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With each passing day of the 2021 MLB season it gets harder and harder to find the superlatives to describe what an unbelievable season Shohei Ohtani is having. He put his two-way dominance on full display in Wednesday’s victory over the Tigers.
On the mound, he picked up his eighth victory of the season, racking up eight strikeouts over eight stellar innings of one-run baseball. He scattered six hits on the night and didn’t walk a batter -- throwing 69 of his 90 pitches for strikes. Ohtani generated 15 swings and misses in the contest -- six each on his fastball and splitter, and three on his slider -- while posting a CSW of 33 percent.
The only blemish on his day came on a solo blast off the bat of Willi Castro in the fifth inning. Aside from that, he was in complete control on the hill.
He was also locked in a pitcher’s duel with Tarik Skubal. In fact, the Angels entered the eighth inning nursing a one-run advantage -- that is until Ohtani himself blasted a leadoff home run off of Jose Cisnero to make it a 3-1 ballgame. That blast -- his MLB-leading 40th of the season -- was smoked with an exit velocity of 110.1 mph and traveled an estimated 430 feet to right field. Wow.
On the mound, he has been the ace of the Angels staff this season and one of the best starting pitchers in the American League. He’s now 8-1 with an outstanding 2.79 ERA, 1.06 WHIP and a 120/39 K/BB ratio across 100 innings in his 18 starts.
As good as that is, it pales in comparison to his work with the bat. After Wednesday’s monstrous blast, the 27-year-old sensation is now slashing .269/.363/.648 with 40 homers, 87 RBI and 18 stolen bases on the season. Simply mind-boggling.
Remember, fantasy managers at the highest level of competition were lukewarm at best about his outlook for this season in the days leading up to Opening Day. In 43 NFBC Main Event drafts, Ohtani’s average draft position was pick 142.3. That came with a high of 103 and a low of 197. Personally, I’m happy (and thankful and delighted and overjoyed and luxboxed) to say that I drafted Ohtani in both of my Main Event leagues this season (at picks 147 and 150 respectively). Even so, I can’t pretend to act like I expected anything close to this level of two-way production. I drafted him with the thought that he would be a capable SP3 for me who could provide a boost of power and speed in the weeks that I wanted to use him on offense.
Kudos to me for pulling the trigger and selecting him in both of those drafts, but sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good. Let’s just hope that he can keep it rolling for the remainder of the season and help lead me to a couple of league titles.
Starting Pitchers with an EDGE
Tylor Megill - 6 IP, 1 ER, 5 H, 2 BB, 6 K, 29% CSW, 16 swinging strikes
With Jacob deGrom (elbow) possibly done for the season, Noah Syndergaard still on the mend and Carlos Carrasco struggling, the Mets desperately need someone to step up and log consistent quality innings. It looks like Megill is up to the task. He generated 16 swinging strikes against the Giants on Wednesday -- nine of them on his fastball -- while holding a strong offense to just one run on five hits. For the season, he now owns a terrific 3.21 ERA and 1.16 WHIP across 56 innings through his first 11 starts.
Charlie Morton - 6 IP, 2 ER, 3 H, 1 BB, 9 K, 35% CSW, 12 swinging strikes
The 37-year-old right-hander picked up his 12th victory of the season on Wednesday with a dazzling nine-strikeout performance against the Marlins. Nine of the 12 swings and misses that he generated in the ballgame came on his trademark curveball. Morton now boasts a 3.47 ERA, 1.09 WHIP and 164/47 K/BB ratio across 140 innings through 25 starts on the season. He has now struck out seven or more batters in 10 of his last 12 outings and hasn’t allowed more then three earned runs in a start since July 4.
Andrew Heaney - 7 IP, 1 ER, 2 H, 2 BB, 4 K, 25% CSW, 9 swinging strikes
The 30-year-old southpaw delivered his finest start as a member of the Yankees on Wednesday night in a critical matchup against the rival Red Sox, allowing just a first inning solo homer to Xander Bogaerts through seven strong innings. His flyball tendencies still don’t play well in New York and he’s going to continue to be inconsistent, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t capable of more outings just like this one. On the season he now sports an underwhelming 5.51 ERA and 1.28 WHIP over 116 innings.
Hitters with an EDGE
Freddie Freeman - 4-for-5, HR (15), 2B, 3B, 2 RBI, 4 R, BB
Freeman had an absolutely monster day at the plate in Wednesday’s victory over the Marlins, hitting for the cycle for the second time in his big league career. It marked the first time any Braves hitter has hit for the cycle since.. Freeman did it himself in 2015. In doing so, he became the first Braves hitter -- and the first National League first baseman -- to hit for multiple cycles. He doubled off of Jesus Luzardo in the opening inning, then tripled off of the southpaw leading off the fourth inning. He then singled off of Sean Guenther to start the fifth inning and completed the cycle with a 405-foot blast off of Luis Madero in the sixth inning. With the monster four-hit effort, the hot-hitting first baseman is now slashing .301/.399/.519 with 27 long balls and 70 RBI on the season.
