Corbin Burnes off to historic start following latest gem

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Christopher Crawford
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A day after Brandon Woodruff looked like the ace of the Brewers with seven innings of one-hit baseball, Corbin Burnes offered a rebuttal — and an impressive one.

It came in a no-decision — and ultimately a loss for the Brewers — but Burnes was sensational on Thursday over his six innings. He allowed just one hit against the St. Louis lineup and struck out nine while throwing 57-of-86 pitches for strikes. He left with a 1-0 lead, but that lead evaporated the inning after the right-hander exited. 

It’d be hard to overstate just how dominant Burnes has looked in his first two starts of the season when you combine this effort with his effort against the Twins last week. He’s given up a total of two hits in 12 1/3 frames, and he’s struck out 20 without issuing a walk. If you need further evidence of how impressive this is, there are only two starters in MLB history that have allowed just one hit with no walks over six innings in their first two appearances of the year: Hal Brown in 1963, and Denton Young in 1906. He’s better known as Cy.

Let’s keep in mind that this doesn’t come (completely) out of nowhere. Burnes is a former top prospect who was a legitimate candidate for the award the person we just talked about was named after with a 2.11 ERA and 88 strikeouts in his 59 2/3 innings of work. He struggled in his 2019 season but was excellent in 2018 in a relief role. Long story short, yes, Burnes needs to show he can do this over a full season, but the stuff is absolutely here for him to be one of the best fantasy pitchers in baseball — not just in 2021, but in the long-term as well.

Milwaukee Brewers starting pitcher Corbin Burnes throws during the first inning of a baseball game against the St. Louis Cardinals Thursday, April 8, 2021, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)
Milwaukee Brewers pitcher Corbin Burnes is off to a special start to the 2021 season. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

Well, that was weird

If we call a walk-off walk “shrimp,” what are we supposed to call a walk-off hit-by-pitch? 

The former happened in the Mariners’ opener against the Giants, and the latter happened on Thursday. With the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth, Anthony Bass hit Michael Conforto in the elbow to give the Mets a 3-2 win over the Marlins.

A walk-off hit-by-pitch is weird enough but doesn’t really describe how unusual this play was. There were two strikes on Conforto, and to say that the outfielder didn’t make an effort to get out of the way is an understatement. In fact, if he does try to evade the pitch, it’s likely a strike. The play went to replay, but the rulebook says that you cannot review whether or not a batter could have gotten out of the way of said pitch, but only if it hit the batter. It clearly did, and the Mets win one of the more bizarre games of 2021. So far, anyway. 

Starting Pitchers with an EDGE

Lance Lynn — 9 IP, 0 ER, 0 BB, 11 SO against Kansas City.

Lynn has been one of the most durable starters of the last couple of seasons, and it’s really not a big surprise at all that he’s the first pitcher to fire a complete game in the 2021 season. The right-hander needed just 111 pitches to get through the outing, and 79 of those pitches were strikes. Lynn has yet to allow an earned run in his two first starts in the organization, and those who picked him as a possible Cy Young candidate (cough this writer cough) are likely not wavering based on what he’s done thus far. 

Jon Gray — 6 2/3 IP, 1 ER, 4 BB, 5 SO against Arizona

Gray took a no-hitter into the seventh inning before allowing a triple to David Peralta, and a single by Pavin Smith broke up the shutout with a single on the next play. While he did walk four and threw just 58-of-101 pitches for strikes, the stuff was excellent on Thursday; as it was against the Dodgers on Saturday before he left with “whole body cramping.” Gray is tough to trust because of his inconsistency and his park, but it’s never been a question of talent with the former third-overall pick.

Cristian Javier — 5 IP, 0 ER, 2 BB, 7 SO against Oakland.

Javier allowed just three hits in a brilliant outing against the A's on Thursday. The right-hander struggled in his previous outing — also against Oakland — while allowing two runs in 3 2/3 frames, but didn't have any issues in this one. Javier was one of the best rookie starters in baseball last year, and while he doesn't have the stuff to pile up the strikeouts like some other young arms, the 24-year-old is difficult to square up and should be able to hold his own — and then some — in the 2021 campaign. 

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Hitters with an EDGE

Byron Buxton — 3-for-5, 2B, HR, 2 R, RBI against Seattle

What a start to the season it’s been for Buxton. He has eight hits on the year, and seven of them have gone for extra-bases. The homer is already the fourth of the year and was walloped off of an ineffective Marco Gonzales. Without hyperbole, there are not many hitters who have more talent than Buxton. It’s just a matter of if he can stay healthy over 162 games. 

Mike Trout — 3-for-5, 2B, HR, 2 R, RBI against Toronto

Trout obliterated a homer that went an estimated 440 feet. He came a triple short of the cycle. He’s hitting .417/.563/.875. He’s once again leading baseball in Wins Above Replacement (WAR). It still feels like society doesn’t appreciate how good he is. How that’s possible, no idea, but it feels that way. 

