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Kershaw Chases Perfection In Minnesota

Clayton Kershaw

Clayton Kershaw

Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports

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Fantasy managers were treated to a throwback performance from Clayton Kershaw on Wednesday afternoon in Minnesota as the veteran southpaw recorded 13 strikeouts across seven perfect innings in the Dodgers’ eventual runaway victory over the Twins. The 34-year-old future Hall of Famer found himself chasing the second no-hitter of his legendary career and the first perfect game in the majors since Mariners’ legend Felix Hernandez accomplished the feat back on August 15, 2012. He retired 21 consecutive batters to open the contest before being lifted after throwing just 80 pitches (53 strikes) in his season debut. A pair of Dodgers’ relievers – Alex Vesia and Justin Bruihl – proceeded to finish off an impressive one-hit shutout effort.

Here’s an oversimplification: Kershaw was literally un-hittable in this one. He generated a staggering 20 swinging strikes – including an eye-popping 17 whiffs on his mid-80’s slider alone – and finished with an astronomical 41 percent CSW (called strikes plus whiffs). It was his highest single-game strikeout total (outside of a June 27 outing last year against the White Sox) since authoring a 13-strikeout effort on July 9, 2017 against the Royals. Perhaps most impressively, he allowed just one batted ball with an exit velocity in excess of 90 mph across seven flawless frames. The veteran southpaw, who missed the Dodgers’ postseason run due to forearm and elbow discomfort last fall, languished on the free agent market until the late stages of the extended offseason, which certainly had an adverse impact on his average draft position in fantasy drafts earlier this spring. However, he’s looked completely locked-in since re-signing for a 15th season in Los Angeles. It’s nearly impossible to forecast Kershaw sustaining this stratospheric level of fantasy production, especially from a strikeout and run prevention standpoint, but he certainly looks rejuvenated at the outset of the 2022 campaign. He’ll square off against the defending World Series champion Braves on Monday evening in his next start.

Starting Pitchers with an EDGE

Logan Webb vs. Padres

8.0 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 7 K

38% CSW, 15 swinging strikes

Webb authored a masterful performance on Wednesday afternoon against the division-rival Padres, yielding one run on four hits across eight stellar frames. The 25-year-old righty recorded seven strikeouts, didn’t hand out a free pass and needed just 96 pitches to complete eight frames. He gave up a run-scoring triple to Jake Cronenworth in the opening frame before shutting out a Fernando Tatis Jr.-less San Diego lineup over his final seven innings of work. Simply put, he’s blossomed into one of the true upper-echelon starting pitchers in baseball and isn’t going anywhere. Next up is a challenging road tilt on Tuesday evening against the Mets.

Corbin Burnes vs. Orioles

7.0 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 8 K

35% CSW, 20 swinging strikes

The reigning National League Cy Young Award winner completely dominated the Orioles on Wednesday evening, scattering three hits and one walk over seven scoreless frames. There isn’t much left to say besides that Burnes is arguably the best pitcher in baseball right now. He’s in line for a tasty matchup against the Pirates on Monday in his next start.

Merrill Kelly vs. Astros

5.1 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 6 K

27% CSW, 6 swinging strikes

Kelly wasn’t overpowering on Wednesday afternoon, but he managed to scatter three hits and record six strikeouts across 5 1/3 shutout frames against the Astros. The 33-year-old righty was a bit of an afterthought in fantasy drafts earlier this spring, but he’s reeled off 9 1/3 consecutive scoreless frames with a sparkling 13/4 K/BB ratio over two starts to open the season. There’s certainly a chasing stats component to remain cognizant of here, but Kelly is worthy of a speculative roster spot in deeper mixed leagues until further notice. He’s a solid streaming option on Tuesday when he faces the Nationals in a road matchup.

Triston McKenzie vs. Reds

4.0 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 6 K

28% CSW, 13 swinging strikes

McKenzie struggled in an Opening Day relief appearance last Thursday, but was excellent in his first start of the regular season Wednesday afternoon against the in-state rival Reds. The 24-year-old righty scattered three hits, didn’t hand out a free pass and his average fastball velocity was up nearly two miles per-hour from last year. He’ll face a tough test his next time out on Tuesday against the White Sox.

