Cole Outduels Bieber in Battle of the Aces

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George Bissell
·17 min read
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It’s almost impossible for a pitchers’ duel to live up to the hype, but Gerrit Cole and Shane Bieber delivered on a potential once-in-a-season ace-versus-ace matchup on Saturday evening. Ultimately, it was Cole who outdueled Bieber in the low-scoring affair, firing seven innings of one-run ball with 11 strikeouts to lead the Yankees to a 2-1 victory. The 30-year-old fire-baller touched triple-digits on the radar gun and generated 15 swinging strikes to finish with a 32 percent CSW (called strikes plus whiffs). An RBI single by Eddie Rosario in the fourth inning represented the lone tally against him as he went on to retire the final 11 batters he faced. According to James Smyth of YES Network, Cole is the first pitcher in Yankees history to record 50-plus strikeouts and three walks or fewer across any five game span. He owns a microscopic 1.71 ERA, 0.73 WHIP and 50/3 K/BB ratio over 31 2/3 innings (five starts) to open the 2021 campaign.

Meanwhile, Bieber more than held up his end of the bargain in this one, but ultimately coughed up solo homers to Aaron Hicks and Rougned Odor in the fifth inning, which ended up being the difference. The 25-year-old righty has compiled a 2.48 ERA, 0.94 WHIP and 57/13 K/BB ratio across 36 1/3 innings (five starts). He wound up only two strikeouts shy of matching Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan (1978) for the all-time record in the modern era for most strikeouts through five appearances to begin a season. Ironically, he might not come the closest to breaking that record this season as Mets’ ace Jacob deGrom is sitting on an absurd 40 punchouts through his first four starts to open the 2021 campaign.

Fernandomania

Fernando Tatis Jr. took Dodgers’ ace Trevor Bauer deep twice on Saturday night, but it wasn’t enough to lead the Padres to a third straight win against their division rivals. The 22-year-old superstar shortstop crushed a leadoff homer in the opening frame and left the yard for the fourth time in his last two games with another solo shot in the sixth inning. It’s one thing to record back-to-back multi-homer games, but it’s another to do it against Clayton Kershaw and Trevor Bauer, a pair of former Cy Young Award-winning starting pitchers. He had a chance to come up big in the ninth inning, facing Dodgers’ closer Kenley Jansen with the tying run in scoring position and only one out, but ended up grounding out to second base. After a pair of legendary performances it’s difficult to imagine what he’ll do for an encore when the four-game series wraps up with a nationally-televised Sunday Night Baseball audience glued to their screens. He’s the undisputed face of baseball moving forward. According to Sarah Langs of MLB.com, only four hitters since 1901 have had multiple homers in three consecutive games.

Starting Pitchers with an EDGE

Kevin Gausman vs. Marlins

8.0 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 11 K

39% CSW, 21 swinging strikes

Gausman authored arguably the most dominant pitching performance of a jam-packed Saturday slate, inducing a sublime 21 swinging strikes, including 16 on his splitter, to record his highest single-start total since May 22, 2018. The 30-year-old righty has allowed one run or fewer in four of his five starts to kick-off the 2021 campaign. He’ll carry a 2.14 ERA, 0.86 WHIP and 34/10 K/BB ratio across 33 2/3 innings (five starts) into an extremely difficult road matchup against the Padres on Friday.

Trevor Bauer vs. Padres

6.0 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 2 ER, 0 BB, 9 K

36% CSW, 20 swinging strikes

Bauer was phenomenal, outside of a pair of mistakes to Fernando Tatis Jr. He generated an absurd 20 swinging strikes and finished with an elite 36 percent CSW (called strikes plus whiffs). The 30-year-old righty has completed six frames while also recording at least seven strikeouts in five consecutive starts to open the 2021 campaign. He’ll face off against the Brewers in a road tilt on Friday.

Pablo Lopez vs. Giants

6.0 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 7 K

29% CSW, 13 swinging strikes

Lopez dominated the Giants for the second consecutive start, allowing just three batted balls with an exit velocity over 95 mph, and finishing with double-digit whiffs for the third consecutive start. The 25-year-old righty remains one of the most underrated starting pitchers in the entire fantasy landscape. He’ll carry a 2.93 ERA, 1.08 WHIP and 32/8 K/BB ratio over 27 2/3 innings (five starts) into a road matchup against the division-rival Nationals on Friday.

