Break up the Twins! After scoring a combined six runs in their first four games, the 0-4 team matched that total in one game on Wednesday to post their first win of the season, 6-5. In Thursday’s rubber game of the series, the Twins’ bats exploded for 10 runs, which was just enough for another win after you account for Matt Capps (two runs allowed in the ninth). Josh Willingham clubbed his fourth HR of the season, hitting one in each game of the series against the Angels. And Target Field is a pitcher’s park?
Other notable Thursday performances included Gio Gonzalez’s gem (7 IP, 2 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 7 K), Mat Latos’s head-scratcher (5 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 3 BB, 1 K), Carlos Pena’s third HR of the year (2-for-3, batting .429), Mark Trumbo’s five-tool line while DHing (2-for-4, 2 R, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 1 BB, 1 SB), Joe Mauer and Danny Valencia joining Willingham with 3-for-5 games (and Mauer homering as well), 3-for-4s from teammates Ian Kinsler (3 R, 1 RBI, 1 SB) and Michael Young (1 R, 1 HR, 4 RBI), Derek Holland’s domination (7.1 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 0 BB, 8 K, Win), Matt Garza’s near CGSHO (8.2 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, 2 BB, 9 K) and, of course, Zack Greinke’s dud (3.2 IP, 9 H, 8 ER, 1 BB, 5 K).
Now let’s get prepped for the weekend. We’ll feature my top five series worth watching before going quickly through the rest.
Angels at Yankees
E.Santana vs. H.Kuroda (Fri.), C.Wilson vs. P.Hughes (Sat.), J.Williams vs. I.Nova (Sun.)
The Angels face three righties this weekend, great news for Kendrys Morales (.297/.355/.536 vs. RHP lifetime). Jerome Williams is expected to be activated from the DL for Sunday’s start, but he obvious bears no fantasy upside. FA prize Albert Pujols is hitting .217 with no HRs in his first 23 at-bats. After stealing just one base in their first five games combined, the Angels swiped four bags off Joe Mauer on Thursday.
Hiroki Kuroda gave up eight hits and four walks in 5.2 innings in his first start with the Yankees, but he’s held Pujols to just three hits in 15 at-bats in his career, with one being a homer. Several notable Yankee hitters are off to poor starts at the plate despite showing excellent plate discipline, as Mark Teixeira, Curtis Granderson, Russell Martin and Alex Rodriguez have averages of .200 or worse despite owning OBPs over .300.
Rays at Red Sox
D.Price vs. J.Beckett (Fri.), J.Hellickson vs. C.Buchholz (Sat.), M.Moore vs. F.Doubront (Sun.)
The Rays lost two of three to the Tigers this week after sweeping the Yankees to open the season, and now they face another struggling AL East superpower. The Rays lineup has been feast or famine; Carlos Pena (.429, 3 HR) and Evan Longoria (.471, 1 HR) are destroying the ball, while the rest of the Thursday lineup is hitting .250 or worse. Price, Hellickson and Moore, despite allowing only four runs combined in their three starts this season, walked four or more batters each in their 2012 debuts.
All of Josh Beckett’s fantasy owners will be anxiously watching Friday’s start (myself included) to see if his fastball remains slow enough and straight enough to let the Rays play BP Home Run Derby. Boston needs to figure out some way to right the ship as a team after starting 1-5, and hitting some HRs (instead of serving them up) would help. The team has just two long-balls in six games this year. Jacoby Ellsbury, Kevin Youkilis and Jarrod Saltalamacchia are a combined 6-for-56 this year, and the Greek God of Walks has zero free passes.
Cubs at Cardinals
J.Samardzija vs. A.Wainwright (Fri.), C.Volstad vs. L.Lynn (Sat.), P.Maholm vs. J.Westbrook (Sun.)
The hot Cubs offense faces three righties this weekend, and lefty batters Bryan LaHair (.375, 1 HR), David DeJesus (.318, 4 BB) and Ian Stewart (.292) could all be nice spot starts. Starlin Castro has five SBs in his first seven games, not something you see every day from a No. 3 hitter. Jeff Samardzija flashed huge upside in his first start (8.2 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 8 K, Win),and I’m riding him again. Closer Carlos Marmol has give up three earned runs, four hits and four walks in 2.1 innings. Backup C Steve Clevenger (6-for-9) has earned Watch List status.
