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Scott Pianowski

Closing Time: Dave Bush and chasing Dubyas

Scott Pianowski
Roto Arcade

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It's probably scrawled on an ancient tablet somewhere, one of the Roto Commandments handed down to the laymen. "Don't Chase Wins." It's a team-dependent stat, it's a fickle stat, it's a maddening stat. Get the best arms you can on your staff, and let the rest sort itself out.

I lead with that tonight because it's a lesson I need to re-visit a few times every season. See, I kind of like chasing wins. And like a dog chasing a car, I can't say it's altogether a worthwhile pursuit.

On the eve of Thursday's play, I felt like making a streaming choice to round out my pitching staff (don't ask me what league, I'm a little over-committed at this point). Dave Bush's recent run intrigued me, but Andy Sonnanstine's form caught my eye too. I've got some messy history with Bush, and Sonnanstine was getting a down-and-out Cleveland club, so I decided to place my bet on the Tampa Bay hurler.

You probably know how it went down. Sonnanstine got hammered like a narc at a biker rally (six runs, three homers, no strikeouts for crying out loud), while Bush looked like Bob Gibson against Colorado (8 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 13 K; more on that later).

I know I'm not the only roto player frustrated by the win-chase right now - Thursday handed out plenty of cruelty. Danny Haren spun a gem in Washington, then watched his defense (I'm looking at you, Mark Reynolds) hand the game away in the ninth inning. Kenny Rogers lost a win when Johnnycakes Todd Jones couldn't close the deal. John Maine struck out plenty of Giants early and often, but his nagging pitch-count problem knocked him out of the game by the fifth inning. Underrated Jeremy Guthrie spun another beauty, then watched George Sherrill give it up. The White Sox defense tripped up Mark Buehrle in the eighth inning; Paul Konerko dropped a sure double-play ball, and later in the frame Alexei Ramirez had a Johnny Pesky moment and turned Mark Teahen's triple into a gift home run. John Lackey left with a four-run lead (despite allowing 15 hits!), but had to settle for a no-decision. R.A. Dickey spun a terrific tale for seven innings, then lost the credit when Brandon Morrow suffered his first misstep in two months. And so it goes . . .

It doesn't mean I'm going to stop streaming - so long as you're not making more pickups than Craig Falzone, it's cool to play the add/drop game. Just know that I feel your pain. As the great Eddie Felson liked to tell us, "The balls roll funny for everybody, kid." Hang tough, amigos. We'll all get through this, and be better for it. Healing bullets will follow.

Bush seems destined to spend his career in the fantasy tease file. On the right day, at the right moment, you see so much promise. But the bottom has dropped out on us many times before.

See, the catch with Bush is that his peripherals generally suggest he's a good pitcher, maybe a very good pitcher. But his high ERA sabotages fantasy teams (and at times it's knocked him from Milwaukee's rotation). Peruse the common excuses for Bush and see what fits for you - he's unlucky; he collapses with runners on; he can't pitch from the stretch; he allows too many homers, especially when men on base; he was born under a bad sign; he can't pitch on the road. Honestly, I gave up trying to solve the riddle a while ago, and when Bush got knocked around in April and May, I took satisfaction that he wasn't sitting on any of my rosters.

Ah, but is it time to reopen the case? Consider his last eight starts: 53 IP, 40 H, 16 ER, 7 BB, 39 K, 2.72 ERA, 0.88 ratio. Homers haven't been a problem, just three. He's struck out 20 in his last 16 innings. All of a sudden I feel like Charlie Brown, convinced Lucy will really hold the football this time. Talk me out of this in the comments, please.

A lot of pundits were ready to sell Nate McLouth short after his washout June (.214/.272/.350), but he's rebounded nicely this month. A homer and a steal highlighted Thursday's play, giving him 18 long balls and 10 bags on the year, and he's 12-for-36 in July. McLouth certainly played over his head in April, but let's not forget the monster run he had for the Pirates over the final two months of 2007. He's a legitimate cornerstone of anyone's fantasy outfield, especially if you're slotting him as your second guy. (McLouth's homer tonight, for what it's worth, came right after a botched bunt attempt. The heck with the Buccos, Nate Dogg, help the fantasy kids out. Attaboy.)