Robbie Ray vs. Rays

6.0 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 0 BB, 9 K

30% CSW, 19 swinging strikes

Ray generated an eye-popping 19 swinging strikes and didn’t hand out a free pass for the first time in a start since July 28, 2019. He gave up a pair of homers, which accounted for all of the damage against him. The 29-year-old southpaw remains the quintessential three-true-outcomes pitcher. He’s allowed three earned runs or fewer in three consecutive starts to open the 2021 campaign and will carry a solid 2.81 ERA, 1.38 WHIP and 15/9 K/BB ratio across 16 innings (three starts) into a home start against the Braves on Friday.

Brady Singer vs. Tigers

7.0 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 8 K

34% CSW, 15 swinging strikes

Singer matched a career-high with eight strikeouts and yielded only three hits over seven frames in a masterful performance. A solo homer by Willi Castro in the fifth inning represented the lone tally against him. The 24-year-old workhorse was extremely efficient, needing only 93 pitches (65 strikes) to navigate seven frames. He generated a season-high 15 swinging strikes, didn't hand out a free pass, and finished with an elite 34 percent CSW (called strikes plus whiffs). He'll carry a sparkling 2.95 ERA, 1.08 WHIP and 25/6 K/BB ratio across 21 1/3 innings (four starts) into a challenging road matchup with the Twins on Friday.

Freddy Peralta vs. Cubs

4.0 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 7 K

37% CSW, 14 swinging strikes

Peralta delivered yet another electric outing, generating a whopping 13 swinging strikes between his fastball/slider combination on 81 pitches. The 24-year-old righty has answered any questions regarding whether he belongs in the Brewers’ starting rotation, compiling a sparking 2.45 ERA, 1.18 WHIP and 38/13 K/BB ratio across 22 innings (five appearances, four starts) this season. He’s rapidly evolving into one of the most exciting starting pitchers in the entire fantasy landscape and will face his toughest test yet against a loaded Dodgers’ lineup on Thursday.

Adbert Alzolay vs. Brewers

4.2 IP, 2 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 7 K

33% CSW, 13 swinging strikes

Alzolay has been hit or miss in his brief time in the major leagues over the last two seasons, but he was certainly locked in on Saturday in his return to the Cubs’ starting rotation against the Brewers. The 26-year-old righty recorded a season-high seven strikeouts in the abbreviated outing and also generated double-digit whiffs for the second time in three starts this year. He’s struggled from a run prevention standpoint, but his immense strikeout upside makes him worthy of a roster spot for fantasy managers in deeper mixed leagues. He’s lined up to face the Braves in a road tilt on Thursday.

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Hitters with an EDGE

Alex Bregman vs. Angels

2-for-3, 4 R, HR, 3 RBI, SB

Bregman served as the Astros’ primary offensive catalyst on Saturday afternoon, spearheading a surreal 18-hit, 16-run explosion against the Angels. He delivered a pivotal three-run homer off Griffin Canning in the third inning and scored a career-high four runs in the blowout victory. It was a monster afternoon for the entire Astros’ lineup as Carlos Correa went 3-for-6 with a leadoff homer, Michael Brantley went 3-for-3 with four runs scored, Yordan Alvarez went 2-for-4 with four RBI, and Kyle Tucker went 2-for-5 with a two-run homer in the lopsided win. The 27-year-old stalwart has missed some time due to a COVID-19 related absence and some lingering injuries, but he’s been fantastic at the plate, slashing .340/.407/.528 with nine runs scored, three homers and 12 RBI across 59 plate appearances.

Jed Lowrie vs. Orioles

1-for-5, R, HR, 3 RBI

Matt Olson vs. Orioles

2-for-4, 2 RBI, BB

The Athletics extended their improbable winning streak to 13 games with a 7-2 victory over the Orioles on Saturday night. Once again, it was the tandem of Olson and Lowrie at the epicenter of another offensive outburst. Olson kicked off the scoring with an RBI single in the opening frame and an RBI double in the second inning before Lowrie extinguished any hope of an Orioles comeback by clobbering a three-run homer -- his third round-tripper of the season -- in the fourth inning.

Rhys Hoskins vs. Rockies

2-for-4, 2 R, 2 HR, 5 RBI

Hoskins took full advantage of the high-octane offensive environment of Coors Field, blasting a pair of homers and driving in a career-high five runs on Saturday evening in the Phillies’ win over the Rockies. It was his first multi-homer effort since September 2, 2019.

