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Closing Time: Good arm hunting

Pitchers are the singing sirens of the fantasy equation; today's hero can turn into tomorrow's zero with little warning, and vice versa. In tonight's 10-game lap, let's first turn our eyes to a couple of NL East hurlers who have come out of nowhere to become fantasy saviors.

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Mike Pelfrey had the sinking fastball working Monday, and when you're collecting 18 ground-ball outs, why throw anything else? Pelfrey also struck out six Astros (against no walks) and took a shutout into the ninth inning; in all his 13th win cost him just 108 pitches, and best of all for New York fans, the bullpen wasn't needed. Pelfrey wasn't originally going to get another turn this week, but with John Maine (rotator cuff) now out of the equation, the Mets will bring Pelfrey back on Sunday at Florida.

How real is Pelfrey's emergence? Skeptical fantasy players will point to his modest strikeout rate and shake their heads, but he's doing a lot of things right: heavy ground-ball rate, just nine homers allowed, walk rate has dropped nicely in the second half. Pelfrey doesn't project to be a staff ace someday, but we are talking about a former first-round selection (ninth overall) just three summers ago. I'll gladly keep running him out there in any mixed league I can.

Brett Myers is putting together a funky stretch of results, that's for sure. He allowed 12 baserunners during seven scoreless innings against Los Angeles Monday, and his shutout of Washington last week came despite 10 Nationals reaching base. That said, we also have to give props to Myers for piling up 25 strikeouts (against six walks) over his last three turns. Add it all up and his 1.66 ERA over his last seven starts, while unsustainable, isn't quite the mirage you might think (his peripherals over this stretch suggest an ERA in the high twos). Keep using him.

Jayson Werth was mentioned in this space last night but let's keep the word out there - he'll offer you speed and power, he takes a fair amount of walks, and he was essentially grabbing the right-field job in Philly even before Geoff Jenkins got hurt. Werth offered a useful 2-2-1-1 line Monday (with two walks), and he's widely available in mixed leagues.

Willy Taveras was caught stealing Monday, ending a stretch of 10 straight swipes. Perhaps Willy T is running like mad these days because he thinks he can keep the club from calling up touted prospect Dexter Fowler next week. Good luck with that.

Everyone in the Cubs lineup not named Geovany Soto got into the fun Monday at Pittsburgh; even whipping boy Kosuke Fukudome had a big night (4-0-3-4). Ted Lilly has rolled up 22 strikeouts in his last three turns. If you've been cheating the system with Jeff Karstens, it's time to stop. Now.

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Lots of fun to be had in the Texas box score, too, most notably Nelson Cruz's explosion (three hits, including a homer). Given what this guy did in the minors this year (37 homers, .342 average), how can you not take this story for a test drive? It looks like Milton Bradley is fine; he started and offered three hits and three RBIs.

Francisco Liriano didn't get another win Monday at Seattle (Joe Nathan suffered a rare blown save), but the reinvention tour continues to go swimmingly for the lefty (6 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 1 BB, 3 K). He's a strong play at Oakland Saturday. Alexi Casilla went 1-for-5 for the Twins and is just 4-for-23 since returning from his thumb injury.

Jody Gerut has recently taken over as San Diego's No. 3 hitter, and why not - he's been raking this month. His game-winning homer Monday (a frozen rope to right field) gives him seven taters in August, and he's batting .307 over that span. In one deep mixed league, I actually made a waiver move on this guy.

Speed Round: Frank Francisco was officially named Texas closer by Ron Washington Monday night, in case you missed it. For more on the new Texas closer, money on over to the pre-game show from Monday . . . Jimmy Rollins got the frontrunners Philly fans back on his side Monday, with a tasty 3-1-3-2 line. He finished the night with a walk, single, double and triple . . . Alexei Ramirez got a rare start in the leadoff spot Monday and came through with four hits and two runs. He's an odd fit for that position but perhaps the success there will encourage Ozzie Guillen to let him run with it . . . Make it seven saves in 17 days for Jensen Lewis, and the Indians have quietly won eight games in a row . . . Jeff Francis has been effective in three straight starts, including Monday's win at San Francisco, but with just 11 strikeouts since he came off the DL (covering four turns), I'll look at other options . . . Carlos Delgado's prone to get pull-happy now and again, but he used the entire ballpark with his two homers Monday (one to left, one to dead-center) . . .With Nate McLouth (virus) back in Monday's lineup, Nyjer Morgan moved to the bench. The Pirates did give Morgan one late at-bat when the game got out of hand.

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Injury Lap: The Indians will give Victor Martinez (elbow) two more days at Triple-A, then they'll re-evaluate. As for Travis Hafner (shoulder), he'll be staying there for at least the remainder of the week . . . Johnny Cueto (elbow) will miss at least one turn . . . Joe Crede (back) didn't do much in his Triple-A rehab stint, but nonetheless the White Sox activated him Monday. Keep expectations tempered . . . Carlos Guillen's cranky back acted up again Monday and he left in the fourth inning. Consider him day-to-day . . . Luis Castillo (hip) is back with the Mets but probably won't play full-time . . . Chris Young (forearm) is scheduled for a simulated game Tuesday and if all goes well, we might see him next week . . . Derrek Lee (back) got back in the mix Monday, rapping out three hits.

Handshakes: The somewhat-underrated Bobby Jenks (26); the somewhat-forgotten Brian Fuentes (26); the often-discussed Brad Ziegler (5). Trevor Hoffman also picked up a win for the Padres, San Diego's first victory in over a week. On the flip side, Jon Rauch allowed Gerut's game-deciding homer in San Diego (working in a tie game), so the roulette wheel continues to spin in Arizona. Deep league players might want to look into Tony Pena, just in case.


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