Cardinals rookie right-hander Michael Wacha was given several periods of extended rest between mid-June and late-July so that he could be of help -- if needed -- down the stretch and into the MLB playoffs. It was a wise move by St. Louis.
Looking fresh and in-command, Wacha tossed seven shutout innings on Sunday afternoon at Busch Stadium to help the first-place Cardinals finish off a big three-game sweep of the visiting second-place Pirates. Wacha yielded only two hits and his fastball at one point hit 97 mph, well above his average of 93.2 mph. The 22-year-old former first-round pick has now rattled off 19 2/3 consecutive scoreless innings and boasts a superb 2.70 ERA, 1.03 WHIP and 42/13 K/BB ratio over his first 46 2/3 major league frames.
Wacha is a must-start in all standard fantasy leagues for his next scheduled outing at home against the light-hitting Mariners and he could easily remain a must-start through the end of the fantasy playoffs.
Editor's note: Better than average at fantasy baseball? Finish anywhere in the top half of FanDuel’s Monday 50/50 fantasy baseball league and you’ll win almost double your money. It's just $10 to join. Starts at 7:05pm ET. Enter Now.
Easy Baker Oven
Wacha isn’t the only newcomer worthy of fantasy attention in the National League Central. Scott Baker finally returned from Tommy John reconstructive elbow surgery on Sunday afternoon and hurled five scoreless innings against the Brewers in his Cubs debut. He yielded just two hits and one walk, throwing 13 first-pitch strikes to the 17 batters he faced. Chicago’s bullpen blew that effort, however, leaving Baker with a no-decision.
Baker may take a few turns to get fully stretched out, but he should be scooped up in all NL-only fantasy formats and some deep mixed leagues for the stretch run. The 31-year-old impending free agent is going to be pitching for a contract and he has the goods to make himself some decent change.
Baker posted an outstanding 3.14 ERA, 1.17 WHIP and 123/32 K/BB ratio across 134 2/3 innings with the Twins in 2011.
Harper Out With Nagging Hip
Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper flew back to Washington, D.C. from Miami on Saturday evening to have his strained left hip examined by team physicians. Sunday passed and the Nats didn’t reveal any information about that checkup, only saying that Harper would see another doctor -- perhaps a hip specialist -- on Monday. So we’re forced to play the waiting game.
Harper is a gamer and a tough guy and that’s all very admirable, but the fiery 20-year-old may be overdoing it this summer.
According to beat writer Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post, Harper collapsed to the ground in pain after taking a hard swing in an indoor batting cage on Saturday afternoon. Harper has fought various injuries since the first month of the regular season and the Nats have only an outside chance of catching one of the Central teams in the National League Wild Card race. It’s probably time to shut the kid down.
National League Quick Hits: Giants outfielder Angel Pagan hit a walkoff RBI single in the 11th inning of Sunday’s victory over the Diamondbacks … Matt Harvey will get a second opinion on his injured right elbow this week from Dr. James Andrews … Pirates outfielder Starling Marte acknowledged this weekend that his injured right hand still feels “brutal” when he tries to swing a bat … Jay Bruce slugged a pair of solo homers off Clayton Kershaw as the Reds beat the Dodgers on Sunday night … Allen Craig has ditched the walking boot from his sprained left foot and will be reevaluated early this week … Ian Desmond finished 3-for-5 with a double, a triple, a stolen base and two RBI in the Nationals’ defeat of the Marlins on Sunday … Padres closer Huston Street tallied his 29th save of the season Sunday against the Rockies … Yovani Gallardo tossed seven innings of one-run ball Sunday in the Brewers’ win over the Cubs … Cardinals second baseman Matt Carpenter went 2-for-5 with a double, an RBI and two runs scored in Sunday’s sweep of the Pirates … Rafael Soriano secured his 39th save of the year on Sunday against the Marlins … Madison Bumgarner racked up nine strikeouts over six shutout frames Sunday in the Giants’ defeat of the Diamondbacks … Evan Gattis homered twice in the Braves’ loss to the Phillies on Sunday afternoon … Brewers closer Jim Henderson locked down his 24th save of the year on Sunday versus the Cubs … Stephen Strasburg allowed four runs in six innings but escaped with a win Sunday against the Marlins … Mets closer LaTroy Hawkins earned his eighth save of 2013 in the Mets’ win over the Indians on Sunday … Cole Hamels surrendered only two runs on two hits over eight innings Sunday in a win versus the Braves … Charlie Morton left his start Sunday against the Cardinals with a left foot injury … Buster Posey (finger) returned to the Giants on Sunday and went 2-for-5 with a run scored.
American League Quick Hits: Red Sox outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury has a compression fracture in his right foot and will likely miss the next couple of weeks … Adam Jones slugged his 31st home run of the season in the Orioles’ loss to the White Sox on Sunday … Eric Hosmer went 3-for-4 with a home run in Sunday’s defeat of the Tigers, lifting his batting average above .300 for the first time since early April … Angels outfielder Peter Bourjos will undergo season-ending surgery Tuesday on his ailing right wrist … Derek Jeter (ankle) is expected to miss the next couple of games and perhaps more … Fernando Rodney picked up his 33rd save of the season Sunday in the Rays’ victory against the Mariners … A’s left-hander Brett Anderson earned another three-inning save in Sunday’s win over the Astros … Robinson Cano was 2-for-4 with a double and two RBI in Sunday’s defeat of the Red Sox … White Sox closer Addison Reed collected his 37th save of the year in Sunday’s victory over the Orioles … Matt Moore allowed just one run over 6 1/3 innings Sunday in a no-decision against the Mariners … Mariano Rivera blew his seventh save but tallied his fifth win Sunday as the Yankees rallied to beat the Red Sox … Kendrys Morales slugged his 20th home run of the season in the Mariners’ loss to the Rays on Sunday … Blue Jays starter Esmil Rogers fired 7 2/3 scoreless innings Sunday in a win over the Twins … Bartolo Colon yielded just one run in six innings in a win against the Astros on Sunday afternoon … Greg Holland tallied his 40th save of 2013 in the Royals’ victory over the Tigers on Sunday … Tigers shortstop Jose Iglesias (shin splints) returned to action Sunday and launched his third career homer … Twins starter Samuel Deduno may need surgery on his right shoulder.