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Fantasy baseball week in review
“You lose focus in this game for one second …”
“I know. Somebody gets hurt.”
That bit of dialogue comes from the classic cinematic tale Ocean’s Eleven. It might be a bit dramatic in the context of the ebb and flow of a 162-game Major League Baseball season, but fantasy owners are a reactive bunch. Breakout performances, dismal showings at the plate and bullpen implosions might force an owner’s hand and early roster shuffling.
I know. Slow and steady won the race in that classic hare and tortoise tale. But, just as fandom dictates a “Do something even if it’s wrong!” cry to managers and front offices in mid-April, fantasy owners are constantly chumming the trade waters and scouring the waiver wire.
In that vein, I took snapshot of the highlights and disasters of each day’s games. Perhaps you rode out the end of a glorious or torturous NBA season for your favorite squad, found yourself caught up in the first round of the NHL Playoffs or worked out your fifth NFL mock draft and missed something.
Let’s get you caught up.
You certainly didn’t miss this first entry. Philip Humber mowed down the Seattle Mariners and tossed the twenty-first perfect game in Major League Baseball history. Humber needed only 96 pitches to complete the task. He threw 67 strikes and struck out nine batters, including the drama of a dropped third strike to close out history.
Humber’s effort helped to cover (at least on a small level) the epic meltdown in Boston, where the Red Sox blew a nine-run lead and lost 15-9 to the hated Yankees. Bobby Valentine was quoted as saying that the team had “hit bottom.” He said the team had “hit bottom” on April 21? What’s the acronym of NFL again? Mother Nature stepped in on behalf of the Red Sox and forced the postponement of the series finale on Sunday.
Mark Teixeira hit two home runs and drove in six runs to fuel the Yankees’ comeback. Fantasy owners were shocked by the outburst from the notoriously slow-starting Teixeira.
James Shields pitched eight innings of one-run ball against the Twins to earn his third win of the season. He allowed five hits and two walks while striking out seven Twins. Shields lowered his season ERA to 2.76 in the victory.
The Orioles continued their early run of close wins with another strong showing against the Angels and Dan Haren. Jim Johnson successfully closed out his seventh save in the team’s nine victories (to that point) by pitching a shutout ninth inning. Johnson allowed one hit with one strikeout.
Former AL MVP Josh Hamilton continued his smoking start with a 3-for-3 performance against the Tigers and rookie Drew Smyly (more on him in a second). Hamilton blasted his seventh home run of the year with two RBI to bring his season total to 17. His perfect day at the plate raised his batting average to .418.
Smyly, the 6-foot-3 lefty from Arkansas, allowed one earned run (Hamilton’s solo home run) in six innings of work. He allowed five hits with two walks against seven strikeouts.
Wandy Rodriguez defeated the Dodgers for his first win of the 2012 season. Rodriguez pitched seven shutout innings and essentially matched Clayton Kershaw’s effort from Saturday. He allowed three hits and three walks while striking out seven batters. Rodriguez lowered his season ERA to a dominant 1.42 with an uncharacteristic 1.03 WHIP.
Rickie Weeks went 1-for-3 with a walk and committed his third error of the season in a loss to Jeremy Guthrie and the Rockies. Following back-to-back multi-hit games to open the season against the Cardinals, Weeks batted a dismal .135 (7-for-52) with two RBI over a 13-gaeme period.
Derek Jeter went 4-for-5 against the Rangers with a double, RBI and two runs scored. “The Captain” raised his season batting average to .411 and extended his hitting streak to 13 games in the Yankees’ 7-4 win.
** Jeter then produced back-to-back two hit games to extend his batting average to 15 games and raised his batting average to .420.
Jake Peavy outpitched Bartolo Colon in the battle of comeback hurlers. Peavy pitched a three-hit shutout with five strikeouts to earn his third consecutive win. He lowered his season ERA to 1.88. If you pull back and take the long view, you see that Peavy has also exhibited superior control this season with 26 strikeouts against four walks (two against the A’s).
By way of contrast, Tim Lincecum’s control issues against the Mets. Lincecum walked five batters in five innings pitched and threw 48 of his 108 pitches for balls. However, he limited the damage by scattering four hits and struck out eight batters. He allowed a single earned run and claimed his first victory of the season.
San Francisco teammate Madison Bumgarner cruised in the second game of the doubleheader. Bumgarner allowed a single earned run in seven innings on three hits and two walks. He struck out four to earn his third win of the season and lowered his season ERA to 2.96.
Outfielder Cody Ross of the Red Sox went 2-for-4 with two home runs and three RBI against the Twins. His second home run, a solo shot and his fifth of the season, proved to be the game-winner off of Minnesota closer Matt Capps.
