Much of the attention in the Indians/Rangers game on Monday understandably centered on the return of Mike Clevinger, who was making his first start since early April. However, the other starting pitcher walked away with the headlines.
It’s been a common occurrence for him lately.
Lance Lynn shut down the Indians’ offense in Arlington, limiting them to just one run on six hits and no walks over seven superb innings. The big right-hander fanned nine batters on the night and the only tally he surrendered was on a Francisco Lindor solo homer with two out in the fifth.
Lynn was understandably a fantasy afterthought coming into the season. He posted a 4.77 ERA last year and signed on to pitch his home games at a stadium that ranked as the most hitter-friendly in baseball in 2018.
It looked through his first seven starts of 2019 like we were right to ignore Lynn after he posted a 5.75 ERA and 36/16 K/BB ratio over 40 2/3 innings. However, he’s suddenly taken off since then, putting up a 2.92 ERA, 1.07 WHIP and 66/8 K/BB ratio over his last 52 1/3 innings covering eight starts.
A change in pitch mix might be the key to Lynn’s turnaround. He’s dropped his sinker usage significantly while throwing way more cutters and also ticking up his four-seam and curveball usage. The result has been lots of weak contact, as opponents have just a 3.7 percent barrel rate versus Lynn, which ranks in the top six percent of the league. It’s also led to more swings and misses, particularly with the cutter, as Lynn’s 13.65 percent whiff rate with the pitch is the highest he’s had with any offering in five years. It also helps that Lynn is throwing harder than he ever has and sporting the lowest walk rate of his career.
I do worry that there will be some blowup starts down the road. Lynn has just an 8 percent HR/FB rate that’s much lower than the 13.1 percent HR/FB rate he had the last two years. That number will surely rise during the hot summer months in Texas.
It’s encouraging to see Lynn evolving with his pitch mix, though, and he’s clearly in a groove that’s made him a must-own in fantasy leagues again. It also doesn’t hurt him that the Rangers have been surprise playoff contenders so far this season.
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The Blue Jays got outslugged by the Angels on Monday, but that doesn’t mean there weren’t any bright spots for the team up north.
For the second time in less than a week, Cavan Biggio had a two-homer game, slugging a solo shot and a two-run homer in the Jays’ loss. He also walked twice, reaching base in all four of his trips to the plate.
Prior to his first career two-homer game last Thursday, Biggio had been in a 1-for-23 nosedive at the dish. Since then, he’s gone 8-for-19 (.421) with four long balls, two doubles and six RBI. He had a .546 OPS before last Thursday but now has his OPS at a healthy .895.
Even when he was struggling to get hits, it was encouraging to see Biggio taking his walks. He’s sporting an 18.9 percent walk rate in his first 74 plate appearances after drawing a couple more free passes Monday, and that’s after posting a 19.5 percent walk rate at Triple-A Buffalo.
Of course, he’s also striking out at a 28.4 percent clip, and his whiff rates in the minors suggest that that number probably isn’t going to drop much, if at all. Biggio is more likely to hurt you than help you in the average department.
There’s plenty to like here, though, with Biggio already showing the power, speed and plate discipline that made him an interesting prospect. He’s also likely to have double and perhaps triple eligibility soon, adding outfield and maybe first base to second base.
Just to put a little bow on the Biggio talk, here’s a fun stat.
For the first time all season, the Angels on Monday had the hitters they’ve wanted all along to occupy their 2-3-4 spots. The result was an offensive explosion.
The Halos erupted for seven runs in the second inning and finished with 10 runs on 13 hits in a 10-5 beatdown of the Blue Jays. No. 2 hitter Mike Trout, No. 3 hitter Shohei Ohtani and cleanup hitter Justin Upton – who was making his season debut – all homered (No. 5 hitter Kole Calhoun went deep, too).
Upton wasted no time, launching the first major league pitch he saw this season deep over the center field wall to lead off the seven-run second inning. He added a single in the frame as the Angels batted around and also had a walk later in the game.
Trout had four hits and three RBI in the game, falling a triple shy of the cycle. He became the eighth player in major league history to record eight 20-homer seasons before reaching his 28th birthday, joining Mel Ott, Mickey Mantle, Eddie Mathews, Alex Rodriguez and Giancarlo Stanton.
Ohtani has rebounded from a slow start the plate, raising his OPS from .630 all the way up to .867 over his last 13 games. He’s batted .388 with six home runs, 16 RBI, 14 runs scored and two stolen bases during that stretch.
With Tommy La Stella having a breakout season from the leadoff spot, the top four in the Angels’ batting order suddenly looks pretty intimidating.
National League Quick Hits: Dallas Keuchel is expected to make his Braves debut on Friday against the Nationals. ... Noah Syndergaard has been diagnosed with a low-grade right hamstring strain and could miss just one start. ... Logan Allen will be called up by the Padres to make his major league debut Tuesday against the Brewers. ... Joey Lucchesi allowed three hits while striking out five over seven scoreless innings in the Padres' win over the Brewers on Monday. ... Ozzie Albies finished 3-for-5 with a homer and four RBI as the Braves crushed the Mets on Monday. ... Miles Mikolas fired six scoreless innings while fanning four on Monday in a victory over the Marlins. ... Brian McCann went 3-for-3 with a homer and two walks versus the Mets on Monday. ... Matt Carpenter went 3-for-4 with a homer, double and three runs scored on Monday against the Marlins. ... Tyler Beede whiffed seven over six frames of one-run ball Monday versus the Dodgers. ... Manny Machado appealed a one-game suspension handed down as a result of his actions following his ejection during Saturday's game versus the Rockies. ... Trevor Williams (side) is scheduled to return to the Pirates' rotation Wednesday versus the Tigers ... Caleb Smith (hip) has been cleared to begin a throwing program and reportedly could return as soon as this weekend.
American League Quick Hits: Masahiro Tanaka pitched his fourth career shutout Monday, throwing a two-hitter with 10 strikeouts against the Rays. ... Rick Porcello blanked the Twins for seven innings Monday while notching eight strikeouts. ... Jose Berrios was a hard-luck loser Monday after allowing one run in eight innings against Boston, fanning 10 batters along the way. ... Hunter Pence was placed on the injured list Monday with a strained right groin. ... Jose Altuve's (hamstring, knee) rehab game with Triple-A Round Rock on Monday could be his final one before he’s activated. ... Cameron Maybin went 3-for-3 with a homer Monday versus the Rays. ... Ryon Healy has been diagnosed with spinal stenosis and will be sidelined for at least another 3-4 weeks. ... Danny Santana went 2-for-4 with a two-run homer and two runs scored on Monday against the Indians. ... Willie Calhoun (quad) returned from the IL Monday.