William A. Guerro/Icon SMI
"I flashed back to the good old times," Martinez said. "I don't have the power I used to have, but I always said it's not about power, it's about hitting your spots."
Martinez certainly seemed to do this at will, while also showing better life on his fastball than he had recently, getting his fastball up to 92 mph a few times. He had the Giants guessing all night, mixing in an effective changeup. No, this San Francisco offense isn't much of a threat, especially with lone power options Pablo Sandoval and Bengie Molina limping around, but with Lincecum on the mound, the Giants don't need to score much.
Martinez was up to the task. He threw only 87 pitches, and he didn't allow any runs after the first pitch of the game, which Eugenio Velez hit over the right center field fence. Martinez settled down quickly thereafter, registering his best strikeout total since the final game of last season, striking out nine, inducing seven ground ball outs and issuing nary a walk. It's the 29th time in his career he's had nine or more K's without a walk in a game. There was plenty of time for postgame cheesesteaks, as this was easily the Phillies' quickest game of the season, at two hours, eight minutes. Martinez is 3-0 with a 3.52 ERA and the Phillies are 5-0 when he starts, thanks not only to Martinez but also to Jamie Moyer's relief efforts. So far the Martinez era is working out just fine.
Fantasy owners seemed to view Martinez as more of a curiosity when the Phillies called him up three weeks ago, and he remains available in more than 87 percent of ESPN standard mixed leagues. However, with 23 strikeouts in 23 innings and what normally is a powerful offense behind him, Martinez has become more than a novelty. His control has been impeccable, as he's allowed only three walks so far, helping his WHIP remain a strong 1.09, and his next three outings figure to be against struggling offenses in the Nationals, Mets and Braves. He might not be the Pedro of old consistently, but this version isn't so bad.
• Get used to seeing Indians outfielder Michael Brantley running around the bases. The 22-year-old singled and walked in his third consecutive -- and career -- start, and he certainly tried to make things happen when he was on base. Brantley, who stole 46 bases in 51 attempts at Triple-A Columbus, can clearly run. He stole second base off lefty Nate Robertson, but also was caught stealing in a tie game in the ninth inning with Zach Miner pitching. Whether Grady Sizemore finishes the season or not isn't relevant to Brantley's playing time.
• John Smoltz experienced his first loss in a Cardinals uniform, thanks to a Casey McGehee three-run home run, but the future Hall of Famer -- Smoltz, not McGehee -- did pitch well against a strong offense. Smoltz's first two NL outings recently had come against the Padres and Nationals, so this was a better test. Smoltz struck out six and didn't issue a walk, and had he just retired McGehee in the sixth inning, he might have won. Smoltz's next outing is also scheduled to be against McGehee, Manny Parra and the Brewers.
• Remember when Clay Buchholz threw a no-hitter and was all the rage in fantasy baseball? Was he more highly regarded than David Price, who helped carry the Rays to the World Series? Neither young pitcher has had a breakout season, but Buchholz got the win Thursday, while Price allowed four earned runs in 5 1/3 innings. Be careful trusting Buchholz, despite his three wins in four outings. His season WHIP is 1.50. Price's is 1.47.
• Speaking of young players not exactly fulfilling their potential, the Marlins gave Cameron Maybin the start in center field, and he hit two doubles and -- gulp -- took a walk. Maybin remains an unpolished player at this point, spending most of this season in the minors and hitting three home runs with eight stolen bases; don't assume he's Florida's center fielder in 2010, either.
• Closer follies: Rockies left-hander Franklin Morales saved Wednesday's win over the Mets, and he's been named the team's closer until Huston Street returns from biceps tendinitis. It could be a few more days until Street comes back. Yankees stud Mariano Rivera says he feels great and could be back closing this weekend. Rivera has a sore left groin. Trevor Hoffman struck out the side to claim his 30th save. Which is more impressive, the fact he has 30 saves for the 14th time in his career, or his second three-strikeout inning this season? Albert Pujols fanned for the last out. Chris Perez still has future closer written all over him, and he hasn't permitted a run in 19 2/3 innings. He's also given up one walk since August began. Other than one weekend game on Aug. 22, George Sherrill and Jonathan Broxton haven't switched roles. Broxton earned his 31st save Thursday.
Jorge Posada, Yankees
The 38-year-old catcher is showing no signs of wearing down, as he homered and knocked in four runs against the Blue Jays, and now has five home runs and 13 RBIs and four multi-hit games in nine days. Posada won't hit .338 like he did in 2007, but his power numbers are right back on track.
Carlos Torres, White Sox
The rookie right-hander hadn't started a game for the big club in nearly a month, but he had little trouble with the cross-town Cubs, allowing five hits, no runs and no walks in seven innings. Torres had serious numbers with Triple-A Charlotte, with a 2.39 ERA in 23 games (20 starts) and 130 strikeouts in 128 innings, and could help fantasy owners now.
Aren't you glad you stuck with Ricky Nolasco after his minor league demotion? Including Thursday's win, Nolasco is 8-2 with a 3.87 ERA in his past 15 starts, and has 104 strikeouts in only 95 1/3 innings. In his first 11 starts, his ERA was 7.62.
• The Angels called up a bunch of minor leaguers, including a backup catcher, a few relievers and -- whoa -- Brandon Wood? Fantasy owners have probably given up on Wood's ever receiving serious playing time with the team, but if the Angels clinch the AL West early enough, they could showcase Wood for an offseason trade.
• Welcome back, Nick Johnson, but for how long will the stay be this time? Florida's first baseman singled, walked twice, drove in a run and scored one, raising his batting average to .297. There's no question what Johnson does well, and that's hit. We know what he doesn't do well. A hamstring pull had kept him out since Aug. 16.
AJ Mass: I think you have to accept that a hit to the average will accompany any stats he gives you -- but at the same time you make that sacrifice, especially if you're sitting with Grady, who is unlikely to give you anything at all.
-- Full chat transcript
Jason Grey: I think Niemann has been a bit over his head this season, and if it's close, I'd take the NL pitcher not facing AL East offenses. Wells has been over his head as well, but he's a legit big league starter.
-- Full chat transcript
Friday's fantasy chat schedule:
Injuries with Stephania Bell, 11 a.m. ET
• Fantasy owners didn't expect to see Jay Bruce playing for Triple-A Louisville in September, but after struggling with a .207 batting average in 83 games and then breaking his wrist, Bruce is playing again. Bruce went hitless in three at-bats against Indianapolis, and it's not known when he'll be back with the Reds.
• It shouldn't be too long until we see Rockies top pitching prospect Jhoulys Chacin back with the big club. The 21-year-old right-hander struggled with walks in his lone Rockies start, and they've remained an issue down at Triple-A Colorado Springs. Chacin has 13 walks and 11 strikeouts in four appearances since Aug. 18, though on Thursday he didn't allow a run to Portland in four innings. Speaking of Chacins, remember former Blue Jays bespectacled lefty Gustavo? He's 8-4 after winning Thursday for Triple-A Lehigh Valley.
• The Joba rules don't appear very fantasy friendly. Joba Chamberlain threw 35 pitches in his most recent start, and he hasn't won in more than a month. Luckily he faces a struggling Roy Halladay, who has lost three consecutive starts and allowed 27 hits in 17 innings.
• It's a battle of Sox in Chicago, as Paul Byrd hopes to make his second start for Boston as strong as his first, when he didn't allow a run, while Freddy Garcia is winless in his three outings for the White Sox. Both right-handers are readily available in ESPN leagues, and for good reason.
• For more on Friday's games, check Daily Notes.