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What’s there to even say about Shohei Ohtani anymore? He has been simply amazing since coming over from Japan and only seems to be getting better. Especially as a pitcher. He showed off not only a supreme arm but some killer confidence – it just feels different – in a 10 strikeout gem against the Marlins on Wednesday. Ohtani also collected a two-run single and stole a base in the 5-2 win. He became the first player since the recording of RBI began in 1920 to fan 10, drive in at least two and steal a base. Simply mind-blowing stuff.
This sets up one of the most intriguing MVP races which we can remember in some time, one which pits a singularly talented individual stuck on a mediocre team in Ohtani against the best player on a potentially historic Yankees team in Aaron Judge. Judge had his own moment in the sun on Wednesday, cracking a grand slam against the Pirates. While it’s difficult to even really conceptualize what Ohtani’s doing – we essentially haven’t seen anybody like him in the modern era – Judge fits the traditional MVP mold of best player, best team. He could end up with over 60 homers on a team that wins over 110 games. You can’t go wrong either way should Ohtani and Judge keep it up the next few months, obviously, but get ready for some fun debates.
Hitters with an EDGE
Aaron Judge – 3-for-4, 2B, HR, 4 RBI, SB, BB
Judge continued his MVP-worthy tour of the bigs on Wednesday, filling the stat sheet with the first of two Yankees grand slams – Aaron Hicks had the other one – in the team’s 16-0 bludgeoning of the Pirates. Proving to be slightly mortal, he had actually gone four straight games without a long ball before belting his MLB-best 30th on Wednesday.
Kyle Schwarber – 3-for-4, 2 HR, 2 RBI, 2 R
Schwarber clocked solo home runs in the fourth and sixth innings of Wednesday’s 3-2 loss to the Nationals. That makes two consecutive two-homer games for Schwarber, who is now up 27 homers on the year. Aaron Judge can certainly see him in the rearview mirror at this juncture.
Pete Alonso – 4-for-5, 2B
While the Mets finished with eight runs on Wednesday, Alonso somehow managed to neither score a run nor drive in a run while finishing out with four hits. Baseball can be a strange game. This was Alonso’s third career game with at least four hits. His career best for a contest came during the 2019 season, when he collected five knocks against the Braves.
Miguel Cabrera – 1-for-3, 2B, 3 RBI
Cabrera is now rolling on a 13-game hitting streak. While the power of his youth has ebbed with the passage of time, Miggy remains as smart as they come at the dish and is currently hitting .308/.347/.372 in 253 at-bats.
Jorge Polanco – 2-for-4, 2 HR, 3 RBI
Polanco has homered four times in his last six games, a stretch which includes three combined homers over his last two games. More efforts like these recent ones are needed if Polanco is to top the career-best 33 long balls he launched last season.
Pitchers with an EDGE
Shohei Ohtani – 7 IP, 2 H, 1 R (0 ER), 10 K, 3 BB
If Ohtani’s brilliant bat carried a little more of the weight during his MVP campaign in 2021, it’s his arm which has really stood out this season. Ohtani has now racked up double-digit strikeout efforts in three straight games and four of his last seven. He holds a 2.44 ERA, 0.99 WHIP and 111/20 K/BB ratio in 14 starts (81 innings).
Luis Severino – 6 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 3 K, 0 BB
Not many fireworks for Severino in this one, but six shutout innings is six shutout innings whether you fan 10 or three. This was his fourth shutout showing in 15 starts this season.
Max Fried – 6 IP, 5 H, 0 R, 4 K, 1 BB
Fried just keeps on rolling. He improved to 9-2 in Wednesday’s 3-0 win over the Cardinals and has now allowed more than two runs just once over his last nine starts. In that space, he has six outings with one or no runs allowed.
Corey Kluber – 6 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 5 K, 0 BB
Kluber has very quietly been putting together a nice rejuvenation campaign with the Rays this summer. Over his last 10 starts, he has surrendered more than two runs just twice. The former Cy Young winner owns a 3.62 ERA, 1.11 WHIP and 72/13 K/BB ratio across 16 starts (82 innings) this season.
Josiah Gray – 6 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 11 K, 1 BB
Setting a season-high with the 11 strikeouts, this was Gray’s second game of double-digit whiffs in 16 starts this season.
Corbin Burnes – 7 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 10 K, 1 BB
Burnes picks up a win with this kind of performance on most occasions, but he did not end up drawing a decision in Wednesday’s 2-1 loss to the Cubs. This was Burnes’ sixth double-digit strikeout effort in 17 starts this season. He has struck out at least nine in three of his last four starts.
EDGE Priority Pickup
Brusdar Graterol, RP, LAD – Available in 91 percent of Yahoo leagues
Call it a speculative play. Call it, also, a complete lack of trust in Craig Kimbrel to get the job done. Graterol recorded his second save of the season via a scoreless ninth in Tuesday’s 5-2 win over the Rockies. With Daniel Hudson lost for the campaign due to a severe knee injury and Kimbrel struggling through everything from injury to mechanics, all resulting in a decidedly uninspiring season, Graterol is a step away from real save duties on a World Series contender.
