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Heating Up - Gleyber Torres homers again as Yankees win

Gleyber Torres

Gleyber Torres

Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

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The New York Yankees entered the All-Star break with a middling 46-43 record, putting themselves on the periphery or postseason play. It looks like they have come out of the break hungry and with something to prove.

After dropping their second half opener against the Red Sox, the Bombers have now rattled off four straight victories to improve to 50-44 on the season. That still puts them at a distant third place in the American League East, six games behind the Rays and seven behind the division-leading Red Sox, but they’re now only 3 1/2 games out of the second Wild Card.

Wednesday’s victory came in walk-off fashion as Ryan LaMarre blasted a game-winning single to deep right field to plate Gary Sanchez with the winning run in the 10th inning. That was after they had a 5-2 lead in the seventh inning that Zack Britton and Nick Nelson were unable to protect in the eighth inning.

Part of the reason the Yankees had an early lead in this one came from one important bat that may be finally showing real signs of life. To say that Gleyber Torres had a disappointing first half would be a massive understatement. The 24-year-old entered the beak hitting a putrid .240/.326/.308 with only three homers, 29 RBI, six stolen bases and a 63/36 K/BB ratio. On Wednesday, Torres swatted a 359-foot home run off of Christopher Sanchez in the fourth inning -- his third home run in five games to begin the second half.[[ad:athena]]

For a Yankees club with playoff aspirations, Torres returning to form in the second half would go a long way toward securing that goal. He has come out of the break hitting everything extremely hard, going 4-for-16 (.250) with a double, three homers, four RBI and a 4/3 K/BB ratio through five contests. Fantasy managers and Yankees fans alike can only home that it’s a sign of what’s to come.

Starting Pitchers with an EDGE

Marcus Stroman - 8 IP, 0 ER, 1 H, 1 BB, 7 K, 31% CSW, 12 swinging strikes

Stroman delivered another brilliant performance in Wednesday’s victory over the Reds, needing just 90 pitches (60 strikes) to navigate through eight innings. Eight of his 12 swinging strikes in the contest came on his slider. With a 7-0 lead in the ballgame, there was no need to push him and send him back out for the ninth inning. The right-hander owns an outstanding 2.58 ERA, 1.08 WHIP and 93/26 K/BB ratio across 111 1/3 innings on the season.

Matt Manning - 6 IP, 1 ER, 4 H, 2 BB, 4 K, 31% CSW, 11 swinging strikes

The 23-year-old right-hander delivered his finest start as a big leaguer in Wednesday’s victory over the Rangers, punching out a career-best four batters over six solid innings. Aside from a blowup against the Indians on June 28, Manning hasn’t allowed more than two earned runs in any of his first six starts. Considered one of the premiere pitching prospects in the game heading into the 2020 season, injuries and poor performance at Triple-A this season have taken a bit of the shine off of his status. Don’t forget though, there’s plenty of talent here. Seven of the 11 whiffs that he generated in this one came on his fastball. It wouldn’t be surprising if he wound up being relevant in mixed leagues over the remainder of the season.

Chris Paddack - 5 IP, 0 ER, 3H, 0 BB, 1 K, 21% CSW, 8 swinging strikes

It wasn’t the most dominant of outings, but Chris Paddack was able to navigate five scoreless innings in a victory over the Braves in the first game of Wednesday’s doubleheader. The right-hander posted an underwhelming 21 percent CSW in this one, getting only eight whiffs -- six of those on his fastball. Now 6-6 on the season, Paddack sports a disappointing 5.17 ERA and 1.30 WHIP.

Hitters with an EDGE

Randy Arozarena - 3-for-5, 2 HR (13), 2 RBI, 2 R

After struggling badly for most of the past month, the 26-year-old playoff sensation made some mechanical changes to his swing and they appear to be paying tremendous early dividends. Arozarena snapped a 19-game homerless drought on Tuesday, then clobbered the second pitch that he saw from Alex Wells for a solo shot to start the home half of the first inning on Wednesday. He followed that up by victimizing Wells again in the fifth inning -- this time a 428-foot blast. He’s now hitting .256/.335/.429 with 13 long balls, 45 RBI and 11 swipes (in 18 attempts) on the season.