Once past Samardzija, the Cardinals should feast on Chris Volstad and Paul Maholm, the latter of which gave up six runs in four innings in his first start. David Freese has been particularly awesome with a .429 average and three HRs, but a 7/1 K/BB ratio may inspire you to try and sell extremely high. Six of the Cards’ eight regulars are batting .300 or better, with the exceptions being Matt Holliday (.226, 2 HRs) and Daniel Descalso (.200, 3 BB). Lance Lynn is the SP to watch after his gem against the Brewers (6.2 IP, 2 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 8 K, Win).
Tigers at White Sox
M.Scherzer vs. J.Peavy (Fri.), A.Wilk vs. G.Floyd (Sat.), R.Porcello vs. C.Sale (Sun.)
The Tigers are calling up rookie Adam Wilk to make his major-league debut in place of the injured Doug Fister. Wilk has great control and threw five shutout innings in Triple-A to start the year, but despite his six Ks in the game, his strikeout potential is limited. Detriot has enjoyed exceptionally hot starts from their batters, with Austin Jackson, Prince Fielder, Miguel Cabrera, Alex Avila and Jhonny Peralta all hitting .300 or better with eight HRs between them. Jose Valverde has pitched three straight days, so Joaquin Benoit could be the ninth-inning guy on Friday.
Chris Sale shined in his first start of the season, striking out five batters in 6.2 one-run innings while walking two for a win. He should be the favorite for another win on Sunday. Closer Hector Santiago has recorded two saves while allowing just one hit (a solo HR) in two innings. Brent Morel has struggled early, going 1-for-16 with seven Ks. Alex Rios (2-for-13) and Gordon Beckham (3-for-17) have also lagged. Alejandro De Aza and A.J. Pierzynski have homered in back-to-back games, and another on Friday could make either a prime sell-high candidate.
Diamondbacks at Rockies
D.Hudson vs. J.Nicasio (Fri.), J.Collmenter vs. J.Chacin (Sat.), T.Cahill vs. D.Pomeranz (Sun.)
The Diamondbacks are now 5-1 with just a +6 run differential this year. J.J. Putz recorded his fourth save of the year on Thursday after Brian Shaw was able to vulture a save on a Putz off-day earlier this week. Chris Young hit his third HR of the year Thursday and now sports a .364 average. On the other hand, Justin Upton is hitting just .133 but with six walks on the year. Another poor start from Josh Collmenter (3 IP, 5 H, 5 ER, 1 BB, 4 H) will get the Trevor Bauer buzz going.
Arizona throws three righties this weekend, matchup heaven for Todd Helton and Carlos Gonzalez. Michael Cuddyer has been the only Colorado bat to get off to a fast start, hitting .375 with a HR. The team hasn’t provided Rafael Betancourt with many save chances, and he got an inning of work in a non-save role Thursday. Juan Nicasio will try and build off a quality debut, while Drew Pomeranz will be called up to make his first MLB start of the year Sunday. The rookie pitched four shutout innings in Double-A earlier this week.
Mets at Phillies
R.Dickey vs. C.Lee (Fri.), J.Niese vs. V.Worley (Sat.), M.Pelfrey vs. C.Hamels (Sun.)
The Mets won four straight before dropping two to the Nats. David Wright is questionable for action with an fractured pinke finger on his right hand. The Phillies are coming off two straight wins against Miami and will hope to take at least two here with Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels on the mound, even despite their lackluster lineup.
Reds at Nationals
B.Arroyo vs. J.Zimmermann (Fri.), H.Bailey vs. E.Jackson (Sat.), M.Leake vs. R.Detwiler (Sun.)
The Nats took the first game of this four-game series on Thursday in extra innings after Brad Lidge gave up two runs to blow a save. Ian Desmond (.406) and Adam LaRoche (.345) continue to shine. Aroldis Chapman is 2-0 with two hits allowed, no walks and ten Ks in five innings.
Padres at Dodgers
C.Richard vs. A.Harang (Fri.), J.Wieland vs. T.Lilly (Sat.), E.Volquez vs. C.Kershaw (Sun.)
