by Ray Kuhn
To say we had a busy start to the week would be an understatement. The long weekend continued on Monday as honored our veterans for Memorial Day, and celebrated, in part, with a full day and night of action on the diamond. We also had Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals and a seventh game in the Western Conference Finals in the NBA. If your attention was elsewhere, we have you covered, so let’s take a look at some of the performances that stood out across the league:
1) Verlander Tips His Cap in the Bronx
So far this season, Justin Verlander continues to play a game of “can you top this” with each of his starts. This time, Verlander shut down the Yankees, with the exception of a Greg Bird solo homer in the seventh inning, to pick up his seventh victory. When the right-hander was lifted later that inning, after continuing his dominance against New York, he was booed which was followed up Verlander tipping his cap to the crowd. Overall, he allowed five hits in 6.2 innings of work while striking out five. To give you an idea of how good Verlander has been this season, he has allowed one run in each of his last two starts, and he has seen his ERA rise from 1.05 to 1.08, and then to 1.11 after Monday afternoon.
2) Benintendi Comes Up a Double Short
Moving up to the lead-off spot with Mookie Betts sidelined, Andrew Benintendi didn’t miss a beat on Monday. The outfielder finished a double shy of the cycle, and his 3 for 4 effort pushed his batting average up to .292 on the season. And just like that, Benintendi is right where we expected him to be at the start of the season. Over his last 30 games, he is hitting .333, and that jumps to .411 in the young outfielder’s last 15 games. In that same stretch, Benintendi’s power has appeared, as after yesterday, five of his last seven home runs have come in that span as well as 19 of his 37 RBI for the season (including four on Sunday). We knew this skill set was there, and now the production is matching.
3) A Long Ball From Rendon
The Nationals didn’t need much in the way of offense on Monday thanks to Gio Gonzalez, but Anthony Rendon made sure they would go home victorious. Rendon went deep for the sixth time this season, and the three run shot brought his RBI total up to 15 for the year in 125 at bats. That was a good sign for Rendon, as while he is hitting .272 after a two hit effort, he hasn’t shown much in the way of run production so far this season. Eight of those RBI have come in his last 15 games, but after driving in 100 runs last season, the ability is there.
4) Another Victory For Boyd
If you are skeptical about Matthew Boyd, the southpaw eased some of those concerns on Monday. Facing a tough Angels’ lineup, Boyd threw five scoreless innings to pick up his third victory of the season. The damage was kept to a minimum as Los Angeles managed just two hits and three walks against Boyd, but he needed 102 pitches (59 strikes) to do it. Overall, Boyd has been able to keep base runners to a minimum so far this season, 1.07 WHIP, and with a 3.00 ERA for the season, he has also limited the number of runners who cross the plate. Ideally, Boyd would average more than 5.2 innings per start or strikeout more than 45 batters in 57 innings of work, but he has proven to be a solid option so far this season. I would just exercise some caution given the disparity between Boyd’s 3.44 FIP and 4.83 xFIP.
5) Montgomery Takes Advantage of His Opportunity
Elevated into the rotation with Yu Darvish sidelined, Mike Montgomery showed that he can be a serviceable starting pitching option. The southpaw picked up his first victory of the season with 5.2 innings of scoreless baseball against the Pirates on Monday. Pittsburgh managed just two hits against Montgomery who didn’t allow a walk while striking out five batters. With an ERA of 4.35 and track record of being a dependable option, the left-hander is worth a look as a streaming option while Darvish is sidelined. However, since we are unsure how long Darvish will be out, I would be cautious when investing in Montgomery.
6) Braun Has a Perfect Day
We know that Ryan Braun isn’t the same player he once was, but there is still some fantasy value to be had. After returning roughly a week ago, you are forgiven if Braun’s return didn’t resonate, but there is still some value there. Yesterday, Braun went 3 for 3 with a walk to bring his batting average up to .245 while driving in his 22nd run of the season. This clearly isn’t the Braun of his prime, but batting fifth in Milwaukee’s lineup, there are still some RBI opportunities to be had. Over his last seven games, Braun is hitting .286, and there is no reason why he can’t keep that up and be a solid contributor; at least until he gets injured again.
7) The Cold Start is Over
Hopefully, Edwin Encarnacion owners didn’t panic when he got off to a slow start this season. On Monday, the DH hit his 12th home run of the season, and drove in four runs with the help of his sixth double of the season. The first baseman is now up to 31 RBI on the season, and other than the fact that he is hitting .228 on the season, you would never know that he got off to a slow start. However, over his last 30 games, Encarnacion is hitting .271 with eight home runs and 25 RBI. While that has to make fantasy owners feel confident about Encarnacion moving forward, that also highlights how much he struggled the first month of the season. That batting average jumps to .281 in his last 15 games, and it goes even higher over his last seven games (.296).
8) Ahmed Drives in Four
By no means should get excited about Nick Ahmed, but he has been a solid contributor so far his season. It is his defense that gets him into the lineup, but some early season power production put Ahmed on the map. Even after his 2 for 4 effort on Monday, the shortstop is still hitting just .211 on the season, but he also hit his eighth home run of the season yesterday; a three run shot. Overall, Ahmed drove in four runs on the day which gave him 25 RBI on the season. In fairness to Ahmed, even though he has never truly hit for a high average, his BABIP is .205, so we should see some improvement to his batting average. The good news for fantasy owners, is that Ahmed’s fly ball percentage of 37.7% is only about five percent higher than last season, and his home run to fly ball rate of 15.2% is consistent with last season’s 14.6%.
9) Gonzales Continues His Success
After struggling to find his footing in Seattle, we are beginning to see what all the fuss was about surrounding Marco Gonzales. On Monday, he took advantage of a lackluster Texas offense while picking up his fifth victory of the season. Gonzales allowed just an unearned run to the Rangers in 6.2 innings while limiting them to just four hits. It was a perfect start as the southpaw did walk four batters while only picking up four starters. However, Gonzales did lower his ERA to 3.60 on the season, and in his last seven starts, he has a 4-1 record with an ERA of just 2.08. A few weeks ago, I began to target Gonzales as a buy-low candidate due the disparity in his ERA and FIP, but that margin has closed (3.28 FIP and 3.38 xFIP). On the season, Gonzales is walking just 2.25 batters per nine innings, he does appear poised to continue his success.
10) Rosario Comes Through in the Night Cap
The training wheels are beginning to come of for Amed Rosario, and last night, he delivered. Initially, Rosario batted ninth this season so he would see better pitches to hit by not batting in front of the pitcher, but due to the Mets’ offensive woes, the shortstop is now batting eighth. On Monday, Rosario came through with a two RBI single to tie the game, and he later added an RBI single to provide an insurance run for the Mets as they picked up the split. After going 1 for 4 in the first game of the day, Rosario’s batting average is up to .253 for the season with 18 RBI and in his last seven games, he is hitting .304. It will be a slow climb for Rosario, but there is potential here as he continues to develop.
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