Closing Time: Ron Gardenhire breaks up Kevin Slowey's no-hitter

I don't know if there were any Minnesota fans cheering Ron Gardenhire at the tail end of Sunday's victory over Oakland – all I heard was boos. But if I were a Twins fan, I'd tip my cap at the skipper, a wise man who clearly understands that baseball is a game about the long haul.

Kevin Slowey's(notes) first start back off an elbow problem went well – actually, too well. He no-hit the Athletics over seven innings (three walks, five strikeouts) and needed just 106 pitches to get those 21 outs. Normally you'd let your starter keep working in this position, but Gardenhire wasn't about to risk an important pitcher just returning from an injury. Jon Rauch(notes) pitched the eighth (and quickly lost the no-hitter and the shutout), and the home fans emphatically showed their displeasure for the move.

"I would boo me too," Gardenhire admitted. "I took a pitcher out with a no-hitter going. But I would do it 1,000 times the same way. … We're not going to come close to risking this guy."

Say this for Slowey: He gets it too. Maybe it's something in the Minnesota water system – this team always seems to have grounded, even-tempered ballplayers. While Slowey admitted some disappointment, he also appreciates that his team is looking out for him.

"I was encouraged by the way it was presented to me," Slowey said. "I was encouraged by the fact that Gardy and (pitching coach Rick Anderson) care a whole lot about me as a person and as a pitcher in the long term than they do about winning one game or having one accomplishment. I think that said a lot about them, and it says a lot about our organization."

Fantasy owners should be behind the move as well. No-hitters aren't a category in fantasy leagues. Slowey still got his win, he posted seven scoreless frames, and he might be ready to give us a strong push down the stretch. You won't want to use him in Texas in a couple of weeks, but otherwise the schedule looks very favorable for him (home starts against the Angels, Tigers and Royals, and a road trip to Cleveland).

The Padres bullpen has been a lights-out unit all season and it looks like they have another find in right-hander Ernesto Frieri(notes). The 25-year-old fireballer has a glittering line that speaks for itself (12 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 4 BB, 21 K) and he's available in 98 percent of Yahoo! leagues. Transaction-friendly Andy Behrens lends his endorsement; he grabbed Frieri in the Friends & Family League Monday morning.

Starting pitching is a scarce commodity in today's game but don't tell that to the Cincinnati Reds; they've got a ridiculous stockpile of quality arms. Homer Bailey(notes) did all he could to further complicate things on Sunday – he worked six shutout innings against Florida (3 H, 0 BB, 4 K) in his return from shoulder problems. It was Bailey's first start since the end of May.

Bailey's reward for this victory is a ticket to the bullpen – the Reds already have a stable full of starters even before Aaron Harang(notes) comes off the disabled list. Bailey's an intriguing prospect if someone gets hurt or bumped, but I don't see the point of chasing him as a non-closing reliever.

Don't let Michael Brantley's(notes) full-season stats throw you off. He's in the middle of an excellent August (.333, 10 runs, two homers, two steals) and the Indians finally seem ready to make a commitment to him playing all the time (and batting in the leadoff spot). Brantley's ownership level is a paltry seven percent; that number should be tripled by the end of the week. He can play.

While Buck Showalter has the Orioles playing improved baseball, they were no match for Jeremy Hellickson(notes) and the Rays on Sunday; the sparkling kid mowed Baltimore down over six strong innings (3 H, 1 R, 1 BB, 5 K) and now has a 1.35 ERA and 0.60 WHIP over his first three starts. Alas, Hellickson isn't guaranteed a thing after Friday's turn against Oakland; Joe Maddon said Wade Davis(notes) and Jeff Niemann(notes) will go back into the Tampa rotation when they're ready. I suppose this is next week's fantasy problem; let's not sweat it too much at the moment. Maybe something will clear a path.

Tim Lincecum's(notes) loss to the Padres wasn't quite as bad as the box score suggests – one of the six runs was unearned and the Friars had a bunch of flairs and bloop hits. That said, there's no getting around the fact that Lincecum hasn't been himself over seven second-half turns (42.2 IP, 51 H, 23 ER, 14 BB, 38 K). He works at St. Louis on Friday, a team he's beaten five straight times over his career. Confident? Worried? Let's discuss the struggling ace in the comments.

J.A. Happ(notes) has given the Astros three quality starts out of four since joining the club, with the latest coming Sunday against the Pirates (6 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 4 BB, 5 K). Happ isn't a bad play Friday at the Marlins. Brandon Lyon(notes) picked up two saves earlier in the series, rebounding nicely from his Aug. 11 meltdown against the Braves. It's not clear when Matt Lindstrom(notes) (back) will be ready to pitch again, so Lyon has to be considered as a deep-league saves option right now.

There was something for everybody in Washington's tidy 5-3 victory over Arizona on Sunday. Stephen Strasburg(notes) looked healthy (5 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 7 K), Tyler Clippard(notes) finally bagged his ninth victory, Drew Storen(notes) worked a scoreless ninth for the save, Ryan Zimmerman(notes) knocked his sixth homer of the month, and Ian Desmond(notes) grabbed his 14th stolen base. Here's hoping Desmond gets to keep the No. 2 slot in the order for a while – he's got a .321/.345/.543 line in that position over 20 games.

If you can rattle off Boston's batting order 1-through-9 from Sunday without any help, you're a better man than I. The Red Sox went down meekly in Texas, doing little against Texas starter C.J. Wilson(notes) (7.2 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 1 BB, 8 K). The Rangers have some injury issues in their outfield as well; David Murphy(notes) and Julio Borbon(notes) eased the pain a bit by stealing bases Sunday.

The Atlanta offense has been in a funk for most of the second half and obviously the Braves will be without Chipper Jones(notes) for the rest of the year, but perhaps Sunday's 13-1 laugher over the Dodgers can serve as a pushing-off point. The criminally underowned Omar Infante(notes) set the table with a 5-3-3-1 line form the leadoff spot; I don't understand why more fantasy owners don't see the value of a four-position player who now has a full-time job to his name. Troy Glaus(notes) is finally starting to swing the bat better (he homered twice this week, including Sunday) and Alex Gonzalez(notes) also drove in four runs on the afternoon.

Speed Round: Messy times in the White Sox bullpen – Bobby Jenks(notes) might need a trip to the disabled list and J.J. Putz(notes) and Sergio Santos(notes) were both ineffective Sunday. Stay warm, Matt Thornton(notes).Kyle Lohse(notes) was throwing batting practice in St. Louis and Derrek Lee(notes) was happy to participate – two solo home runs. Lee left the game later with a stiff back, but he says he should be able to play Monday. … The Red Sox are going to have Dr. Lewis Yocum take a look at Jacoby Ellsbury's(notes) MRI. Even if Ellsbury (ribs) is able to play again this year, it's hard to imagine him doing a lot of base stealing. … Ryan Howard(notes) (ankle) won't be ready to go on Tuesday and there's talk of him potentially needing a rehab assignment. … Jose Valverde(notes) (abdominal strain) wasn't available on the weekend but is hoping to avoid the disabled list. … The Jeff Francis(notes) shoulder injury clears the way for the very intriguing Jhoulys Chacin(notes) to rejoin the Colorado rotation, beginning with Tuesday's start at Los Angeles. … Nelson Cruz's(notes) hamstring is tender again, but there wasn't any tear showing on the MRI, a good sign. … Chris Carter hasn't done a thing so far for Oakland (0-for-19, nine whiffs, one walk), and the outfield could get more complicated in a hurry with Conor Jackson(notes) on the mend.

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