Max Scherzer vs. Phillies

5.0 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 3 BB, 7 K

33% CSW, 16 swinging strikes

Scherzer wasn’t particularly sharp in the early stages of the contest, uncharacteristically handing out a trio of free passes in the opening stanza. Yet, he managed to settle in shortly afterwards and limit the Phillies to just four baserunners over his final four frames of work. The 37-year-old veteran workhorse will square off against the Giants on Tuesday evening in New York.

Hitters with an EDGE

Vladimir Guerrero Jr. vs. Yankees

4-for-4, 3 R, 3 HR (2, 3, 4), 4 RBI

Guerrero clobbered a towering solo shot to center field off Gerrit Cole in the opening frame before having his right hand accidentally stepped on by Aaron Hicks at first base in the second inning. Somehow, the 23-year-old fantasy superstar managed to remain in the game and went on to blast his second round-tripper of the contest in the ensuing frame. He also homered in the eighth inning off reliever Jonathan Loaisiga to record the second three-homer performance of his career. He’s unreal, folks.

Pete Alonso vs. Phillies

3-for-5, 2 R, HR (2), 5 RBI

Alonso scalded an RBI double off Phillies’ righty Aaron Nola in the fourth inning before tacking on an RBI double in the fifth inning and capping the three-hit effort with a gargantuan three-run shot to right-center field – his second round-tripper of the season – off righty Connor Brogdon in the sixth inning.

Spencer Torkelson vs. Red Sox

2-for-4, R, HR (1), 2 RBI

Torkelson connected on a high fastball from Red Sox’ lefty reliever Austin Davis, launching a no-doubter into the left-field seats in the seventh inning on Wednesday afternoon for his first major-league round-tripper. The 22-year-old slugger was off to an extremely frigid start at the dish, but appears to be getting more comfortable after notching his first career multi-hit effort.

Ke’Bryan Hayes vs. Cubs

4-for-4, 2 R, 2B, RBI

Hayes tallied a career-high four hits on Wednesday afternoon, leading the Pirates to a 6-2 victory over the division-rival Cubs in the process. The 25-year-old third baseman, who just signed the largest contract in franchise history earlier this week, is off to a blistering start at the dish to open the regular season, hitting .500 (9-for-18) with a pair of doubles and a stolen base across five games. If he can stay healthy, he has a real shot at evolving into one of the premier corner infielders in the game.

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Closing Time

Wil Crowe vs. Cubs

3.0 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 4 K (1st save)

After 25 uneven starts last year in Pittsburgh, Crowe has excelled since transitioning to a middle relief role out of the Pirates’ bullpen this season. The 27-year-old righty has reeled off seven consecutive scoreless frames to open the regular season and appears poised for success as a multi-inning specialist moving forward.

Tanner Rainey vs. Braves

1.0 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 1 K (2nd save)

Rainey was summoned to protect a two-run lead Wednesday afternoon against the Braves and needed just 17 pitches to slam the door. The 29-year-old righty has received each of the Nationals’ save chances this season and has converted them both.

Camilo Doval vs. Padres

1.0 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 2 K (1st save)

Doval took over for the final frame after Logan Webb’s dominant performance against the Padres on Wednesday afternoon and managed to notch a pair of strikeouts to strand a pair of baserunners for his first save of the year. The hard-throwing 24-year-old righty should continue to split save chances with veteran lefty Jake McGee moving forward.

Hansel Robles vs. Tigers

1.1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 1 K (1st save)

The Red Sox led 9-2 going into the bottom of the seventh inning and nearly wound up giving this one away on Wednesday afternoon in a marathon affair which took just shy of four hours to wrap up. Robles recorded the final four outs of the high-scoring back-and-forth contest to pick up his first save of the year. It’s worth noting that Matt Barnes, who has been dealing with a back issue of late, worked a low-leverage sixth inning earlier in the game. It looks like Robles and Jake Diekman could wind up with the occasional save chance or two in the coming days, if not a much longer period.

