Howard Smith/US Presswire
If you sit out in the left-field bleachers at Citizens Bank Park and listen very closely, you just might hear the growing chant coming from the crowd every fifth day: "Pedro Pedro Pedro PEDRO!"
OK, I might be confusing that with a certain 20-year-old movie about a baseball team that called a Great Lakes city its home, but it's a chant that fits, accounting for the buzz that has surrounded Pedro Martinez since his arrival in Philadelphia. (Hey Phillies fans, steal this idea already!)
For the fifth time in his seven starts for the Philadelphia Phillies, Martinez won Sunday, and this one was a masterpiece, eight shutout innings of six-hit baseball that amounted to a season-high 75 game score. It's his best performance by game score since May 31, 2006 (80), his second season with the New York Mets, and this one was pitched against the Mets, his second victory in as many starts against his former team this season. Martinez now has a 2.87 ERA and 1.09 WHIP, numbers that would rank somewhat favorably against those from his prime years.
Martinez isn't quite the strikeout artist he was during those prime years. However, if there were any lingering doubts about his ability to transform from "flamethrower" to "pitcher," he has answered them this season. His 8.12 strikeouts-per-nine-innings ratio is his second lowest since 1995 and comes on the heels of a career-worst 7.18 K-per-9 ratio in 2008, when he was entirely ineffective otherwise. Martinez has shown he has learned to live without the ability to constantly register bloated strikeout totals. One doesn't experience an uptick in those numbers without making some sort of adjustment; he's getting more K's because he's adapting his repertoire to make up for what is less impressive stuff than he had five years ago.
Here's what's most curious about Martinez's Sunday performance: He was left out there to throw 130 pitches, after throwing 119 in his previous start. Remember when the knock on Martinez was that he became entirely ineffective once his pitch count reached 100? In his past two turns, he has faced nine hitters after hitting the century mark in pitches; he has retired six of them, walked one, and surrendered one double and one home run. Not too bad!
• Ryan Madson notched his fourth save in six days to close out Pedro Martinez's 1-0 victory in the second game of Sunday's doubleheader, although interestingly, the man he replaced as closer, Brad Lidge, notched the save in the first game. The controversy began when Madson came on to finish Lidge's job Tuesday; since then, Madson is 3-for-4 in save chances with a 6.75 ERA, 1.75 WHIP and .412 batting average allowed in four appearances. Lidge is 1-1 in save chances with a 9.00 ERA, 2.00 WHIP and .400 BAA in two appearances. And Brett Myers hasn't had a save chance, and has a 20.25 ERA, 2.25 WHIP and .429 BAA in two appearances. Madson looks like he has the firmest grip on this job right now, but that might be a product of two factors: (1) Lidge isn't pitching effectively enough to unseat him; and (2) Madson is more capable of pitching well on back-to-back nights than Myers. To the latter point, Myers has made five relief appearances since returning from the disabled list, and the only two in which he has allowed a hit were the ones in which he was pitching on consecutive nights.
• Tommy Hunter continues to win games for the Texas Rangers, notching his first career complete game to defeat the Seattle Mariners in the first game of a doubleheader. He is 8-3 with a 3.33 ERA and 1.15 WHIP in 15 starts, despite a 0.66-1 ground ball-fly ball ratio and pedestrian 5.04 strikeouts-per-nine-innings ratio. Keep riding this hot streak, but understand those latter numbers make him a top candidate for statistical regression in 2010.
• Washington Nationals rookie Ian Desmond keeps up the hot hitting, going 2-for-5 with one run scored, marking his third consecutive multihit effort to begin his big league career. He got the start at second base in the game Sunday and might get additional playing time there, according to the team's Web site. Desmond, a .330 hitter with 21 stolen bases in 97 games combined between Double- and Triple-A this season, is well worth a look in NL-only leagues.
• Brad Penny turned in his third consecutive quality start since joining the San Francisco Giants, and this one, like his first appearance for them, at Philadelphia, wasn't the easiest of matchups (versus the Los Angeles Dodgers). The right-hander tossed seven innings of two-run, five-hit baseball for the victory, helping preserve the Giants' slim playoffs hopes, and he seems right at home back in the National League West. It'd be foolish to ignore him in the midst of a hot streak like this.
• Penny's opponent, Chad Billingsley, continues to raise questions about his performance after lasting only four innings and serving up three runs on eight hits. It's the third time in Billingsley's past four starts that he has fallen short of the quality-start threshold, and two of those were facing easy-as-pie matchups (at the Cincinnati Reds, at the Giants). The right-hander's issues go beyond troubling his fantasy owners; the Dodgers have to be legitimately concerned about him heading into the playoffs.
