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Take a close look at Mariano Rivera in action this season, because there's no guarantee how much longer he'll be able to pitch at this elite level, and there may not be another closer of his stature anytime soon. As he told the New York Post, "I have a contract for next year, and after that I don't know what's gonna happen."
On Saturday, the Yankees beat the Mariners, 5-2. The pinstripers won for the 12th time in 13 games and are 23-6 since the All-Star break, their best second-half start in team history. Mariano Rivera has been a huge part of this success, with eight saves in his past 10 appearances, three of which went longer than one inning. He has 13 strikeouts in his past 10 innings, and his ERA has dropped from 2.18 to 1.94 over that time.
With his 35th save, he now has recorded 10 seasons with at least that many, which is second-most in major league history behind Trevor Hoffman's 11. You simply can't buy that kind of consistency, and if Rivera isn't a first-ballot Hall of Famer, I don't know who is.
If you don't believe a consistent closer is crucial, look no further than Philadelphia. While the Yankees are sitting pretty with a 7 1/2 game lead in the AL East, the Phillies are watching the Braves and Marlins get closer and closer by the day in large part because of Brad Lidge.
Saturday night, Lidge blew his eighth save of the season -- most in the majors -- and the Phillies lost for the seventh time this season when they've led after eight innings. In contrast, Lidge was perfect last season, and the Phillies went all the way to the World Series crown.
It's clear that Charlie Manuel is getting tired of defending his closer, finally deferring questions to his reliever. "Go ask him, man. I don't know how he feels. If I knew that, I'd probably be a doctor or something," Manuel was quoted as saying in the Philadelphia Inquirer.
Those cracks simply aren't present in the Yankees' clubhouse, as they've got plenty of "mo" with October approaching ever so quickly.
• Saturday's game between the Rockies and the Marlins was rained out, and the two teams will play a doubleheader at Land Shark Stadium on Sunday. Though it's subject to change, early reports indicated that Saturday's scheduled starters, Aaron Cook and Rick VandenHurk, would square off in the nightcap.
• Matt Cain drilled David Wright in the head with a fastball, luckily making contact with the helmet to lessen the impact somewhat, but nevertheless still a scary sight. Wright was diagnosed with a concussion and was to remain hospitalized overnight, but it looks doubtful that we'll see him back on the field too quickly.
• Meanwhile, Dodgers pitcher Hiroki Kuroda is also under observation at a Phoenix hospital after getting hit in the head with a line drive off the bat of Rusty Ryal. Kuroda never lost consciousness but was taken off the field on a stretcher as a precaution. So far, tests indicate nothing serious.
• Derek Holland held Boston to just two earned runs over 6 2/3 innings of work Saturday, and Neftali Feliz earned his first major league save with three strikeouts over the final two innings. With 16 strikeouts in only 8 2/3 innings pitched so far this season, Feliz is certainly proving to be one of the most valuable "non-closers" in fantasy.
• Matt Holliday hit a two-run homer and raised his batting average as a Cardinal to .475 in a 7-4 win over San Diego on Saturday. St. Louis is 14-6 since Holliday has joined their lineup. In the loss, Adrian Gonzalez went 3-for-5 with a home run, which, naturally, came with the bases empty.
• Maybe we should take the "E" out of his name and call him Johnny Cut-o? After he was shellacked for seven runs in only 2 2/3 innings, it's clear that there's no place for Johnny Cueto in a fantasy rotation any longer in 2009. He's now lost his past six decisions with his most recent win coming way back on July 1. Elijah Dukes led Washington's 14-hit barrage with a 2-for-4 night and three RBIs.
• Miguel Cabrera went 4-for-5 with his 24th home run of the season to help Detroit manhandle Luke Hochevar and the Kansas City Royals on Saturday. Carlos Guillen also chipped in with three hits and four RBIs in the 10-3 victory.
• Angels' pitcher John Lackey was impressive yet again with seven innings of one-run ball against the Orioles in a 5-1 victory on Saturday. Lackey struck out six and walked only one, lowering his ERA to 3.73. Brian Fuentes added his 33rd save of the season.
• Mike Burns? Yes, Mike Burns! The Brewers pitcher struck out seven Astros hitters in a two-run, four-hit effort, extending the Milwaukee winning streak to three games. Craig Counsell was 3-for-5 with three RBIs for the Brewers.
