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Nine Up, Nine Down, Nine K’s for Pablo Lopez
If you turned into the beginning of the Braves and Marlins game on Sunday afternoon, boy were you in for a treat. Marlins right-hander Pablo Lopez accomplished something that had never before been done in the modern era of Major League Baseball (post-1900).
Things were a bit different in the third inning, as he got Guillermo Heredia on a called third strike to start the frame. Lopez then struck out Kevan Smith on a swinging third strike and finally got opposing pitcher Ian Anderson to look at a called third strike.
Nine batters up. Nine batters down. Nine strikeouts.
It’s the first time in modern history that a pitcher has started a game by recording nine consecutive strikeouts. The record for most consecutive strikeouts in a start is 10 -- long held by Tom Seaver (1970) and matched on June 25 by Phillies right-hander Aaron Nola. Lopez made a bid to etch his name in the history books for that record as well to begin the fourth inning, but Adrianza wound up grounding out to first base on an 0-1 pitch.
All told, Lopez surrendered three runs on five hits and two walks over six innings of work in a victory over the Braves. He did not record another strikeout in his final three innings.
Remarkably, the record-breaking performance came on the one-year anniversary of Lopez’s father (Danny) passing away due to a heart attack. Lopez told reporters after the game, “I woke up today very emotional -- a lot of mixed feelings, a lot of sad moments here and there, but when the game starts, once you get in between those lines, it's all about executing… I know he was somewhere watching, and I know that he's been there with me ever since he passed away a year ago. I just try to make him proud, making sure that I'm still doing the things he taught me, the way he taught me, and just trying to do the right thing the right way.”
Lopez generated 11 swings and misses in the ballgame -- eight of those on his changeup and three on his fastball. He posted a CSW of 40 percent. He heads into the All-Star break with a 5-5 record, 3.03 ERA, 1.09 WHIP and 111/25 K/BB ratio across 101 innings through 19 starts.
Starting Pitchers with an EDGE
Robbie Ray - 7 IP, 0 ER, 1 H, 1 BB, 11 K, 35% CSW, 17 swinging strikes
The left-hander carried a no-hit bid into the seventh inning where Yandy Diaz lined a one-out double off the wall in left field. That would be the only hit Ray would allow in the outstanding outing. Of the 17 swinging strikes that he generated, 13 of them came on his fastball with the other four coming on his slider. The fastball/slider combination accounted for 101 of the 103 pitches that he threw in the ballgame. He now boasts an outstanding 3.13 ERA, 1.05 WHIP and 130/24 K/BB ratio across 100 2/3 innings through 17 starts. He has been one of the most pleasant surprises of the season’s first half.
Kevin Gausman - 6 IP, 1 ER, 4 H, 3 BB, 9 K, 35% CSW, 17 swinging strikes
Gausman wrapped up an outstanding first half in style on Sunday, racking up nine strikeouts over six dazzling innings in a victory over the Nationals. Of his 17 swinging strikes on the afternoon, 10 of them came on his splitter. Now 9-3, the All-Star right-hander heads into the break with a brilliant 1.73 ERA, 0.82 WHIP and 133/30 K/BB ratio over 114 2/3 innings in his 18 starts.
Jon Gray - 6 IP, 1 ER, 3 H, 3 BB, 7 K, 36% CSW, 17 swinging strikes
Jon Gray finished his first half strong on Sunday with a dominant victory over the Padres. The only run that he allowed scored on a double play ground out in the second inning. Gray generated nine whiffs with his slider in this one and eight on his fastball. The 29-year-old has bounced back beautifully from his miserable 2020 season, posting a 3.77 ERA, 1.22 WHIP and 80/35 K/BB ratio across 86 innings in 16 starts.
Hitters with an EDGE
Rodolfo Castro - 2-for-3, 2 HR (3), 3 RBI, 2 R, BB
Wow, have a weekend kid. The 22-year-old was recalled on Tuesday with Phillip Evans and Gregory Polanco on the injured list, and he is certainly making a case to stick around. He collected his first big league hit on Friday -- a solo shot off of Nick Tropeano -- then swatted a pair of homers in Sunday’s victory over the Mets. It’s unclear how long the Pirates plan to keep him around, but he was raking to the tune of .306/.349/.549 with 11 homers, 40 RBI and five swipes in 49 games at Double-A Altoona, so perhaps it’s time to see what they have in the 22-year-old.
