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Baseball Daily Dose

Daily Dose: Justin Time

by Dan Dobish
Updated On: October 4, 2018, 4:04 pm ET

It was a busy slate in Major League Baseball with plenty of early-evening games, even on the west coast. There was also an interleague doubleheader due to weather, so plenty of fantasy standouts. There were also some awful performances, and a few players making their way back from the 10-day disabled list, too. In addition, there might be some others joining the growing list of injured, so we'll touch on that below, too. Speaking of that doubleheader, the opener of the double dip was quite the fantasy fiesta. Let's get started!

 

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Wednesday's Fantasy Five

 

It's amazing what a change of scenery, or a change of culture, can do for a stud player. Justin Verlander had a couple of subpar seasons by his standards in 2014 and 2015, partly due to some injury woes. He rebounded last season in 2016, and the early part of 2017, rebuilding his stock before landing with the Astros in a deadline deal. He hasn't lost since. Combined with his regular season time in 2017 with the Astros, he is 9-0 with a 1.22 ERA in 11 outings in a Houston uniform. Verlander has been untouchable, too, walking just 13 batters while striking out 91 over just 73 2/3 innings. After years of being a good option, he is back to being a front-line fantasy stud.

 

Michael Wacha has been doing his best Verlander imitation over the past few outings, as he won his fourth consecutive start. He allowed just one earned run, five hits and a walk with eight strikeouts over six innings in a victory against the Mets, lowering his ERA to 3.62. The right-hander continues to go deeper into games, turning in back-to-back quality starts, and he struck out a season-high eight batters on Wednesday. The key to his success has been keeping the ball in the park, a rather obvious key for any pitcher. He served up two bombs in an opening game road loss to the Mets on March 31, but he hasn't yielded a long ball in 22 2/3 innings in the month of April. Wacha's lack of walks over the past two outings has been big, too, as he has walked just two batters in the past 12 2/3 innings after issuing 10 free passes over his first 14 2/3 innings.

 

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Verlander and Wacha weren't the only ones who had their fastball working on Hump Day. Max Scherzer received a ton of run support in his outing in San Francisco. The Nationals could have stopped after the three-run first inning, as the multi-colored eye wonder didn't need any additional help. He allowed just two earned runs, five hits and two walks with 10 strikeouts over six innings in a victory against the Giants, running his record to 5-1 while lowering his ERA to 1.62. Like Wacha, Scherzer has rattled off four consecutive victories. Unlike Wacha, Scherzer is striking out batters at a very high rate like his fantasy owners expect. He has four consecutive quality starts, and five over his six outings this season while striking out at least seven batters in each of his six assignments. He has hit double digits in punchouts on four different occasions already.

 

While Scherzer and Verlander are must-start fantasy options, and Wacha is owned by a high percentage of fantasy owners, J.T. Realmuto isn't as much of a must-start as those pitchers. However, if he keeps putting up big power numbers he'll be a must-start fantasy stud before too long. There is something about Dodger Stadium that agrees with Realmuto, as he has belted three homers over the first two games of the series. He was sidelined for the first three weeks of the season due to a bone bruise in his back but he is making up for lost time, hitting .385 with four homers and eight RBI through seven games. Realmuto has increased his homer and RBI totals over the past three seasons and he could take another step forward this season even after missing several games. And they say Derek Jeter and the Marlins are tanking.

 

Mookie Betts has been a one-man wrecking crew for the Red Sox. He is already up to eight homers after belting two more on Wednesday night while driving in three runs. For the third time this season he has belted a homer to lead off a game, and he extended his franchise record with his 14th career leadoff bomb. Since the start of the 2015 season he has nine multi-homer games to lead all major leaguers, and he is now the first-ever Red Sox player to smack three leadoff homers before May 1. His nine multi-homer games as a leadoff hitter is also a franchise best. Enjoy the ride, fantasy owners.

 

Fantasy Game of the Night

 

Both games of the doubleheader between the Tigers and Pirates were outstanding from a fantasy perspective, but Game 1 was particularly amazing, at least if you weren't starting either pitcher. The clubs combined for a total of 23 runs and 34 hits. Leonys Martin got the party started with a leadoff homer off of Jameson Taillon for a quick 1-0 lead. James McCann also took Taillon deep in the fourth inning and it was shower time for the Bucs pitcher, as he yielded seven runs and 10 hits over just 3 2/3 innings in the loss. Jeimer Candelario contributed three hits in the victory, including a solo home run, while scoring a career-high five runs. Miguel Cabrera had a four-hit game, too, posting three doubles with a pair of RBI to give him 16 on the season. That's six RBI over the past three outings for Cabrera, and he has hit safely in six of the past seven to raise his average from .235 to .329 just since April 17. Nick Castellanos also remains red hot, going 4-for-5 with a two-run homer, a walk and four RBI. He is slashing .337/.394/.512 overall this season, and he is a ridiculous 11-for-18 (.611) with a double, two homers and 10 RBI over the past four outings. That includes at least one RBI in four straight.