Carlos Gonzalez of the Rockies finally added a number to his home run tally for desperate fantasy owners. Gonzalez slammed two home runs against the Pirates as part of a 3-for-4 performance. He drove in all four of the Rockies’ runs as Colorado fell 5-4.
Pittsburgh closer Joel Hanrahan, who had missed time because of a hamstring injury, pitched a perfect ninth inning to earn his third save of the year.
Yu Darvish stepped into the bright spotlight and stared down the Yankees over 8 1/3 scoreless innings to earn his third win. He scattered seven hits and demonstrated much better control with 10 strikeouts against two walks. Overall, Darvish has struck out 24 batters in his 26 innings pitched with 15 walks. That hefty walk total bears watching, but gambling owners have to be thrilled with his early production (that 1.58 WHIP notwithstanding, of course).
Joe Nathan closed out the ninth inning for his fifth save. For those tracking his durability, Nathan’s appearance was his ninth of the season. He struck out nine batters in his first 8 2/3 innings pitched.
I’ll allow you to fret about Albert Pujols’ lack of home run punch in April. I’m more concerned about Ervin Santana’s propensity to serve them up to opposing hitters. Santana allowed another four home runs in a 5-0 loss to David Price and the Rays. He allowed five earned runs on eight hits and a walk while striking out four batters in five innings pitched. Santana has already allowed 10 home runs this season.
Paul Goldschmidt’s sophomore struggles continued with another 0-for-4 night against the Phillies. He struck out twice to raise hit total to 17 in 48 at-bats. The late-season fantasy hero of 2011 remains stuck on a single home run and seven RBI.
Felix Hernandez didn’t overpower the Tigers in a manner in which we’ve become accustomed, but he pitched seven effective innings to earn his second win of the year. Hernandez struck out two batters while limiting the Tigers to a single run on four hits and three walks. He reduced his season ERA to 2.48 in the victory.
Jose Altuve rapped out another four hits to lead the Astros to a win over the Brewers. The 5-foot-5 second baseman went 4-for-5 with a double, RBI and three runs scored in the win. Altuve’s four-hit day was his fifth multi-hit effort in a 10-game stretch (third straight) and raised his batting average to .377.
The Cardinals shook off any ill effects of Albert Pujols’ departure immediately. Part of the reason for the early success is the arrival of Carlos Beltran, who has hit for power and started to run again. He drove in his tenth run of the season in a 5-1 victory over the Cubs. More importantly for fantasy owners, Beltran stole two bases to raise his season total to five.
Bryan LaHair homered for the second straight game and finished the game 1-for-4. LaHair’s home run was his fourth of the season. He has also driven in 11 runs while batting .364 (16-for-44, including four doubles).
Oakland right-hander Jarrod Parker made his season debut against Chicago in the series finale. The former first-round selection by the Diamondbacks allowed one earned run while scattering seven hits and a walk over 6 1/3 innings pitched. Parker threw 62 of his 99 pitches for strikes, including five strikeouts. His next start comes on the road in Boston.
Fans are anxiously monitoring the closer carousel in Chicago following this game. Hector Santiago was grossly ineffective and failed to convert a save for the second time this season. He allowed five hits, including a mammoth home run by Yeonis Cespedes, and three earned runs to absorb the loss. Santiago has allowed 11 hits in 6 1/3 innings this spring, four of which left the ballpark.
Following a slow start to the season, Jay Bruce has discovered his stroke. Bruce went 3-for-4 against the Cardinals with a home run (his fourth of the year) and two RBI. It was his fourth multi-hit game in his past six starts. Bruce raised his batting average 77 points during this stretch with five RBI and two stolen bases.
Angels closer Jordan Walden continued the team’s miserable spring by blowing a save opportunity against the Rays. Walden allowed two hits, including the walk-off home run to Brandon Allen. He’s converted one of his two opportunities this season and has posted a brutal 8.31 ERA with an accompanying 2.08 WHIP.
Walden’s outing wasn’t the worst by a closer on this day. Heath Bell struggled mightily once again for the Marlins. He blew his third save of the year and couldn’t locate the strike zone. Bell walked four batters and allowed two earned runs on just a single hit. He’s allowed nine hits and seven walks in 5 2/3 innings pitched this season.
The surprising Orioles completed a series sweep of the Blue Jays behind Brian Matusz. Matusz allowed two unearned runs in six innings pitched (three strikeouts). Adam Jones hit his sixth home run of the season in a 2-for-4 performance. Jones hit safely in eight of his past ten games (.316 batting average overall).
Eric Hosmer had his six-game hitting streak snapped with a 0-for-5 performance in Cleveland, though the Royals did win their second straight game. Hosmer hit three home runs with five RBI during the streak. Alas, the breakthrough slugger of 2011 carries a weak .211 batting average into the weekend.
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