• In defeat, Kaz Matsui still reached a significant milestone -- his 2,000th professional hit, combining his play in both the United States and Japan. This is a huge deal in Japan, as only 56 players have reached this mark, and only five major leaguers. Matsui now gets a spiffy new jacket and gets to join the "Meikyukai," or "Golden Players Club." If only the process for getting into Cooperstown were so cut-and-dried.
Miguel Montero, Diamondbacks
We've been riding the Montero train for several weeks now, and we're not getting off any time soon. On Saturday, Montero hit a game-tying home run off Dodgers closer Jonathan Broxton in the ninth in a game the Diamondbacks ended up winning in 10. With his 3-for-4 performance, Montero is now batting .297 and has 12 homers on the season, fourth among all NL catchers.
Gavin Floyd, White Sox
Floyd struck out eight A's and scattered eight hits over seven innings, improving to 10-7 on the year with an 8-1 victory. Jayson Nix hit a three-run home run to give Floyd more than enough run support, as the White Sox pitcher allowed one earned run for the fourth time in five starts.
Poor Jason Varitek was completely powerless to stop the Texas Rangers on the base paths Saturday night. Texas had a franchise-high eight stolen bases, including four by rookie Julio Borbon. Of course, this came as no surprise to Red Sox fan Ben Affleck, as his favorite team has now lost 11 straight games on the "Good Will Hunting" star's birthday since the release of that film. Say it with me "How do you like them apples?"
• Angel in the outfield no longer, Reggie Willits was sent to Triple-A Salt Lake after Saturday's game. The move is a clear sign that Torii Hunter is finally ready to be activated from the disabled list, which will likely take place before the start of play Sunday.
• Rangers' catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia was placed on the 15-day disabled list and will visit doctors to see what might be the cause of the numbness in his right arm. "It's bothered me for about three weeks," the catcher told the Dallas Morning News. "The longer the game goes, the weaker it gets, but last night was the worst." Kevin Richardson was recalled from Triple-A Oklahoma City to back up Taylor Teagarden.
• Nate McLouth is going to be shut down for three or four days, as his left hamstring has rendered him useless to the Braves. "We're not going to disable him, but it sure slowed him down," manager Bobby Cox told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "He's a center fielder and he's limping, so face the facts." The facts say Ryan Church will be seeing a lot more playing time over the next week.
• The clock is still ticking on the deadline for Stephen Strasburg to sign on the dotted line, but you can't blame the Washington Nationals for not doing their part. Team president Stan Kasten told anyone who would listen yesterday that he has offered the pitcher a "record-setting deal" but added that there is still a real possibility that the client of Scott Boras might not accept it. We'll know for sure by Monday at midnight.
Stephania Bell: He's looked pretty darn good in his rehab starts. Granted, he really hasn't thrown in the majors this season, but I do think he's healthy and we'll get to see him perform Tuesday. That's when he's scheduled to rejoin the A's rotation.
-- Full chat transcript
Pierre Becquey: Heyward, McCutchen and Posey. Because Heyward has as much a chance of pulling a Ryan Braun as anyone currently in the minors. McCutchen because he is already producing well and because I don't think there's any way Buster Posey's not San Fran's opening-day catcher. In a 15-team league? Yeah, he'll be a top-15 catcher.
-- Full chat transcript
Monday's fantasy chat schedule:
Matthew Berry, 3 p.m. ET
• Red Sox starter Tim Wakefield allowed two runs and struck out three in three-plus innings of work for Triple-A Pawtucket on Saturday night. It was his first outing since July 8. Wakefield told the Providence Journal that he is hoping to be back in Boston in time to start against the Yankees on Friday.
• Jeff Suppan's rehab assignment in Class-A Appleton was not as successful. The Brewers pitcher, recovering from an oblique injury, went 3 1/3 innings, allowing four earned runs on five hits. That kind of performance at this level of play doesn't exactly scream "Activate me!"
• Can you believe the Oakland A's have scored more runs than any team in the majors -- save the Angels -- since the All-Star break? Their .789 OPS isn't impressive, but it's above-average, so don't be so quick to put Chicago's John Danks into your rotation.
• While it may look like Washington's John Lannan is pitching over his head -- he has a 3.58 ERA despite a 65-48 strikeout-to-walk rate -- he gets out of trouble because of his 55.1 percent ground-ball rate, which ranks ninth in the majors. Start him against the Reds.
• Toronto's Vernon Wells is very comfortable against Scott Kazmir, batting .400 with three home runs in 30 at-bats. As putrid as he's been this season, he still managed to go 2-for-3 with a dinger in a previous game against the Tampa Bay pitcher.