Dominic Smith - 2-for-4, HR (11), R, 4 RBI, BB

Most of the heavy lifting to support Marcus Stroman’s gem on Wednesday was done by Smith, as he swatted a 369-foot grand slam off of Jeff Hoffman in the third inning. The 26-year-old has seen his bat perk up in the month of July, hitting .305 (18-for-59) with five homers and 14 RBI in 17 games.

Vladimir Guerrero Jr. - 1-for-2, HR (32), R, RBI, 2 BB

Another day, another massive home run for the 22-year-old superstar as he continues to chase the Triple Crown in the American League. Wednesday’s blast was a 430-foot bomb off of Garrett Richards that left the bat at a scorching 111.6 mph. He’s now slashing an absurd .329/.430/.677 with the aforementioned 32 long balls and 79 RBI in 92 games on the season.

EDGE Priority Pickup

Paul DeJong, SS, St. Louis Cardinals -- Available in 71% of Yahoo fantasy leagues.

Shortstop can be a tricky position to get solid and consistent production from in many fantasy leagues, which makes it somewhat surprising to see that DeJong is owned in less than 30 percent of all Yahoo leagues. Sure, he got off to a miserable start to the season, but over the last 30 days, he’s hitting .290 with five homers, 11 RBI, 12 runs scored and a stolen base. He has shown 30-homer pop as recently as 2019 and should garner more attention at least until he starts to cool down.

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Closing Time

Tanner Scott vs. Rays - 1 IP, 0 ER, 0 H, 2 BB, 0 K (2nd blown save)

Based on recent usage patterns, many had speculated that Tyler Wells had usurped the closer’s gig in Baltimore and would get the next save chance for manager Brandon Hyde. Instead -- with a one run lead to protect on Wednesday -- it was Tanner Scott that got the call. He allowed a leadoff single to Francisco Mejia and a one-out walk to Mike Zunino before a Randy Arozarena single loaded the bases. Scott battled back to strike out Vidal Brujan, but Austin Meadows lined an 0-2 pitch into center field for to give the Rays the walk-off win. Playing pin the tail on the Orioles closer isn’t likely to hold much fantasy value for the remainder of the season.

Mark Melancon vs. Braves - 1 IP, 0 ER, 0 H, 0 BB, 2 K (28th save)

The 36-year-old right-hander is going to win many savvy fantasy managers league titles this season. He mowed down the Braves in the first game of their doubleheader, striking out Orlando Arcia and Stephen Vogt in a perfect inning of work. He now sports a 2.20 ERA and 1.17 WHIP to go along with his league-leading save total.

Scott Barlow vs. Brewers - 1 IP, 0 ER, 0 H, 0 BB, 1 K (5th save)

On this episode of as the Royals bullpen turns, it was Scott Barlow summoned to protect a three-run lead in the ninth inning. That’s after Greg Holland locked down a save on Tuesday. Prior to that though, the last two saves that the Royals tallied both came by Barlow on July 2 and July 3. Perhaps he should now be considered the favorite for saves in manager Mike Matheny’s bullpen. To go along with his five saves, Barlow sports a 2.76 ERA and 1.27 WHIP over 45 2/3 innings.

Joakim Soria vs. Pirates - 1 IP, 0 ER, 0 H, 0 BB, 1 K (6th save)

After tallying just three total saves prior to the All-Star break, Joakim Soria has seemingly cemented his status in the closer’s role for the Diamondbacks with three saves in the club’s last four ballgames. The right-hander may be a drain on ratios -- with a 4.45 ERA and 1.34 WHIP -- but all saves have value, especially if it’s one hurler locking down the ninth inning role on his own.

Yimi Garcia vs. Pirates - 1 IP, 0 ER, 0 H, 0 BB, 0 K (14th save)

After the Marlins scored a pair of runs in the top half of the 10th inning on Wednesday, Garcia came on and worked a perfect frame to secure his 14th save of the season. After a rocky couple of weeks, Garcia looks to have re-established himself as the closer in the Marlins bullpen -- though it remains to be seen if he stays with the club through the trade deadline.

Thursday’s Matchup of the Day

Walker Buehler (LAD) vs. Anthony DeSclafani (SFG)

While there are a couple of intriguing matchups on tap for Thursday, all eyes will be on the final game of the night as a pair of National League West powerhouses battle in Los Angeles.

Walker Buehler has been outstanding all season, entering with a 10-1 record, 2.37 ERA, 0.91 WHIP and a 122/28 K/BB ratio across 121 1/3 innings in his 19 starts. Buehler has already beaten the Giants twice this season, allowing just one earned run over 13 2/3 innings.