"Watch some of those Howie Kendrick doubles eventually turn into homers" - that's what our guy Brandon Funston has been telling anyone who will listen over the last few weeks. Okay, it took 173 at-bats, but BeFun finally got his payoff Thursday, when Kendrick homered not once but twice at Some Random Softball Field Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. Kendrick ended the night with a pretty 5-3-3-3 line and a .328 average, and he was available in about one-third of Y! leagues entering the week.

This is not an injury blog, but let's check in on a couple of clipped Blue Jays. Vernon Wells is down at least 4-6 weeks with a strained left hamstring, which might mean a little more time for Brad Wilkerson (if that thrills you). Dustin McGowan won't need surgery on his ailing shoulder, though the team is still examining his MRI and he's going to see an arm specialist next week. The non-streamable Brian Tallet will make a spot start on Sunday.

Speaking of MRIs, the Reds got good news on Aaron Harang, and they think he'll be able to avoid the DL. The All-Star break obviously comes at a good time here.

Tip of the cap to Ron Gardenhire, who used Joe Nathan in a tie game at Detroit, save rule be damned. Nathan worked a scoreless ninth and the Twins got a win two innings later. Justin Morneau (five hits, homer) and Denard Span (four hits, one SB, one CS) led the way on offense. Span will be needed for a while, as Michael Cuddyer continues to recover slowly.

I haven't heard John Russell give a full endorsement to Damaso Marte yet, but after Marte's third save of the week, he should have a good grip on Pittsbugh's closer job. Marte is getting batters out from both sides of the plate, so don't hold the southpaw status over his head.

Fernando Tatis ripped two doubles and a homer and has looked pretty frisky the last few days (10-for-20, three homers, seven RBIs). With Moises Alou possibly done for the year and Ryan Church a question mark, Tatis might wind up playing a significant role in Flushing.

Speed round: Ryan Howard homered twice and only struck out once. That's .234 and rising, kids. Brad Lidge needed a day off, so J.C. Romero got a rogue save. … Another homer and two hits for J.J. Hardy, who's on every pitch these days. … The wind was gusting out at Wrigley Field, but only the Reds figured out the pattern (seven homers for Cincinnati, one for Chicago). … Kelly Shoppach isn't the problem in Cleveland; he's 27-for-94 over the last six weeks, with 18 runs, six homers and 17 RBIs. … Journeyman John Parrish has two quality starts for the Blue Jays, if you're in a giant mixer. … Josh Johnson's 2008 debut was pretty solid, all things considered (5 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 0 BB, 6 K). The Fish let him throw 87 pitches, and he was hitting low-90s on the gun. Rookie teammate Chris Volstad gets his first career turn Friday. ... Four hits in seven trips lifted Michael Young's average over .300. Batting two slots after Ian Kinsler and one spot in front of Josh Hamilton, that's the catbird seat. … Juan Rivera has four hits (including a homer) over the last two nights, nudging Gary Matthews to the bench. And as you might imagine, Matthews isn't too happy about the switch. ... Octavio Dotel didn't have Wednesday's magic with him tonight, giving up a ringing double to Jose Guillen in the eighth inning, breaking up a tie game. On the other side, Zack Greinke keeps spiking that strikeout rate (eight Thursday; 37 whiffs over his last 32 innings). … Justin Upton (oblique) might avoid the DL but don't look for him to play the remainder of the week. And if you haven't noticed, he hasn't hit a lick since April. ... Evan Longoria and Corey Hart got the final All-Star spots from the fans, if that stuff matters to you. That ship sailed for me a long time ago. … Francisco Liriano continues to throw pellets in Triple-A and his return can't be too far off. ... Kevin Gregg got another strikeout-less save - Andruw Jones just missed taking him out of the park. And save a handshake for Francisco Rodriguez (36; thank Ron Washington Art Howe for bunting Kinsler) and Joakim Soria (24).

That's enough to get us started. Over to you, Lash LaRue.

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