Generally speaking, this is not a column where we celebrate the amazing feats of the universally-owned player. No one in a competitive league can go out and acquire Shelby Miller or Jon Lester today, and heck, it's the wrong time to ask for them in trade.
But some performances are too good to ignore, and sometimes you gotta break the rules (most of the formative life lessons come from discarded Burger King slogans). With that in mind, let's offer some words about the one-hit wonders.
Miller needed just 113 pitches (mostly fastballs) in his complete-game domination of the Rockies, racking up 13 strikeouts along the way. Eric Young Jr. opened the game with a flare single to right field, then Miller retired the next 27 batters. Check out the tape and you'll see a clinic in fastball location: in and out, up and down. You are special, Shelby.
Miller (1.58 ERA, 0.88 WHIP) now stands as the clear Rookie of the Year favorite in the NL, no great surprise given his pedigree and prospect status. And maybe there's a lesson here about stud pitching prospects who struggle in the minors prior to recall; Miller, after all, posted a 4.74 ERA and 1.38 WHIP at Triple-A Memphis last year. Was he bored in the bush leagues? Fiddling around with secondary stuff? It's all a moot point now; he's pitched his way into the Top 20 on anyone's pitching board. Whatever you paid for him in March was a ridiculous steal; take your victory lap (and share your scouting secrets) in the comments.
Lester's brilliant outing had no-hit intrigue tied to it, as he mowed down 17 Blue Jays in a row before Maicer Izturis lined a double down the left-field corner. Unfazed, Lester recorded the next 10 outs in crisp fashion and put the wraps on his fifth victory. No walks, five strikeouts, a modest 118 pitches. Everyone take a sip of dirty water.
While Lester required more batted-ball fortune than Miller did, the Boston lefty made a lot of his own luck: note the 12 ground-ball outs. Lester had excellent command of his two-seam fastball and change up all evening, inducing plenty of weak contact from the Jays. Lester's current ratios (2.73 ERA, 0.99 WHIP) are probably a little over his head, but he looks back in his 2008-2011 form. He's reunited with John Farrell, his former pitching guru, and it feels so good.
• The Boston bullpen enjoyed a full night of rest while Lester worked his magic, a welcome break for a group that's missing some big names. Joel Hanrahan won't be a part of the solution in 2013: his flexor muscle is torn and needs season-ending surgery. With Andrew Bailey (biceps) on the disabled list as well, the Red Sox handshake chase runs through recently-anointed Junichi Tazawa (2.93/1.04, 19 strikeouts against three walks). He's surprisingly unowned in 49 percent of Yahoo! leagues; given the messy injury history with Bailey, this is a spot for an aggressive speculation play. I'm expecting double-digit saves from Tazawa.
• Alex Cobb is writing his own breakout story in Tampa Bay, posting a tidy 3.09 ERA and 1.22 WHIP through seven starts. His Friday turn against San Diego turned into a mixed bag of results; you love the 13 strikeouts but it led to an accelerated pitch count (117 tosses, 77 strikes) and removal in the middle of the fifth inning. When everything's hashed together we'll spin this as a positive - missing bats is always a good thing. Cobb's recommended next week against Boston, under the catwalk (as of right now, he's scheduled to miss Lester).
• Since we're embracing relaxed ownership-level rules in this edition of Closing Time, let's talk a little about Seattle stud Hisashi Iwakuma. Something was lost in translation when the Mariners initially deployed Iwakuma last year: he posted a mediocre 4.75 ERA over 30.1 relief innings. The story flipped in the rotation - Iwakuma has a sparkling 2.33 ERA and 1.06 WHIP since changing roles. The AL West, the heavy marine layer, it's all a wonderful thing. Oakland didn't do much against Iwakuma, as expected (7 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 0 BB, 9 K).
Iwakuma's 2013 line is almost too good to be true: he's pushed his strikeout clip to 8.9/9 while trimming walks to a microscopic 1.4/9. His ground-ball rate has fallen from last year's dreamy level, but anytime a pitcher is striking out more batters while his control improves, I'm not looking to discredit it. Iwakuma isn't on any of my teams this year, sadly (and he was part of an annoying renege trade offer about a month ago), but you have to appreciate beauty where you find it. I'd start this guy anywhere, even at New York next week. (If you're in one of my leagues, offer me an Iwakuma trade right now. Be creative. I'm ready to overpay.)
• If you streamed Zack Greinke in your Single-A fantasy league, Friday turned into a grave disappointment. The rehabbing righty was hit for eight runs (three earned) over 4.1 innings, knocked around by the henchmen of Lake Elsinore. Biff. Bam. Zowie. Of course Greinke was merely looking to get work in (process, not results), and his temporary teammates didn't help the cause by committing three errors.
Greinke looks ready to go for Wednesday's LA start against Washington (finally, some good news for the star-crossed Dodgers). He was expected to miss two months with his collarbone injury, but he'll return in less than five weeks. Given that Greinke's injury wasn't related to his arm in any way, you might as well activate him right out of the box. He threw 80 pitches in the rehab turn, so the club doesn't appear worried about its ace.
• Michael Cuddyer missed Friday's bagel parade in St. Louis; he's battling a neck injury. Cuddyer says he's dealt with the problem off-and-on since 2004, but it's still possible he might need a DL stint. The widely-available Eric Young is around as an outfield option if Cuddyer needs an extended rest, and we can always dream about a reprieve for Tyler Colvin, someday. Colvin has been good, not great, through 29 games at Triple-A Colorado Springs (.283/.345/.472, four homers, two steals).
It's not the richest time to add a Colorado bat, mind you. The Rockies don't return home until next Thursday, and the park generally doesn't show its full teeth at this time of year. Nonetheless, there's extreme offensive potential in this environment down the road, so we have to be mindful of the lineup at all times.
• Any Will Venable sympathizers in the house? The frisky Friar posted a homer (his fifth) and two steals (sixth, seventh) at Tampa. Venable hardly plays against left-handed pitching, but a .260/.325/.493 slash line is useful against the northpaws when you mix in the category juice. The Padres face just one left-hander over their next eight games, making it the right time to kick the Venable tires. He's good to go in 96 percent of Yahoo! leagues.