Anthony DeSclafani has been tremendous in his own right this season though, registering a 10-4 record, 2.78 ERA, 0.99 WHIP and 103/29 K/BB ratio in 113 1/3 innings through 19 starts. The right-hander has been winless in three starts against the Dodgers this season, allowing a cringe-inducing 15 runs over 12 1/3 innings.

American League Quick Hits: Yermin Mercedes seemed to announce his retirement via Instagram on Wednesday, saying that he’s stepping away from baseball and that “it’s over”. ... The Rays optioned a slumping Vidal Brujan back to Triple-A Durham. They also placed J.P. Feyereisen on the 10-day IL with right shoulder discomfort. … Mike Zunino was held out of Wednesday’s lineup with a sore hip, he’s considered day-to-day. … Luis Patino will be recalled to start against the Indians on Thursday. … Chris Sale (elbow) is expected to make one more rehab start at Double-A Portland on Sunday before returning to the Red Sox. … The Orioles placed Anthony Santander and Keegan Akin on the COVID-19 injured list. … Manuel Margot (hamstring) will begin a minor league rehab assignment later in the week. … The Tigers released Nomar Mazara. … The Royals acquired Joel Payamps from the Blue Jays for cash considerations. … The Twins placed Alex Kiriloff on the 10-day injured list with a right wrist injury. … Michael Fulmer (spine) will begin a minor league rehab assignment at Triple-A Toledo on Thursday. … Danny Jansen left Wednesday’s game with a hamstring injury. … Danny Santana was pulled from Wednesday’s contest with an apparent groin injury. … Austin Meadows delivered a walk-off two-run single as the Rays rallied to beat the Orioles. … Jorge Soler homered for the second straight day as the Royals topped the Brewers. … Rafael Devers blasted his 24th home run as the Red Sox triumphed over the Blue Jays in a slugfest in Buffalo. … Akil Baddoo smacked his eighth home run as the red-hot Tigers bested the Rangers in Motown… Cesar Hernandez blasted a go-ahead home run -- his 16th long ball of the season -- as the Indians topped the Astros. … Jose Altuve walloped his 23rd home run in a losing effort there. … Jorge Polanco went 3-for-4 with a homer, double, three runs scored and three RBI as the Twins beat the White Sox. … Tim Anderson went 2-for-4 with a pair of stolen bases in a loss to the Twins.

National League Quick Hits: Nick Castellanos admitted Wednesday that he has been diagnosed with a microfracture in his right wrist. He’s going to be sidelined for at least a few more games and there’s now a chance that he winds up on the injured list. … The Reds signed first-round pick Jay Allen to an above-slot signing bonus of $2.4 million. … Nick Senzel (knee) will play some shortstop on his upcoming minor league rehab assignment. … Mookie Betts (hip) remained out of the Dodgers starting lineup on Wednesday. … The Rockies signed first-round pick Benny Montgomery to a $5 million signing bonus -- slightly under slot value for the eighth overall pick. … Raimel Tapia returned to the Rockies lineup after missing the last four games with a non-COVID related illness. … Colin Moran (hand) has resumed swinging a bat and is targeting a return at some point in August. … The Diamondbacks claimed Ty Tice off of waivers from the Braves. … The Dodgers acquired Billy McKinney from the Mets for Carlos Rincon and cash considerations. … Kris Bryant was held out of the Cubs lineup on Wednesday with a sore hamstring. He’s still considered day-to-day. ... Josiah Gray will make his next start on Sunday against the Rockies. … Josh Rojas was pulled from Wednesday’s game against the Pirates due to a dislocated finger. … Fernando Tatis snapped a 32 at-bat homerless streak by crushing his 29th long ball in a victory over the Braves. …Austin Gomber was victorious in his return from the injured list, allowing just three solo homers over six innings against the Mariners. … Daulton Varsho homered and doubled as the Diamondbacks completed a sweep of the Pirates. … Jorge Alfaro delivered a pinch-hit go-ahead RBI double in the 10th inning to lead the Marlins past the Nationals. … Adam Wainwright struck out five over seven innings of one-run ball in a tough-luck no-decision against the Cubs. … Julio Urias fired seven innings of one-run ball in a no-decision against the Giants. … Wilmer Flores crushed a go-ahead two-run homer off of Kenley Jansen in the ninth inning to lead the Giants past the Dodgers.