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Closing Time: Hisashi Iwakuma hits a slump; Biogenesis black cloud looms

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Slumping in Seattle (USAT)

Although the Biogenesis story is the obvious elephant in the room, I'm making an executive decision to talk about on-field baseball first. If you want my thoughts on the Biogenesis mess, skip down to the second bullet.

Opinions are going to be split on the slumping Hisashi Iwakuma. Some will choose to bail, while others will look for a buying opportunity. Put me in the second camp.

His last five starts have all sorts of jagged numbers attached: 22 runs allowed, 10 homers. His ERA jumped from 1.79 to 2.97 over that span. The Red Sox hammered him for eight hits, six runs and three taters in Tuesday's victory at Safeco Field.

Control hasn't been a big problem for Iwakuma during this slump, but command has been - while he's still around the strike zone (and rarely walking anyone), he's not putting pitches exactly where he wants them. That's been a part of this gopher parade, but let's also credit some of the hitters. When you face offenses like the Red Sox, Rangers and Athletics (as Iwakuma has during this stretch), sometimes the batter is going to win.

Iwakuma's loss at Texas last week wasn't as bad as the final line looked, either. He cruised through six innings, allowing just one run, before tiring in the seventh (homer, two more baserunners). The bullpen allowed his two inherited runners to score, flipping the result in the process. Iwakuma certainly isn't the first pitcher to run into late-game problems in the Arlington heat.

Iwakuma faces the Angels this weekend, and he might see the Astros and Twins after the break - assuming the Mariners come out with their aces to open the second half. Good work if you can get it. He's still a Top 20 arm on my clipboard.

There's no obvious answer with the Biogenesis mess, no happy path to discuss. Baseball obviously wants to go after Ryan Braun, Alex Rodriguez and others (here's Tuesday's OTL report from ESPN.com), but it's easier said than done. No one, as far as we know, has tested positive for anything. The appeals process is a lengthy one (especially if there's a gigantic docket of appeals cases), and surely the players won't go down without a fight. The incentive to fight back through appeal is even stronger for the notable players who are on contending teams (something we can't say about Braun); if Nelson Cruz happens to be mixed up in this, as is rumored, it's doubtful he'll just shrug and move to the sidelines.

I'd consider moving Braun if I owned him, but that's more tied to the fact that he recently returned from a thumb injury (you never want to mess with the thumb). But it's the wrong time to have a giveaway, the wrong time to start a garage sale. I'm certainly not a lawyer and I'm not privy to any information that you don't have, but my gut feel on this is that no major player serves a suspension from the Biogenesis situation during the 2013 season. MLB isn't flicking a switch here and getting what it wants - there's a process that has to play out, and it's going to take time.

If you're tied to Braun or any other major part of this, share your angles and thoughts in the comments. The waiting is the hardest part.

It's an interesting time for Chicago outfielders on the trading block. Alfonso Soriano has been a fantasy overlord over the last two weeks (.400, eight homers), and Alex Rios might be in the deadline conversation, too. Rios had a day for himself at Comerica Park on Tuesday, collecting six hits and a couple of stolen bases as the White Sox rolled past the Tigers.

Rios can block a trade to six teams, if he so desires - the Yankees, Diamondbacks, Astros, Athletics, Royals and Rockies. He's signed through 2014 (along with a 2015 option) and the White Sox aren't going anywhere this year, so the timing for a swap appears right. While the White Sox are unlikely to take a trade-at-any-cost stance with Rios, he's the most attractive piece they have to shop. Buckle up for an entertaining ride this summer. Maybe FAAB-hoarding NL-only players are going to get rewarded shortly.

The 2013 Mets offense doesn't scare anyone (okay, maybe animals and small children), but let's accept Citi Field drives this story. New York has a paltry .654 OPS for home games (only Miami is worse), but the Mets offense is respectable out of a suitcase (.708 OPS, 15th in the majors). The Mets got their Ya-Yas out in Tuesday's win at San Francisco, pushing across 10 runs and turning a tight game into a rout.

Marlon Byrd broke Tuesday's game open, clubbing a grand slam in the eighth, and he's quietly having a season of roto relevance (get that Wiggy ready). Byrd is up to 14 homers and 47 RBIs for the year, and check the work he's doing in road games (.305/.345/.618, 10 homers). I understand the caveats that come along with a 35-year-old journeyman outfielder, but that 10 percent ownership tag sounds light in this case.

I'm not sure how much the Diamondbacks are going to play Adam Eaton - this team is overflowing with outfielders - but it's good to see the rookie back in action anyway. Eaton (knee) went 0-for-4 in his season debut, batting leadoff. The Snakes face two lefties in the next three days, which might limit Eaton's opportunities. If I were shuffling the outfielders right now, I'd probably have Eaton around $6-7. Kirk Gibson has never been the most patient manager with respect to young players.

Speed Round: The A's sent Daniel Straily to the minors, but that's probably to keep him fresh - he's expected to return after the All-Star break . . . The White Sox are hoping to get Jake Peavy (ribs) back after one or two rehab turns . . . Chris Carter (hand) hasn't started since Friday, but he was able to pinch-hit in Tuesday's loss at St. Louis . . . Eric Stults cruised to an easy complete-game win (4 H, 1 R, 3 BB, 5 K) over the Cargo-free Rockies. Another wonderful matchup awaits for Sunday: the out-of-order Giants, at Petco . . . Shane Victorino apparently can play through his hamstring issue; he went 2-for-5 with a homer at Seattle . . . Tony Cingrani took a hard-luck loss at Milwaukee, not that we can complain about 10 strikeouts over seven innings. He's at Atlanta on the weekend . . . Ricky Nolasco impressed his new teammates, allowing just one run in seven innings at Arizona (4 H, 0 BB, 5 K). He's at home against the Rockies on Sunday . . . Two straight wins for Cole Hamels. Anything is possible, gamers.

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