Blue Jays starter Marco Estrada brought a perfect game into the eighth inning against the Rays on Wednesday, but lost it when Logan Forsythe beat an infield single with one out. Josh Donaldson made one of the best plays you’ll see all year to record the first out of the inning, diving Derek Jeter-esque into the stands to snag a foul ball hit by David DeJesus. He finished the afternoon having allowed only two hits while walking none and striking out 10 in 8 2/3 innings. The Jays needed 12 innings to eke out a 1-0 win.
Estrada, strangely enough, is no stranger to a no-hit bid. He brought a no-no into the eighth inning on Friday against the Orioles, but lost it when Jimmy Paredes singled to left field to lead off the eighth inning. He was immediately taken out of the game, and Roberto Osuna ended up allowing Paredes to score.
Estrada is currently sporting a 3.45 ERA, a 1.10 WHIP, and a 63/23 K/BB ratio in 73 innings. A mainstay with the Brewers in the previous four seasons prior to joining the Jays, Estrada always showed potential but had problems giving up home runs. He allowed 29, which led all qualified starters last season. Among qualified starters between 2012-14, Estrada averaged 1.42 home runs per nine innings, ranking as one of only two pitchers with a HR/9 above 1.3, joined by Dan Haren (1.40).
The right-hander has allowed only eight home runs in 73 innings thus far, a rate of 0.99 per nine innings. Were the season to end today, that would easily rank as a career-best. He’s been his usual self in terms of strikeout rate and he’s been spotty at times with control, but the stats still speak to an above-average starter. According to Brooks Baseball, Estrada has been relying less on his change-up and more on his cut fastball, but it’s tough to say if that alone explains his newfound success.
What we do know is that, while he’s not the type we should expect to flirt with a no-hitter every time he pitches, he’s shown good stuff before, such as in 2012 when he finished with a 3.64 ERA and a 143/29 K/BB ratio in 138 1/3 innings. Despite his no-hit stuff in his last two starts, Estrada likely still isn’t being properly valued in fantasy leagues. He’s owned in only 14 percent of Yahoo leagues, for instance. If he can continue to limit home runs and start limiting the walks, we could be looking at a potential breakout season for the 31-year-old.
Editor's Note: Play one-day fantasy baseball for cash! FanDuel is hosting a $50,000 league for Thursday's MLB games. It's just $5 to join and first place wins $5,000. Starts tonight at 7:05pm ET. Enter now!
Ivan Nova made his long-awaited return to the Yankees’ starting rotation on Wednesday afternoon against the Phillies. It couldn’t have gone much better. The right-hander, hitting 92-95 MPH with his fastball consistently, held the Phillies to three hits and a pair of walks on one strikeout in 6 2/3 scoreless innings. The one strikeout isn’t too impressive, and shutting the Phillies – baseball’s worst-hitting team – out is by no means a distinctive achievement, but for his first start since April 19, 2014, it’s quite good.
"It's an opportunity that I was waiting for these last 14 months. Somebody told me I would sleep well before, I want to tell him he's a liar. I didn't sleep," Nova said, per MLB.com’s Alden Woods.
Nova went under the knife for Tommy John surgery on April 29 last year after he had bombed in two of four starts to begin the season. He appeared to have caught his stride in 2013, when he finished with an impressive 3.10 ERA and a 116/44 K/BB ratio in 139 1/3 innings. It would be unrealistic to expect Nova to be as good as he was in 2013 or as good as he was on Wednesday afternoon.
It’s also unclear at the moment how the Yankees will operate with their starting rotation. With Nova back, they could utilize a six-man rotation. They could also demote one of CC Sabathia, Nathan Eovaldi, or Adam Warren. Sabathia, with a 5.65 ERA, has been the worst performer of the bunch but it would be difficult to justify his salary while making him pitch mop-up innings. Eovaldi has posted an ugly 4.95 ERA but is only 25 years old and still has plenty of potential. Warren may have pitched too well to merit exclusion, owning a 3.62 ERA over 13 starts thus far.
Whether in a five- or a six-man rotation, Nova is on target to face the Angels in Los Angeles next week, but we should hear in the meantime the Yankees’ rotation plans. Nova is worth a flier in AL-only leagues, but mixed leaguers might want to be cautious observers in the early going.
Editor's Note: If you've played in daily fantasy baseball tournaments, you've probably tried (or at least heard of) "stacking" a team in your lineup. While stacking is a common strategy, this approach also comes with pitfalls. Check out this article from RotoGrinders' Dave "CheeseIsGood" Potts, the 2014 FanDuel DFBC Champion, for expert tips on "MLB DFS: The Psychology of Stacking."