Andrew Vaughn - 2-for-4, 2 HR (10), 4 RBI, 2 R
The 23-year-old slugger supplied most of the White Sox offense in Sunday’s victory over the Orioles, crushing a 447-foot solo shot off of Spenser Watkins to get the White Son on the board in the fourth inning and then a go-ahead three-run blast off of Cole Sulser in the sixth to put the White Sox ahead. He seems to be settling in, hitting .253/.320/.452 with 10 long balls and 26 RBI now on the season.
David Fletcher - 4-for-5, HR (2), 4 RBI, 2 R
Fletcher clubbed a solo homer off of Hector Santiago in the third inning of this one, then added run-scoring singles in the fifth and seventh. He has been sizzling at the plate over the past month and is now slashing .309/.336/.381 with a pair of homers and 32 RBI on the year.
EDGE Priority Pickup
Jace Peterson, OF, Milwaukee Brewers -- Available in 56% of Yahoo fantasy leagues.
I’m all about riding hot hitters for as long as they’re swinging the bat well -- especially ones that have tremendous versatility -- and Peterson certainly fits the bill on both counts. Over the last two weeks, he’s hitting .349 (15-for-43) with two homers, 11 runs scored, 12 RBI and a pair of stolen bases. That’s tremendous five-category production in a red-hot Brewers lineup. When you consider that he’s eligible at first base, second base, third base and the outfield in Yahoo leagues, it’s crazy to think that he’s still lingering on so many waiver wires.
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Ranger Suarez vs. Red Sox
2 1/3 IP, 0 ER, 1 H, 2 BB, 4 K (2nd save)
There are saves, and then there are saves. What Ranger Suarez did on Sunday was outstanding. The left-hander came on with the tying run on and two outs in the seventh inning and bailed Archie Bradley out of trouble. He remained in the game to get the next six outs - throwing 45 pitches (27 strikes) in total. He has been unbelievable this season, registering a 0.77 ERA, 0.74 WHIP and a 35/11 K/BB ratio over 35 innings. He looks to have secured the closer’s job in Philadelphia for the time being and needs to be owned in all mixed leagues.
Jordan Romano vs. Rays
1 IP, 1 ER, 2 H, 0 BB, 0 K (7th save)
Romano was tasked with closing out an absolute gem from Robbie Ray after Tim Mayza worked a scoreless eighth inning. He gave up a solo homer to Brandon Lowe, but was able to nail down three outs with the lead intact. Romano now sports a terrific 1.93 ERA and 1.22 WHIP 32 2/3 innings on the season.
Lou Trivino vs. Rangers
1 IP, 0 ER, 1 H, 1 BB, 1 K (14th save)
Trivino made things interesting in this one, allowing a one-out walk to Nate Lowe and a two-out single to David Dahl to bring the tying run to the plate, but he was able to escape without any damage being done. Trivino sports a terrific 1.84 ERA and 1.16 WHIP across 44 innings on the season.
Richard Rodriguez vs. Mets
1 IP, 0 ER, 1 H, 0 BB, 0 K (12th save)
After Edwin Diaz imploded and gave up two runs in the top half of the ninth inning to suffer his second blown save of the season, Richard Rodriguez came on for the Pirates and calmly protected another one-run lead in the ninth inning to raise the Jolly Roger. Rodriguez has been terrific in the closer’s role for the Pirates -- registering a 2.29 ERA, 0.76 WHIP and 29/3 K/BB ratio over 35 1/3 innings while converting 12 saves and winning four games. Fantasy managers can only hope that he winds up in the ninth inning wherever he lands at the trade deadline.
Chad Green vs. Astros
1/3 IP, 4 ER, 4 H, 0 BB, 0 K (2nd blown save)
Chad Green had a meltdown of Aroldis Chapman-ian proportions on Sunday afternoon against the Astros. He was summoned with a six-run lead in the ninth inning after Domingo German had allowed the first two hitters to reach. He came on and allowed both inherited runners to score on a two-run double by Chas McCormick, followed by an RBI double off the bat of Abraham Toro-Hernandez. Jason Castro then singled to put the tying run on base. Green rallied to get Martin Maldonado to line out to the shortstop, but then surrendered a three-run walk-off homer to Jose Altuve. If Green was going to usurp the closer’s role from Chapman, perhaps those plans are now on hold.
