrod Washburn will have to throw a perfect game to get owned in more than half of ESPN leagues. Washburn actually has better numbers than Buehrle this season, but remains a free agent in 52 percent of leagues. Washburn motored through the struggling Tigers in seven scoreless frames, allowing only two hits and two walks. He's fourth in the AL in ERA, and now leads the league in WHIP.
• A pair of rookie lefties I wouldn't recommend for this season faced off during the afternoon in Canada. Cleveland's David Huff earned his fifth win and went 7 2/3 innings, although he gave up a pair of home runs. Huff doesn't have a high strikeout rate, and he allows a lot of hits. His ERA dropped to 6.39. Toronto's Marc Rzepczynski had gone six innings in each of his first three starts, compiling a 2.50 ERA, but the high walk rate caught up to him. The Indians took four walks in 4 1/3 innings, and scored four runs.
• Yunel Escobar just cannot be stopped. The Atlanta shortstop homered for the fourth time in eight games, and for 11th time on the season. He is now on pace for 20 home runs and 103 RBIs. No, Escobar hasn't really shown this type of power before, but moving down in the batting order clearly agrees with him. Escobar batted cleanup Thursday, and it's warranted; no one in the Braves lineup has more home runs or RBIs than Escobar. By the way, he's available in nearly half of ESPN leagues.
• Don't fret, Albert Pujols owners, he was just given a routine day off. Mark DeRosa started at first base and assumed the No. 3 lineup spot for the six-inning makeup win in Washington. If Pujols is going to miss a game, might as well be in a rain-shortened affair. Rick Ankiel hit his sixth homer, but first in July. When you hear the Cardinals are in the Matt Holliday trade discussions, it's not to replace Colby Rasmus or Ryan Ludwick in the outfield, but to augment that duo.
• For only the second time this season, Dan Haren gave up more than three runs in a game, as the Pirates "lit" him up for eight hits and four runs in five innings. Haren's ERA rises all the way to 2.14. OK, so he's still pretty good, but I have a feeling we'll be reminding fantasy owners for the next month about Haren's notable career splits. He has a 3.08 ERA in the first half and 4.07 ERA in the second. Don't dump him for Rick Ankiel, but consider trade options.
• Closer follies: Phil Hughes picked up his first career save, tossing two perfect innings. Mariano Rivera had saved five games in six days. Hughes has thrown 22 consecutive scoreless innings, and his relief ERA is 0.74. The Angels came from behind to top the Twins. Joe Nathan had been near-perfect since mid-May before allowing two runs for his third blown save, giving up a hit and hitting a batter for the first time since 2004. He had given up no runs since May 15 before Thursday, with nine hits and three walks in 22 2/3 innings. Don't worry about Nathan. Kerry Wood earned his 13th save, with a nice, hitless outing. Well, Wood did hit a batter, but he previously had allowed hits in four straight outings and runs in two of his last three.
Justin Upton, Diamondbacks
The rising Arizona right fielder homered and knocked in three runs. That is perfect timing for owners worried about his tailing production, as Upton hadn't homered in two weeks. Including Thursday, he's batting .187 in July.
Mark Buehrle, White Sox
Normally we try to avoid leading the column with the same pitcher named in this space, but it's unavoidable, no? Only one team in history was no-hit with a higher OBP than the Rays (1922 Tigers). Buehrle is next scheduled to pitch at Minnesota, a team that lit him up two weeks ago.
CC Sabathia won his 10th game, throwing seven strong innings against the Athletics, and he joined some dude named Buehrle as the only pitchers to win double-digit games in each of the past nine seasons. Sabathia didn't walk any Athletics; he had issued three free passes in three of his past four outings.
• A day after the Rockies announced setup man and former closer Manny Corpas would need elbow surgery to remove bone chips, the NL wild card leaders acquired current Indians setup man and former closer Rafael Betancourt. Huston Street has performed so well the past two months for the Rockies, he's become untradeable, so there's little reason to own his setup man if you expect saves. Betancourt missed all of June with a groin injury, and he's been a home run pitcher most of his career, so even if you just want good relief innings, he should probably be avoided in Coors Field.
• The Rockies made another interesting bullpen move, calling up one of their top starting pitching prospects, but not to start. Jhoulys Chacin had a 3.14 ERA in 18 starts at Double-A Tulsa, striking out 86 hitters in 103 1/3 innings, but the Rockies fully intend to use him in relief. Hey, he doesn't have Betancourt's experience, but Chacin, 21, is mature on the mound and does induce ground balls.
• The Phillies sent nearly a third of their bullpen to the DL, though there aren't real fantasy ramifications as a result. J.C. Romero had accumulated more walks than strikeouts, and while he was picking up holds, his WHIP is high. Chad Durbin hadn't been able to match his success of last season. Andrew Carpenter and Tyler Walker were recalled from Triple-A Lehigh Valley.
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AJ Mass: Totally. That knee is not getting better, and he says he's going to try and play through the pain b/c a DL-stint without surgery wouldn't help.
-- Full chat transcript
Jason Grey: I do. There is certainly room for him to develop more strength on his frame, and I think as he gets more and more comfortable with his swing from the left side (after just learning how to switch hit when he turned pro), the pop will come ... might take a bit though.
-- Full chat transcript
Friday's fantasy chat schedule:
Stephania Bell, 11 a.m. ET
James Quintong, 3 p.m. ET
• Speaking of outfielders that have had a few chances in the bigs, Reno's Brandon Watson is someone fantasy owners expected to run back in April 2006. Instead, Watson hit .179, didn't steal a base and after two weeks was back in the minors for Washington. Now he's in the Diamondbacks' farm system, and Thursday he hit for the cycle, getting five hits in six at-bats. Watson nearly had two home runs in the game, but what was originally called an inside-the-park shot was changed to a triple. Watson is hitting .295 and has 14 stolen bases.
• Those waiting for future Mariners catcher Jeff Clement to get back to the majors are probably wondering why he's still at Triple-A Tacoma. Clement smacked a first-inning home run off former Padres pitcher Chad Reineke Thursday. The shot, his 14th of the season, came on a night after Clement hit four doubles in his first four at-bats. Look for Clement to get called up to Seattle in September.
• As with Anderson, sometimes a season ERA can be misleading, and that's the case for Brewers lefty Manny Parra. Yes, the numbers are atrocious, but since coming back from the minors he's made two starts and allowed one run in 13 innings, while striking out 13. Maybe he's like Ricky Nolasco, and needed a minor league demotion to get him going. Parra faces the always reliable Javier Vazquez and the Braves.
• The best pitching matchups are Rays-Blue Jays and Marlins-Dodgers. This could be, in theory, the final start for Roy Halladay before he gets (mercifully) traded, and he gets a Rays offense that didn't reach base Thursday. Matt Garza starts for Tampa Bay. Meanwhile, Josh Johnson and Clayton Kershaw have been two of the top young pitchers in the NL. Kershaw is 5-0 in his past seven starts, and has allowed a total of eight hits in his past four starts.
• For more on Friday's games, check out Daily Notes.