The Dodgers are a league-leading 6-1 after Javy Guerra’s fifth save came Thursday night. The LA closer has allowed one hit and one walk this year while striking out five. Matt Kemp has five multi-hit games and a .414 average. Jason Bartlett is leading the Padres in hitting with a .250 average, while Nick Hundley is now 0-for-19.
Orioles vs. Blue Jays
T.Hunter vs. B.Morrow (Fri.), J.Hammel vs. H.Alvarez (Sat.), B.Matusz vs. K.Drabek (Sun.)
The Orioles are up against three righties, which should mean ample playing time for Endy Chavez, a great AL spot-starter. Matt Wieters will try and stay hot (.364, 2 HR). The three Blue Jay SPs gave up a combined eight hits, seven walks and two earned runs in their first starts. Sergio Santos is away from the team Friday and Saturday.
Rangers at Twins
M.Harrison vs. A.Swarzak (Fri.), Y.Darvish vs. N.Blackburn (Sat.), N.Feliz vs. L.Hendriks (Sun.)
Despite what we said earlier, the Twins are still a matchup to target for your SPs. Darvish should face much less pressure, and I expect a great rebound. The Rangers are 5-2 as a team, but Joe Nathan is 0-2 with a 9.00 ERA in four innings. His 5/0 K/BB ratio suggests you should buy low after Mike Adams’ save on Thursday.
Brewers at Braves
R.Wolf vs. J.Jurrjens (Fri.), S.Marcum vs. M.Minor (Sat.), C.Narveson vs. B.Beachy (Sun.)
Milwaukee mustered just three hits against the Cubs yesterday after winning the first three games of the series. All seven of John Axford’s outs have been Ks. Atlanta will hope Minor can rebound from giving up six runs in five innings in his debut. Chipper Jones went 2-for-4 with a HR in his first game back Wednesday.
Pirates at Giants
J.McDonald vs. M.Cain (Fri.), C.Morton vs. B.Zito (Sat.), K.Correia vs. R.Vogelsong (Sun.)
Andrew McCutchen comes off a big game Thursday while Neil Walker took the day off after starting 1-for-17. Charlie Morton and Ryan Vogelsong are scheduled to make their first starts this weekend. Brian Wilson is out at least one day with a twisted ankle. Barry Zito will try and replicate his brilliant debut (9 IP, 4 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 4 K, Win).
Athletics at Mariners
B.Colon vs. F.Hernandez (Fri.), T.Milone vs. H.Noesi (Sat.), G.Godfrey vs. B.Beaven (Sun.)
The A’s and M’s are getting all their games against each other out of the way early, which will be severely disappointing when they’re battling each other for the AL West pennant in September. Colon and Hernandez square off for the third consecutive time, which has probably never happened (hat tip to our non-existent stats researcher).
Indians vs. Royals
D.Lowe vs. L.Hochevar (Fri.), J.Gomez vs. J.Sanchez (Sat.), U.Jimenez vs. L.Mendoza (Sun.)
The Indians have reportedly signed Johnny Damon, who’s expected to start in left field once it’s official. Jeanmar Gomez’s first scheduled start was rained out, so he’ll make his debut this weekend. The Royals placed Lorenzo Cain on the DL Thursday and called up speedster Jarrod Dyson, who’s worth a look in AL-only leagues. Jon Broxton is 1-for-2 in save conversions.
Astros at Marlins
L.Harrell vs. R.Nolasco (Fri.), B.Norris vs. C.Zambrano (Sat.), J.Happ vs. A.Sanchez (Sun.)
Miami returns home for their first game since Opening Night. Emilio Bonifacio is hitting .391 with four SBs, while Hanley Ramirez, Logan Morrison, Gaby Sanchez, John Buck and Chris Coghlan are all under .200. Jose Altuve, Carlos Lee, J.D. Martinez, Jordan Schafer and Chris Johnson are all hitting .333 or better, and Schafer has three SBs.
Saturday: Lance Lynn (31%)
Sunday: Jake Westbrook (4%)
Monday: Philip Humber (6%)
R.J. White is the head editor at the Cafe, writes for FanDuel and has previously written for FanHouse and Razzball. Catch up with him in the forums under the name daullaz. Follow him on Twitter; don't follow him in real life.
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