Max Muncy - 2-for-3, HR (28), 3 R, 5 RBI, BB
Muncy had another monster night at the dish as the Dodgers walloped the Pirates on Wednesday night, crushing a two-run shot off of J.T. Brubaker in the first inning to open the scoring. He then smacked a three-run shot off of Brubaker in the fourth inning to extend the Dodgers early lead to 7-0. With the two-hit attack, Muncy is now hitting .276/.408/.575 with 28 taters and 75 RBI on the year.
Wil Myers - 2-for-4, 2 HR (15), 3 RBI, 3 R
With Fernando Tatis Jr. playing right field, Myers now finds himself in a platoon with Tommy Pham in left field. He stated his case for additional at-bats in this one, crushing a two-run shot off of Chi Chi Gonzalez in the second inning and adding a solo blast off of Ben Bowden in the fourth. He struck out in each of his other two at-bats. For the season, Myers is now slashing .259/.342/.442 with 15 homers and 52 RBI.
Marcus Semien - 2-for-5, 2 HR (29), 2 RBI, 2 R
Semien continued his offensive onslaught with a pair of solo homers in a losing effort against the Nationals on Wednesday. He victimized Nationals phenom Josiah Gray in the third inning and then Ryne Harper in the seventh. Back in the leadoff spot in the Blue Jays lineup with George Springer back on the injured list, Semien is now hitting .270/.336/.530 with 29 homers, 72 RBI and 13 stolen bases in what has been a tremendous all-around season.
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EDGE Priority Pickup
Frank Schwindel, 1B, Chicago Cubs -- Available in 70% of Yahoo fantasy leagues.
Since the fire sale that sent Anthony Rizzo to the Yankees just before the trade deadline, Schwindel has been given the chance to function as the team’s regular first baseman. The 29-year-old has responded in a big way, slashing .320/.354/.627 with five homers and 17 RBI in 24 games this season -- and .382/.414/.727 with four homers and 14 RBI in 16 games with the Cubs. That level of production obviously isn’t sustainable, but Schwindel should continue to play every day and hit in the middle of the Cubs lineup, which has plenty of value in NL-only and deeper mixed leagues.
Daniel Bard vs. Padres - 1 IP, 0 ER, 1 H, 0 BB, 1 K (20th save)
It’s not always pretty, and the ratios haven’t been very appealing this season, but it’s starting to look like Bard is going to go wire-to-wire with the Rockies closer gig this season -- and that certainly has value in most mixed leagues. With Wednesday’s scoreless ninth inning, he now boasts a 4.44 ERA and 1.52 WHIP over 48 2/3 innings on the season while converting 20 of his first 27 save opportunities.
Kyle Finnegan vs. Blue Jays - 1 1/3 IP, 0 ER, 1 H, 0 BB, 1 K (4th save)
Save situations haven’t been easy to come by for the Nationals lately -- as this was Finnegan’s fist opportunity since August 7 -- but he still looks to unquestionably be the preferred ninth inning option for manager Dave Martinez. Finnegan came on with two men on and two outs in the eighth inning, getting Alejandro Kirk to fly out to end the threat. He then returned for the ninth, allowing a two-out infield single to Bo Bichette but nothing more. He owns a strong 2.96 ERA and troublesome 1.40 WHIP on the season, and based on his security in the closer’s role he should be owned in all mixed leagues at this point.
Scott Barlow vs. Astros - 1 IP, 0 ER, 3 H, 0 BB, 0 K (7th save)
This certainly wasn’t the smoothest of ninth innings for Barlow, who took over with a one-run lead to protect. The 28-year-old right-hander allowed one-out singles to Chase McCormick and Jake Meyers to put the tying run at second base. He battled back to get Jason Castro to line out to center, then gave up what looked to be a game-tying RBI single to Jose Altuve, but Andrew Benintendi fired a frozen rope from left field to cut down McCormick at the plate and preserve the victory. It’s the first save for Barlow since July 26 while Jake Brentz has recorded two saves during that stretch, including on Tuesday.
Thursday’s Matchup of the Day
Finally, the moment everyone has been waiting for, in the final matchup on Thursday night we’ll get to witness Walker/Buehler. Or Walker Buehler vs. Walker. Either way, it’s a pair of National League All-Star hurlers going toe-to-toe -- though they’ve been trending in different directions.
Buehler has been outstanding this season, compiling a 2.09 ERA, 0.94 WHIP and 162/41 K/BB ratio across 154 2/3 innings through his 24 starts. He’ll be looking to improve to 13-2 on the season and according to Vegas is a major favorite in this one (-240). He has also been rolling as of late, as he has allowed two runs or fewer in each of his last seven starts and hasn’t allowed more than three runs in a start since May 11.