• Don't think for one second that CC Sabathia's recent performance doesn't fall right in line with his career trend of being a fabulous second-half pitcher. With his win Sunday, he leads the American League with 17 and is one of the few pitchers with a legitimate chance at 20. Plus, he's 6-0 with a 2.01 ERA and 0.96 WHIP in racking up eight consecutive quality starts. Really, the only differences between the Sabathia of late 2009 and the Sabathia of late 2008 are that he's not needed to pitch so deep into games and so often on short rest, and that he's in the tougher league in the most potent offensive division in baseball. Frankly, he's looking about as good as any pitcher could fantasy-wise lately.
Juan Uribe, Giants
He's getting regular playing time all over the infield, starting every one of his team's games since Aug. 25, and with his 3-for-4, one-homer, two-RBI performance Sunday, he's now batting .349 (22-for-63) with seven home runs and 13 RBIs in 18 contests since that date.
Javier Vazquez, Braves
What makes his complete-game performance stand out was the difficulty of matchup; it was a road start versus the St. Louis Cardinals with Cy Young candidate Chris Carpenter as his counterpart. Vazquez carried a shutout into the ninth inning, until Matt Holliday's two-RBI single made it a 9-2 game.
Congratulations to Ichiro Suzuki, who, with an infield single in the second inning of the second game of Sunday's doubleheader, became the first player in major league history to record nine consecutive seasons with 200-plus hits. At his current pace, Ichiro might be able to reach the 3,000-hit plateau by the end of the 2014 campaign -- only his 14th in the States. By the way, counting his numbers in Japan, Ichiro now has 3,283 hits, only 973 shy of Pete Rose's career total.
• John Maine, who seemed all but done for the year himself, miraculously returned to the New York Mets' rotation on Sunday after being activated from the DL. He went three innings in the first game of a doubleheader at Philadelphia, allowing one run on two hits and throwing 35 of 57 pitches for strikes. According to The New York Times, Mets manager Jerry Manuel says Maine will remain in the rotation the remainder of the year and will make another start this week.
• The Colorado Rockies promoted Esmil Rogers from Triple-A Colorado Springs to make a spot start for them this past Saturday, and he gave them four innings of two-run, three-hit baseball at San Diego. The right-hander presumably will stick around as a long reliever and emergency starter should Jose Contreras' quadriceps injury turn out to be serious, but Rogers' 7.42 ERA in 12 appearances for the Sky Sox this season underscores his level of risk in fantasy.
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Stephania Bell: He has a pinched nerve in his back, usually the result of a bulging disc. Yes, I think it will bother him for the rest of the season, at least intermittently. These are not quick to resolve in the first place, and if it weren't this time of year, they might take him out for a little longer. At this point, you have to accept the day-to-day with him, I think for the remainder of his season.
-- Full chat transcript
Jerry Crasnick: I get the sense that Morales is one of those Papelbon-Joba-Gagne type of guys who's better when he can go out there for short doses and let it fly. He had some problems staying focused and maintaining his concentration as a starter. Trust me, those 7th and 8th inning shutdown guys are pretty valuable. Carlos Marmol carried the Cubs bullpen for a couple of years until he forgot how to throw strikes.
-- Full chat transcript
Monday's fantasy chat schedule:
Matthew Berry, 3 p.m. ET
• The Toronto Blue Jays pushed back Roy Halladay from Monday to Tuesday, which robs us of a prime pitchers' duel between Halladay and fellow Cy Young contender Justin Verlander. The Detroit Tigers get the advantage as a result of David Purcey earning the spot start for the Blue Jays, and that's in spite of the Tigers probably needing to sit Curtis Granderson and Carlos Guillen against the left-hander. Verlander is a must-start in a winnable contest.
• Tim Lincecum will return to the San Francisco Giants' rotation after missing his previous turn with a back injury, after he successfully completed a bullpen session Saturday. It's an important development in two regards: (1) He needs all the help he can get in the National League Cy Young race; and (2) the Giants sorely need him in a key matchup with the Colorado Rockies. The health questions might have made Lincecum a shaky fantasy option if the game were at Coors Field, but it's at AT&T Park, which means he's a must-start.
• John Smoltz's fantasy owners need to keep in mind that he's being skipped in the rotation Monday, as the St. Louis Cardinals will use Todd Wellemeyer for a spot start versus the Florida Marlins. Smoltz is likely to miss only the one turn.
• For more on Monday's games, check Daily Notes.