The Cincinnati Reds find themselves just one game out of the National League Wild Card after their ace Luis Castillo turned in his best outing of the season on Friday. The 28-year-old shut down the defending World Series champion Dodgers over 6 1/3 shutout innings while striking out 10.
This performance should act as a quick and terrifying reminder to other contending teams that anything can happen in a one-game Wild Card, and that the Reds have an ace up their sleeves after all. Over the course of the season, Castillo has been on a roller coaster, starting with the cold weather in April, a brutal May, and a stellar stretch heading into the All-Star break.
Walker Buehler, a Cy Young candidate, was on the mound for Los Angeles. The Dodgers co-ace would end up allowing three runs over six frames. A respectable outing, but not good enough to defeat the Cincinnati right-hander on Friday. Castillo's signature changeup generated 11 swings and misses for a 42 percent whiff rate (36 percent overall) with a 34 percent CSW (called strikes plus whiffs).
The Reds ace left the mound to a roar of applause from a crowd just shy of 30,000 at the Great American Ballpark, giving the fans a reason to cheer and hope for what is possible. Castillo carried a 7.20 ERA at the end of May with opposing batters hitting .321 against him. Over his last seven starts, it has been an entirely different story, with the righty posting a 2.78 ERA and 1.13 WHIP over 45 1/3 innings with 51 strikeouts and 12 walks.
Castillo has generated a 61.8 percent groundball rate since August 1 with a 25 percent strikeout rate. The only other starting pitcher that has been able to match those parameters is Logan Webb of the San Francisco Giants. Fantasy managers may be slow to forget the early struggles of Luis Castillo, but that may come at the detriment of missing out on a very special pitcher next season.
Pitchers with an EDGE
Dylan Cease vs Rangers
5 IP, 0 ER, 4 H, 2 BB, 10 K
The right-hander picked up his 11th win of the season on Friday and generated a 34 percent CSW while collecting 17 whiffs, nine of which were produced by his slider. Cease has gone through an up and down season in terms of overall results, but the 25-year-old is now up to 212 strikeouts over 156 1/3 innings this season. The future is bright for the White Sox righty.
Corey Kluber vs Indians
6 IP, 0 ER, 4 H, 2 BB, 4 K
The former Cy Young award winner was able to keep the Indians lineup guessing with his curveball and changeup all night in the Bronx. Kluber earned a 33 percent whiff rate with those pitches shouldering most of the load. The 35-year-old allowed 11 runs over 11 2/3 innings since being activated from the injured list on August 30, so this outing was a great sign. Kluber now boasts a 3.68 ERA and 1.28 WHIP over 71 frames this season with 76 strikeouts.
Madison Bumgarner vs Astros
7 IP, 2 ER, 1 H, 1 BB, 3 K
Bumgarner carried a no-hitter past the fifth inning on Friday before Jose Altuve would wreck it by blasting a two-out, two-run homer in the sixth. The 32-year-old was able to put together an unofficial seven-inning no-hitter earlier this season as part of a shortened doubleheader but has been otherwise disappointing this season. Arizona’s right-hander carries a 4.56 ERA and 1.16 WHIP over 136 1/3 innings this year.
Hitters with an EDGE
Jarred Kelenic vs Royals
2-for-4, 2 HR, 4 RBI, 2 R
The first of two home runs by the rookie outfielder came in the second inning off Jon Heasley and traveled an estimated 374 feet with an exit velocity of 110.9 miles per hour. Kelenic enjoyed his first trip around the bases so much that he decided to treat Heasley to an encore performance in the fourth. The second blast was a mammoth shot that measured 435 feet. The 22-year-old is still batting an unsightly .171/.246/.328 over 287 at-bats this season but is slugging .692 with four home runs over the last contests. It is likely only a matter of time before Kelenic is able to find his bearings in the major leagues.
Joey Gallo vs Indians
3-for-4, 2 HR, 3 R
After an absolutely brutal start to his campaign in New York, Joey Gallo is now slashing .389/.400/.1222 over the last seven-game switch five home runs. The 27-year-old crushed 811 feet worth of home runs against Cleveland and is coming alive when the Yankees need him the most. Gallo now has 37 long balls this season to go with 75 RBI and 106 walks over 571 plate appearances.
Jorge Polanco vs Blue Jays
3-for-5, HR, 2 RBI
The switch-hitter continued his hot-hitting ways on Friday versus the Blue Jays, crushing his 31st home run of the season. Polanco is having a very quiet all-star caliber season batting .279 with 31 bombs, 90 RBI, and 10 stolen bases over 538 at-bats. It will be interesting to see where the 28-year-old is valued in fantasy drafts in 2022 after setting a new career-high in power.
Dylan Carlson vs Padres
2-for-4, 2 HR, 5 RBI
The 22-year-old crushed a no-doubt home run off newly signed Vince Velazquez in the fourth inning before adding a grand slam off reliever Ross Detwiler in the eighth. It was the rookie's first multi-homer game of his career, who is now hitting .259/.338/.420 with 15 long balls, 57 RBI, and 72 runs over 568 plate appearances.
