Welcome to the last day of the 2016 season ... or is it? Depending on how things turn out, the Indians and Tigers may need to make up last Thursday's rainout with the possibility of playing another game on Tuesday and maybe even on Wednesday if there's a four-way tie for the American League wild-card berths.
Let's try this again.
Welcome to the last Sunday of the regular season! As has been tradition the last several campaigns, all 15 games are scheduled to start about the same time. The purpose is so all teams in games with playoff implications have to play their regulars and not have the luxury of backing into a playoff berth then scratching their scheduled starter. So for the 179th and final time this year, here's what you need to navigate through the final full slate of the 2016 regular season.
Max Scherzer is scheduled to take the hill for the Washington Nationals in a home tilt against the Miami Marlins. The Nationals will open the playoffs on Friday, meaning Scherzer will be working on regular rest for Game 1. The question is: How long will he be allowed to stay in on Sunday? Scherzer is one win away from the magic 20, so while it's highly unlikely the veteran righty tosses his usual seven-or-so frames, hurling five or six keeps him sharp while availing the chance of a win. In terms of DFS, the risk Scherzer's outing is cut short takes him out of cash play. Getting some exposure in tournaments is fine unless the club announces a pitch limit.
Chris Sale takes the hill at U.S. Cellular Field for the last time. No, I have no inside on an impending trade of the controversial lefty. As of Nov. 1, the venue commonly called The Cell will become Guaranteed Rate Field, forcing writers to finally learn how to spell guarantee properly. The Chicago White Sox have nothing on the line other than pride, so there's a good chance Sale pitches without any restrictions. This means the southpaw is the clear top choice for DFS, especially since the opposing Minnesota Twins fan at an elevated clip with a left-hander on the hill.
Justin Verlander takes the ball for the Detroit Tigers in Game 161, with a good chance he'll be pitching for the need to play the final game on Monday. The veteran right-hander takes the hill at Turner Field for the final game played in the venue as the Atlanta Braves will move to the newly constructed SunTrust Park next season. As has been well-documented in this space, the Braves have been one of the top offensive teams since the break, but history has taught us to lean on the side of the team with greater motivation. As such, Verlander is in play for all DFS formats, though Sale has the higher ceiling.
The Los Angeles Dodgers are locked into their playoff spot, so other than playing spoiler for the archrival San Francisco Giants, they have nothing to play for. Kenta Maeda gets the start for the NL West champs, and since he doesn't toss more than five or six innings anyway, he's not a DFS option.
Kyle Hendricks makes his last regular-season start on the road against the Cincinnati Reds. The Chicago Cubs have stated their Cy Young hopeful will be limited to 100 pitches, likely meaning five innings, but cracking the door open in the event a sixth frame helps the righty's cause for personal gains, perhaps to edge his ERA back under 2.00 or to increase the chance for his 17th win. Because the win is in play, using Hendricks in cash is viable, though he lacks the upside for GPP action.
As of this writing, the Baltimore Orioles haven't clinched a wild-card berth, meaning Kevin Gausman will have no restrictions against the New York Yankees in the Bronx. There are better plays on paper, but the motivation factor lifts Gausman to GPP consideration.
With the Boston Red Sox locked into a series with the Cleveland Indians, Sunday's finale is mostly a tune-up game for David Price, though there is some motivation to win for home field against the Tribe. Still, it's hard to imagine the southpaw working any more than five frames, despite this game being important for the visiting Toronto Blue Jays.
Assuming the Giants have not clinched a date in Citi Field for the wild-card game, Matt Moore will be taxed with getting them there. The lefty faces a Dodgers club more concerned with getting ready for their NLDS meeting with the Nationals. Add Moore to the list of high-upside tournament options working with no restrictions.
With so much in flux on the final Sunday, it's tough to pinpoint viable contrarian options. Sean Manaea fits the bill as the Oakland Athletics take on the Seattle Mariners in a game the Mariners need to win. There's a chance Oakland wants to limit the rookie's innings, but is there a huge risk leaving him in for six, maybe seven stanzas? The Mariners are tough, but Manaea has the platoon edge over most of the better Seattle sticks. If you're looking to throw a dart at a big pull on the final day off GPPs, Manaea is an intriguing option.
As tempting as the narrative is to use Felix Hernandez in a big game, the King isn't missing many bats, while the Athletics are hard to punchout. Therefore, it's best to fade the Mariners' right-hander for DFS purposes.
Jerad Eickhoff is owned in only 46 percent of ESPN leagues, so there's a chance he's available for those in leagues with daily moves. Facing a Mets team that's coming off a playing-clinching win, the Phillies' curveball specialist will likely face a lesser lineup. Not only is Eickhoff a great spot starter, he's in the mix for DFS too.
Matt Koch earned another start after impressing the Arizona Diamondbacks brass in his first start against the Nationals. This time the 25-year-old rookie draws the San Diego Padres at Chase Field. The lineup the Friars are using is much different from the one contributing the majority of their near-league-leading strikeouts. Still, it's not very dangerous, so if you need a miracle, Koch could be your savior.
The Texas Rangers have nothing to play for, but since it will be a week before Martin Perez throws again, there's no reason to restrict him against the Tampa Bay Rays. Especially if you need punch outs, consider the lefty an option.
Think of it this way: You only have one more chance to agonize whether to get exposure to or fade Coors Field this season. With Marquez working for the hosts and the bullpen collectively doing the honors for the guests, the runs should be crossing the plate left and right. The left-handed unit for the Rockies is in the best spot, so Charlie Blackmon, Carlos Gonzalez and David Dahl get their final of many mentions this season. The Brewers don't have many lefties to deploy against Marquez other than Scooter Gennett, but in that venue, it doesn't matter. Ryan Braun, Chris Carter and Domingo Santana are all candidates to end the season with a round-tripper.
If the White Sox wanted to sit their regulars, they'd have been doing it already. Admittedly, they don't really have any prospects to look at, so there's no reason Adam Eaton, Melky Cabrera, Jose Abreu and Todd Frazier won't be playing against still promising but raw Jose Berrios. The Twins' rookie has surrendered 12 homers in just 51 1/3 major league innings.
With their come-from-behind victory Saturday, the St. Louis Cardinals are still battling for the right to travel to Queens to take on the Mets. This puts Matt Carpenter and Brandon Moss in a great spot with the platoon bump over Ryan Vogelsong. Righties Aledmys Diaz, Stephen Piscotty, Jedd Gyorko and the rejuvenated Yadier Molina are considerations as well.
Most likely to hit a homer: He'll have to do it against ground ball specialist Aaron Sanchez, but you know David Ortiz will be looking to leisurely stroll around the bases one last time ... in a regular-season affair.
Most likely to steal a base: Lots of choices for this honor, so I'll close out the season with a personal favorite, Jose Peraza.