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MacKenzie Gore delivered another dominant performance Wednesday evening, recording a career-high 10 strikeouts and allowing just one run over five innings to pick up his second consecutive win against a struggling Reds’ squad. The dynamic 23-year-old left-hander, who was universally regarded as the top pitching prospect in baseball just a few years ago before battling massive control issues last season, generated 17 swinging strikes – 11 on his four-seam fastball alone – and finished with a solid 29 percent CSW (called strikes plus whiffs). He wasn’t overpowering, but he relentlessly pounded the strike zone, throwing 69 of 102 pitches for strikes, and limited Cincinnati to just four batted balls with an exit velocity in excess of 90 mph in this one. He wriggled out of a bases-loaded jam in the opening frame and wound up being staked to an early five run lead by the second inning, which enabled him to cruise from there as Kyle Farmer’s third-inning RBI double represented the lone tally against him in this one.
The central question for fantasy managers is whether Gore will remain in the Padres’ starting rotation moving forward. He’s recorded a microscopic 1.76 ERA, 1.17 WHIP and 20/6 K/BB ratio across 15 1/3 innings (three starts) and is lined up to face the Guardians on Tuesday in his next start. Admittedly, it’s an extremely small sample size, which included back-to-back outings against a lackluster Reds’ lineup, but he’s undoubtedly proven that he’s ready for an extended opportunity at the highest level. There’s a possibility that he’s ultimately bumped from San Diego’s rotation soon with veteran Mike Clevinger (knee) on the precipice of returning, possibly as early as next week, and also lefty Blake Snell (groin) following shortly after that. It’s unclear how the Padres will sort out their rotation logjam, but Gore is making it extremely difficult to justify shipping him back to Triple-A El Paso in the near future. Based on his recent performance, he’s worthy of a roster spot in all fantasy formats until further notice.
Starting Pitchers with an EDGE
Dylan Cease vs. Royals
6.0 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 3 BB, 9 K
33% CSW, 21 swinging strikes
Despite temperatures in the upper 30’s Wednesday afternoon in Chicago, Cease authored one of the most dominant performances of his young career, striking out nine batters over six innings of two-run ball in a no-decision against the Royals. The dynamic 26-year-old righty generated an astronomical 21 swinging strikes, including 13 on his four-seam fastball alone, and finished with a strong 33 percent CSW (called strikes plus whiffs). He’ll carry a solid 3.27 ERA, 1.18 WHIP and 28/10 K/BB ratio across 22 innings (four starts) into another home outing Monday against the Angels.
Joe Ryan vs. Tigers
7.0 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 9 K
33% CSW, 15 swinging strikes
Ryan limited the Tigers to just a pair of baserunners Wednesday evening and also recorded a season-high nine strikeouts over seven scoreless innings. He racked up 15 swinging strikes, including nine of his four-seam fastball alone, and finished with a strong 33 percent CSW (called strikes plus whiffs). The 25-year-old righty has allowed two earned runs or fewer in four consecutive starts to open the 2022 campaign and holds a sparkling 1.17 ERA, 0.70 WHIP and 25/6 K/BB ratio across 23 innings (four starts). He’ll look to carry the momentum into a tasty road tilt Monday against the Orioles.
Drew Rasmussen vs. Mariners
6.0 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 9 K
33% CSW, 19 swinging strikes
Rasmussen held the Mariners to just three baserunners Wednesday evening and recorded a career-high nine strikeouts over six shutout frames. It was the most dominant performance of the 26-year-old righty’s career so far as he coaxed a staggering 19 swinging strikes and finished with a robust 33 percent CSW (called strikes plus whiffs). He’s allowed three earned runs or fewer in four consecutive starts to open the regular season and is certainly worthy of a roster spot in all fantasy formats. He’ll carry a pristine 3.50 ERA, 1.00 WHIP and 18/4 K/BB ratio across 18 innings (four starts) into an extremely favorable road matchup Monday against the Athletics.
