Just Out Of Reach
Entering Sunday’s start against the Dodgers, Sean Newcomb was having a very solid season. He had compiled a 3.41 ERA, 1.28 WHIP and 102/56 K/BB ratio over 111 innings in his 20 starts while establishing himself as a fixture in the Braves’ rotation and as a fantasy-relevant commodity in all mixed leagues.
The 25-year-old southpaw had scuffled in his last three starts before the All-Star break, perhaps showing some signs of fatigue. In those three outings he had surrendered 13 runs in 12 innings (9.75 ERA), watching his season-long ERA balloon from 2.71 to 3.51.
The break seemed to do him some good though. Newcomb looked sharp in his first start back, limiting the Marlins to one run on six hits over six strong innings on Monday to earn his ninth victory of the season.
He was even better on Sunday.
The Dodgers didn’t have much success the second time through the order either. They went down in succession in the fourth and fifth innings before Yasiel Puig drew a leadoff four-pitch walk in the sixth to break up Newcomb’s bid for a perfect game. Pitching out of the stretch for the first time on the afternoon didn’t seem to phase him either, as he got Logan Forsythe on a line out then whiffed Cody Bellinger and Chris Taylor to end the inning.
He set down the Dodgers in order again in the seventh inning, this time on only 12 pitches. It was more of the same in the eighth, getting Joc Pederson and Yasmani Grandal to ground out before fanning Yasiel Puig after an eight-pitch battle.
At that point, Newcomb had thrown 117 pitches, already six more than his previous career high of 111. The Braves had a comfortable 4-0 lead. There are a lot of managers around baseball (Dave Roberts of the Dodgers comes to mind) who would have lifted their young starter from the game at that point, rather than pushing him too far in an effort to finish his no-hit bid.
It took just two pitches to get Forsythe to fly out to left field. Bellinger was more of a battle, as he fouled off three two-strike pitches in a nine-pitch battle before flying out to right field. Just Chris Taylor stood between Newcomb and the record books.
Newcomb quickly got ahead of Taylor 1-2 before the 27-year-old evened the count at 2-2 and fouled off a tough 2-2 pitch. Taylor the broke the hearts of the home faithful at SunTrust Park, grounding a single in between third baseman Johan Camargo and shortstop Dansby Swanson.
Newcomb was also denied the complete game as he was lifted after Taylor’s single, and also had a run hung on his final line after Taylor scored on an RBI single by Manny Machado.
Braves’ manager Brian Snitker had no reservations about extending Newcomb as far as he did, telling reporters afterwards, "That delivery was working -- he could have thrown 160 pitches today and been fine… As evidence to the last hitter, he got up to 95. He had some of his best velocity."
The left-hander wound up throwing 134 pitches in the ballgame. That’s the highest total for any starter in the big leagues since Mike Fiers’ no-hitter against the Dodgers in August of 2015. Let’s hope that the remarkably-high pitch total doesn’t impact his performance over the remainder of the season, but fantasy owners should at least keep it in the back of their minds for his next couple of starts.
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Braves Bolster Bullpen
The Braves were able to bolster their bullpen on Sunday, acquiring Brad Brach from the Orioles in exchange for $250,000 in international signing bonus pool money.
Due to the misdeeds of the previous general manager, the Braves are not able to spend more than $300,000 on any international signing this period, so they’ve decided to use those funds as trade chips instead. This is the second hurler they have acquired to add to their bullpen for the same amount, joining Jonny Venters who was acquired from the Rays earlier in the week.
Brach hasn’t pitched well this season, posting a 4.85 ERA, 1.77 WHIP and 38/19 K/BB ratio across his 39 innings. The 32-year-old hurler had been one of the top setup men in the game over the previous five seasons though where he compiled a 2.79 ERA, 1.19 WHIP and 9.5 K/9 over 319 ⅔ innings.
With closer Arodys Vizcaino on the shelf, there’s a chance that Brach could immediately step into high-leverage work at the backend of the Braves’ bullpen, especially if manager Brian Snitker believes that A.J. Minter would be better utilized in the most dire of situations, rather than coming on with the bases empty to begin the ninth inning.
The Mets have been steadfast in their desire to deal from their stockpile of starting pitching prior to the trade deadline, but by all accounts have been asking for the moon in return for Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard.
All along, the most likely candidate to be dealt from their rotation has been Zack Wheeler. It seems like every time he takes the hill, knowing that scouts are watching each and every pitch, Wheeler ups the asking price.
The 28-year-old was dominant on Sunday, racking up seven strikeouts over six shutout innings as the Mets defeated the Pirates 1-0. Wheeler scattered just five hits and one walk in the contest.
Over his last eight starts, the right-hander boasts a 2.96 ERA, 1.08 WHIP and 52/16 K/BB ratio across 51 ⅔ innings.
He isn’t just a rental for a couple of months either. Wheeler will enter his final year of arbitration this winter, so any team that acquires him will have him for the 2019 season as well. Given how well he has pitched lately and the lack of quality starting pitching options available via trade at the moment, the Mets should be able to fetch a nice return.
If would be extremely surprising if Sunday wasn’t Wheeler’s last time taking the mound in a Mets’ uniform.
Down Goes Gurriel
It probably hasn’t gotten as much press as it has deserved, but what Lourdes Gurriel has been doing for the Blue Jays over the last week and a half has been mighty impressive.
Unfortunately, just before fantasy owners were ready to really take notice as most weekly FAAB bids were run, he suffered what looked like a gruesome injury.