 

On the Pirates side of the ledger, things were pretty impressive from a fantasy perspective, too. Francisco Cervelli led the charge by going 3-for-4 with a two-run double and a three-run home run, finishing with a career-high six RBI. Corey Dickerson had his finest game for the Bucs, going 3-for-5 with a double and two runs scored, while Colin Moran cracked his second homer. The former standout at the University of North Carolina has found a home in the Steel City after being blocked in Houston. He is slashing .284/.347/.433 and Moran has emerged as a useful corner fielder in NL-only formats. The big production for the Pirates was bad news for Jordan Zimmermann, as he coughed up six runs - three earned - and six hits in just three innings of work before getting the hook.

 

American League Quick Hits: Mike Zunino finished 2-for-4 with a double, a home run, two runs scored and two RBI. He started off slow in his first games back from a strained oblique, but he is 4-for-11 with a double, two homers and three RBI over his past three outings as he makes up for lost time. … Nelson Cruz went 3-for-5 with a double and two RBI, giving him four multi-hit outings in the past six games to raise his average from .172 to .268 just since April 19. … Felix Hernandez turned in a quality start with six strikeouts over six innings to improve to 3-2, proving he is still an effective fantasy option. … Yoan Moncada is now up to five homers after belting a solo shot for his only hit in four at-bats. … Ken Giles picked up his second save, as the guessing game in the late innings for the Astros continues for fantasy owners. … Jose Altuve cracked his first homer of the season in the victory. … Miguel Sano and Max Kepler paced the Twins offense, but they didn't do enough in their road loss against the Yankees. Sano left the yard for the fifth time, while Kepler collected three hits. … Didi Gregorius smacked his ninth homer and was a perfect 3-for-3 from the dish. Everyone talked about the Murderer's Row of Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez and Giancarlo Stanton before the season, but Gregorius has crashed the party and wants in on the action. … Lance Lynn slipped to 0-2 by allowing six earned runs, seven hits and three walks in just 3 2/3 innings against the Bronx Bombers. … Gleyber Torres did work at the dish, going 2-for-4 with a double and a run scored. So far he has been everything as advertised. … Andrew Miller was injured in his appearance against the Cubs, suffering tightness in his left hamstring. It's uncertain if a trip to the 10-day disabled list will be needed, but it's probably inevitable. … Alex Cobb was knocked around by his old team, the Rays, allowing five runs and 10 hits to slip to 0-3 with a 13.11 ERA. Not good. … Joey Gallo tied a career best with three hits, all singles, and that includes a surprise bunt to beat the infield shift. … Kendall Graveman slipped to 0-5, but he posted his first quality start of the season. He recently changed his delivery and perhaps the adjustment is starting to bear fruit. … Doug Fister was back from the DL and he allowed two runs, four hits and three walks over 4 2/3 innings against the A's.

 

National League Quick Hits: Wil Myers had the only multi-hit performance the Padres in their loss at Coors Field for his third game with two or more hits in five outings since returning from the 10-day DL. … David Dahl posted a triple for the second straight game, and he has hit safely in each of his first four outings since his recall from Triple-A Albuquerque. While he is 5-for-16 (.313) with two triples, three runs scored and three RBI, he also has eight strikeouts. … Jon Gray rebounded nicely, allowing just three hits and a walk over six scoreless innings with 11 strikeouts to improve to 2-4. He has been erratic lately, but has tremendous strikeout potential. … Trea Turner had a five-hit game, and he added his 10th steal of the season. The former N.C. State product is one of the best table setters in the game. … Matt Adams went 3-for-5 with a double, a three-run homer and he matched a career best with six RBI. … Andrew Stevenson showed well with two doubles, two singles and four RBI to help the Nats set season bests with 15 runs and 18 hits. … Jeff Samardzija didn't enjoy the offensive show, as he was tagged for six earned runs, eight hits and three walks over 3 2/3 innings in a loss. … Ozzie Albies is up to seven homers on the season, as he continues to be a fantasy sensation at the middle infielder spot. … Ender Inciarte was busy on the base paths, going 3-for-5 with two runs scored and two stolen bases, giving him nine thefts on the season. … Joey Votto bagged his second homer of the season while driving in a pair of runs. … Zack Greinke was smacked around for five earned runs, nine hits and a walk over six innings to slip to 2-2 while his ERA ballooned to 4.80. He salvaged the stat line with nine strikeouts. … Jake Arrieta was impressive, as the Phillies continue to rack up big numbers at home. He allowed just three runs - one earned - over seven innings to move to 3-0 with a 1.82. Citizens Bank Park is a bandbox, but he has pitched well in his first days as a Phillie. … Cesar Hernandez collected two singles and a double to raise his average to .313. He is a solid middle infielder option in most NL-only leagues and some deeper mixed formats for his help in the batting average category. … Clayton Kershaw slipped to 1-4 with a surprising loss against the Marlins. His ERA is still solid, but the Dodgers are just not supporting him very well. His four losses equal the total he posted in both 2016 and 2017. He has lost double-digit games just once in his career, but he is currently on pace for a career worst record at this rate. … Jedd Gyorko homered for the first time this season, and he is ripping the cover off the ball since his return from the DL. … Steven Matz was tuned up again, and he could be on his way out of the rotation after another loss.