Hitters with an EDGE
Taylor Ward vs. Guardians
3-for-4, 4 R, HR (4), 4 RBI, BB
Arguably the biggest breakout star of the 2022 campaign so far, Ward put together an epic performance at the plate Wednesday night against the Guardians, reaching base safely in five of his six plate appearances and finishing with three hits in the Angels’ lopsided victory. He doubled and scored a run in the opening frame before putting the Angels ahead for good with a towering 400-foot grand slam to right-center field – his fourth round-tripper of the season – off righty Zach Plesac in the second inning. He also tripled and scored a run in the sixth inning and came up a single shy of hitting for the cycle. The late-blooming 28-year-old slugger is off to a surreal start at the plate, hitting .395/.531/.816 with 13 runs scored, four home runs, nine RBI and one stolen base across 49 plate appearances. Clearly, he should be rostered in all fantasy formats.
Jose Ramirez vs. Angels
2-for-4, 2 R, 2 HR (5, 6), 4 RBI
It was a forgettable Wednesday evening affair for the Guardians overall, but Ramirez was their lone bright spot, recording his first multi-homer effort of the season. The dynamic 29-year-old third baseman kicked off the scoring with a two-run blast off Angels’ ace Shohei Ohtani in the opening frame before taking reliever Andrew Wantz deep for another two-run shot in the eighth inning. The five-category fantasy superstar is off to a phenomenal start at the dish, slashing .353/.416/.735 with nine runs scored, six home runs and 25 RBI across 77 plate appearances.
Xander Bogaerts vs. Blue Jays
4-for-4, 2 R, RBI, BB
Bogaerts helped the Red Sox snap a four-game losing streak with a four-hit effort Wednesday evening against the Blue Jays. He reached base safely in all five of his plate appearances and recorded his 19th career four-hit performance. He singled and came around to score on Rafael Devers’ RBI single in the opening frame before also singling and scoring in the sixth inning. He wound up padding Boston’s late lead with an RBI single in the ninth inning to close out the four-hit effort. The 29-year-old shortstop has torn the cover off the ball this season, slashing a sublime .397/.421/.534 with 12 runs scored, one home run, eight RBI and one stolen base across 76 plate appearances.
Giancarlo Stanton vs. Orioles
2-for-4, R, HR (3), 3 RBI
Stanton crushed his 350th career round-tripper, a 417-foot moonshot no-doubter to right-center field, off Orioles righty Tyler Wells in the opening frame. It was his third long ball of the season. He also delivered an RBI sacrifice fly off rookie reliever Felix Bautista in the sixth inning and singled in the eighth inning to cap off his fourth multi-hit effort of the year. The 32-year-old slugger hasn’t exactly gotten off to a sizzling start at the plate this season, but he’s begun to heat up over the last few days.
Andrew Vaughn vs. Royals
2-for-4, R, HR (4), 4 RBI
Vaughn, the third overall pick in the 2019 MLB Draft, underwhelmed last year in his rookie campaign, but has emerged as a legitimate everyday corner outfielder this season, hitting .298/.365/.617 with five runs scored, four home runs and 12 RBI across 52 plate appearances. The 24-year-old burgeoning slugger walloped an RBI double off Royals’ righty Zack Greinke in the third inning Wednesday afternoon before delivering a tie-breaking two-run shot off righty reliever Scott Barlow in the seventh inning. He should be rostered in all fantasy formats moving forward.
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Kendall Graveman vs. Royals
2.0 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 4 K (1st save)
Graveman fired a pair of perfect innings on a chilly Wednesday afternoon in Chicago, striking out four of the six batters he faced, slamming the door on the Royals for his first save of the season. With entrenched All-Star closer Liam Hendriks dealing with a lingering back issue, it’s possible Graveman could vulture a few more save chances in the next few days. The 31-year-old righty has gotten off to a stellar start in his White Sox debut, allowing just four runs (two earned) on six hits with an 11/4 K/BB ratio across 10 1/3 innings. He’s worthy of a roster spot for fantasy managers in deeper mixed leagues.