Christian Vazquez — 3-for-5, 2 2B, SB against Baltimore.

Vázquez is red-hot to begin the year, and it’s led to a .458 average and a 1.333 OPS with two homers in his first seven games. On top of that, the backstop has already stolen a pair of bases, and keep in mind that Vázquez is one of the few catchers in baseball who doesn’t have abhorrent speed. Every steal a fantasy manager gets from a catcher should be treated like a gift. It’s possible Vázquez delivers a couple handful of gifts in 2021. 

Priority Pickup 

Luis Arraez — Available in 68 percent of Yahoo fantasy baseball leagues

Arráez had only one hit on Thursday in the 10-2 win over the Mariners, but it was a two-run homer. The infielder also drove in a run on a sacrifice fly for good measure and has plated five so far over seven games. The reason Arráez is such an underrated fantasy player is not his power, however. He’s hitting .381, and in his 130 career MLB games, the 23-year-old has a career slash of .333/.395/.430. Sure he’s not likely to hit many round-trippers and there are some concerns about his long-term role, but there aren’t many who are as likely to hit for a high average as Arráez right now, and the fact that he’s eligible at second, third and in the outfield? Come on, there’s no reason why he should be rostered in so few leagues. 

Closing Time 

Bass really struggled, and even if he should have gotten out of the ninth inning, he still blew the save, giving up a game-tying homer to Jeff McNeil. In three games this year, the 33-year-old has given up six runs and already blown both save chances. This was not an elite option, anyway, but his struggles combined with the fact that Miami does not appear to be very good — 1-6 on the year — makes this situation a poor one. 

Craig Kimbrel, on the other hand, did not struggle. For the first time in his career — in the regular season, anyway — Kimbrel picked up a five-out save on Thursday. It’s also the 350th save of the closer’s career. It’s only two appearances and Kimbrel has faced the Pirates in both, but so far, Kimbrel is reminiscent of the Red Sox/Braves/Padres version that made him the best reliever in baseball. 

Alex Reyes was given a chance to pick up his third save of the season, and he did just that on Thursday. The ever-so-talented right-hander did allow a hit but kept the runner at bay while also picking up a strikeout. The 26-year-old has looked the part as the St. Louis stopper and doesn’t look like he’s giving up this job anytime soon. 

Daniel Bard and Raisel Iglesias also picked up saves on Thursday. 

Friday’s Matchup of the Day 

Zack Wheeler (PHI) vs Charlie Morton (ATL)

Not exactly a day that has many ace vs. ace contests, but this is a pretty good one. Wheeler was dominant in his first start of the year with seven innings of one-hit baseball, and he’ll get a chance to face a quality Atlanta lineup. Morton was not nearly as good, but anyone who saw him pitch in the postseason — and the years prior — knows what’s capable of. This could be a good one. 

American League Quick Hits: Shohei Ohtani (blister) will not make his scheduled start on Sunday against the Blue Jays. Angels manager Joe Maddon did say that Ohtani would make a start sometime in the middle of the week … Astros manager Dusty Baker told reporters after Thursday's win over the Athletics that Enoli Paredes left Thursday's game against the Athletics after he "did something to his side” … Cristian Javier recorded seven strikeouts over five shutout innings on Thursday in a win over the Athletics … Rocco Baldelli told reporters that Max Kepler is "fine" after an early exit against the Mariners on Thursday … Chad Pinder (knee) has not resumed baseball activities. He’s considered week-to-week, according to A’s manager Bob Melvin … An MRI revealed that George Springer has a low-grade strain of his right quad … Jon Heyman of MLB Network reports that Tommy John surgery has been recommended for James PaxtonNate Pearson (groin) was able to throw a bullpen on Thursday … Trevor Rosenthal underwent thoracic outlet surgery on Thursday … Luke Bard is out for the remainder of the 2021 season after undergoing hip surgery … Athletics placed LHP A.J. Puk on the 10-day injured list with a left biceps strain.

National League Quick Hits: Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reports that Major League Baseball is investigating balls collected from Trevor Bauer's start against the Athletics on Wednesday … Kolten Wong left Thursday's game against the Cardinals with an oblique injury. It’s the same oblique injury that caused him to miss Wednesday’s game against the Cubs … Trevor Story doubled, tripled and drove in two runs on Thursday in a win over the Diamondbacks … Chi Chi Gonzalez is starting Saturday's game against the Giants … Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reports that the Brewers have signed Dee Strange-Gordon to a minor league contract … Zac Gallen (forearm) tossed 67 pitches in a camp game Wednesday in Arizona … Diamondbacks placed INF/OF Ketel Marte on the 10-day injured list with a right hamstring strain … Paul Goldschmidt missed Thursday’s game against the Brewers with lower back tightness … Mets purchased the contract of RHP Trevor Hildenberger and placed RHP Dellin Betances on the 10-day injured list with a right shoulder impingement … Anibal Sanchez will throw for "select teams" on Saturday in Miami, per Jon Heyman of MLB Network.