EDGE Priority Pickup
Edmundo Sosa (Available in 95% percent of Yahoo fantasy leagues)
The Cardinals infielder batting .330/.396/.523 over the last 30 games with three home runs and 15 RBI. Sosa has generated a maximum exit velocity of 114.6 miles per hour this season (94th percentile) while also boasting a 98th percentile sprint speed. If you add those skills to his elite outs above average on defense, the Cardinals have no reason to remove the 25-year-old from the lineup. If you are in need of at-bats down the stretch in your fantasy leagues. Sosa looks to be a fine option who is in a groove.
Josh Hader vs Cubs
1 IP, 0 ER, 1 H 0 BB, 1 K (32nd Save)
The Brewers southpaw has not allowed an earned run over his last 15 appearances and boasts a 1.37 ERA this season with a 0.85 WHIP over 52 2/3 innings with 90 strikeouts.
Chris Stratton vs Marlins
1 IP, 0 ER, 1 H, 1 BB, 3 K (6th save)
The 31-year-old allowed a leadoff triple to Bryan De La Cruz to make things interesting but was able to strike out Payton Henry to end the game and protect a 2-1 lead for his sixth save of the season. Stratton has been solid in the absence of David Bednar.
Ian Kennedy vs Mets
1 1/3 IP, 0 ER, 0 H, 0 BB, 1 K (23rd Save)
The veteran’s previous two appearances ended in horrific fashion, so a drama-free save was just what the doctor ordered. Kennedy entered with two outs in the eighth inning after the Phillies' three-run lead was cut to one. He picked up his lone strikeouts of the night to strand the tying run on second before going to pitch a scoreless frame in the ninth. Kennedy now carries a 3.65 ERA and 1.11 WHIP over 49 1/3 innings with 57 punchouts.
Michael Lorenzen vs Dodgers
1 IP, 1 ER, 1 H, 0 BB, 1 K (4th save)
The right-hander hit a batter before surrendering an RBI single to Matt Beaty, but that is where the damage would end. Lorenzen has posted a 3.18 ERA and 1.15 WHIP over 22 2/3 innings with 20 strikeouts this season. Fantasy managers should not anticipate too many save opportunities going forward, as Mycal Givens was unavailable Friday night.
Carlos Estévez vs Nationals
1 IP, 0 ER, 2 H, 0 BB, 1 K (9th Save)
Estévez never quite gets away with a clean outing, but a save is a save. The 28-year-old carries an 8.10 ERA over his last seven appearances but has five saves to show for it. The Rockies right-hander has allowed a baserunner in seven consecutive outings and allowed two or more in six of those.
Kyle Finnegan vs Rockies
1 IP, 2 ER, 3 H, 1 BB, 0 K (4th Blown Save)
The 30-year-old has now allowed six runs over his last two appearances on seven hits with two home runs allowed. Finnegan may not be holding onto the closer’s role for very long, even with the cellar-dwelling Nationals.
Saturday’s Matchups of the Day
It is worth mentioning both of these matchups for Saturday due to their playoff implications. Max Scherzer has been pitching the best baseball of his hall of fame career with the Dodgers this summer and will not make things easy for the surging Reds and Sonny Gray. The Cincinnati right-hander has been pitching well of late, posting a 2.50 ERA and 0.76 WHIP over his last seven games.
Yu Davish, on the other hand, has been absolutely brutal in recent weeks. The 35-year-old has posted an abysmal 6.23 ERA and 1.23 WHIP over his last 15 contests and allowed eight earned runs over four frames in his last start versus the Giants. San Diego will need their ace to dig deep against veteran Adam Wainwright, who is having a resurgent season in St.Louis. The 40-year-old right-hander is 16-7 this year over 190 1/3 innings with a 2.88 ERA and 1.03 WHIP. Wainwright has been even better over the summer, posting a 1.24 ERA and 0.79 WHIP over his last seven.
American League Quick Hits: Gregory Soto left Friday’s game after being hit by a comebacker on the hand … Vladimir Guerrero Jr blasted his 46th home run of the season … Chris Sale tossed five innings of one-run ball, with one strikeout, against the Orioles … Austin Meadows collected his 100th RBI of the season versus the Tigers … Brad Keller has been shut down for the rest of the season with shoulder discomfort.
National League Quick Hits: Frank Schwindel hit his 13th home run of the season in a 2-for-5 effort versus the Brewers … Miles Mikolas tossed 5 2/3 scoreless innings in a win over the Padres … Gavin Lux suffered a forearm injury after being hit by a pitching machine Friday, x-rays came back negative … Jesse Winker left Friday’s game early after being hit by a pitch in the back in the eighth inning … Jake McGee was placed on the 10-day injured list with an oblique strain … Arizona sent Seth Beer to the injured list with a dislocated left shoulder … Reds placed Tyler Naquin on the 10-day injured list with bruised ribs.