AP Photo/Darren Hauck
Maybe it was malcontent Milton Bradley's fault. A day after the cantankerous outfielder (who probably will end up in another uniform in 2010) was suspended for the rest of the season, the Chicago Cubs scored 10 runs to beat the Milwaukee Brewers. The middle of the batting order, sans Bradley of course, was certainly key, as Derrek Lee and Aramis Ramirez each hit a home run and combined for six RBIs.
Lee continued his in-season turnaround with his 34th home run and knocked in four runs. Believe it or not, he has tied a career high with 107 RBIs this season. Yes, even in the magical 2005 season when Lee smacked 46 home runs and batted .335, his RBI total hardly told the tale of an MVP season, which is probably why he didn't win the award. Blame Corey Patterson and the other leadoff hitters who didn't get on base that year. After a slow start in which Lee batted .189 with one home run in April, he has hit six or more home runs and knocked in plenty of runs since. He's poised to finish with the second-best season of his career and again looks like a safe top-10 first baseman for 2010 drafts.
Ramirez has hit just fine this season but lost a few months to a shoulder injury. Unlike Lee, he was regarded as a top-10 option at his position this year and certainly will be for 2010 as well. Ramirez has 14 home runs and 61 RBIs in only 76 games, numbers that would translate to around 30 homers and 130 RBIs for a full campaign. Ramirez is capable of this production next season, although the threat of injury always seems to dog him.
What the Cubs sought in Bradley was a middle-of-the-order presence who could hit from the left side. Without him, their lineup is a bit slanted, certainly for power potential. The Cubs have been playing lefty-hitting Micah Hoffpauir in right field, and he has some power but likely isn't viewed as a starter for 2010. Proving the point on how much this team needs a big lefty bat, Bradley's 11 home runs as a left-handed batter still lead the Cubs this season. The Cubs' right-handed power hitters flexed their muscles Monday, and now the team's brass needs to add a lefty bat before next season.
• Entering Monday, no starting pitcher with a minimum of 80 innings at home had been better in home games than the Houston Astros' Wandy Rodriguez, but the St. Louis Cardinals had little trouble scoring runs early and often. Rodriguez was 8-2 with a MLB-leading 1.58 ERA at home but gave up six runs in the first three innings. Still, nobody can complain about Rodriguez overall this season, as he's won 13 games and has a 2.97 ERA. We're just surprised he got lit at home.
• Who now takes over the mantle as baseball's top home pitcher this season? Ted Lilly, who is in the news because he will be scratched from Wednesday's start with left shoulder tendinitis. Notre Dame product Jeff Samardzija hasn't had much success starting in the minors, going 6-6 with a 4.14 ERA for Triple-A Iowa, but he'll get the ball in Milwaukee.
• Derek Lowe also has been a better pitcher at home, and he entered Monday's outing at the New York Mets with a 5.07 road ERA. Lowe, who has been battling a blister on his right ring finger, went the requisite five innings and got plenty of run support to earn his 15th win. But his season has to be considered a disappointment, as his ERA and WHIP are inflated (4.55 and 1.48). With the Atlanta Braves sporting rotation depth, Lowe might be on the trade block during the offseason.
• Oft-injured second baseman Freddy Sanchez twisted his knee and left the San Francisco Giants' 5-4 win in Arizona in the first inning. Sanchez was acquired from the Pittsburgh Pirates in July and has done for the Giants what he generally does, hit for a hollow batting average. Sanchez has an eight-game hitting streak, but no extra-base hits, home runs, stolen bases or walks in that span and only two RBIs. He's owned in nearly 70 percent of ESPN.com leagues, which is way too much for even a second baseman.
• Speaking of the Pirates, surprise slugger Garrett Jones missed a pair of weekend games with a shoulder problem but was back in the lineup to start Monday's game and hit his 20th home run. He's done this in 69 games. Do the math, that's a lot of home runs. Jones is 28 years old but always had power in the minor leagues. He'll have first-base and outfield eligibility for 2010, and I'd view him much like I do Adam LaRoche. Of course, LaRoche has 25 home runs ... in 138 games. By the way, with his next home run, Jones will tie Kevin Maas of the 1990 New York Yankees for most home runs by a rookie with all coming in July or later.
• Cardinals slugger Mark DeRosa -- really, a few years ago, who thought he'd ever be called that? -- hit a pair of home runs at Houston, giving him a new career best of 23. DeRosa hasn't hit for average this season and never was a runner, but he's a legit power source and for this season can be used at second base, third base and outfield. He'll lose the second-base eligibility in 2010, however. Don't be surprised if he hits 25 homers in 2010.
