We begin with the undeniably good news regarding Justin Verlander: He earned a win against the A's on Wednesday (his first since May 30), working out of trouble at various points, striking out four and issuing no walks over six innings. In Verlander's last three starts, he's delivered 20 Ks while walking only two batters. Those are solid numbers, no question.
And still, I gotta say, owning Verlander would terrify me. He came out throwing 90-92 mph against Oakland, allowing a pair of first-inning home runs, giving up nine hits over his six frames. To his credit, he found a few extra ticks on the fastball in his final inning (95-96), but overall, his performance was something less than dominant.
"It’s definitely weird to see him pitching in the upper 80s and low 90s when you’re used to 97 at your hands," catcher Derek Norris said of Verlander’s velocity dip this year. "But MVP, Cy Youngs ... he’s still going to be tough."
Well, not always.
We've told the Verlander story a few times this season, so you know all the key details already. Not only is the velocity down, but his strikeout rate has fallen off a cliff (from 23.5 to 17.3) and his swinging-strike percentage is now below league average (8.9).
If you're feeling better about Justin these days, following his three not-terrible outings, I get it. There's a long and impressive history here. As Norris says, Verlander has the hardware. But if I'd been carrying him all year, I'd attempt take advantage of the current selling window, before next week's tricky two-start slate (LAD, at KC).
• The Cubs and Red Sox combined for 25 runs and 35 hits in a fantasy buffet at Fenway, with a dozen different players delivering multi-hit games. One notable member of the multi-hit club was recent call-up Mookie Betts, who went 2-for-5 and slugged his first major league homer, a no-doubter over the monster. As we've mentioned in earlier posts, Betts offers five-category upside, plus middle-infield eligibility (based on his minor league history). He belongs on a roster somewhere, in nearly any mixer.
• Arizona manager Kirk Gibson offered a vote-of-confidence to Addison Reed, completely dismissing the suggestion that closer change could be on the horizon.
"I think he's been pretty good," Gibson said of Reed. "He's done a pretty good job for us. We've had no discussions about removing him. You might feel differently, but we don't."
OK then. Reed has blown two of his last four save chances, and he's allowed runs in five of his previous 10 appearances. But apparently he's safe. "Pretty good," even.
• Here's your usual Wednesday Kris Bryant update: He's gone 2-for-4 in three of his last four games at Iowa, raising his Triple-A slash-line to .345/.419/.764. He's also homered six times in just 15 PCL games. For the season, he's slashing .353/.451/.713 across two levels, with 28 homers, 76 RBIs and nine steals (and 94 Ks, we should note). If this binging continues — and at this point, there's no reason to think it won't — it's tough to imagine we won't see Bryant in Chicago late in the season, no matter what the front office is telling us.
• Brad Boxberger shut the door on the Yankees on Wednesday, becoming the fifth Tampa reliever to earn a save since mid-June. Committees don't get much more cluttered than this. Jake McGee is still the guy to own in this 'pen, if you're limiting yourself to just one Rays reliever — dude has a 0.80 WHIP, plus 44 Ks in 37.1 IP — but Boxberger's numbers are plenty impressive (0.93 WHIP, 13.8 K/9). He's a viable add for save-chasers, clearly.