Mark Melancon vs. Dodgers
1.0 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 1 K (4th save)
Melancon fired a scoreless ninth inning Wednesday afternoon, guarding a narrow two-run lead against the Dodgers to secure his fourth save of the season. The 37-year-old veteran stopper holds a sparkling 1.13 ERA, 1.25 WHIP and 3/1 K/BB ratio across eight innings (eight appearances) in his Diamondbacks debut.
Josh Hader vs. Pirates
1.0 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 3 K (10th save)
Hader was summoned to protect a two-run lead in the ninth inning Wednesday evening and managed to collect his league-leading 10th save despite issuing a pair of walks. The 28-year-old lefty picked up three strikeouts and threw 26 pitches (15 strikes) in this one. He hasn’t allowed a run in 9 1/3 innings to open the 2022 campaign. Simply put, he’s the best closer in baseball right now.
Andrew Kittredge vs. Mariners
1.1 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 1 K (3rd save)
Kittredge coughed up a solo homer to Abraham Toro in the ninth inning, but managed to hang on Wednesday night, recording the final four outs of the Rays’ win over the Mariners to pick up his third save of the season. The 32-year-old righty has allowed just two runs on five hits with a 9/1 K/BB ratio across 9 1/3 innings this season. The Rays will continue to mix and match in the late innings, but he should receive the majority of their save opportunities moving forward.
Anthony Bender vs. Nationals
1.1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 1 K (4th save)
Bender has struggled a bit coming out of the gate this season, but managed to record the final four outs of the Marlins’ one-run victory over the Nationals on Wednesday night. The 27-year-old righty bailed Miami out of a bases-loaded jam in the eighth inning before coming back out to toss a scoreless final frame to preserve the narrow win. He’ll continue to pick up save chances until Dylan Floro is ready to return from the injured list.
Clay Holmes vs. Orioles
1.0 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 2 K (2nd save)
With Aroldis Chapman presumably unavailable after throwing 24 pitches on Tuesday night, it was Holmes who was called upon Wednesday evening to guard a three-run lead in the ninth inning against the Orioles. He recorded a pair of strikeouts and needed just 19 pitches (12 strikes) to preserve the victory. He’ll continue to vulture the occasional save in New York moving forward.
Ryne Stanek vs. Rangers
1.0 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 1 K (1st save)
With Ryan Pressly still sidelined due to injury, Stanek came on to protect a two-run lead Wednesday night against the Rangers and barely managed to hang on. He served up a leadoff walk to Willie Calhoun and a double to ensuing batter Adolis Garcia, but managed to limit the damage to just a Brad Miller RBI ground out to escape with his first save of the season.
Rowan Wick vs. Braves
1.0 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 2 K (1st save)
Wick got the call to guard a three-run lead in the 10th inning Wednesday night against the Braves after Cubs’ primary closer David Robertson tossed 1 1/3 scoreless frames to send the contest into extra-innings. He struck out a pair of batters and needed just 11 pitches (eight strikes) to slam the door in this one.
Dany Jimenez vs. Giants
1.0 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 0 K (4th save)
Jimenez coaxed back-to-back ground outs from Wilmer Flores and Brandon Crawford before getting Darin Ruf to pop out to end the contest, needing just 10 pitches to spin a scoreless ninth inning Wednesday evening, preserving a one-run lead for his first save of the season. The 28-year-old righty appears to have taken over as the Athletics’ primary closer and should be rostered by fantasy managers in deeper mixed leagues moving forward.
EDGE Priority Pickup
Garrett Whitlock, RP, Red Sox
Whitlock draws the starting assignment in place of Tanner Houck for Thursday afternoon’s series finale against the Blue Jays in Toronto and will look to build upon his phenomenal start to the 2022 campaign. The electrifying 25-year-old righty has oscillated between the Red Sox’ starting rotation and bullpen over the last few weeks, yet he’s dominated in both roles, allowing just one run on five hits with an eye-popping 18/2 K/BB ratio across 13 2/3 innings (five appearances, one start). He registered seven strikeouts over four shutout frames last Saturday in an abbreviated start against the Rays and projects as either a potential front-of-the-rotation starter or elite high-leverage fireman moving forward. Regardless of his role, fantasy managers should ensure that he’s rostered until further notice.
