What game(s) you were watching on Thursday determined what kind of feel it had to it. Your rooting interests, both fantasy and reality, also come into play here, but there is no mistaking that this is crunch time. I mean after all, Anthony Rizzo returned from what could have been a very serious ankle way earlier than expected. And of course, he went deep. Let’s take a look at some of the performances that stood out from a busy Thursday around the league:
1) Acuna Gets to 40
Of course you want as much production as possible, but is there really a difference between 39 and 40 home runs? Well, unless that one home run proves to be the margin of victory, the answer is no. I mean aside from the fact that we just love round numbers and they look so much better. Yesterday, Acuna did hit that all important home run, a two run shot, which brought his RBI total up to 99 as he approaches another, nice, round number. Acuna is now hitting .279 on the season, and his two runs scored brought his total for the year up to 123, and with 37 stolen bases, a 40/40 campaign is still very possible.
2) Long Continues to Produce
Shed Long is making the most of his opportunity with the Mariners as the season winds down, while also showing his versatility between second base and left field. After going 3 for 5 on Thursday, Long is hitting .282 for the season and .346 over his last 15 games. With 15 runs scored and 13 RBI in 117 at bats, Long has been a solid source of production, but with just four home runs, he isn’t much of a power threat. Batting atop the order for Seattle, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him there again to start the 2020 season.
3) Boston’s Duo Isn’t Slowing Down
While Andrew Benintendi has taken a step back this season, although he did double for the 40th time on Thursday, and Mookie Betts could end up on the trade block this winter, it was Xander Bogaerts and Rafael Devers who have really stepped up. Each infielder picked up two more hits on Thursday while combining to drive in all five of Boston’s runs. Respectively, they are batting .303 and .311 on the year, with 109 and 110 RBI. The future is very bright for both of Boston’s young infielders, and they made that clear in 2019 as they will both come off the board in the early rounds of 2020 drafts.
4) Braun Drives in Another Run
As the Brewers look to make up for the loss of Christian Yelich’s production, Ryan Braun has been one of their bats who have stepped up with some big hits. Batting cleanup on Thursday, Braun went 2 for 4 with his 67th RBI and 29th double of the season. Overall, the outfielder is batting a very solid .277 and with 20 home runs and 10 stolen bases, Braun has been a solid contributor. At this point, he is far from the former MVP that he was, but Braun shouldn’t be overlooked for that reason either.
5) Tanaka Throws a Gem
If only Masahiro Tanaka could do this every time out. We know that the right-hander is capable of it, but he really has just been a league average starter this season if you are going to look at the full body of work. In seven innings of work, Tanaka threw seven innings of one run ball to pick up his 11th victory of the season. The right-hander limited the Angels to just four hits while not walking a batter and striking out six as he brought his ERA down to 4.47. We should note though, that after a rough stretch, things have been better for Tanaka as of late as he has a 3.92 ERA and 1.11 WHIP over his last seven starts.
6) Kay Picks up His First Victory
The Blue Jays used an opener on Thursday, but it was Anthony Kay who was ultimately the pitcher of record. Kay picked up his first career victory against the Orioles with four innings of two run ball in which he allowed four hits and a walk while striking out three. Through 14 innings of work, Kay’s ERA now sits at 5.79 in what is an obviously small sample size. Adjustments are in order for Kay, and that was also the case for him upon his promotion to Triple-A. I would take things slow with Kay as Toronto will put him in a position to succeed, but the talent is there to be a solid middle of the rotation starter.
7) Lindor Sets the Table
While he failed to drive in a run on Thursday, Francisco Lindor did do his job as a lead-off hitter as he went 3 for 5 with two runs scored. The shortstop is now five runs shy of the century mark for the season while hitting .292 with 31 home runs, 70 RBI, and 21 stolen bases. Ultimately, we would like to see a few more RBI, but overall, Lindor has done a good job of setting himself up to continue being a first round selection. The last 30 games have been interesting for Lindor, as well he has 11 home runs, the shortstop is hitting just .244 in his last 30 games. As we get more recent, Lindor was hitting .188 in his last seven games, but last night’s performance was a good sign as the Indians push for the playoffs.
8) Clevinger Takes Care of Business
At this point, it is beating a dead horse to say that we aren’t conditioned to see pitchers pitch deep into games, so I’ll take six shutout innings every time out there. And that is what we got out of Mike Clevinger on Thursday as he picked up his 12th victory of what turned out to be an injury interrupted season. Clevinger did scatter seven hits while walking a batter and striking out six as he lowered his ERA to 2.54 on the season. As long as he stays healthy next season, but in reality can we really trust any pitchers with certainty, Clevinger will find himself anchoring pitching staffs as an SP1.
9) Carpenter Comes off the Bench With a Big Hit
Last season, we thought Matt Carpenter was done. To the waiver wire in a lot of leagues he went, but that ended up being just a temporary blip, as he went on to hit 36 home runs for the season. Instead of carrying that success forward into 2019, Carpenter has struggled to get going for much of this year, and the career .270 is hitting just .227 with 13 home runs and 42 RBI. Carpenter has also battled some injuries, and it was at that point, that Tommy Edman took his playing time. With Kolten Wong going down last night, the severity of the injury is still unclear, Carpenter entered the game, and in his second at bat went deep to put St. Louis ahead for good. In his last 15 games, which does consist of just 27 at bats, Carpenter is hitting .333, so he does find himself back in the lineup on a consistent basis for the remainder of the season, he might be worth a look.
10) Mitch Garver..Wow
We have a catcher batting lead-off (at least occasionally and he did so last night) and also hitting for average (.279), plus power, and he’s not universally accepted as the best fantasy catcher? The problem, is that the Twins quite simply don’t get Mitch Garver into the lineup enough. He is currently at just 297 at bats for the season while appearing in 88 games, but his production makes it seem like he has played 150 games. On Thursday, Garver went 2 for 3 with two walks as he hit his 31st home run of the season. With 67 RBI and 67 runs scored, it’s hard not to day dream about what Garver’s production would look like in 500 at bats, as people would be talking about him as one of the best players in baseball. Of course, we can’t do that, but we should recognize Garver’s power production. It should be no surprise to see Garver’s barrel rate (15.7%) and hard hit rate (49.5%) atop the league leaders.