Max Scherzer Delivers - Twice
Max Scherzer has done many things throughout his major league career. He has three Cy Young Awards on his mantle -- including one from each league. He’s been a World Series Champion. He has been a strikeout king three times. He has authored a pair of no-hitters. He has made seven All-Star teams.
Even with all of those tremendous achievements though, what happened on Sunday may have been a first for him -- and certainly will be a day that he’ll always remember. The 36-year-old right-hander went out and pitched his first complete game of the 2021 season -- the 12th of his career. It wasn’t just that he dominated the Marlins over nine innings though, it’s how efficient he was in doing so -- almost as though he had someplace to be.
Scherzer carried a bid for his first shutout since 2018 into the ninth inning, where a leadoff homer to Isan Diaz got the Marlins on the board. That would be their lone tally in the game -- totaling just five hits on the night. Scherzer racked up nine strikeouts and didn’t walk a batter.
He needed just 106 pitches (76 strikes) to get the job done. Scherzer averaged 94.7 mph on his fastball during this one, up over one mph from his season average. He also generated 22 whiffs (13 on his fastball) while posting a CSW rate of 36%. Not too shabby.
After the game, rather than stick around in the clubhouse and have his typical Zoom call with the Nationals reporters, Scherzer had to book it from the stadium -- as his wife Erica was in labor and getting ready for the birth of the couple’s third child. Our most heartfelt congratulations go out to Max, Erica and the entire Scherzer family on a day they’ll never forget.
Sunday’s dominance wasn’t just a one-off thing for the veteran hurler. Scherzer has been outstanding through his first six starts this season. He owns a minuscule 2.54 ERA, 0.85 WHIP and 47/6 K/BB ratio across 39 innings. Even with Sunday’s victory though, he stands just 2-2 on the season -- partially due to a lack of run support from the Nationals offense.
Ryan Zimmerman made sure that wouldn’t be a problem in this one, blasting a three-run homer in the third inning that accounted for all of the team’s offense and proved to be the difference-maker in the ballgame. Zimmerman expressed his awe and admiration for Scherzer after the game, telling reporters, “Any time someone can bring a kid into the world, it’s pretty cool… For him to go and have a complete game and pitch the way he did today, and then go over and have a baby with his wife… We’re happy for him. He never ceases to amaze.”
As long as he’s able to avoid the injured list this season, Scherzer is going to make many fantasy managers regret not calling his name in the second round of drafts in March.
Starting Pitchers with an EDGE
Carlos Martinez - 8 IP, 0 ER, 5 H, 2 BB, 3 K
23% CSW, 6 swinging strikes
Carlos Martinez may have quietly turned a corner here and followed up a pair of terrific starts with what was his finest start of the 2021 season on Sunday against the Pirates. It was the first time that he completed eight innings in a start since April of 2018. Over his last three starts, Martinez owns an outstanding 0.84 ERA, 0.75 WHIP and 10/5 K/BB ratio across 21 1/3 innings. The strikeouts are down, but it’s hard to argue with the recent results. The true test will be whether or not fantasy managers fire him up for Friday’s start against the Rockies in St. Louis.
Corey Kluber - 8 IP, 0 ER, 2 H, 1 BB, 10 K
34% CSW, 20 swinging strikes (13 on his changeup!)
As a die-hard Tigers fan, it kills me that streaming pitchers against my hometown team has become an extremely profitable venture -- regardless of who the pitchers are. Just one day after Jameson Taillon dominated the Tigers in his best start of the season, Kluber did the same on Sunday with a season-high 10 strikeouts -- the first time he had struck out double-digit batters since September of 2018. Perhaps it was a mirage due to the quality of competition, or perhaps Kluber really is settling back in to being a high-quality mixed league starting pitching option on a weekly basis. He’ll take on the Nationals at home on Saturday his next time out.
Julio Urias - 7 IP, 1 ER, 4 H, 0 BB, 10 K
40% CSW, 17 swinging strikes (9 on fastball, 8 on changeup)
Julio Urias has been a really good pitcher over six big league seasons -- despite still being only 24-years-old. He showed flashes during the 2019 and 2020 campaigns of just how dominant he can be if given the freedom to work in a starter’s role for an extended period of time, and it’s looking like 2021 will be his best season yet. Through six starts, he now sits at 4-0 with a tremendous 2.87 ERA, 0.90 WHIP and 42/6 K/BB ratio over 37 2/3 innings. He hasn’t gone fewer than five innings in any start this season, and Sunday’s gem was the third time that he has gone a full seven frames. With that kind of time -- and the Dodgers powerful offense behind him (like 16 runs of support on Sunday) -- he’s going to make many fantasy managers very happy this season.
