AP Photo/Frank Franklin II
The Mets are cursed. Ask any Mets fan; he or she will be happy to confirm it for you.
On Sunday, a sixth member of their Opening Day lineup landed on the disabled list, and for our purposes, this one hurt most. He was the team's No. 3 hitter, highest-selected member in preseason fantasy drafts (No. 3 overall) and most productive fantasy player going by Player Rater ranking through Saturday's games (No. 28). His name: David Wright. He'll miss at least the next 15 days with post-concussion symptoms, the result of being hit in the helmet by a Matt Cain pitch Saturday.
General manager Omar Minaya stressed the DL decision is for the minimum 15 days and after that, Wright will be re-evaluated, but there's a chance he has appeared in his final game this season. Considering former teammate Ryan Church struggled with a similar injury last season, missing 71 of the team's final 119 games, and the team stands 12 games behind in the division and 9 1/2 in the wild-card race, there's no reason for the Mets to rush their franchise slugger. It's their standing in the playoff race, in fact, that raises question whether other ailing Mets, like Carlos Beltran, Carlos Delgado and Jose Reyes, will return in 2009.
No matter your opinion on the team's performance, the Mets' injury issues clearly have affected their statistics. They have hit fewer home runs than any other team in baseball this season (71), and since June 1, they have averaged 3.9 runs per game, hit 38 homers and managed a .693 OPS. Their Sunday lineup, in fact, included four players who weren't even on the roster back on Opening Day:
Angel Pagan, CF (Began the season on the DL due to March elbow surgery)
Luis Castillo, 2B (Opening Day No. 8 hitter)
Gary Sheffield, LF (Signed only a day before the regular-season opener, then started only 10 of the Mets' first 32 games)
Jeff Francoeur, RF (Acquired from the Braves on July 10)
Fernando Tatis, 3B (Didn't make his first start until game No. 12)
Daniel Murphy, 1B (Opening Day left fielder has a .681 OPS)
Omir Santos, C (Began the season with Triple-A Buffalo)
Anderson Hernandez, SS (Acquired from the Nationals on Aug. 6)
Tatis has started all three games at third base that Wright has missed so far this season and should continue to get the bulk of the time there. You can't blame fantasy owners for their lack of enthusiasm at adding him; he's a .248 hitter with a .720 OPS who shapes up as more of a platoon/utility type than a regular. Castillo's owners won't be happy either; he was batting .376 with 24 runs scored in 28 games since being moved up to the No. 2 hole batting ahead of Wright.
Expect tough times ahead for the Mets, who on only 12 out of 30 occasions since the All-Star break have scored as many as five runs. With their patchwork offense and cavernous home ballpark -- at which they have scored five-plus runs in only 12 of their past 31 games -- their misfortunes don't look likely to end soon.
• Roy Oswalt surrendered five runs on eight hits, two of them home runs, in six innings at Milwaukee, bloating his season ERA to 4.01, a career worst. It was his second start since returning from a lower back strain, and in neither appearance did he convince his owners he's quite 100 percent. Keep an eye on his health, as he'll need to fare better in future outings to completely regain our trust.
• It's officially time to press the panic button with Nick Blackburn, one of the more surprising fantasy standouts of the season's first half. A noted dominate-at-home, struggle-on-the-road right-hander, Blackburn now has been pummeled in back-to-back starts at the Metrodome, where he has allowed 12 runs (10 earned) on 12 hits in four innings combined against the Royals and Indians.
• For his second consecutive start to begin his big league career, Doug Fister pitched admirably, registering a quality start by limiting the Yankees to three runs on eight hits in seven innings. He was a command specialist in his minor league days (0.8 homers, 2.2 walks and 6.6 strikeouts per nine innings for his minor league career) but lacks the overwhelming stuff scouts love, so while this hot streak might be of use to AL-only owners, don't expect long-term staying power.
• Jorge De La Rosa continues to pile up the wins for the Rockies, defeating the Marlins in the nightcap of their Sunday doubleheader by tossing 5 2/3 innings and allowing only an unearned run. He struck out nine, giving him 20 K's in 13 1/3 frames in his past two starts, but more important for fantasy owners, he has all 11 of his wins for the season in his past 13 starts, all under manager Jim Tracy.
• Aaron Cook wasn't as successful in the first game of the doubleheader, getting pounded for seven runs on eight hits, two of them home runs, in 2 1/3 innings. He had his start pushed back by a few days due to a case of turf toe, and this might suggest he's not quite at full health. Until Cook proves with a solid start that he's back to 100 percent, he's a risky fantasy option.
• Looking to both monitor his workload and give him a breather coming off a brutal cold spell, the Reds might skip Johnny Cueto's next turn in the rotation, according to the Cincinnati Enquirer. Cueto, who pitched in both winter ball and the World Baseball Classic in March, is 0-6 with a 10.64 ERA and 2.18 WHIP in his past eight starts after beginning the season 8-4 with a 2.69 ERA and 1.12 WHIP in his first 16 turns. "This is what [pitching coach] Dick [Pole] was afraid of earlier," manager Dusty Baker said, "that with playing Winter Ball and the WBC he was going to run out of gas around the end of August." Micah Owings, currently rehabbing from a shoulder injury, might take Cueto's next scheduled turn on Friday.