• Closer follies: San Diego Padres closer Heath Bell might be running out of gas. Bell blew his third save in 10 days, giving up a one-run lead in Pittsburgh. He's allowed eight runs in his past 6 2/3 innings. ... Joakim Soria earned his 27th save and seventh of the month. It's the second time this month he didn't allow a baserunner while saving a game. ... Blue Jays closer Jason Frasor allowed a run for the third consecutive outing, but he had a 9-1 lead, so there was little danger of losing the game. ... Brian Wilson struck out the side for his 35th save. In his seven previous appearances, he had struck out a total of four hitters. ... Congrats to Kenshin Kawakami, who earned his first save as an Atlanta Brave. He relieved Derek Lowe in the sixth inning and allowed only one baserunner in four shutout innings.
Chase Headley, Padres
Headley smacked his 12th home run of the season and doubled three times, getting five hits, two RBIs and two runs scored in an extra-inning win at Pittsburgh. Headley has been a fantasy disappointment, as he was expected to hit more than 20 home runs, but things haven't quite worked out. Hey, at least he's eligible at third base and outfield for 2010.
David Purcey, Blue Jays
The second-year lefty has not had a good season in the majors, but he shut down the Baltimore Orioles on one run over 7 1/3 innings Monday to earn his first victory of the season. Purcey's problem with the Toronto Blue Jays has been walks, and he did issue four free passes while striking out four Orioles. If his command improves next season, he'll have fantasy value.
Jason Bay homered for the fourth consecutive game and has knocked in a run in seven straight. The former stat leaves him a Tuesday home run short of tying Ted Williams for the longest homer streak for a Boston Red Sox left fielder since 1954. As for his RBI streak, Bay becomes the first Boston player to have two seven-game RBI streaks since 1950.
• The Houston Astros fired manager Cecil Cooper with 13 games left in the season and named third-base coach Dave Clark the interim manager. If there's any effect this move will have in fantasy, we don't know it yet. Clark did manage the organization's Triple-A team in Round Rock in 2008, so maybe he has an affinity for playing younger players the final two weeks, such as third baseman Chris Johnson.
• The Chicago Cubs used Milton Bradley's roster spot on former first-round pick Tyler Colvin, who was called up from Double-A Tennessee and started in center field. Colvin is a lefty power hitter who hit 14 home runs in the Southern League in only 84 games, and he hit a sacrifice fly in his first plate appearance and later singled. The Cubs also welcomed back outfielder Reed Johnson from the DL; he fractured his left foot in July.
• The Boston Red Sox purchased the contract of middle infielder Chris Woodward from Triple-A Pawtucket and placed pitcher Junichi Tazawa on the 60-day disabled list with a mild groin strain. Woodward essentially replaces fan favorite Nick Green, who was sent back to Boston with a leg problem.
• Click here for all the latest MLB transactions.
Buster Olney: If I were running the Cubs (and lord knows they don't need that), I'd stick Fukudome and Johnson in right field and go get a legitimate CF, or get Carl Crawford and move him to CF. That would make the pitching and defense better. They need to get more athletic ASAP.
-- Full chat transcript
Tuesday's fantasy chat schedule:
Stephania Bell, 11 a.m. ET
Brendan Roberts, 3 p.m. ET
• The Philadelphia Phillies and Florida Marlins are scheduled to play a pair in south Florida, weather permitting, with the Marlins' Josh Johnson the best fantasy pitcher taking the mound Tuesday. Johnson is 15-4 with a 3.01 ERA and 171 strikeouts, but the team is concerned about his workload, as the right-hander has been allowed to throw more than 100 pitches in his past six starts.
• Zack Greinke and his run for the AL Cy Young award will be tested against the streaking Boston Red Sox, a team that has scored nine or more runs three consecutive days. Greinke left his last start with a bruised right arm when he took a line drive off it. It's a prized arm, as Greinke leads the majors in ERA and ranks third in strikeouts. Paul Byrd has allowed 12 runs and 25 hits in his past three starts covering 12 2/3 innings. Expect the Kansas City Royals to score for Greinke.
• Matt Cain of the San Francisco Giants is coming off consecutive losses to NL West teams and will face another, the Arizona Diamondbacks. Cain is 1-0 with a 2.66 ERA in three starts against Arizona this season, and he's really thrived on the road, with a 7-2 record and 2.49 ERA. Billy Buckner had been scheduled to face Cain but was moved up to start Monday.
• Fantasy owners have been giving up on Detroit Tigers right-hander Edwin Jackson, and for good reason. After taking a 2.52 ERA into the All-Star break, Jackson's second half looks more like what he delivered as a Ray, with a 4.79 ERA. There is good news, however, as Jackson is 3-0 against Tuesday's opponent, the Cleveland Indians, in four starts.
• For more on Tuesday's games, check Daily Notes.