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Closing Time: Royals crush Mad Max; Brock Holt legend continues

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Hug like a champion today (USAT)

My name's Pianow. I tell roto stories. Load up the bulletry.

• As my buddy Gene McCaffrey will often say, along with a shrug, "they all get hit" - they being starting pitchers. Sometimes Clayton Kershaw will get hit, and sooner or later Masahiro Tanaka will knocked around. So let's not freak out too much about Max Scherzer's 10-spot against the Royals on Tuesday (4 IP, 10 H, 10 R, 1 BB, 5 K, 2 HR). At least he struck out a few of these chaps. And Scherzer's previous start was a three-hit shutout against the White Sox, of all teams.

Scherzer threw a reasonable 113 pitches in that Chicago start, so it wasn't a case of excessive workload. Sometimes good pitchers go down in flames. Batters have more control over outcomes, anyway. Sometimes the guys with the sticks do their jobs.

I see no reason to avoid Scherzer versus Cleveland and Houston, his next two starts approaching. I see no reason to rank Scherzer any differently today than we would have 24 hours ago. It's going to take more than one messy night to force a Mad Max re-evaluation.

But what do we make of the surging Royals? Kansas City scored its ninth straight win, took over first place in the AL Central. This franchise hasn't made the playoffs since 1985. Are Ned Yost jokes on permanent hiatus?

Mike Moustakas homered in the Tuesday win, his third in the last seven games. He's at .231/.298/.462 since his recall from the minors, though it's been better lately. Five walks against seven strikeouts, an encouraging trend over 52 at-bats.

Given how many times Moustakas has burned us in the past, I don't blame the rotoheads for staying suspicious here. Mighty Moose or Modest Mouse? He's available in 84 percent of Yahoo leagues, if you dare.

• We had a bunch of Brock Holt admiration in the previous CT, but he's forced his way into the bullets for another night. The Red Sox started Holt in center field Tuesday - his first MLB assignment there, by the way - and Holt immediately came through with this spectacular catch. Offense is easier for Holt: single, double, two runs, a stolen base. Love that dirty water.

Holt's at .338/.378/.468 for the year, 21 runs and 15 RBIs through 151 at-bats. He's not giving up that leadoff spot anytime soon. He's been an absolute monster at Fenway Park (.968 OPS). You can see why the Red Sox weren't afraid to let Grady Sizemore go.

Holt qualifies at three positions (first, third, outfield) and is still available in 64 percent of Yahoo leagues. Let's fix that number. You won't get a lot of power from Holt, but he gets on base, produces runs, and steals a bag now and then. And batting average tends to be underrated in a lot of roto pools.

• Although Boston got the win, Tuesday's game was another point in favor of Phil Hughes being legit. Hughes went the route (well, eight innings) and had a typical line: 8 H, 2 R, 0 BB, 6 K. He's walked just eight batters - that's ridiculous - through 90.1 innings, while striking out 78. The ratios sure are pretty: a 3.09 ERA and 1.10 WHIP is welcome in any format. 

AL ballparks used to kick Hughes around, but he's tackled the demons this year. He passed through Toronto, New York and Boston this month without a scratch, allowing just four runs over 23 innings. If I were shuffling arms today, Hughes would be priced in the high teens. Enjoy the ride. 

• Andy Behrens is our man on the ground in Chicago, so we direct all Kris Bryant (and Artis Gilmore) inquiries to him. Just know the Cubs have moved Bryant up to Triple-A, satisfied with how he crushed Double-A pitching all spring (.355/.458/.702, 22 homers in 68 games). Baseball America and MLB.com both considered Bryant a Top 10 prospect before the year.

The Cubs obviously aren't going anywhere this season, which makes the recall guesswork a tricky thing; there's a logical case to delay Bryant as long as possible. But at some point dominant play in the minors probably forces a promotion, no matter the team's current standing. I'm guessing (and it's nothing more than that) we'll see Bryant in the second half, say August. But if Behrens tells you something different, go with his call.

• Interleague play wasn't kind to Matt Cain, as the White Sox kicked him around for 10 hits and eight runs (seven earned) Tuesday night. He won't be sad to see U.S. Cellular Field in the rearview mirror. But how many parks can we trust Cain in these days? What happened to the bankable stud who used to routinely outperform his peripherals? We miss that guy.

Cain is doing some good things this year: his ground-ball rate is a career best, and he's limiting hard contact (16.9 percent line-drive rate). But his strikeout and walk ratios are the worst of his career, and he's finally allowing a bunch of homers (longball avoidance was his special sauce in the stardom years). The radar gun is irrelevant in this case - Cain's fastball velocity has been essentially the same for five years.  

Perhaps AT&T Park will smooth some things out: Cain has a 3.71 ERA and 1.05 WHIP in the friendly confines (through four starts); he's a 5.11/1.41 guy on the road (seven starts). But maybe you should see if there's still name-brand value in the trade market. Heck, maybe you could get Hughes for Cain - and I'd absolutely be on board with that.

• I was in the mood to stream a pitcher for Thursday, so I gave Arizona's Chase Anderson a long look. There's plenty to support him: a tidy 3.22 ERA and 1.22 WHIP through six starts, 26 strikeouts against 11 walks over 33.2 innings. He's eligible for both pitching slots, SP and RP, a selling point in some leagues. He's won five of his six starts.

To be fair, the wins have been more about Arizona's offense than Anderson's brilliance - the Snakes scored 45 runs in his first five turns. That's how you keep chalking up the Ws without working deep into ballgames - Anderson's only seen the seventh inning on one occasion. The eye test also leaves me a little cold: Anderson checks in at 6-feet, 190 pounds, and his fastball is shy of 91 mph.

Add in a good Milwaukee offense (seventh in runs) and I decided to pass on Anderson. But I welcome your contrary arguments in the comments.

• It took about 15 minutes for Tommy La Stella to make Atlanta fans forget Dan Uggla. The leadoff spot? That took 18 games. La Stella finally got the No. 1 assignment for Wednesday's matinee against Philadelphia. And with a .364 average and (more importantly) a .425 OBP, it's a well-merited promotion. Jason Heyward moved down to fifth.

Wondering where La Stella slots in the middle-infield roto racket? We've got you covered. The Middle Infield Shuffle Up hit the presses Tuesday. Have a look. 

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