• Not many people are talking about it, perhaps because he's having trouble nailing down the W's, but John Danks has been pitching rather well of late. He tossed 7 1/3 innings and allowed only two runs on eight hits Sunday, and is 6-4 with a 3.11 ERA and 1.20 WHIP in his past 12 starts. Both Danks' ERA and WHIP during his hot streak are better than during his breakout 2008.
Andre Ethier, Dodgers
He didn't need any walk-off magic this time, but Ethier had another big game, going 4-for-5 with one double, one home run and four RBIs. It's no coincidence that since Manny Ramirez's return to the lineup July 3 at San Diego, Ethier is batting .323 (52-for-161) with nine home runs and 28 RBIs in 39 games. He just seems to perform at his best when Ramirez is in the lineup.
Randy Wolf, Dodgers
The Dodgers sorely need performances like Wolf's on Sunday, what with both Chad Billingsley and Hiroki Kuroda dealing with injuries. The left-hander went 7 2/3 innings and limited the Diamondbacks to three runs on five hits while striking out 10, also chipping in with the bat, going 3-for-4 with a home run and three RBIs. Wolf now has a 3.13 ERA and 1.08 WHIP in his past nine starts.
Congratulations to Derek Jeter, who broke Hall of Famer Luis Aparicio's record for most career hits by a shortstop Sunday. Yes, the future Hall of Famer does have 2,688 career hits, but 13 of those came as a designated hitter (all of them since 2002, and five in 2009 alone). Among the next career milestones for the surprisingly productive 35-year-old: Lou Gehrig's Yankees record for hits (2,721, 33 away), then the 3,000-hit club (312 away).
• Torii Hunter returned to the Angels just in time to deliver the game-winning RBI; he was activated from the disabled list and went 2-for-6 with one double and two RBIs on Sunday, including the go-ahead RBI single in the 13th inning of the team's eventual 17-8 victory at Baltimore. Hunter batted sixth in his first game back, but with a few more performances like this, he might move up a spot or two in the order.
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Jayson Stark: I'd take either of them. I'm going with Lincecum-Cain, but not by much.
-- Full chat transcript
Keith Law: I'd probably leave Feliz in the pen all year, given his mild bout of shoulder fatigue in June.
-- Full chat transcript
Monday's fantasy chat schedule:
Matthew Berry, 3 p.m. ET
• Another player included in a deadline deal, Brett Wallace, went 4-for-5 with one home run for Triple-A Sacramento. He now is batting .284 with three homers and a .790 OPS in 22 games since being involved in the Matt Holliday trade, not superstar numbers but probably enough to guarantee him at least a cup of coffee with Oakland in September. Wallace, a third baseman whose future might lie at first base or designated hitter, figures to be given a long look for a starting job in the spring.
• After watching Junichi Tazawa give up four runs on 10 hits in five innings Sunday, the Red Sox might soon need to consider other options like Michael Bowden. The right-hander allowed two runs on five hits in 6 2/3 innings for Triple-A Pawtucket, and now has a 3.20 ERA, 1.19 WHIP and .223 batting average allowed in 22 starts this season. A rehabbing Tim Wakefield probably will replace Tazawa in one of the next couple of turns through the rotation, but Bowden might be next in line for a chance after that.
• The first 2009 draftee to reach the majors might be a reliever and a National, but his name is not Stephen Strasburg. No, it could be Drew Storen, picked 10th overall in June. The right-hander converted his third consecutive save chance for Double-A Harrisburg, striking out two hitters in as many innings, and in three minor league levels, he has a 2.51 ERA, 0.77 WHIP, .183 BAA and 40 K's in 28 2/3 innings. Mike MacDougal might be doing a fine job closing for Washington at the big league level, but Storen might see a few appearances in middle relief in September, with an eye on challenging for the 2010 closer role in the spring.
• Ted Lilly returns from the disabled list to face a soft, easy matchup at San Diego's Petco Park. He tossed five shutout innings of two-hit baseball in a rehabilitation start for Class A Peoria this past Wednesday, and has a 3.60 ERA and 1.20 WHIP in three career starts at Petco. Get him back into your active lineup.
• Ervin Santana gets an opportunity to build upon his three-hit shutout from his previous turn this past Tuesday, making only his third career start at Baltimore's Oriole Park at Camden Yards. The right-hander traditionally has been a risky fantasy option in road starts but not this season; he's actually 4-2 with a 4.50 ERA and 1.28 WHIP in seven road starts. That compares rather favorably to his home stats: 1-4 record, 9.00 ERA, 1.97 WHIP in seven starts.
• For more on Monday's games, check out Daily Notes.