Closing Time

Liam Hendriks coughed up a game-tying solo homer to Willie Calhoun in the top of the ninth inning on Saturday, but was ultimately credited with a win after the White Sox rallied for a walk-off victory in the bottom of the frame. The 32-year-old elite closer has surrendered nearly as many long balls (four) across 9 1/3 innings during the first month of the 2021 campaign as he did (six) over 110 frames combined over the last two seasons.

Josh Hader struck out two batters to work around a leadoff walk in a scoreless ninth inning on Saturday, icing the Brewers’ one-run victory over the Cubs to collect his fourth save of the season. The 27-year-old lefty has not allowed a run, while posting an absurd 13/4 K/BB ratio over 6 2/3 innings of work this season.

Veteran stopper Greg Holland was back for the Royals, but manager Mike Matheny turned to hard-throwing righty Josh Staumont to close out Saturday’s win over the Tigers. The 27-year-old righty tossed a perfect ninth inning, preserving a one-run lead to pick up his first save of the season. While Holland remains the favorite to garner the majority of the save chances moving forward, six different Royals’ pitchers have recorded a save so far this year.

After Alex Reyes needed 23 pitches to record the final two outs of Friday’s victory, Giovanny Gallegos was summoned to record the final six outs of the Cardinals’ win over the Reds on Saturday, preserving a two-run lead to notch his first save of the season. The 29-year-old righty needed only 23 pitches (16 strikes) to toss a pair of scoreless frames.

Jordan Romano was saddled with a loss in his return to the Blue Jays’ bullpen on Saturday when he was charged with two runs (one earned) on a pair of walks in the eighth inning of a tie ballgame against the Rays. The 28-year-old righty remains the favorite to serve as Toronto’s closer moving forward, but he looked a bit rusty in this one.

Diego Castillo was activated from the injured list after missing one game due to COVID-19 vaccine side effects, but Rays manager Kevin Cash elected to call upon Andrew Kittredge on Saturday to protect a two-run lead in the ninth inning against the Blue Jays. The 31-year-old righty gave up a one-out double, but managed to hang on for his first save of the season.

Hector Neris bounced back from a tough outing on Friday night to slam the door on the Rockies on Saturday, guarding a two-run lead to earn his third save of the season. The 31-year-old righty owns a 2.08 ERA, 1.15 WHIP and 11/3 K/BB ratio over 8 2/3 innings so far.

Kenley Jansen recorded the final four outs of the Dodgers’ win over the Padres, securing a one-run lead to collect his fifth save of the season. The 33-year-old righty’s velocity has fluctuated, but he remains the primary closer in Los Angeles.

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EDGE Priority Pickup

Jonathan Loaisiga, RP, Yankees

Let’s face it, there isn’t a ton of affinity for non-closing relief pitchers within fantasy baseball circles, but Loaisiga’s stellar early-season performance demands attention from fantasy managers, especially those in deeper mixed leagues. The 26-year-old righty didn’t allow a baserunner and recorded the final four outs of the Yankees’ one-run victory over the Indians on Saturday evening to notch his first career save. The former top pitching prospect has excelled in a versatile multi-inning relief role, compiling a microscopic 1.35 ERA, 0.68 WHIP and 13/1 K/BB ratio across 13 1/3 innings of work this season.

Sunday’s Matchup of the Day

Josh Fleming/Luis Patino (Rays) vs. Hyun-Jin Ryu (Blue Jays) - 1:10 PM ET

It’s unclear exactly how Rays manager Kevin Cash will deploy the contrasting tandem of soft-tossing lefty Josh Fleming and flame-throwing righty Luis Patino against the Blue Jays, but it should make for fantastic theatre. Patino will be making his highly-anticipated Rays debut after opening the 2021 campaign at the team’s alternate training site. The electrifying 21-year-old righty boasts triple-digit fastball velocity and stratospheric strikeout upside if it all comes together. Don’t miss this one, folks.