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Jordan Romano – SV (18), 1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 2 K, 0 BB
No muss, no fuss for Romano, who closed out a 2-1 win with an efficient ninth which saw him throw just 11 pitches (8 strikes). He has not given up a run in any of his last four appearances.
Jorge López – SV (14), 1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 2 K, 0 BB
López had surrendered a combined five runs over his last three appearances before rebounding with a semi-clean effort on Wednesday. He improved to 14-of-18 in save chances with his effort against the Rangers in what finished as a 2-1 win.
Scott Barlow – SV (13), 1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 2 K, 0 BB
Barlow showed the value of having a short memory, as he had been rocked for a walk-off home run by Yordan Álvarez in his last appearance. Largely setting aside that unfortunate Fourth of July performance, Barlow has now recorded saves in four of his last five appearances.
David Robertson – SV (12), 1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 1 K, 0 BB
Robertson just keeps on humming along with his disappearing curve while all the cool kids are throwing 99 mph gas. He has collected four saves and a win over his last six appearances.
Tanner Rainey – SV (12), 1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 2 K, 0 BB
Rainey has now struck out two batters in each of his last three appearances. He had also given up runs in each of his last two trips ot the mound prior to shaping up in fine style on Wednesday.
A.J. Minter, SV (2), 1 IP, 1 H, 0 ER, 1 K, 0 BB
Minter has now recorded saves in two of his last four appearances as the Braves try to figure out their late-inning carousel without Kenley Jansen (heart).
Craig Kimbrel – W, 1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 K, 0 BB
No strikeouts for Kimbrel, nor a save (he came into a tie game), but he put together a clean frame, something which has been hard to come by at times this season.
Sam Long – SV (1), 1/3 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 1 K, 0 BB
Long had himself an easy one on Wednesday, coming in for the final out – which he recorded on a whiff of the pinch-hitting Jordan Luplow – of a 7-5 after Camilo Doval had wobbled in allowing an RBI single earlier in the ninth. Doval remains closer for the Giants, but Long could have a shot at some save value if he continues to struggle.
Thursday’s Matchup of the Day
OK, we’ll be honest, we’re not putting the spotlight on this game due to the stylings of Kris Bubic (1-5, 7.06 ERA, 1.83 WHIP). It’s all eyes on Verlander, here, as he enters a prime matchup against a bad Royals team which could potentially be missing Bobby Witt Jr., who continues to try to shake it out after taking one to the hand earlier in the week. Verlander has been circling a no-hitter throughout the season, posting a pair of two-hit-allowed efforts over his last six starts. Also included in that space, three-hit-allowed and four-hit-allowed showings. That all of this is happening at age 39 coming off of major elbow surgery makes it all the more impressive. This might be the best matchup Verlander sees all season. He will enter Thursday’s matchup the owner of an immaculate 2.03 ERA, 0.83 WHIP and 90/17 K/BB ratio in 15 starts (97 1/3 innings). That 2.03 ERA, by the way, would be the best of Verlander’s illustrious career if the season ended today.
AL Quick Hits: Brandon Lowe (back) is set to begin a minor league rehab assignment. … Rich Hill (knee) threw off flat ground. … Yoan Moncada was lifted against the Twins due to a possible foot injury. … Anthony Rizzo seems to either be crushing homers or sitting due to back tightness these days; he did the latter against the Pirates on Wednesday. … Twins outrighted Juan Minaya to Triple-A St. Paul. … Josh Donaldson hit his seventh homer of the season. … Aaron Hicks matched Aaron Judge with a grand slam of his own. … Randy Arozarena homered and drove in three as the Rays trounced the Red Sox. … Yoan Moncada was forced out with a bruised foot against the Twins. … Yankees signed former Pirates closer Richard Rodriguez to a minor league contract. … Rafael Devers is dealing with the ol’ sore back, sore hamstring combo. … Chris Sale (ribs) walked five in his most recent Triple-A rehab start. … Carlos Correa is dealing with soreness in his legs.
NL Quick Hits: Nelson Velázquez took the golden sombrero against the Brewers. … Juan Soto (calf) made his way back to the lineup while teammate Nelson Cruz remains laid low by illness. … Joey Votto continues to deal with back tightness … Steven Matz (shoulder) is expected to make one final rehab start in the minors on Thursday before rejoining the Cardinals … Greg Allen (hamstring) is off on a minor-league rehab assignment with Single-A Bradenton. … Mookie Betts walked it off against the Rockies with a little bouncer of an infield single. … Darin Ruf connected on a clutch two-run homer against the Diamondbacks. … Aaron Nola pitched into the eighth inning allowing three runs in a loss to the Nationals. … Brandon Nimmo bashed his seventh homer of the season. … David Peterson walked five. … Hunter Strickland blew his second save. … A left oblique strain has sent Evan Longoria to the 10-day injured list. … X-rays on Jonathan India’s injured ankle came back negative. … Chris Taylor hit the 10-day injured list with a foot fracture. … Brandon Lowe (back) is expected to begin a minor league rehab assignment with Triple-A Durham on Thursday.