Closing Time: The Kevin Millwood miracle

Scott Pianowski
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Like a lot of fantasy pundits and roto players, I keep waiting for the other cleat to drop on Kevin Millwood's(notes) improbable comeback season. And sometimes the waiting is the hardest part.

Millwood grabbed another win Friday with six solid innings against the Padres (4 H, 2 R, 3 BB, 5 K). His ERA sits at 2.64 and you have to admit this guy is working hard for his money – he threw 113 pitches in this turn, right around his season average (111.2). Will the veteran righty hold up during the summer months in Arlington? I'm certainly in the skeptical camp, but then again, I've been wrong on this guy all year.

A look under the statistical hood reveals more facts than flukes with Millwood. His 2009 success has come despite a dip in strikeouts and a mild bump in walks. His BABIP has been favorable but not ridiculous to this point, .263. His sharp slider (which he's throwing more than ever) has been a large reason why his line-drive rate has fallen sharply in 2009, and his HR/FB ratio is normal, but when you shake all the component stats together and pull out the final result, the peripheral-suggested ERA is in the mid-4s. Say what you want about this direction of analysis, but I'll wager my frayed 1979 Topps set that Millwood isn't carrying a sub-3 ERA very much longer.

I know it's frustrating to read about sell-high suggestions on players that don't command much of a market, but perhaps three months of positive Millwood results are enough to convince one of your opponents that this story is going to keep on playing. Me, I'm betting on player history, Arlington heat, and a heavy workload.

Let's take a moment to appreciate just how fantasy friendly Tampa Bay's offense is. The Rays lead the majors in runs, OBP and stolen bases (by a zillion), they're second in slugging and fourth in homers. Joe Maddon doesn't seem to mind if his players strike out a lot or run into a few outs now and again. There's a definite lesson to be grasped here.

B.J. Upton(notes) led the way in Friday's 7-3 victory over Florida, posting a 4-3-2-3 line (with a walk) along with bag No. 27. Upton's early-season slump is ancient history at this point; only Albert Pujols(notes) has been more fantasy friendly over the last month than Bossman Junior (.336, 22 runs, 20 RBIs, 3 homers, 14 steals). The "which Upton in 2010?" debate is a long way from being settled.

There's reason for optimism with Tampa's pitching staff as well – Scott Kazmir's(notes) quad has healed up nicely and he's confirmed to start Saturday. This pushes David Price(notes) back to Sunday – an extra day wouldn't hurt given his recent struggles – and it also mercifully takes Andy Sonnanstine(notes) out of the rotation. For all of your Sonnanstine autograph needs, please forward your correspondence to Triple-A Durham.

The Orioles threw 16 hits and 11 runs at the beleaguered Nationals, though savior-of-baseball Matt Wieters(notes) didn't have a share in the fun (2-0-0-0, two walks). Wieters actually made both of his outs in the game-deciding sixth inning, when the O's scored eight times and made the game a rout. His defense has been impressive, however, and he's definitely had a role in the recent surge of Brad Bergesen(notes) (6 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 2 BB, 5 K). Bergesen has five quality starts in his last six turns, and he's allowed more than four runs just once all season (not bad in the hitter-friendly American League).

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Alex Rodriguez(notes) showcased one of his best skills Thursday, the late-game homer that came well after the Yankees had the match secured. In this case it was a two-run shot in the eighth inning, pushing the Bronx Bombers to a 7-1 lead over the crosstown Mets. A-Rod's offensive game has come alive over the last three days (two homers, eight RBIs, six walks), and Joe Girardi says Rodriguez will play through the weekend as the Yankees are facing an off-day Monday.

Friday's round-tripper was No. 564 for Rodriguez, moving him past Reggie Jackson and into 11th place on the all-time list. A-Rod calls Reggie a "close friend and a mentor" but unfortunately Rodriguez has never been able to hit in October like Jackson could.

Ricky Romero(notes) would like your attention – he's been outstanding in his last five turns, with the gem of the lot coming Friday against the Phillies (7 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 7 K). Romero had a no-hitter working into his final inning before Chase Utley(notes) broke it up. Here's the math of Romero's recent run: 34.1 IP, 2.36 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, and a whopping 33 strikeouts (notable because he wasn't projected to be a big strikeout guy). Brad Evans wrote an intriguing pro-Romero take earlier this year, worth revisiting. The young lefty gets a challenge with Tampa Bay next week.

Injury Blog: So much for the Xavier Nady(notes) comeback – he needs Tommy John surgery and is officially done for 2009. … Roy Halladay(notes) had a smooth throwing session and is cleared to return to action Monday. … Evan Longoria(notes) (hamstring) got back to work and had a couple of hits. … Chris Young (hamstring) got back in the Arizona lineup and went 0-for-2 with a walk. … Rod Barajas(notes) suffered a hamstring injury Friday night and landed immediately on the 15-day disabled list. The unexciting Raul Chavez(notes) takes over behind the plate in the meantime.

Speed Round: No worries with C.C. Sabathia(notes) (biceps) – he shut down the Mets over seven superb innings (3 H, 1 R, 0 BB, 8 K). … Andre Ethier(notes) must be excited about Manny's pending return – he knocked three balls over the wall against the Mariners. … J.J. Hardy(notes) got a chance to hit second again and went 2-for-4 with a homer against the Giants. … David Ortiz(notes) clubbed his eighth homer of the year and now has four games at first-base – check your league's eligibility rules. It looks like a fair bet that Ortiz will get at least one more start in the field at Atlanta this weekend. … The Astros didn't want to push Jose Valverde(notes) into a third straight day of work so LaTroy Hawkins(notes) got the save against Detroit. There's a modest chance that Valverde will be in trade talks later this summer, so keep Hawkins in mind even in shallow mixed leagues; it's entirely possible he'll be needed in the ninth inning again this year. … Daniel Murphy(notes) hasn't started the last three games for the Mets, odd given he was swinging the bat pretty well prior to the move. Get in line if you don't understand the whims of Jerry Manuel. … Lou Piniella sent Milton Bradley(notes) home after a mid-game tantrum Friday afternoon (manager and player exchanged some heated words), but Sweet Lou says Bradley will be back in the lineup Saturday.