Sale-abrate Good Times
White Sox starter Chris Sale was hit around in a loss to the Twins on Wednesday, yielding six runs (five earned) in 6 2/3 innings. But he managed to strike out 10 batters, extending his double-digit strikeout streak to seven consecutive starts. According to Baseball Reference, a pitcher has recorded double-digit strikeouts in at least seven consecutive games only five times going back to 1914:
- Pedro Martinez (10 games) between August 19, 1999 and April 9, 2000 for the Red Sox
- Randy Johnson (seven) in 2001 for the Diamondbacks
- Martinez (seven) from April 15 to May 18, 1999 for the Red Sox
- Nolan Ryan (seven) in 1977 for the Angels
- Chris Sale (seven) in 2015 for the White Sox
Prior to Wednesday’s start, Sale had held the opposition to two or fewer runs in five consecutive starts and in seven of his last eight. The Twins’ bats brought his ERA up to 3.02 with a 0.97 WHIP and a 129/21 K/BB ratio over 95 1/3 innings.
Athletics right-hander Sonny Gray is currently the frontrunner for the AL Cy Young Award, currently sitting on a 1.95 ERA. Rays hurler Chris Archer has been dominant as well with a 2.10 ERA and a 123/24 K/BB ratio in 103 innings. But Sale, according to the stats, has been rather unlucky: FIP puts him at 2.11 while xFIP is only slightly less encouraging at 2.38. Sale has the best FIP in the American League and trails only Max Scherzer overall. In terms of xFIP, Sale trails only Clayton Kershaw. If you put any faith in these metrics, Sale’s results should only get better over the course of the season so long as he continues pitching the way he has been. And if that holds true, we should be seeing his name cited frequently in end-of-season awards discussions.
National League Quick Hits: Bryce Harper contributed to both of the Nationals’ runs in Wednesday’s 11-inning win against the Braves … Mets outfielder Curtis Granderson homered in Wednesday’s loss to the Brewers, giving him homers in three of his last four games … ATL … Marlins outfielder Giancarlo Stanton extended his major league lead in home runs to 27 in Wednesday’s loss to the Cardinals … Phillies third baseman Maikel Franco’s hot streak ended Wednesday against the Yankees with an 0-for-4 performance … Cardinals starter Jaime Garcia suffered a leg injury running the bases in the eighth inning in a win versus the Marlins on Wednesday … Gerrit Cole struggled against the Reds on Wednesday and was unable to win his league-leading 12th game … Cubs shortstop Javier Baez (finger) is set to resume his rehab at the Cubs’ spring training complex in Mesa, Arizona … Reds closer Aroldis Chapman is expected to return from the paternity leave list on Thursday … Brewers outfielder Khris Davis (knee) took batting practice on Wednesday for the first time since undergoing surgery in early June … Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig was scratched from Wednesday’s lineup against the Cubs due to an open callus on his left hand … Giants outfielder Hunter Pence (wrist) is still five to seven days away from resuming baseball activity … Diamondbacks manager Chip Hale said that Archie Bradley (shoulder) will have to pitch well in his rehab starts to reclaim a spot in the club’s starting rotation … Padres outfielder Matt Kemp hit leadoff on Wednesday in a loss against the Giants, but went 0-for-4 … Rockies outfielder Carlos Gonzalez swung a bat on Wednesday for the first time since suffering a sprained left hand on Sunday.
American League Quick Hits: Rays starter Jake Odorizzi (oblique) isn’t expected to return to the club’s rotation until after the All-Star break … Mark Teixeira (neck) went 3-for-5 with two RBI as the Yankees routed the Phillies on Wednesday … Orioles starter Bud Norris continued to struggle, allowing five unearned runs in 5 2/3 innings in a loss to the Red Sox on Wednesday … Chris Colabello hit a 12th-inning solo home run to send the Blue Jays to a win over the Rays on Wednesday … Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia left Wednesday’s game against the Orioles with tightness in his right hamstring… Royals starter Yordano Ventura (hand) will make a rehab start with Triple-A Omaha on Friday … Twins outfielder Byron Buxton wore the golden sombrero on Wednesday against the White Sox, striking out in all four of his at-bats … J.D. Martinez hit his 17th home run in Wednesday’s loss to the Indians… Indians shortstop Francisco Lindor hit his first career home run as the Indians topped the Tigers on Wednesday … Adam LaRoche logged three hits, including a home run, but the White Sox dropped Wednesday’s contest to the Twins … Astros starter Lance McCullers lowered his ERA to 2.33 with a six-inning, one-run performance against the Angels on Wednesday … Rangers first baseman Mitch Moreland left Wednesday’s loss to the Athletics with an undisclosed injury … Angels starter Andrew Heaney, making his 2015 debut, held the Astros to one run in six innings in a no-decision … Mariners outfielder Franklin Gutierrez made his first appearance in a major league game since September 2013, finishing 1-for-3 with a sacrifice fly against the Royals in a losing effort … In Wednesday’s win against the Rangers, Athletics catcher Stephen Vogt had three hits to push his average to .301 and two RBI to take the American League lead in RBI with 53.