So many stories, just one space to cram them all in. Let's get around the league.
• The Athletics better pick up their pace, they're killing the Moneyball buzz. The Coffee Kids of Seattle swept Oakland in a three-game set, capping things Wednesday with a 14-hit, seven-run onslaught. The widely-available Mike Carp is on a nifty binge since the All-Star break (.357/.390/.554, two homers, 13 RBIs) and he had a tasty 5-2-3-2 line in the series finale. I've never had a great read on the potential of Casper Wells, but he has pushed off well in Seattle (6-for-15, homer, steal). Dustin Ackley is still unowned in 53 percent of Yahoo! leagues because some people have just tanked the season, I guess. He's a potential five-category player who bats third, gamers. Where are you?
If you were patient with Brandon League, you're finally getting rewarded. He's collected three handshakes over the past five games after pitching just seven times in July. There's nothing wrong with his overall season profile, other than a brief slump in May. He's striking out almost four men for every walk, he's got an extreme ground-ball bias (61.7 percent for his career), and he's only allowed two homers all season. I like him as a possible keeper-league trading target, banking on the possibility of Seattle being competitive next year (with Felix and Pineda up front, this team is closer to contention than you might think).
• Throw all logic out the window as you try to analyze Milwaukee's win over St. Louis from Wednesday afternoon. Why was Edwin Jackson allowed to absorb a 14-hit, 10-run shellacking over seven innings, throwing 119 pitches? Yes, the Cardinals bullpen needed some rest after an extended game Tuesday, but taking Jackson out after six innings would have made sense. I'll give Jackson a mulligan and dial him up twice next week (Milwaukee and Colorado, both turns at home). Yadier Molina had an afternoon to forget, collecting a passed ball and a throwing error; perhaps his umpire run-in from the previous day was still weighing on his mind. Casey McGehee hitting three home runs, anyone want to tackle that? Rafael Furcal had his best game in what feels like years, going 2-for-3 with a single, homer and walk. He drove in four out of the leadoff spot.
• Doug Fister pounded the strike zone and killed the grass in his Detroit debut, working seven solid frames against Texas (8 H, 3 R, 2 ER, 0 BB, 0 K). A whopping 73 of his 99 pitches were strikes, and he collected 16 ground-ball outs for the night. The lack of a true putaway pitch hurts his value in some formats — if you're playing with an innings cap, you're eventually chasing K/9 — but that to the side, I like his chances to succeed in his new city. Strongly consider his two-start assignment next week, when he works at Cleveland and at Baltimore.
• It's a shame Tim Stauffer is tied to the San Diego offense; a 2.96 ERA and 1.24 WHIP deserve a better record than 7-8, and his road stats are only a hair worse than his Petco-aided numbers. Stauffer didn't take any chances in his Wednesday start against the Dodgers, blanking LA over 6.1 innings (6 H, 1 BB, 2 K) and collecting one of those elusive wins. It's disappointing to see his strikeout numbers falling of late (just 16 over his last six turns), but so long as Stove-Top Stauffer keeps cranking out the quality starts, he's entrenched in my circle of trust. A 53 percent ground-ball rate will play almost anywhere; next week, he's at New York (good) and Cincinnati (possible sit).
Late-blooming first baseman Jesus Guzman has been one San Diego bat of interest lately, posting a .337/.382/.589 line over 35 games. He's sneaking in just enough category juice to matter (four homers, three steals) and he's also knocked in 23 runs in 35 games. He's only owned in 9 percent of Yahoo! leagues, if you find yourself in need of some corner help.
• The Red Sox and Indians basically played a rerun at Fenway. Jason Kipnis homered early (that's four days in a row) and also walked twice, but Jacoby Ellsbury won the game late (with a walk-off shot in the ninth). Barring an injury, there's no way Ellsbury doesn't land in next year's first round. Carlos Santana struck out in all four at-bats, pushing his slash down to .226/.347/.416. Three of the whiffs came against Tim Wakefield's elusive knuckler. The Indians better stop the bleeding soon, as they're four games behind the front-running Tigers in the AL Central.
