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Scott Pianowski

Closing Time: Young lefties make their pitch

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The Macbook has a full charge, I'm caffeinated, it's dark and I'm wearing glasses. Hit it.

The Indians might have the worst offense in the American League right now but that shouldn't diminish what Brett Cecil(notes) did in Cleveland Monday. Cecil took a perfect game into the seventh inning, eventually settling for a one-hitter over eight along with 10 strikeouts (roll the tape). On one hand you want to stay a little tempered with the kid given that he works in the killer AL East, but we also need to consider that he struck out eight Rays in his first start of the season, and he checked the Red Sox in a turn last week (6 IP, 1 R). You should look to use Cecil this weekend against the White Sox, and even when Brian Tallet(notes) comes off the DL, the Blue Jays need to keep Cecil in the rotation.

But before you point and click on the Toronto kid, look over to the NL – St. Louis southpaw Jaime Garcia(notes) is a better investment. Garcia went into Philadelphia and shut down the NL's best lineup over six tidy innings (3 H, 1 R, 4 BB, 6 K), his fifth useful start in a row. You'd like to see less walks from Garcia as he matures, but there's a lot to like here: he's getting a ton of ground balls (65 percent) and batters have been having trouble squaring up his pitches (a skimpy 13.3 percent for line drives). He's made strides with his cutter and change, and the normal St. Louis rules apply (strong defense, Dave Duncan, etc).

Brad Lidge(notes) had his good stuff in a mop-up inning against St. Louis (1 H, 2 K), and Charlie Manuel was paying attention. "Tonight he looked ready," Manuel told Todd Zolecki of MLB.com. "His slider was better. His fastball was better. Everything about it was better." Sounds like the Lidge carnival ride could be back in the closing chair this week.

There is no understanding the Rich Harden(notes) matrix, and there's almost no point of trying. After four mediocre starts in a row (20 IP, 11 R, 18 BB, 14 K), he walked into Oakland Monday night and spun a beauty, throwing a two-hit shutout over seven innings. Harden struck out nine, didn't walk anyone, and gave us some pretty video to look over. The schedule looks decent if you want to get on board: Harden gets the Royals, Blue Jays and Orioles for his next three turns.

The Red Sox busted out for 17 runs and 20 hits at Fenway against the Angels, with Mike Lowell(notes) in the middle of the fun (four hits, two runs, four RBIs). David Ortiz(notes) wasn't in the starting lineup and you have to figure Lowell will stick for a few days after this breakthrough (that said, no one throws a parade when you knock around Joe Saunders(notes)). I'd rather get a root canal than say nice things about J.D. Drew(notes), but he is on a 9-for-17 binge with three homers, six runs and seven RBIs.

Frank Francisco(notes) was given a chance at a four-out save but he fell apart quickly in the ninth at Oakland: single, homer, walk. Neftali Feliz(notes) stepped in and shut the door, emphatically, getting a pop-up and two swinging strikeouts. It's been a fluid closing situation in Texas all year, but this is the sort of stuff that really extends a leash.

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Ubaldo Jimenez(notes) at San Diego looked like a mismatch on paper and that's how it played out: seven dazzling innings, one run, 13 strikeouts (snappy video here). Jimenez moves to 6-0 with a ridiculous 0.87 ERA; there's no denying his place in the upper echelon of starting pitchers.

It's been a strong year for NL investments on the mound; short of that Sunday night implosion from Johan Santana(notes), most of the big-ticket items are making us happy. Jimenez, Tim Lincecum(notes) and Roy Halladay(notes) all have Cy Young resumes right now, the two St. Louis aces (Carpenter, Wainwright) aren't far behind, and Yovani Gallardo(notes), Tommy Hanson(notes) and Josh Johnson(notes) are all off to fast starts. If you're in a mixed league, the appeal of NL starters is obvious; why mess with the American League if you don't have to?

Will Venable(notes) struck out twice against Jimenez and was removed for a pinch hitter (rather than face the left-handed Joe Beimel(notes)), but Venable also had a hit, stole a base and scored a run. He's striking out a third of the time and it's pushed his average down to .235, but otherwise he's filling the stat line nicely (15 runs, four homers, 12 RBIs, and 7-for-7 on the bases). This useful outfielder is still available in 84 percent of Yahoo! leagues.

Kerry Wood's(notes) first minor-league rehab appearance was a disaster (six runs over two-thirds of an inning), so the Chris Perez(notes) experience might get a little extra run in Cleveland. The Indians initially said Wood would get at least two minor-league outings before he came back to the majors; after Monday's mess, a longer stint is to be expected.

Injury Blog: Mariano Rivera(notes) is dealing with a sore side and didn't go for the ninth inning against Baltimore. Joba Chamberlain(notes) retired three of four men and grabbed the save. The Yankees also have to monitor Jorge Posada(notes), who left Monday's game due to a sore calf. … The Mets are whistling an optimistic tune on Mike Pelfrey(notes), who underwent an MRI on his sore shoulder Monday. At this point he's not expected to miss his Friday start at home against the Giants. … According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Yunel Escobar(notes) (groin) might land on the disabled list Tuesday. … The Rafael Furcal(notes) day-to-day bit is just about at a conclusion – he's expected to go on the disabled list Tuesday. … Kelvim Escobar(notes) needs shoulder surgery and is done for 2010.

Speed Round: Another collar for Nick Johnson(notes), though he did draw a walk, natch. Here's your updated Nickometer: .136/.363/.224. … Another big night from David Freese(notes) (two hits, three RBIs), and Brandon Funston is here to tell you all about the new Cardinal corner. … Would it take a court order to get Todd Helton(notes) moved in the Colorado lineup? With a .269/.380/.321 line, it's pretty obvious this guy should be batting second. … Joe Blanton(notes) was mediocre in his season debut (6.2 IP, 10 H, 4 R, 1 BB, 4 K). … I'm not sure you want anyone in the bottom third of the Toronto lineup, but they all homered Monday (Jose Bautista(notes), John Buck(notes), Travis Snider(notes)). … The Yankees have decided to give Javier Vazquez(notes) some extra time to work on his mechanics. He'll skip this week entirely (bypassing a Friday assignment at Fenway Park), then pitch next Monday in Detroit. … Carlos Gonzalez(notes) is now 4-for-7 on steal attempts after being thrown out at San Diego. … Sammy Gervacio(notes) had a brief outing against Arizona, then was optioned to Triple-A. … Wilson Ramos(notes) collected three more hits for the Twins, making him 7-for-9 as the Joe Mauer(notes) replacement. … The Diamondbacks currently lead the majors in runs and it's a good thing - they're 29th in team ERA.

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