Lou Trivino vs. Rays

1.0 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 0 K (1st save)

Trivino was called upon to guard a two-run lead against the Rays on Wednesday night and managed to record two quick outs before a two-out single by Francisco Mejia and a walk by Brandon Lowe put the tying runs aboard. He managed to get Wander Franco to pop out in foul territory to end the contest. There won’t be a ton of saves in Oakland for the rebuilding Athletics this season, but Trivino is the favorite to collect the majority of them.

Jordan Romano vs. Yankees

1.0 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 1 K (4th save)

Romano needed just 13 pitches to slam the door on the Yankees Wednesday night, hurling a scoreless ninth inning to net his fourth save of the young season.

Josh Hader vs. Orioles

1.0 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 0 K (3rd save)

The Maryland native issued a leadoff walk to pinch-hitter Kelvin Gutierrez, but retired the next three batter in succession to record his third save of the season.

Liam Hendriks vs. Mariners

1.0 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 2 K (2nd save)

Hendriks came on the protect a three-run lead in the ninth inning and managed to preserve the victory, despite giving up a leadoff double to Eugenio Suarez and an RBI single to J.P. Crawford later in the frame.

EDGE Priority Pickup

Jhoan Duran, RP, Twins

In the wake of Taylor Rogers’ sudden departure to San Diego last week, it remains unclear how the Twins’ closer situation will ultimately unfold. Duran got his first real chance to make a case for the ninth-inning role Monday evening and passed the challenging test with flying colors. The hard-throwing was summoned to protect a four-run lead and fired a perfect frame to slam the door shut. He didn’t record a strikeout, but touched triple digits a whopping nine times with his four-seam fastball, including uncorking a 102 mph heater to J.P. Crawford with two outs in the frame. The 24-year-old righty turned heads with his stellar performance in spring training and has the elite raw stuff required to close games at the highest level. He should be rostered in all fantasy formats.

Thursday’s Matchup of the Day

Shohei Ohtani (Angels) vs. Dane Dunning (Rangers) - 8:05 PM ET

There aren’t a ton of intriguing matchup on Thursday’s truncated 11-game slate, but Shohei Ohtani is a must-watch for fantasy managers whenever he takes the mound this season. The dynamic 27-year-old righty recorded nine strikeouts across 4 2/3 innings last Thursday in his season debut against the Astros. Meanwhile, Dunning generated some real buzz in spring training after adding a new-look slider to his extensive pitch mix. The 27-year-old right-hander will be looking to bounce back in this one after being tagged for three runs over five innings last Saturday in his season debut against a loaded Blue Jays’ lineup.

American League Quick Hits: Teoscar Hernandez was removed from Wednesday’s game against the Yankees with left side discomfort … Eloy Jimenez was removed from Wednesday’s game against the Mariners due to left ankle soreness. … John Means exited Wednesday’s start against the Brewers due to left forearm tightness. … Twins placed OF Alex Kirilloff on the 10-day injured list with a right wrist injury and also recalled OF Trevor Larnach from Triple-A St. Paul. … Javier Baez was scratched from the Tigers’ lineup Wednesday against the Red Sox with a sore right thumb. … Yordan Alvarez (illness) remained out of the Astros’ lineup Wednesday against the Diamondbacks. … Trevor Story (illness) returned to the Red Sox’ lineup Wednesday against the Tigers. … An MRI came back clean on Robbie Grossman’s injured right groin … Tim Anderson went 3-for-4 with a solo homer and three RBI in the White Sox’ win over the Mariners. … Owen Miller launched a pair of solo homers, Jose Ramirez went 3-for-4 with three RBI and Myles Straw collected four hits and his fourth stolen base in the Guardians’ win over the Reds. … Sean Murphy went 2-for-3 with a three-run homer, propelling the Athletics to a narrow victory over the Rays. … Jackie Bradley Jr. went 3-for-5 with three RBI, lifting the Red Sox to a win over the Tigers. … Aaron Judge, Anthony Rizzo and Gleyber Torres homered in the Yankees’ loss to the Blue Jays. … Jose Altuve went 2-for-5 and notched his second stolen base of the season in the Astros’ extra-inning loss to the Diamondbacks. … Akil Baddoo and Jonathan Schoop swatted solo homers in the Tigers’ loss to the Red Sox. … Ji-Man Choi hit a solo homer in the Rays’ loss to the Athletics. … Ty France went deep in the Mariners’ loss to the White Sox. … Nathan Eovaldi posted six strikeouts over five innings of two-run ball in a win over the Tigers. … Frankie Montas struck out six batters and allowed two runs (one earned) over 6 1/3 innings in a win over the Rays. … Dallas Keuchel gave up three runs over five innings in a win over the Mariners. … Gerritt Cole yielded three runs over 5 2/3 innings in a no-decision against the Blue Jays. … Jose Berrios allowed three runs over five innings in a no-decision against the Yankees. … Framber Valdez issued five walks and allowed one run over three innings in a no-decision against the Diamondbacks. … Shane McClanahan registered eight strikeouts and allowed three runs over 4 2/3 innings in a loss to the Athletics. … Robbie Ray was shelled for six runs over 6 1/3 innings in a loss to the White Sox. … Eduardo Rodriguez was charged with seven runs (two earned) over 3 2/3 innings in a loss to the Red Sox. … Chris Paddack allowed three runs over four innings in a loss against the Dodgers in his Twins debut.