• Dontrelle Willis looked like a stream-friendly pick against the Astros for Wednesday, but the end result was a so-so start. Willis didn't fool anyone in the first inning (allowing a two-run homer and several other sharply-hit balls) but he settled down after that, getting through six effective if not dominant innings (8 H, 2 R, 1 BB, 2 K). He was in line for a possible victory briefly — thanks to his own homer in the top of the seventh — but Nick Masset promptly wrecked the storyline with a meltdown in the bottom of the seventh (four-pitch walk, two bunt hits, two-run double, intentional walk, shower). Turn off the TV when Masset enters a game these days; he's carrying a 7.36 ERA and 2.86 WHIP since the All-Star break.
As unthreatening as the Astros lineup is on paper, let's try to stay open-minded on some of these guys. Jason Bourgeois returned to action Wednesday and batted leadoff, collecting two infield hits and a pair of runs. Jose Altuve also had two hits, pushing his average to .340. And J.D. Martinez is an intriguing outfielder to watch down the stretch, a recent promotion from Double-A. He's always hit in the minors (check the impressive resume here), and he clocked a single, double and homer in Wednesday's victory, working out of the No. 3 slot. He's out there to speculate on in 99 percent of Yahoo! pools.
• Ryan Madson was on stork duty Wednesday (welcoming in a new child), so Brad Lidge got the closing call for the Phillies at Colorado. You know Charlie Manuel, he just can't seem to quit Lidge. Antonio Bastardo was a little uneven in the eighth (2 H, 1 R), but Lidge was 1-2-3 in the ninth, needing just 13 pitches. I'll openly admit I'm hoping this is the end of all Lidge traction, I don't have the stomach for it. Spin this news any way you like.
Ryan Howard is in the middle of a midsummer power surge, clouting five in a nine-game span. Three came at Coors Field, sure, but when he's locked in, the park doesn't matter. The Phillies have scored 40 runs over their six-game winning streak.
Speed Round: The scouting report on Carlos Marmol is well-documented: electric closer, erratic hugger. He put the Pirates down quickly in the ninth, his third straight conversion, so it's time to stop handling him with kid gloves. But that post-game meet-up with Geovany Soto needs a lot of work. … Adrian Beltre (hamstring) has resumed baseball activities and might go on a rehab assignment soon. He's eligible to come off the DL on Sunday. … Erik Bedard will make his Boston debut Thursday against Cleveland, though he'll be limited to 80 pitches. Keep in mind he missed a few weeks with a knee problem. … James Shields didn't have a hangover from his Oakland disaster start; he allowed just one run in 7.1 lockdown innings against Toronto. … Most of the primary Yankees posted big numbers in a 23-hit, 18-run beatdown at Chicago, led by their so overrated he's actually underrated captain (6-4-5-2). Curtis Granderson knocked in five runs, and will be in the Ellsbury neighborhood at next year's draft. … Rain washed out the Marlins and Mets. Clay Hensley will keep his spot in the Florida rotation, pitching Thursday against St. Louis, while New York's Dillon Gee pushes back to Sunday against Atlanta. The Marlins got good news on Hanley Ramirez's MRI; no structural damage was found in the shoulder, and he might play this weekend. … Ryan Vogelsong scored another Bay Area victory, handling the Snakes over six solid innings (5 H, 1 R, 3 BB, 7 K). He's posted a 1.30 ERA and 1.11 WHIP at home, but the numbers jump to 3.55 and 1.45 out of a suitcase. I'll use him in both turns next week, against Pittsburgh (home) and Florida (road). … The Yanks have yet to make a long-term commitment to Phil Hughes in the rotation, but he will start Tuesday at home against the Angels. … Josh Johnson (shoulder) has been throwing of late and there's a chance he could pitch again this year, not that it would make any sense whatsoever for the Marlins. I'm not expecting anything special to happen here. If you want to chase the unicorn, be my guest. … Another two hits for Desmond Jennings, who is up to .333/.440/.643 through his 11 games. Maybe big-league food is that much better than the Triple-A spread. He does have a worrisome 11 strikeouts, but he's also walked six times. … Jordan Lyles finally recorded his first win, dodging a couple of homers and working seven innings against Cincinnati. He's only walked four men over his last four starts, and he's allowed three runs or less in eight of 12 appearances. Nothing jumps off the screen with Lyles, but he's a quick worker, poised and confident. Here's hoping the Astros can get a reasonable team around him soon enough.
Images courtesy Associated Press