Monday’s Matchup of the Day
There are no pitching matchups to take in on Monday due to the All-Star break, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a must-see matchup to tune in to. That would be Shohei Ohtani vs. Juan Soto in the opening round of the Home Run Derby. Ohtani -- considered by many to be the favorite in the competition -- enters the derby with a Major League-leading 33 home runs during an unbelievable first half of the season.
The challenger, Juan Soto, has only blasted 11 home runs on the season, but the 22-year-old is one of the best pure hitters in the game and is certainly capable of getting hot and providing a major upset here.
American League Quick Hits: The Mariners recalled top catching prospect Cal Raleigh from Triple-A Tacoma. … Alex Speier of the Boston Globe reported that the Red Sox and closer Matt Barnes agreed to a two-year, $18.75 million contract extension. … Salvador Perez (back) was held out of the Royals lineup on Sunday. He’s still (tentatively) expected to participate in Monday’s Home Run Derby. … Sunday’s game between the Indians and Royals was washed out due to rain. It’ll be made up as part of a doubleheader on September 20. … Ryan Mountcastle was removed from Sunday’s game after being hit by a pitch. He’s considered day-to-day with a left forearm contusion. … The Mariners placed left-hander Yusei Kikuchi on the COVID-19 injured list, he’ll need one additional negative test before being allowed to participate in the All-Star game. … The Mariners optioned struggling outfielder Taylor Trammell to Triple-A Tacoma. … Marwin Gonzalez was pulled from Sunday’s game with a right hamstring strain and is expected to land on the injured list. … Brandon Lowe blasted his 21st home run in a losing effort against the Blue Jays. … Adam Engel socked a go-ahead three-run dinger in the 10th inning on Sunday to lead the White Sox past the Orioles. … Trey Mancini had hit a pinch-hit two-run blast off of Liam Hendriks to tie that one in the ninth inning and force extras. … Chris Bassitt hurled seven innings of one-run baseball to beat the Rangers. … Matt Olson clubbed a pair of home runs to lead the charge in that one. … Jose Altuve smacked a three-run walk-off homer to cap off a six-run rally in the ninth against the Yankees. … Jake Rogers crushed a go-ahead grand slam off of Taylor Rogers in the ninth inning in a loss to the Twins. … Jorge Polanco blasted a three-run walk-off homer to complete a four-game sweep of the Tigers.
National League Quick Hits: Alec Bohm tested positive for COVID-19 and was placed on the COVID-19 injured list Sunday morning. Aaron Nola, Connor Brogdon and Bailey Falter were also placed on the COVID-19 IL due to contact tracing protocols. … The Padres placed Yu Darvish on the injured list (retroactive to July 9) with left hip inflammation. He’s expected to return the Monday following the All-Star break. … Sunday’s contest between the Cardinals and Cubs was postponed due to inclement weather. It’ll be made up as part of a doubleheader in September. … The Marlins recalled Monte Harrison from Triple-A Jacksonville and designated Preston Guilmet for assignment. … The Giants optioned Tyler Beede back to Triple-A Sacramento. … Ryan Weathers was pulled from Sunday’s start against the Rockies after suffering an apparent Achilles injury. … Ian Anderson was roughed up for four runs over 2 1/3 innings in a loss to the Marlins. … Dansby Swanson blasted a pair of home runs in a losing effort against the Marlins. … Ronald Torreyes went 3-for-4 with a three-run bomb and a stolen base as the Phillies topped the Red Sox. … Luis Castillo issued six walks, but only allowed one run over 5 1/3 innings in a no-decision against the Brewers. … Chris Owings belted a go-ahead homer to lead the Rockies past the Padres. … Mookie Betts went 3-for-3 with a homer and three runs scored in a win over the Diamondbacks. … Max Muncy clobbered a walk-off three-run homer to put that one in the win column for the Dodgers.