Thursday’s Matchup of the Day
A pair of the most dynamic young arms in the AL East square off at the Rogers Centre on Thursday afternoon as the long-time rivals wrap up a four-game series in Toronto. Whitlock has emerged as a versatile weapon for the Red Sox, while Manoah is rapidly evolving into the Blue Jays’ future ace. When it comes to old fashioned pitcher’s duels, this one could take the cake on Thursday’s jam-packed 13-game slate.
American League Quick Hits: John Means underwent successful Tommy John elbow reconstructive surgery Wednesday in Dallas, Texas. … Adalberto Mondesi (knee) will be placed on the 10-day injured list Thursday after an MRI revealed structural damage in his left knee. … Marco Gonzales was diagnosed with a left wrist contusion after being removed from Wednesday’s start against the Rays in the first inning when he was hit by a comebacker. … Astros manager Dusty Baker told reporters Wednesday that closer Ryan Pressly is “not quite ready” to return from the 10-day injured list yet. … Twins manager Rocco Baldelli told reporters Wednesday that Sonny Gray (hamstring) will throw one more bullpen session and make a minor league rehab start before returning from the 10-day injured list. … Mariners activated RHP Paul Sewald from the COVID-19 injured list. … Yoan Moncada (oblique) will begin a minor league rehab assignment Friday at Triple-A Charlotte. … Ryan Mountcastle was scratched from the Orioles’ lineup Wednesday against the Yankees due to neck stiffness. …Lourdes Gurriel (hamstring) returned to the Blue Jays’ starting lineup Wednesday against the Red Sox. … Luis Robert (groin) remained absent from the White Sox’ starting lineup Wednesday for the fifth consecutive game. … Steven Kwan (hamstring) remained out of the Guardians’ starting lineup Wednesday against the Angels. … Gary Sanchez (abdomen) remained out of the Twins’ lineup against the Tigers on Wednesday, but is expected to return for Thursday’s series finale. … Mike Zunino (biceps) was held out of the Rays’ lineup Wednesday against the Mariners. … Mike Trout went 2-for-3 with a pair of RBI in the Angels’ blowout victory over the Guardians. … Ryan Jeffers went 2-for-3 with a two-run homer and three RBI, powering the Twins to a victory over the Tigers. … Kyle Tucker scorched a three-run double in the Astros’ win over the Rangers. … Enrique Hernandez collected a pair of RBI in the Red Sox’ victory over the Blue Jays. … Kevin Kiermaier went 2-for-3 with a two-run homer, lifting the Rays to a win over the Mariners. … Jake Burger went 3-for-4 with a solo homer in the White Sox’ victory over the Royals. … Bo Bichette singled and stole a base in the Blue Jays’ loss to the Red Sox. … Anthony Santander clubbed a two-run homer in the Orioles’ loss to the Yankees. … J.P. Crawford and Abraham Toro slugged solo homers in the Mariners’ loss to the Rays. … Bobby Witt Jr. singled and stole a base in the Royals’ loss to the White Sox. … Mitch Garver belted a solo homer in the Rangers’ loss to the Astros. … Robbie Grossman doubled in the Tigers’ shutout loss to the Twins … Shohei Ohtani yielded two runs over five innings in a win over the Guardians. He also went 3-for-5 with an RBI double at the plate. … Cristian Javier allowed two runs over five innings in a win over the Rangers. … Michael Wacha was charged with one run over six innings in a win over the Blue Jays. … Paul Blackburn spun five scoreless frames in a win over the Giants. … Ross Stripling struck out seven batters and yielded one run over five innings in a no-decision against the Red Sox. … Zack Greinke gave up three runs over six innings in a no-decision against the White Sox. … Jordan Montgomery allowed two runs over 5 2/3 innings in a no-decision against the Orioles. … Glenn Otto struck out five batters and surrendered two runs over 4 1/3 innings in a no-decision against the Astros. … Tyler Wells allowed two runs over five innings in a no-decision against the Yankees. … Zach Plesac was torched for seven runs (six earned) over 3 2/3 innings in a loss to the Angels. … Michael King tossed 2 1/3 scoreless frames to pick up a win in relief against the Orioles.
