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Closing Time: Pictures of Lilly

Scott Pianowski
Roto Arcade

We'll start Monday's lap with an underappreciated lefty and an unheralded one, and then we'll open it up to arms and bats from both sides of the plate.

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I guess the Astros don't much care for Miller Park in September as the home team. Ted Lilly and three relievers held Houston to one hit Monday, a real stunner when you consider Carlos Zambrano's no-hitter the previous night. Eighteen innings, one hit? So much for the Astros making a Wild Card run.

Lilly was outstanding Monday afternoon (1 H, 1 BB, 9 K), and he might be the most underrated support arm in fantasy baseball these days. He's collected 45 wins and 509 strikeouts over the last three years, with an ERA a shade over 4. Those numbers don't drive you to a rotisserie title, but you need guys like this for the middle and back of your rotation.

Scott Lewis is a crafty left-hander all the way; his fastball tops out in the high 80s, and he needs multiple pitches working to be effective. But let's not dismiss him out of hand - Lewis cruised through 17 minor-league starts at two levels this year (2.49 ERA, 82 strikeouts, just 13 walks) and he's kept the run going in Cleveland (two wins and 14 scoreless innings, including six Monday against Minnesota). Eric Wedge says Lewis will get at least one more start, even if Anthony Reyes (elbow) is able to return to action. It's possible the Indians will close the year with a six-man rotation.

Taylor Teagarden has 13 strikeouts in 36 at-bats with the Rangers and an ordinary stat line from the minors this year, but the ball is jumping off his bat the last two weeks and I'm not going to ignore that. He clubbed his sixth homer of the month Monday and rolled up five RBIs, and Texas is at home all week. I'll run with this a bit.

Good legs, not much bat, that was the scouting report on Eugenio Velez not too long ago. So how do we explain what he's done this month? Velez has 16 hits in 39 September at-bats, but hasn't tried to steal a base. He's collected five extra-base hits over this stretch, which partially explains the red light, but nonetheless it's surprising that he's been stationary for so long.

Dontrelle Willis struggling in Arlington had to be the lock of the season. Heck, I'm surprised he allowed just three runs over his five innings. Good luck rebuilding his mechanics, Detroit.

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Kelly Shoppach ripped his 21st homer of the year Monday (in just 327 at-bats), and he's got the highest slugging percentage on the Indians. It will be very interesting to see what the Indians decide to do with his role over the winter and into next spring, given that Victor Martinez will also be at full throttle. Only Brian McCann and Geovany Soto have hit more round-trippers than Shoppach at the catcher position this year, and no backstop is close to his HR/AB ratio.

New Dad Andre Ethier won't rejoin the Dodgers until Tuesday, but the offense didn't miss him in the opener at Pittsburgh (eight runs, 12 hits). Takashi Saito and Brad Penny got an inning of work in the laugher; Saito looked good (one walk, two strikeouts) while Penny didn't (two runs, one homer).

Elijah Dukes hit a three-run homer and Lastings Milledge had three hits and a steal as the Nationals rolled past Pedro Martinez Monday. I'd like to think Dukes and Milledge can be profitable sleepers next spring, but perhaps they're playing too well down the stretch to keep the cover. The kids are alright.

In case you missed it, Tommy Gorzelanny has a ligament sprain on his left middle finger and is done for the year. Give him a good look in March; he's still got the ability to be rosterable even in mixed leagues, despite 2008's train wreck.

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Speed Round: If you saw this coming from Kyle Davies Monday (8 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 8 K), you shouldn't be playing fantasy baseball - try the lottery . . . For all of the things that have gone wrong for Gary Sheffield in 2008, he does have 12 homers in his last 189 at-bats, including one Monday at Texas . . . Paul Konerko (knee) took BP Monday and hopes to be in Tuesday's lineup . . . Scott Kazmir's ERA jumped half a run Monday as the Red Sox dug in and whacked away (four homers). He's only had one good turn in four starts against Boston this year (last week, as it turns out), so perhaps this just isn't a good matchup for Kazmir . . . Alfredo Aceves didn't get the win Monday, but he held his own against Chicago with his third solid start in a row (6 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 1 BB, 3 K). Who's next? Baltimore this weekend . . . Michael Cuddyer picked up a start at Cleveland, going 0-for-3 . . . Mike Lowell knows he won't be 100 percent the rest of the way; he revealed Monday that he's playing with a partially torn labrum in his right hip and will need surgery after the season. It didn't stop him from homering against Kazmir . . . Shin-Soo Choo has been a nifty endgame addition for those still paying attention. He collected two more hits and a homer Monday, settling in as Cleveland's No. 3 hitter . . . Jeremy Guthrie (shoulder) went on the DL, no surprise given his struggles of late, and talk of a dead arm . . . It's a strange time for a contending club to fire its manager, don't you think? The Brewers obviously disagree, sacking Ned Yost Monday. Discuss.

The Pirates are having top prospects Andrew McCutchen and Neil Walker spend some time with the big club this week, but merely to hang around the big-league experience, they're not going to play. "It's about letting them see the environment and experiencing it," GM Neal Huntington told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. "That way, when they come up (to play), we'll have taken away a little bit of the edge, some of the unknown." Nyjer Morgan and the struggling Andy LaRoche figure to keep their lineup spots down the stretch in light of this news.

Handshakes: Jensen Lewis (9), Mariano Rivera (36), Chad Qualls (4) and Joakim Soria (38). And let's give Frank Francisco a fist bump for his work; he got the last five outs against Detroit en route to his third win, and he hasn't allowed a run since becoming the Texas closer in late August.

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