American League Quick Hits: Astros manager Dusty Baker told reporters that Jake Odorizzi was removed from Saturday's game against the Angels in the top of the first inning due to forearm tightness. The 31-year-old righty threw only five pitches, and his fastball velocity was down nearly five miles per hour from his season average, topping out at just 87.6 mph in the abbreviated outing. He’ll be evaluated further over the remainder of the weekend … Mike Trout (elbow contusion) was held out of the Angels’ lineup for the second consecutive game on Saturday, but manager Joe Maddon told reporters that he doesn’t believe the injury will require a trip to the injured list … Blue Jays manager Charlie Montoyo said Saturday that he "doesn't think" George Springer (oblique) will be activated before the team's series finale against the Rays on Sunday … Lucas Giolito was pushed back from his scheduled start on Sunday due to a cut on his right middle finger, which he sustained as a result of a mishap with a glass water bottle. White Sox manager Tony La Russa said Saturday that Giolito will take the ball on Tuesday against the Tigers … Nick Madrigal hit a game-winning, RBI double in the bottom of the ninth inning to propel the White Sox to a walk-off win over the Rangers … Kyle Seager went 3-for-5 with three RBI and a pair of runs scored, Sam Haggerty went 3-for-5 with a homer and a stolen base, and Ty France went 3-for-5 with three runs scored in the Mariners’ lopsided win over the Red Sox … Shohei Ohtani and Albert Pujols launched solo homers in the Angels’ blowout loss to the Astros … Mike Brosseau and Mike Zunino left the yard in the Rays’ comeback win over the Blue Jays … Cavan Biggio tallied a season-high three hits and Randal Grichuk clobbered a three-run homer in the loss … Chris Bassitt struck out eight batters over six innings of two-run ball in a win over the Orioles ... Chris Flexen registered seven strikeouts over seven innings of one-run ball in a win over the Red Sox … Matthew Boyd whiffed three batters and yielded two runs (one earned) over eight innings, but was saddled with a loss against the Royals … Dallas Keuchel scattered seven hits and also fanned a pair of batters over six shutout frames in a no-decision against the Rangers … Ryan Yarbrough scattered three hits and struck out six batters over 5 2/3 scoreless frames in a bulk relief appearance against the Blue Jays … Kent Emanuel struck out five batters and allowed two runs over 8 2/3 innings in relief to pick up a win against the Angels in his major-league debut … David Dahl (shoulder) was absent from the Rangers' starting lineup for the second consecutive game on Saturday … A.J. Puk (biceps) is expected to begin throwing soon at the Athletic's alternate training site.

National League Quick Hits: Brewers manager Craig Counsell said Saturday that Christian Yelich (back) has "hit a plateau" in his recovery from a back injury and will be sent back to Milwaukee to undergo an MRI … Yadier Molina (foot) was held out of the Cardinals' starting lineup for Saturday's game against the Reds for precautionary reasons … Mets manager Luis Rojas told reporters on Saturday that Carlos Carrasco (hamstring) could return by the second week in May. He also added that Noah Syndergaard (elbow) faced live hitters on Saturday for the first time since undergoing Tommy John surgery last March … Saturday's game between the Diamondbacks and Braves was postponed due to inclement weather and will be made up as a doubleheader on Sunday afternoon. It’ll be Bryse Wilson against Zac Gallen in the front-end of the twin-billing, with Drew Smyly facing Madison Bumgarner in the nightcap … Jesus Aguilar crushed a go-ahead two-run homer in the ninth inning to power the Marlins past the Giants … Keston Hiura went 3-for-4 with a double and a run scored in the Brewers’ win over the Cubs … Michael Perez went 3-for-5 with a solo homer and three RBI to lead the Pirates past the Twins … Yadiel Hernandez went 2-for-4 with a pair of doubles and two RBI to propel the Nationals to a one-sided victory against the Mets … Michael Conforto belted his first long ball of the season in the losing effort … Ryan McMahon walloped his seventh round-tripper of the season in the Rockies’ loss to the Phillies … Blake Snell struck out seven batters and allowed only two runs over 5 2/3 innings in a no-decision against the Dodgers … John Gant registered five strikeouts over six shutout innings in a win over the Reds … Aaron Nola surrendered four runs over seven innings in a win over the Rockies … Trevor Cahill gave up one run over six innings to pick up a win against the Twins … Padres manager Jayce Tingler said Saturday that “it's realistic” Austin Nola (finger) could come off the injured list on Tuesday for the team’s upcoming series against the Diamondbacks … Dodgers placed RHP Corey Knebel on the 10-day injured list with a right lat injury … Brewers placed LHP Brett Anderson (right hamstring strain) and RHP Josh Lindblom (right knee effusion) on the 10-day injured list with a strained right hamstring and also recalled OF Corey Ray from their alternate training site.