National League Quick Hits: Joc Pederson made an early exit from Wednesday’s contest against the Athletics due to right groin tightness. … Dodgers manager Dave Roberts told reporters Wednesday that Andrew Heaney (shoulder) has yet to resume throwing. … Stephen Strasburg (neck) threw a 37-pitch bullpen session Wednesday. … J.D. Davis was removed from Wednesday’s game against the Cardinals after being hit by a pitch on his left ankle. … Pirates activated OF Bryan Reynolds from the COVID-19 injured list and also placed SS Kevin Newman on the 10-day injured list with a left groin strain. … Miguel Rojas (illness) returned to the Marlins’ starting lineup against the Nationals. … Kris Bryant (back) remained out of the Rockies’ lineup Wednesday against the Phillies and his teammate Brendan Rodgers was scratched with back soreness. … Patrick Wisdom slugged a two-run homer and Seiya Suzuki went 2-for-5 with an RBI, leading the Cubs to an extra-inning victory over the Braves. … Bryce Harper tallied three hits, scored a pair of runs and also stole a base in the Phillies’ win over the Rockies. … Tommy Edman went 3-for-5 with a stolen base and Nolan Arenado went 3-for-3 with three RBI in the Cardinals’ blowout victory over the Mets. … Jurickson Profar walloped a three-run homer and Eric Hosmer added a solo shot in the Padres’ win over the Reds. … Jesus Aguilar walloped a solo homer in the Marlins’ victory over the Nationals. … Nick Ahmed homered in the Diamondbacks’ win over the Dodgers. … Kolten Wong doubled and drew a bases-loaded walk in the Brewers’ comeback win against the Pirates. … Trea Turner went 2-for-4 with an RBI and Mookie Betts collected a pair of hits in the Dodgers’ loss to the Diamondbacks. … Brandon Nimmo hit a two-run double in the Mets’ lopsided defeat at the hands of the Cardinals. … Kyle Farmer doubled four times and tallied a pair of RBI, while Tommy Pham and Brandon Drury went deep in the Reds’ loss to the Padres. … C.J. Cron slugged a solo homer and Jose Iglesias notched four hits in the Rockies’ loss to the Phillies. … Dansby Swanson hit a game-tying two-run single in the Braves’ eventual loss to the Cubs in extra-innings. … Pablo Lopez recorded six strikeouts over six shutout innings in a win over the Nationals. … Ranger Suárez was charged with three runs over six innings in a win over the Rockies. … Julio Urias allowed one run over six innings in a no-decision against the Diamondbacks. … Zac Gallen struck out five batters over five shutout innings in a no-decision against the Dodgers. … Steven Matz surrendered four runs over four innings in a no-decision against the Mets. … Aaron Ashby struck out six batters, issued five walks and allowed one run over 5 2/3 innings in a no-decision against the Pirates. … Charlie Morton walked four batters and was charged with three-runs over 2 1/3 innings in a no-decision against the Cubs. … Dillon Peters tossed a pair of scoreless innings in a no-decision against the Brewers. … Mark Leiter Jr. hurled two scoreless innings in a no-decision against the Braves. … Carlos Carrasco was lit up for eight runs (seven earned) over 3 2/3 innings in a loss to the Cardinals. … Erick Fedde surrendered two runs over 4 2/3 innings in a loss to the Marlins. … Vladimir Gutierrez was torched for six runs over four innings in a loss to the Padres. … Ryan Feltner notched seven strikeouts and allowed four runs over five innings in a loss to the Phillies. … Jakob Junis registered six strikeouts over five scoreless innings in relief against the Athletics. … Keegan Thompson allowed one run over three innings in relief against the Braves. … Bryse Wilson tossed four scoreless innings in relief against the Brewers. … Mike Clevinger (knee) allowed one run over 3 2/3 innings in his third minor league rehab start Wednesday with Triple-A El Paso.