Gurriel was injured while sliding into second base during the ninth inning of Sunday’s game against the White Sox. It looked as though there was some indecision on his part on whether to slide or go in standing up, and the result was a very awkward slide in which he suffered multiple leg injuries and had to be helped off of the field by the Blue Jays’ training staff.
The great news, is that initial X-rays came back negative for any fractures as Gurriel was diagnosed with a bruised knee and a sprained ankle. He’s still likely to hit the disabled list and will undergo an MRI on Monday to determine the severity of the ankle injury, but given how bad it looked initially he’s lucky to have avoided anything more significant.
Back to what Gurriel was doing on the field though. Prior to his departure on Sunday, he had gone 3-for-5 with a pair of RBI. That was his 11th consecutive multi-hit game. He set a Blue Jays’ franchise record on Saturday when he notched his 10th straight multi-hit effort.
To put this into perspective, it’s the third longest streak of multi-hit games since 1900.
The 24-year-old has been extremely impressive, slashing .322/.340/.503 with seven homers, 22 RBI and one stolen base in his 147 plate appearances. It would be a damn shame if his season had to be cut short due to this unfortunate injury.
Fantasy owners in deeper mixed leagues should still consider taking a shot on him in the hopes that he only misses a week or two of action. With the way he’s raking and his ascension to the second spot in the Blue Jays’ lineup, he could be an impact addition the rest of the season.
American League Quick Hits: Rafael Devers landed back on the 10-day disabled list with a left hamstring strain… Dan Connolly of The Athletic reported that the sense is that Adam Jones will remain with the Orioles as he doesn’t want to waive his no-trade clause…Jon Heyman of Fancred reports that the Yankees could be a potential landing spot for Curtis Granderson… Heyman also reports that the Red Sox are determined to bolster their bullpen before the trade deadline and have checked in on Kirby Yates, Keone Kela, Brad Ziegler and a host of other arms… Max Kepler sat out his second straight game after colliding with the outfield wall on Friday… Brian Goodwin suffered a right groin strain during Saturday’s doubleheader against the Yankees and could be headed for the disabled list… Joel Sherman of the New York Post reported that the Rangers had three scouts on hand to watch Luiz Gohara’s start at Triple-A Gwinnett on Sunday. The Braves being one of a plethora of teams to have interest in right-hander Keone Kela… Shohei Ohtani (elbow) expanded his throwing program to 110 feet… Blake Snell (shoulder) won’t return until next weekend at the earliest. He had been expected to return on Tuesday or Wednesday, but he’ll throw one more bullpen session first before hopefully starting against the White Sox over the weekend… J.D. Martinez plated three runs to lead the Red Sox to victory over the Twins, running his RBI total to a league-leading 89… Nathan Eovaldi scattered four hits over seven shutout innings as he defeated the Twins in his Red Sox’ debut… C.J. Cron cranked a pair of solo home runs in a losing effort against the Orioles… Corey Kluber picked up his 13th victory, allowing just one run in 7 ⅓ innings against the Tigers… Chris Davis homered twice to lead the Orioles in an 11-5 rout over the Rays… Jonathan Schoop left the yard again in that one, his seventh homer in his last nine games... Mike Minor fanned eight over six innings of two-run ball in a victory over the Astros… Tyler White went 3-for-3 and clubbed his third home run in a loss to the Rangers… Aaron Hicks went 3-for-3 with a homer and a pair of walks as the Yankees topped the Royals… JA Happ was victorious in his Yankees’ debut, allowing one run on three hits over six frames against the Royals...Marco Gonzales fanned seven over six innings of two-run ball to beat the Angels… Edwin Diaz picked up his league-leading 39th save in that one… Justin Upton went 3-for-5 with a homer and three RBI in a losing effort there… Khris Davis smashed his 28th home run in a loss to the Rockies…
National League Quick Hits: Jon Heyman of Fancred reported that the Padres remain the favorites to land Chris Archer from the Rays…In another report from Heyman, the Nationals haven’t closed the door on acquiring catcher J.T. Realmuto from the Marlins and could be willing to part with either Victor Robles or Carter Kieboom, though the Marlins seem to want both… Heyman also noted that the Marlins are very likely to move Brad Ziegler before Tuesday’s deadline… Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reported that team’s aren’t terribly excited about the prospect of acquiring Matt Harvey from the Reds… Rob Biertempfel of The Athletic reports that the Pirates have expressed interest in Orioles’ right-hander Kevin Gausman… Devin Mesoraco told reporters on Sunday that he would absolutely welcome a trade to a contender… Jose Urena struck out five over six shutout innings in a victory over the Nationals… Luis Castillo fanned nine over seven shutout frames as the Reds shutout the Phillies… Scooter Gennett clubbed a two-run homer and swiped a base in that victory… Anthony Swarzak worked a scoreless ninth inning on Sunday to earn his third save of the season. He looks to be the man to own in the Mets’ bullpen, not Robert Gsellman… Nick Markakis went 3-for-4 with a homer and three RBI as the Braves topped the Dodgers… Jose Martinez was a late scratch from the Cardinals’ lineup due to a sore ankle… David Peralta was removed from Sunday’s game with left shoulder tightness. He’s considered day-to-day… Buster Posey went 4-for-5 with three RBI, leading the Giants past the Brewers… Paul Goldschmidt clubbed his 23rd homer in a victory over the Padres… German Marquez allowed just two solo homers and struck out eight over 7 ⅔ innings in a victory over the Athletics… Kyle Hendricks whiffed eight and retired the final 17 batters that he faced in Sunday night’s victory against the Cardinals.