Fantasy Baseball Final: September 24, 2015
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Today’s action got underway with an afternoon contest between the Los Angeles Dodgers and Arizona Diamondbacks. L.A. had the one and only Clayton Kershaw on the bump who has been nearly unhittable at home this year, posting a 10-3 record with a 1.56 ERA and o.80 WHIP. Despite not having his best stuff, Kershaw still fanned nine D-backs in his five innings of work, bringing his total to 281 on the year and putting him in position to have the first 300 strikeout season since Randy Johnson back in 2002. Kershaw had his shortest outing in over a year and gave up three earned runs on six hits today, but received a huge gift from his offense in the form of a six-run fifth inning to put him in line for the win. Howie Kendrick, who had been just 2-14 since returning from the disabled list, got the Dodgers on the board by driving in two on a single up the middle, and outfielder Chris Heisey delivered the big blow with a grand slam just inside the left field foul pole three batters later. Although they were missing several notable bats such as Adrian Gonzalez, Corey Seager, and Joc Pederson, L.A. was able to provide enough runs for the real strength of their ball club. The Dodgers pitching staff has the highest combined WAR in baseball at 21.3, and with Kershaw and Cy Young favorite Zack Greinke at the top of their rotation, the team has the third lowest ERA in the game as well at 3.42. Kershaw is having another typical, great Clayton Kershaw-type year as he leads the National League in both strikeouts, K/9, and fielding independent pitching.
IF YOU ONLY READ ONE THING…
One of the biggest surprise teams of the 2015 MLB season, the Minnesota Twins, sat just one game back of idle Astros entering the night for that second Wild Card spot, and were eyeing a sweep over their division rivals the Cleveland Indians. Cleveland is fighting for their playoff lives right now as well, sitting 4 ½ back of a Wild Card position entering play on Thursday. The club sent rookie Cody Anderson to the hill to combat Minnesota starting pitcher Kyle Gibson, and Anderson managed to stay hot, putting forth another solid outing and getting his team the win. Anderson gave up just one run in his 6 ⅔ innings tonight, and is now 4-0 in his six starts since returning from DL with a sub-two ERA. Kyle Gibson, on the other hand, has been having a rough go since posting a 2.82 ERA in the first half of the season. Gibson lasted just 2 ⅔ innings tonight, giving up each of the six runs scored by the Tribe. He has seen his ERA jump almost a full run after pitching to the tune of a 5.10 ERA in the second half, and his start tonight marked the shortest outing of his entire season. Despite the loss tonight, Minnesota is still very much in contention for a Wild Card spot due to the recent play and upcoming of Houston. The Astros are 3-7 in last 10 games, and are starting up a three-game series at home against the 1st place Rangers tomorrow.
JUST AS WE EXPECTED…
For the second year in a row, the Kansas City Royals are going to be playing baseball in October. The Royals were able to clinched their first division title since 1985 title with a 10-3 win over the Seattle Mariners and will be heading back to the playoffs to defend for the American League Pennant. Johnny Cueto is starting to look like the pitcher KC traded for at the break, posting his second straight quality start by giving up just three earned runs and going seven innings with five strikeouts. Cueto’s ERA with the Royals was 5.14 entering the night, but the veteran right hander was able to notch his third win with the club. The offense also gave him a great deal of support by banging out 15 hits and scoring in first, second, fifth, sixth, seventh, and eighth innings. Although the Royals learned they will be without closer Greg Holland for the remainder of this season, and possibly for the majority of next season as well if he needs Tommy John Surgery, they got a strong performance out of reliever Ryan Madson who threw a scoreless eighth and got his fastball all the way up to 98 MPH. Wade Davis did not look like his dominant self tonight, but will transition into the role of closer for the American League Central champions.
WHAT WE DIDN’T EXPECT…
The New York Mets were finally able to capitalize on the Washington Nationals’ recent struggles, and got back on track with a 6-4 win over the Cincinnati Reds. After a tough 3-6 home stand, New York improved to 4-0 over Cincinnati on the year, and earned their eighth straight road-win thanks to a solid day at the plate, particularly from the meat of their batting order. The Mets got 12 total hits in tonight’s game, and got RBIs from David Wright, Daniel Murphy, Yoenis Cespedes, and Lucas Duda in a pair of three-run innings which provided an answer to any momentum the Reds hoped to gain from their offense. Murph has caught fire recently, hitting .462 with two homers in his last seven games. Steven Matz got the ball for the Mets tonight and did not factor in the decision, but still remains unbeaten in his impressive rookie campaign. Matz dominated the Reds in his MLB debut, but got hit around a little bit tonight, scattering 10 hits over 5 ⅔ innings and giving up three earned runs. He was able to keep his team in the game by not walking a single batter, and struck out eight Reds in the process. Tonight’s win, accompanied with a Washington loss this afternoon reduced the Amazin’s magic number to just three games, putting them in position to clinch their first division title since 2006 as early as Saturday.
– Kenley Jansen (34)
– Mark Melancon (50)
– Darren O’Day (6)
– Andrew Miller (35)
– Jeurys Familia (42)
– Brad Boxberger (38)
– A.J. Ramos (29)
Just try to imagine how scary the Toronto Blue Jays lineup would be had second baseman Devon Travis not been sidelined with a shoulder injury for the majority of the 2015 campaign. Travis was an impact bat towards the top of the Jays lineup, and was the runaway favorite to take home AL Rookie of the year honors early on in the season; however, multiple DL stints have limited the 24 year-old to just 62 games with the big club. Toronto was forced to shut down Travis for the year, and have him undergo exploratory shoulder surgery on Wednesday to locate the source of his shoulder pain. According to MLB.com’s Gregory Chisholm, doctors were able to successfully drain a cyst in Travis’ left shoulder as part of a general cleanup procedure, and were unable to find any additional ailments to the injured area which is a very good sign for the team. He is expected to make a full recovery by Spring Training next year, but Toronto will have to continue on this season with either Ryan Goins or Cliff Pennington manning the helm at second base. Travis had been a dynamic player in the brilliant start to his major league career. In 238 plate appearances with the Jays this season, Travis has hit .304 with an impressive .498 slugging percentage (over 100 points better than both replacement options). In fact, Travis was worth 1 ½ more wins to his team in limited action this season than Goins and Pennington combined. Since coming over from Arizona this summer, Pennington has struggled mightily, hitting just .133 is 60 ABs; and Goins hasn’t played much better, posting an OPS well below league average at .666. Even without Travis, Toronto still possesses the best offense in all of baseball, but teams running into the Jays in the playoffs should feel fortunate that there is one less tough-out they will have to worry about.