Saturday, September 10, 2011

Closing Time: Luke Hochevar steps up, Dee Gordon on the move

Are you looking for some strikeouts, gamer? Head to the heartland. Luke Hochevar is ready to volunteer.

Hochevar wasn't able to beat the Mariners at Safeco Field on Thursday night ? homers by Ichiro Suzuki and Justin Smoak did him in ? but his final pitching line was acceptable if you're chasing the punchouts (6.2 IP, 6 H, 4 R, 3 ER, 3 BB, 9 K). Hochevar's been missing plenty of bats over his last nine starts, posting 59 strikeouts over his last 61 innings, along with four wins and an acceptable 3.54 ERA. And he hasn't been picking on weak opponents, as he's faced Detroit, Boston, Tampa Bay and Toronto in that span. Perhaps the former No. 1 overall pick is finally starting to figure things out. He's currently showing positive grades on three pitches in his arsenal, his fastball, slider and cutter, and he's pushed his ground-ball rate up to 49.5 percent.

If you want to kick the tires on this story (make sure you're not wearing sandals), Hochevar faces the unthreatening Twins next week. The ensuing period, he's looking at the Tigers and White Sox. If nothing else, consider the streaming possibilities to this enigmatic strikeout ace. Hochevar is unowned in 87 percent of Yahoo! leagues.

?�Before you flip the switch to football full-time, Dee Gordon would like your attention. The effervescent shortstop collected four singles and a bag at Washington on Thursday, and he's on a 16-for-31 binge since his recall with five stolen bases in six attempts. His leadoff skills are still a work in progress ? he's walked just twice in 142 big-league at-bats ? but we'll look the other way if he continues to run liberally. Baby Flash is owned in just 10 percent of Yahoo! leagues.

?�The Giants haven't given up on Brian Wilson pitching again in 2011. He had a successful 22-pitch session on Wednesday, and he's going to have another workout on the weekend. If this were my club, I'd tell Wilson to focus on next year: the Giants are 7.5 games behind the Diamondbacks with just 19 games remaining (sorry kids, the endless summer is almost over). But it's not my elbow and it's not my decision, obviously.

?�Mike Minor and Julio Teheran both recorded victories as the Braves swept the Mets, but neither pitcher had his best stuff (Minor pitched just five innings, while Teheran departed in the middle of the sixth). Minor has a rotation spot to keep, while Teheran is in a battle with Randall Delgado.

Chipper Jones was spry enough to play both ends of the twin bill, collecting two doubles, a homer and three RBIs out of the No. 2 slot in the lineup. Don't overdo it, Larry; they'll need you in the playoffs. Jason Bay was a bright spot for the Metropolitans, hitting a grand slam in the opener and stealing a base in the nightcap. He's gone deep three times in his last seven games, trying to salvage something from a lost year.

?�Islands in the stream, that is what we are. Let's look at the Saturday probables that you can think about renting: Randy Wells (21 percent) is on a nice run at the moment and there's nothing intimidating about a trip to Citi Field. Randy Wolf (41 percent) is also in fine form, albeit the strikeout numbers could be better and he's up against the Phillies. Henderson Alvarez (seven percent) has a fair chance to beat the Orioles. If you're desperate, maybe you dial up John Lannan (six percent) against Houston. I'm not using Derek Lowe (41 percent) at St. Louis, and beware the Tiring Twins, Michael Pineda against Kansas City and Alexi Ogando versus Oakland.

And before we close the book on the stream police, let's add two quick names to consider for Sunday, two very underrated commodities: Javier Vazquez (51 percent) at Pittsburgh and Doug Fister (50 percent) versus Minnesota. Vazquez has been terrific in the second half (2.89/0.99, a strikeout per inning), and Fister has been a revelation in Detroit (36 Ks, three walks, 2.64/1.04). They better not be roaming free in your league, amigo. Do not go gentle into that good night.

Speed Round: Rickie Weeks (ankle) is off the DL but it's not clear when he'll be cleared for game action. He's not even ready to pinch-hit yet according to skipper Ron Roenicke. With Milwaukee cruising into the playoffs, make no assumptions on Weeks going forward. ? Andre Ethier (knee) is done for the year, which makes sense ? I was offered him for Clayton Kershaw in an industry league about a week ago. Sorry mates, I have the Internet, too. ? Chase Utley (post-concussion) won't play this weekend. He's also off the Yahoo! can't-cut list, if you need a warm body in your lineup. ? Ian Kennedy had his good stuff in a win over the Padres, striking out 11 and walking no one over 7.2 superb innings. He's going to get some Cy Young support, leading the NL in wins and pushing his ERA down to 2.90. He'll work at Chavez Ravine next week. ? Ricky Romero has ascended to matchup-proof status, as his Thursday victory attests. He worked into the seventh against the Red Sox, allowing three runs, walking three, strikeout out seven. He's won seven of his 11 starts in the second half, with a 2.88 ERA and 1.08 WHIP. He'll get a rematch next week, facing the Sox in Fenway Park. ? Danny Espinosa was rested Thursday, essentially a mental day off. ? Jimmy Rollins (groin) did fine with infield practice Thursday and is close to returning. ? The Brent Lillibridge ledger is closer for 2011, courtesy of a broken hand. We'll never forget your fielding show in New York, ace. And Sergio Santos certainly appreciates it, as he was still new to the closing role at that time. ? So much for the Jack Hannahan streak: he's been slowed by a calf injury and it's not clear when he'll return. ? You know the 2011 Padres have become an anonymous lot when they're giving playing time to Jeremy Hermida. Fill in your own punchline. ? Carl Crawford didn't start against Romero, because he can't hit lefties at all. What did you expect for $142 million, a complete ballplayer? Boston's next four games are against right-handed pitchers, so Crawford should be in the mix.


Images courtesy Associated Press


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