Wednesday, May 27, 2009

A Sprinkle in Chicago

Sometimes 6 innings is more than enough.  The Cubs entered last night mired in a season-long 8-game losing streak, and jumped out to a quick lead over Ian Snell's lowly Pirates.  Sean Marshall pitched pretty well in the game, allowing just a single run, and things appeared to be in good shape for the Cubbies to snap their losing ways.  Apparently, the Cubs inability to win has nothing to do with Mother Nature.  Down came the rain, and the Pirates never got a chance to bat in the 7th, 8th or 9th.  It was the single most perfect way to ensure a Cubs win: don't let the bullpen into the game!

If the Cubs could somehow figure out how to end 2 out of every 3 of their games after the 6th inning going forward, this time might have a legitimate shot at moving into at least 3rd place in the NL Central.  Poor, poor Cubbies.

San Diego's 10-game win streak ended last night as well.  The D'backs jumped out to a 6-0 lead, then nearly gave it back, finally winning 6-5.  Every night a new adventure with teams that have no bullpens.  That is really the key in this day and age, when starters generally go 5 or 6 innings.  The good teams very rarely have a terrible bullpen.  They may not always be the best in the game, but there are going to be a few guys at the back end that get it done.

Another note from yesterday -- not to be lost in the shuffle of winning and losing streaks, the Blue Jays are spiraling harder than ever.  They have fallen behind both Boston and NY in the AL East, and have now lost 8 in a row.  Mellow Manager Cito Gaston is going to have to channel Ozzie Guillen, or the Jays could be out of the playoff picture in the next 2 weeks.

Today is a day of change, for the baseball sections of the daily article.  As noted a few days back, it is extremely difficult to conjure up a large handful of pickups when you get to the middle of the season.  That being the case, we may go 2-3 days at a time without a pickup, and that just means stay patient.  The right guys are out there, and we'll point 'em out, but rather than waste hours trying to give fantasy relevance to a pitcher that made 2 decent starts, we're only going to make prudent moves -- surging hitters, stud pitchers, and new closers to name a few.  So, without further ado, the less sweeping, but more thorough, pickup "list":

CASEY BLAKE - Casey appeared on our list way the heck back near the beginning of the season, and he hasn't disappointed.  Yahoo ranks Casey as the #60 offensive fantasy performer thus far, and his numbers are only going to improve.  Blake is now beginning to face pitchers in the National League for the second time, and his average is reflecting that, as the bearded infielder is hitting .309 on the season, well above his career average in the American League.  That isn't completely crazy, since the NL has been consistently worse than the AL, and Blake plays in a very weak division, the West.  Also, Joe Torre seems to have fallen in love with Blake's power numbers and RBI production, and Casey's been moved from the 8-hole all the way up to the clean-up spot.  This is huge news for his fantasy numbers, since he will likely be working with Juan Pierre, Rafael Furcal, Orlando Hudson, and depending on the starting pitcher and how the lineup gets twisted about, Andre Ethier batting ahead of him.  What does this all mean?  Well, Blake will come up to the plate with runners on base almost every stinkin' time.  Last night, Blake came up with 2 runners on in the 1st inning and hit into a double play.  Perhaps you thought that was his big RBI chance of the night.  Well, perhaps you'd have been wrong.  Blake doubled to lead off the 4th and was stranded on base, but in the 6th Blake got a 2-out, bases-loaded at-bat, and doubled to the left field wall to score 3.  Mark my words, as long as the Dodgers don't suffer a rash of injuries all at once, Blake will be averaging just under an RBI every night until Manny returns.

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