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Hitters with an EDGE
A.J. Pollock - 3-for-6, 2B, 2 HR, 8 RBI, 2 R
Matt Beaty - 4-for-6, HR, 7 RBI, 3 R
Speaking of the run support for Julio Urias this season, how about the day that A.J. Pollock and Matt Beaty had on Sunday. Pollock blasted a grand slam home run off of Alec Bettinger in the opening inning and Beaty crushed a grand slam of his own the following frame to give the Dodgers an early 9-0 lead. They weren’t finished though. Beaty tacked on a run-scoring single in the first inning and a two-run single in the fourth, while Pollock clobbered a three-run homer off of Jordan Zimmermann in the sixth to make it 14-1. He added an RBI double in the seventh for good measure.
Pollock and Beaty became the first teammates in Dodgers franchise history to record seven or more RBI in the same game -- and they are just the sixth duo from any team to do so since the RBI became recognized as an official stat in 1920. Pretty damn impressive.
It was also just the fourth time in franchise history that the Dodgers hit multiple grand slams in the same game -- most recently coming from Adrian Beltre and Shawn Green during the 2000 season.
All 16 runs in the Dodgers lineup were driven in by the six through eight hitters in the lineup, with Gavin Lux tallying the final RBI. Fantasy managers with Dodgers on their squads had to be a bit disappointed to see the club score 16 runs, only to open the box score and see all of the production confined to the bottom of the lineup.
Nick Castellanos - 5-for-6, 2 HR, 4 RBI, 4 R
Castellanos had himself quite a day in a wild 13-12 victory over the Cubs in Cincinnati on Sunday. He belted a game-tying three-run homer off of Trevor Williams in the third inning, He then clubbed a solo shot off of Justin Steele in the seventh inning and wound up playing the role of hero with a walk-off RBI single in the 10th to send the Reds fans home happy. He’s off to a ridiculous start at the plate this season, slashing .330/.366/.660 with a league-leading nine long balls and 20 RBI.
Kris Bryant - 3-for-5, 2 HR, 3 RBI, 2 R
While Castellanos was putting up big numbers on the Reds' side of the diamond -- including belting two of his team’s five total home runs in the game -- Kris Bryant accomplished the same feat for the Cubs on the other side. Bryant victimized Tyler Mahle for each of his solo homers in this one. Through the first month of the season, the 29-year-old slugger is looking like one of the top overall values from the middle rounds of fantasy drafts, as he’s hitting a robust .323/.405/.708 with a league-leading nine homers, 10 doubles and 22 RBI.
EDGE Priority Pickup
Tyler O’Neill, OF, St. Louis Cardinals -- Available in 71% of Yahoo fantasy leagues.
To be honest, I’m a bit taken aback that O’Neill’s ownership percentage hasn’t soared higher than 29% already. This is a dynamic 25-year-old with a super intriguing blend of elite power and elite sprint speed -- with no real competition for playing time in the Cardinals outfield -- who has absolutely raked since returning from the injured list on April 23, slashing .371/.389/.743 with four homers, seven RBI and a pair of stolen bases. Get in now while the getting is good.
Edwin Diaz melted down in a non-save situation on Sunday night, giving up three runs on two hits and a pair of walks over just 2/3 of an inning before exiting with back tightness. Jeurys Familia came on and struck out Bryce Harper to protect a one-run lead and end the game -- and would seemingly be next in line for save chances if Diaz is forced to miss any time.
The Mariners continue to utilize both Kendall Graveman and Rafael Montero in the late innings, with Montero getting the final three outs to preserve a two-run victory on Sunday after Graveman had worked the ninth. Montero now has four saves on the season with a 4.15 ERA and 1.08 WHIP. If he was panic dropped in any leagues, he’s worthy of a look.
Daniel Bard took it on the chin in a non-save situation on Sunday, allowing four runs on four hits and a walk while recording only one out. For the season he now owns a cringe-inducing 9.00 ERA and 2.33 WHIP across nine innings. Mychal Givens looks like an interesting stash option here for those speculating on saves.
Ian Kennedy worked another perfect ninth inning on Sunday, preserving a two-run lead to earn his seventh save in as many chances. He owns a terrific 2.25 ERA, 0.75 WHIP and 16/0 K/BB ratio across 12 innings on the season.
It was Lou Trivino getting the ball in the ninth inning for the Athletics on Sunday after Jake Diekman worked the seventh and Yusmeiro Petit pitched the eighth. He has now recorded five saves and looks like the undisputed leader for save chances in this bullpen going forward.
Rather than mixing and matching, Diego Castillo continues to see the bulk of the save chances for the Rays. He converted his seventh save on Sunday (tying him for the American League lead) and owns a tidy 3.38 ERA, 1.13 WHIP and 19/5 K/BB ratio over 13 1/3 innings on the year.
Aroldis Chapman continued to spit hot fire in the ninth inning on Sunday, striking out two in a perfect inning to nab his sixth save. He has yet to allow a run through 10 innings on the season while posting a 0.50 WHIP and jaw-dropping 24/3 K/BB ratio. He’s pretty good.
Rafael Dolis was called upon to bail out Joel Payamps in the ninth inning on Sunday, getting the final out to earn a save in a five-run victory over the Braves. Expect him to continue to split save chances with Jordan Romano.
