by Ray Kuhn
Now that is how you start a week. While we certainly enjoy afternoon games, it is nice to have that extra time on a Monday to make sure your lineup is just perfect for the week; although it likely doesn’t take long for you to second guess yourself. There was a full slate of evening games yesterday, and let’s take a look at some of the key performances that stood out.
1) Yoenis Cespedes Sends the Mets Home Happy
Let the man golf. After spending some time on the Disabled List with a quadriceps injury, which is unrelated to him hitting the links, Cespedes returned with a bang. While the leg is still give him some trouble, that wasn’t apparent Monday night. Cespedes singled twice earlier in the game, but his hit that mattered came in the 10th inning. Cespedes hit a no-doubt home run, his 27th on the season, to give the Mets a walk-off victory and keep them in the playoff race. It was just Cespedes’ 68th RBI on the season, the weak Mets’ offense deserves some of that blame, and he is now hitting .299 on the season. In his last 15 games, Cespedes is hitting .327 with six home runs and 15 RBI, and he is one of those players who can carry you in September. It is clear the Mets need him if they are going to make the playoffs, but just keep an on that leg and his lineup status (more for daily leagues).
2) Joe Musgrove Bounces Back
Pitching is not an exact science, and you have to take the good with the bad. And over his last two starts, there was a lot of bad for Musgrove. AT this point in the season, it takes a lot to really make a dent in your ratios, but Musgrove’s last two starts were just that; except it was in the wrong direction. In those two starts, the right-hander allowed 13 earned runs in 9.1 innings of work on 19 hits while striking out just four. Granted last night Musgrove did have the benefit of facing the A’s at home, but to say he bounced back would be an understatement. Musgrove kept Oakland off the scoreboard and limited them to just three hits on the night. He did need 94 pitches to get through 5.1 innings while walking three batters, but Musgrove also struck out seven. Even with those two starts, his ERA on the season is 4.36 in five games (four starts) and I would feel confident in Musgrove moving forward.
3) It Was a Strikeout Party for St. Louis
Carlos Martinez continued his success this season in Milwaukee last night, but thanks to his bullpen he came away without victory. Starts like this help make the case for quality starts being a category, as you got nothing from the six innings of run ball from Martinez. Well not exactly nothing, as Martinez did strikeout 13 Brewers while limiting them to four hits and two walks. The strikeouts were a nice sign from Martinez who on the season has 137 in 158.1 innings of work. After last night, Martinez has a 3.07 ERA to go along with a 1.17 WHIP, and he can be counted on as a strong SP3 or lower end SP2 down the stretch.
4) Todd Frazier Continues to Struggle
When you build a team, there are certain players you count on. Frazier is one of those players. He has the skills and the track record that you can trust, and it’s not exactly easy to find an alternative. But at this point in the season, if you haven’t made alternate plans, it really might be time to. While releasing a player who has 32 home runs, 81 RBI, and 10 stolen bases is not going to happen (nor should it), you have to think about benching him. Now this depends on your situation, but if batting average is more important than the power categories, then Frazier should be far away from your starting lineup. On Monday, he went 0-4 while leaving six runners on base and seeing his average drop to .213. Now Frazier’s BABIP of .217 does say that luck is a factor here, so don’t think about dropping him, but make sure he doesn’t sabotage your batting average down the stretch.
5) Trevor Bauer Has a Solid No-Decision
The Indians didn’t score until late in the pitcher’s dual, but they were able to hang around thanks to the efforts of Bauer, and their bullpen. Bauer made it through six innings of work without allowing a run and managed to limit the Twins to just five hits and one walk. Base runners have been an issue all season for Bauer who has a 1.30 WHIP to go along with his respectable ERA of 3.73. Bauer could stand to improve his control, 3.43 walks per nine innings, but his 3.90 FIP says that the right-hander’s performance is pretty much in line with where it should be. While Bauer has been erratic in the past, it appears the talented right-hander is finally finding his groove and settling down this season.
6) Mookie Betts Can’t be Slowed Down
The longer the season goes on, the more of mark Betts is going to make on it. Last night, Betts reached the 30 home run plateau with a solo shot prior to adding an RBI double (his 35th on the season). With a little over a month left to play, Betts now has 30 home runs and 96 RBI, to go along with 21 stolen bases, and a .322 batting average. While he has been successful all season, Betts has been scorching over his last 30 games batting .382 with 10 home runs and 30 RBI. Not to state the obvious, or take away from Betts’ success, but some sort of a slow down is inevitable as the outfielder is hitting .363 in the second half of the season with a .348 BABIP (.372 in August). Betts is also putting about seven percent more of his balls in the air as opposed to on the ground in the second half of the season, which also has contributed to his success.
7) Javier Baez Comes Short of a Cycle
You could make the argument that Baez had an empty game. And for that reason, his four hit night isn’t going to receive much attention. Baez came a home run short of the cycle in six at bats, but even though he was on base four times and had two extra base hits (with his team scoring eight runs), Baez had neither a run scored or an RBI. The performance did raise his average to .275 on the season, and in 342 at bats he has been good source of production. Baez certainly does all he can to get in the lineup, he plays all across the infield and a little outfield, which also helps out fantasy owners, and he has produced when given the chance this season. With 13 home runs, 47 RBI, and 11 stolen bases, Baez has a nice power/speed combo, and with more at bats would be a 20/20 player.
8) Carlos Beltran Bounces Back
At this point, we really should be used to it. The fact that Beltran picked up another three hits last night shouldn’t really come as a surprise to anyone as he continues to have success this season. But over his past 30 games, things have not been as easy for him. Beltran has just four home runs in that span, and over his last 15 games he is batting just .213. If you have owned him all season, then its hard to argue with the production, especially if he gets back in the groove. Beltran got things started with a solo shot in the first inning (his 25th of the season) and later added a double (26) and a single to raise his average to .292 on the season. With his two RBI last night, Beltran is up to 75 on the season, and perhaps this was what he needed to get back on track again.
9) Three More Hits for Charlie Blackmon
Blackmon gave fantasy owners a scare by missing a few games last week with a toe injury, but they can rest easy now that the outfielder is back. Last night, Blackmon picked up three more hits along with his 64th RBI out of the lead-off spot as Colorado was victorious at home. On the season, Blackmon is batting .320, but he has been truly on fire over his last 30 games batting .377 with 11 of his 23 home runs. On the season, Blackmon actually has three more home runs on the road (13 to 10) and his average at Coors Field (.323) isn’t that much different from his average on the road (.317). As long as he remains healthy, Blackmon is a player to truly count on for the rest of the season.
10) Albert Pujols Ties Another
At this point, it’s getting to be old hat this season. Pujols went deep once again on Monday, and with this home run, he tied Frank Robinson for 9th all time on the home run list with 586. Pujols went 2 for 4 on the night with two runs scored and two RBI, but he took care of business right away with a solo shot in the first inning. It was the 26th home run of the season for Pujols who now has 103 RBI to go along with his .263 batting average. The first baseman is also showing no signs of slowing down, as he is hitting .333 in his last 15 games.