There are 1,000 stories nightly in the make-believe game of Fantasy Baseball. I'm here to tell you a few of them.
• Every sportswriter is trained to root for the story above all else, and there aren't many better 2011 themes than Bartolo Colon. The thick righty had to settle for a no-decision at Detroit but there's no quibbling with the bottom line (7 IP, 7 H, 3 R, 0 BB, 7 K, 2 HR). Colon still isn't generating a lot of swings-and-misses (just six percent swinging strikes), but nonetheless he's got 33 punchouts and just six walks over his 33 innings and he's getting plenty of grounders (48 percent) from his 90 mph two-seam fastball. It all adds up to a 3.00 ERA that's supported by the secondary numbers (3.18 FIP, 2.68 xFIP). Baby got comeback.
The only downside to Colon right now is the schedule; he's at Texas this weekend (count me out for that), and then he gets the Royals or the Red Sox in New York (I'll make that call when it comes to it). Do you have the stones to roll with Colon in these spots?
• The Dodgers got a tidy and simple victory over the Cubs: Clayton Kershaw was on point (7 IP, 8 H, 2 R, 0 BB, 4 K), Vicente Padilla and Jonathan Broxton were perfect behind him, and the LA hitting was timely (seven knocks produced five runs). Ten of Padilla's 11 pitches were strikes, and Broxton's clean frame (strikeout, warning-track out, infield grounder) was his first in a month.
Carlos Pena dropped to .157 after taking another collar; he flied out deep in the ninth, to go with his deep out at Arizona on Sunday (Justin Upton secured it inches from a home run). Brandon Funston advises a sell ticket on Pena and I agree; it's difficult to make a positive case here. Pena's thumb problem from the opening week of the year isn't going away.
• Brandon McCarthy did just fine with his pitching Monday afternoon (6 IP, 6 H, 2 BB, 4 K), but his two errors led to four unearned runs. The Athletics bullpen shut the door after that and grabbed a 10-inning victory, though Grant Balfour had a white-knuckle inning (three walks). Derek Holland had a strong turn after a couple of clunkers, going seven solid innings (8 H, 3 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 4 K), but I'm not bullish on him getting the Yanks in Arlington this weekend. McCarthy's next turn comes at KC against the surprising Royals (third in the AL in runs).
Neftali Feliz (shoulder) could be back as soon as Friday, good news for the Rangers. Arthur Rhodes and Darren Oliver both allowed homers Monday; the latter gave up Hideki Matsui's walk-off shot.
• Madison Bumgarner was sharp for the second straight start (7 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 7 K) but the anemic Giants offense couldn't do a thing against Tom Gorzelanny and Drew Storen. The Giants are 13th in the National League in runs scored, trailing only the Padres. I'll sign off on Bumgarner for his next start, a home date against Esmil Rogers and the Rockies; the lefty's peripherally-suggested ERA (3.50) is almost two runs lower than his current number (5.34), and he's not having any problems with velocity (it's actually up in 2011).
Miguel Tejada's fielding error led to the game's only scoring, and Tejada's offense has been a problem as well (.211/.245/.295). His biggest highlight of the year was hitting the fly ball three weeks ago that Colby Rasmus dropped on Ryan Franklin; the Bay Area official scorer graciously scored it an RBI double.
• I know a lot of statheads like to talk about HR/FB rate being one big lottery, but there was nothing cheap about the two homers the Marlins hit off Kyle Lohse on Monday. Lohse grooved a third-inning fastball to Gaby Sanchez and it left the park in about two seconds — score four runs for the visitors — and Mike Stanton absolutely crushed a flat breaking pitch two innings later. Lohse gets credit for his toughness — he stayed in the game despite taking a one-hopper off his knee — but there was nothing fun about his bottom line (6 IP, 6 H, 5 R, 3 BB, 2 K). I'll still use him on the weekend against Milwaukee.
We didn't get any new definition from Tony La Russa's spin-the-wheel bullpen. Fernando Salas got the the call in the seventh, tie score, and looked the part (perfect inning, two whiffs, 10 pitches). Mitchell Boggs followed in the eighth and got tagged with the loss, essentially because of Stanton's ringing triple that led off the inning. Trever Miller and Miguel Batista (slower than dial-up) shared the ninth. I suppose Eduardo Sanchez and Jason Motte will be ready to go if a save chance comes Tuesday; we're all guessing with this bullpen, and my Tuesday guess goes to Sanchez.
• You thought you were getting an ace with Yovani Gallardo but lately he's been pitching like a joker; he's allowed 22 runs over his last four starts, including Monday's loss at Atlanta (5 IP, 9 H, 5 R, 4 BB, 7 K). Gallardo's had trouble commanding his fastball and his slider, he's getting behind too many hitters (first strike percentage around 51), and he's only getting swinging strikes 7.1 percent of the time. Maybe we should let him pitch against the Cardinals this weekend without a fantasy stake.
• Chris Sale made a mess of the ninth against Baltimore (working with a six-run lead), creating a one-out save for Sergio Santos. Santos marked his territory by striking out Adam Jones. Alex Rios finally did something for his long-suffering owners, whacking his second homer and stealing his fourth base. What's gotten into Juan Pierre this year? He's already been caught eight times on the bases, and Matt Thornton owners know all about his defensive lapses. Gordon Beckham batted ninth again and went 1-for-2 with a run scored.
Speed Round: Jacoby Ellsbury has been productive as Boston's leadoff man (.313 average, .370 OBP), but he had to leave Monday's game with a knee bruise. It didn't look too serious but I'm nobody's doctor; let's see what the Red Sox offer on Tuesday. … Robinson Cano (hand) is hopeful he'll be able to play Tuesday in Detroit. … The Sox have been tight-lipped about Josh Beckett's status, but they say he'll make his start Wednesday. … Carlos Lee doesn't have a rib fracture but it remains to be seen when he'll play again. Speedy Jason Bourgeois (eight steals in limited action) makes for a rabbit rental in the meantime. … The Tigers have made a switch at second, recalling Scott Sizemore and demoting Will Rhymes. Sizemore was going off in the minors, hitting .408 with two homers and three steals over 76 at-bats. … Jake Peavy (shoulder) will have a rehab turn Thursday and might be back with the White Sox in the middle of the month. … Two first-inning gopher balls were enough for the Pirates to beat Aaron Harang in San Diego (Garrett Jones is quietly up to six homers, .547 slugging). Joel Hanrahan scattered two hits (one probably was an error) to get the handshake; he's pitched six times in eight games. … Alex Avila keeps on keeping on; he hit both of the homers off Colon, giving him five for the year. The Victor Martinez and Joe Mauer injuries pushed a lot of you to Avila (and well done); he's now 65-percent owned in Yahoo! leagues. … Brandon Belt is on a .545 tear since being sent down (along with two homers and three steals). The Giants need this kid back up in the majors. When Belt eventually does get the tap on the shoulder, he'll be used in a corner outfield spot. Consider a preemptive add now; Belt is owned in just 5 percent of Yahoo! leagues. … Coco Crisp was held out Monday for a maintenance day; he's coming back from a tight quad. This is what we sign up for with Crisp, but it sounds like he'll go Tuesday.
Images courtesy Associated Press (Colon, Ellsbury) and US Presswire (Stanton)