Alex Reyes continued his masterful start to the 2021 season on Sunday, working a perfect ninth inning with a strikeout to protect a three-run lead against the Pirates and complete a shutout after Carlos Martinez went the first eight. Reyes hasn’t been scored upon in his 13 1/3 innings of work and owns a 1.20 WHIP and 15/10 K/BB ratio.
Monday’s Matchup of the Day
We were supposed to get an unbelievable matchup between two of the most dominant young right-handers in the league on Monday -- though there’s a chance now that we may not get it. Shohei Ohtani was drilled in the elbow by a pitch in the first inning of Sunday’s game against the Mariners and is dealing with some soreness. Angels manager Joe Maddon said he wouldn’t know until Monday whether or not his two-way superstar would be able to go
If he is, we’re in for a real treat. Ohtani had a miserable first inning his last time out -- surrendering four runs and looked to be on the ropes for an early exit, but ended up rebounding to throw four scoreless innings afterwards while striking out nine. He has recorded seven or more strikeouts in each of his three starts this season while compiling a 3.29 ERA, 1.39 WHIP and 23/13 K/BB ratio over 13 2/3 innings.
Tyler Glasnow has been one of the most dominant pitchers in all of baseball this season, registering a scintillating 1.67 ERA, 0.80 WHIP and 56/11 K/BB ratio across 37 2/3 innings. There should be plenty of whiffs in Monday’s game.
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American League Quick Hits: The White Sox offense suffered another major blow on Sunday as Luis Robert suffered a right hip flexor and will be placed on the 10-day injured list on Monday. There’s no clear timetable for a potential return yet, but given how bad the injury looked on the field this is actually an encouraging diagnosis. He’s slated to undergo more tests on Monday. … Royals general manager Dayton Moore took the world by storm on Sunday, announcing that pitching prospect Daniel Lynch will be recalled to make his major league debut on Monday against the Indians. The 24-year-old southpaw should be given a chance to stick in the rotation and is worth a look in deeper mixed leagues. The real surprising news with this announcement though was that Jakob Junis is being sent back to the bullpen despite a 3.47 ERA and 27/7 K/BB ratio across 23 1/3 innings (shrug emoji). ... The Athletics officially placed Jesus Luzardo (left hand fracture) on the 10-day injured list. … Yermin Mercedes was scratched from the White Sox lineup on Sunday after arriving to the ballpark late. … Justus Sheffield fired six scoreless innings while striking out four in a victory over the Angels. … Alex Kirilloff crushed a three-run homer and drove in four as the Twins walloped the Royals. He now has four homers in his last three games. … Zach Plesac fired 5 2/3 innings of scoreless baseball in a victory over the White Sox. … Jose Ramirez had two hits -- including a homer -- and walked twice to pace the Indians attack in that one. … Xander Bogaerts went 3-for-4 with a homer as the Red Sox fell to the Rangers. … Garrett Richards fanned seven over five innings of one-run baseball in that one. … Austin Meadows crushed a game-tying three-run bomb as the Rays rallied to beat the Astros. … Marcus Semien homered and drove in four runs, leading the Blue Jays to victory and a three-game sweep over the Braves.
National League Quick Hits: Rockies shortstop Trevor Story was pulled from Sunday’s game after injuring his right index finger, but X-rays came back negative. He’s considered day-to-day. … Ian Happ had to leave Sunday’s game on a cart after colliding with teammate Nico Hoerner in shallow center field. … Tommy La Stella was pulled from Sunday’s game with multiple injuries -- jamming his hand while diving and then suffering a leg injury while legging out a triple and limping home. … Will Smith took a ball off the top of his foot on Sunday, but is expected to be in the Dodgers starting lineup on Monday. … Bryce Harper (face) and J.T. Realmuto (hand) both returned to the Phillies starting lineup on Sunday. … Travis d’Arnaud was diagnosed with a torn thumb ligament and will require surgery. It sounds like he’ll miss most of -- if not all -- of the regular season. … Jose Alvarado was handed a three-game suspension for inciting a bases-clearing brawl against the Mets on Friday. He plans to appeal. … The Reds claimed right-hander Ashton Goudeau off of waivers from the Rockies. … Jonathan India returned from the COVID-19 injured list on Sunday, but did not play against the Cubs. … Jesse Winker (back) returned to the Reds lineup on Sunday. … Jon Heyman of MLB Network reports that free agent right-hander Shane Greene is having ongoing discussions with multiple big league clubs. … Max Fried (hamstring) will be activated from the injured list to start on Wednesday against the Nationals. … Mike Tauchman homered, walked and drove in four runs on Sunday -- leading the Giants to victory over the Padres. … Fernando Tatis Jr. swatted his eighth long ball in a losing effort there. … Kevin Gausman fanned six over six innings of one-run baseball in a victory over the Padres. … Jacob Nottingham homered twice and drove in three in a loss to the Dodgers. With the injury to Omar Narvaez, he should see plenty of action behind the dish for the Brewers. … Tejay Antone suffered an ugly blown save, giving up four runs over 1 1/3 innings against the Cubs.