Johnny Cueto didn’t enter the 2018 season with much support from the fantasy community at large. The 32-year-old right-hander posted a 4.52 ERA and 1.45 WHIP across 147 ⅓ innings during a miserable 2017 campaign, leaving many to wonder whether or not he was finished. His average draft position in NFBC drafts sat around pick 153, putting him outside the top 10 rounds in 15-team formats. For one day at least, he showed that there’s something left in the tank.
Cueto retired the first 18 hitters that he faced on Friday, losing his bid for a perfect game when Chris Taylor singled to lead off the bottom of the seventh inning. Taylor wasn’t on base for long either, as he was promptly erased on a double play ball off the bat of Corey Seager. That’s it, that’s the extent of the Dodgers’ offense against Cueto through seven brilliant frames on Friday.
Unfortunately for the Giants, Alex Wood was equally as good on the other side of the diamond. The Dodgers’ southpaw lost his bid for a perfect game on an error by Logan Forsythe in the fourth inning, the first of three errors that Forsythe would make in the ballgame. He carried his no-hit bid to the following inning where Brandon Crawford’s single would crush that dream. All told, Wood would allow just that one single over eight fantastic innings, striking out five along the way.
As nice as dueling one-hitters are though, someone has to score eventually to declare a winner in the ballgame. Remember, these are the same two clubs that played to a 1-0 decision on Opening Day where unlikely power hitter Joe Panik took Clayton Kershaw deep to provide the only offense in the game. Panik power was ready for an encore on Friday.
The diminutive second baseman stunned the Dodgers yet again, taking All-Star closer Kenley Jansen deep to open the top half of the ninth inning. That would be more than enough support as Hunter Strickland came on to retire the Dodgers in order in the home half of the inning, handing the Dodgers their second consecutive 1-0 defeat.
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The Price is Right
David Price was a shell of his former self during the 2017 season, as elbow troubles limited him to just 74 ⅔ innings on the year and caused him to finish the campaign out of the Red Sox’ bullpen. There had been growing optimism throughout the spring that Price has regained his dominant form and would be a major contributor to the Red Sox’ rotation in 2018. If Friday’s debut was any indication, those reports are correct.
Price, taking on his former club at Tropicana Field in Tampa, breezed through seven shutout innings on Friday, needing just 76 pitches to record 21 outs. He scattered four hits, struck out five and didn’t issue a free pass.
It was Price’s first big league start since July 22 of last season, so that could be a factor into why he was yanked after throwing just 76 pitches rather than going back out to start the eighth inning. It looks as though they’ll try to limit his workload where possible, at least early in the season, to ensure that he stays healthy.
The veteran left-hander pounded the strike zone in this one, generating a good deal of weak contact. He looked a lot like the pitcher of old that starred for the Rays from 2008-2014. The Red Sox, and fantasy owners who invested in a potential rebound season from Price, have to be ecstatic with the return through one start.
Mad Mad Max
Two-time defending National League Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer believes that he hasn’t yet reached his peak and that he could be even better than ever in 2018. While the bar is certainly set high, the right-hander already looked to be in mid-season form for his Opening Day assignment against the Reds on Friday afternoon.
Scherzer limited the Reds to just five hits and a walk over six scoreless innings on Friday, starting the season off with his first victory. He racked up 10 strikeouts in the contest, which matched a Nationals ‘franchise record for an Opening Day start. At one point Scherzer set down seven hitters in a row on strikes.
It’s scary to think just how good the 33-year-old hurler can be if we haven’t seen his peak yet. Fantasy owners who invested a first round selection on him this spring have to be pleased with the early returns that he has provided.
American League Quick Hits: Aaron Hicks landed on the 10-day disabled list with an intercostal muscle strain… Josh Donaldson will be limited to DH duties for the next few games as he deals with a “dead arm” phase… The Blue Jays announced that Troy Tulowitzki will undergo surgery to remove bone spurs from both of his ankles… The Mariners were forced to place Mike Zunino on the 10-day disabled list with a strained oblique…Rays’ prospect Garrett Whitely will miss the entire 2018 season after undergoing surgery on his right labrum... Masahiro Tanaka struck out eight over six innings of one-run ball in a victory over the Blue Jays… Blake Snell hurled 5 ⅔ innings of scoreless baseball in a no-decision against the Red Sox… Doug Fister allowed just one run over five innings in a victory over the Astros… Mike Trout clubbed his first home run of the season as the Angels beat the Athletics… Craig Kimbrel struck out all three hitters he faced in the ninth inning to slam the door on the Rays and preserve a 1-0 victory… Sean Manaea struck out seven over 7 ⅓ innings of one-run ball in a tough-luck loss against the Angels… Tyler Skaggs fanned five in 6 ⅓ shutout innings against him to earn the victory.
National League Quick Hits: Justin Turner (wrist) is getting closer to swinging a bat and could beat his original 6-8 week recovery timeframe… Steven Souza Jr. (pectoral) is also progressing quicker than anticipated and could rejoin the Diamondbacks before the end of April… Daniel Murphy (knee) is traveling with and taking batting practice with the Nationals and could return sooner than his original mid-April estimation… Braves’ catcher Tyler Flowers was placed on the 10-day disabled list with a strained left oblique… Kurt Suzuki was then forced to leave Friday’s game after being drilled in the hand by a pitch… The Phillies put Pat Neshek on the 10-day DL with a right shoulder strain… The Brewers bolstered their bullpen by signing left-hander Jennings to a one-year contract…Jeff Samardzija (pectoral) was able to throw from a distance of 90 feet without any pain and is said to be ahead of schedule in his recovery… The Giants released outfielder Jarrett Parker… Gregory Polanco clubbed a three-run homer in the 13th inning to beat the Tigers… Scooter Gennett went 4-for-4 with a double in a loss to the Nationals… Scott Kingery went 2-for-5 in his MLB debut… Carlos Santana homered and drove in three runs as the Phillies topped the Braves in 11 innings…Ryan Braun crushed a go-ahead three-run homer in the ninth inning to beat the Padres… Robbie Ray earned a victory despite allowing seven runs over five frames in a slugfest against the Rockies… Nick Ahmed homered and drove in five to lead the way for the Diamondbacks in that one… Charlie Blackmon, Ian Desmond and Gerardo Parra each left the yard for the Rockies in a losing effort.