1. Jose Fernandez, Miami Marlins. Welcome back, Jose! He got off to a shaky start when he allowed two runs to the Giants in the top of the first. He later allowed a home run, so it was the first time in his career he'd allowed three earned runs in a home start. Still, it was a positive sign as he fanned six in six innings with no walks just 13 months after he went down with Tommy John surgery. He was pretty pumped up: His fastball averaged 95.7 mph -- actually higher than in 2013 or 2014, when he averaged 94.9 both seasons. His slider was the same 83 mph he'd averaged before. All good signs for one of the most dynamic and exciting players in the game. Here's more on his start. Oh, he also got the win as the Marlins swept the Giants (Matt Cain's own return for 2015 wasn't nearly as successful -- he gave up seven hits, four walks and five runs in five innings) and did this:
2. Scott Kazmir, Oakland Athletics. Yes, it was against the Mariners, but it still counts as a great start! Kazmir retired 21 of the first 22 batters. He pitched eight scoreless innings in a 4-0 win, throwing 105 pitches, although he didn't come out for the ninth for the chance to get his first shutout since 2006. He's 5-5 with a 2.56 ERA, and this start may have pushed him onto the AL All-Star roster and increased his trade value with scouts from several teams in attendance.
Scott Kazmir threw eight innings, allowed 2 hits, no walks struck out 7 for #Athletics. He is 3-1 with a 1.53 ERA in his last 5 starts.— John Hickey (@JHickey3) July 3, 2015
3. Yovani Gallardo, Texas Rangers. Speaking of potential All-Stars, Gallardo allowed two hits in six scoreless innings as the Rangers beat the Orioles 2-0 with two runs in the top of the ninth. Gallardo lowered his ERA to 2.56 and has thrown 29 1/3 consecutive scoreless innings. Gallardo isn't blowing hitters away -- he has just 13 strikeouts in his past four starts -- but he hasn't allowed a home run in his past eight. His curveball, once his dominant pitch, hadn't been quite as sharp the past couple seasons in Milwaukee, but batters are hitting just .122 against it (.242 last year).
That's 29 1/3 straight scoreless innings for Yovani Gallardo, good for fourth in #Rangers history, according to STATS Inc.— Jeff Wilson (@JeffWilson_FWST) July 3, 2015
4. Atlanta Braves. Welcome to the big leagues, Manny Banuelos. All you have to do is face Max Scherzer. Once a top prospect with the Yankees, he missed all of 2013 and then the Braves acquired the 24-year-old Mexican in the offseason for Chasen Shreve and David Carpenter. Banuelos walked 4.1 batters per nine innings at Triple-A, but walked zero and struck out seven in 5 2/3 innings before leaving with dehydration and cramping in his left fingers and left leg. The Braves then beat Scherzer with an infield single, sacrifice and Cameron Maybin's walk-off chopper over third base. Two soft hits, but that's baseball. As Scherzer said after the loss, "Baseball's a funny game sometimes."
5. Neil Walker, Pittsburgh Pirates. He went 4-for-5 with three RBIs in Pittsburgh's 8-4 win over Detroit -- a day after getting four hits, including two home runs. How about this: He became the first Pirates player with four hits and at least three RBIs in back-to-back games since Willie Stargell in 1966. The Pirates also finished off a sweep of the Tigers, dropping Detroit to .500 at 39-39. Tigers fans can maybe take solace that the 2012 team was 39-42 before turning things around and winning the division. But Detroit only won 88 games that year. That may not cut it in 2015.
Neil Walker has been the real deal this series. that's why we call him "The True Thing."— James Santelli (@JamesSantelli) July 2, 2015