National League Quick Hits: Wednesday’s game between the Royals and Cardinals was postponed due to inclement weather … MLB and the MLBPA agreed to extend Trevor Bauer’s administrative leave through April 22. … Max Fried was removed from Wednesday’s start against the Nationals after being hit in the right leg by a comebacker, but told reporters after that he’s fine and expects to make his next scheduled start Tuesday against the Dodgers. … Zach Thompson exited Wednesday’s start against the Cubs after being hit in the right shoulder by a line drive. … Giants optioned OF Heliot Ramos to Triple-A Sacramento. … Phillies activated RHP Corey Knebel from the COVID-19 injured list. … Nelson Cruz (groin) was back in the Nationals’ lineup Wednesday against the Braves. … Brandon Crawford (wrist) is hoping to return to the Giants’ lineup on Friday against the Guardians. … Tommy Pham (hand) was held out of the Reds’ starting lineup Wednesday against the Guardians. … Cody Bellinger, Max Muncy, Gavin Lux and Austin Barnes homered in the Dodgers’ blowout victory over the Twins. … Josh Bell went 2-for-4 with an RBI, propelling the Nationals past the Braves. … Rowdy Tellez went 2-for-4 with a pair of RBI in the Brewers’ win over the Orioles. … Brandon Nimmo connected on his first round-tripper of the season in the Mets’ victory over the Phillies. … Ben Gamel drilled a three-run homer in the Pirates’ win over the Cubs. … Luke Williams delivered a go-ahead two-run double to propel the Giants past the Padres. … Cooper Hummel walked four times and also stole a base in the Diamondbacks’ extra-inning win over the Astros. … Bryce Harper slugged his first home run of the season in the Phillies’ loss to the Mets. … Austin Riley went 2-for-3 with a solo homer in the Braves’ loss to the Nationals. … Willson Contreras went 2-for-4 with a solo homer in the Cubs’ defeat at the hands of the Pirates. … Jake Cronenworth went 2-for-4 with an RBI triple in the Padres’ loss to the Giants. … Tyler Stephenson and Jake Fraley went deep in the Reds’ loss to the Guardians. … Josiah Gray fired five scoreless innings in a win over the Braves. … Sean Manaea yielded two runs and struck out six batters over six innings in a tough-luck loss to the Giants. … Aaron Nola gave up three runs over 3 1/3 innings in a loss to the Mets. … Kyle Hendricks was lit up for six runs over 3 2/3 innings in a loss to the Pirates. … Nick Lodolo surrendered five runs over four innings and was saddled with a loss in his major-league debut against the Guardians. … Mike Minor (shoulder) started a minor-league rehab assignment Wednesday with Double-A Chattanooga.