On the other side, Taijuan Walker has been trending in the opposite direction. After a tremendous first half earned him his first ever All-Star nod, Walker has stumbled out of the gate with a 7.81 ERA over 27 2/3 innings in six starts since the Mid-Summer Classic. He was better his last time out though -- striking out eight over 6 2/3 innings of one-run baseball against these Dodgers.
Even with the recent struggles, Walker still sits at 7-7 with a 3.75 ERA, 1.18 WHIP and 110/44 K/BB ratio over 117 2/3 innings in 22 starts this season.
American League Quick Hits: Athletics right-hander Chris Bassitt was diagnosed with a fractured cheekbone and maxilla (upper jawbone) after being drilled in the side of the face by a line drive during Tuesday’s start. Jon Heyman of MLB Network also noted that Bassitt’s vision is 20-20 and all other scans came back clean. Given how scary the situation looked initially, that’s terrific news. … Byron Buxton (hand) is scheduled to take live batting practice in St. Paul on Thursday. … George Springer was diagnosed with a Grade 1 left knee sprain. While it’s the lowest grade sprain, the oft-injured outfielder is still expected to miss at least a couple of weeks. … The Astros released former top prospect Francis Martes. … The Twins pushed Kenta Maeda’s next start back a couple of days to Saturday against the Yankees. … Lewis Thorpe was removed from Wednesday’s start against the Indians in the second inning due to left shoulder soreness. … The Orioles claimed Zack Burdi off of waivers from the White Sox and optioned him to Triple-A Norfolk. … Ross Stripling (oblique) will remain shut down from throwing for at least the next week. … The Blue Jays designated Rafael Dolis for assignment. … Jays skipper Charlie Montoyo said that Cavan Biggio (neck, back) won’t be activated until he gets his bat going in the minors. … Julian Merryweather (oblique) will begin a minor league rehab assignment on Wednesday. … Akil Baddoo (head) began a minor league rehab assignment at Triple-A Toledo on Wednesday. … The Yankees activated Aroldis Chapman (elbow) from the 10-day IL. … The Angels placed left-hander Patrick Sandoval on the 10-day IL with a left lumbar spine stress reaction. … The Tigers acquired Dustin Garneau from the Rockies for cash considerations. … Zach Plesac was knocked around for six runs (five earned) over 4 2/3 innings in a no-decision against the Twins. … Jose Ramirez smacked his 27th home run in a losing effort against the Twins. … Miguel Sano clubbed his 20th homer and drove in three runs to lead the Twins to victory there. … Teoscar Hernandez homered for the fourth consecutive game in a losing effort against the Nationals. … Anthony Rizzo returned from the COVID-19 injured list and drove in two runs as the Yankees topped the Red Sox. … Cedric Mullins clubbed his 21st home run as the Orioles fell to the Rays. … Ryan Yarbrough fired five shutout innings in a victory over the O’s. … Marco Gonzales hurled 5 1/3 scoreless innings in a victory over the Rangers. … Luis Robert went 3-for-4 and drove in two runs as the White Sox eked out a one-run victory over the Athletics.
National League Quick Hits: Pat Ragazzo of Sports Illustrated reports that the Mets are leaning toward shutting Jacob deGrom (elbow) down for the season. … Willson Contreras (knee) played catch and did some agility work on Wednesday and could return from the injured list when first eligible on Sunday. … Adbert Alzolay (hamstring) threw a light bullpen session without issue and could rejoin the Cubs rotation early next week. … Austin Gomber will return from the paternity leave list to start on Friday against the Diamondbacks. … James McCann was held out of the Mets lineup for a second straight game due to back spasms. … Ramiel Tapia (toe) is going to attempt running on Friday as he works his way back from a sprained right big toe. … Javier Baez (back) took ground balls for the third straight day without issue on Wednesday. … Anthony DeSclafani was pulled from his start against the Mets in the second inning after suffering an ankle injury. … Jake Arrieta was removed from his Padres debut -- after allowing five runs in 3 1/3 innings -- due to a hamstring injury. … Tyler Mahle was rocked for five runs in five innings in a loss to the Cubs. … Trevor Story homered and drove in a pair of runs as the Rockies triumphed over the Padres. … Kevin Pillar slugged a three-run homer in the 12th inning to lead the Mets past the Giants. … Juan Soto and Josh Bell each belted their 20th home runs and drove in three as the Nationals rallied to beat the Blue Jays. … Isan Diaz went 3-for-4 and scored three runs as the Marlins fell to the Braves. …Jack Flaherty struck out eight over six innings of two-run baseball in a tough-luck no-decision against the Brewers. … Avisail Garcia blasted two home runs -- including a game-tying solo shot off of Alex Reyes in the ninth inning -- as the Brewers beat the Cardinals in extra innings. … Mitch White hurled 7 1/3 innings of shutout baseball out of the Dodgers bullpen -- striking out six in an impressive victory over the Pirates.