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Braves franchise cornerstone Ronald Acuña Jr. will undergo season-ending surgery after an MRI revealed a complete tear of his ACL in his right knee. According to Jeff Passan of ESPN, he’s expected to be sidelined for the next nine to 10 months. The 23-year-old superstar outfielder was carted off the field at loanDepot park on Saturday afternoon with an apparent knee injury after landing awkwardly while attempting to make a leaping catch in right field to rob Marlins speedster Jazz Chisholm Jr of an extra-base hit in the fifth inning of the team’s penultimate contest prior to the All-Star break.
It’s a truly devastating blow, and the worst nightmare imaginable for the Braves organization, and the entire baseball community, as one of the most electrifying young players in the game will miss the remainder of the 2021 campaign and the early portion of the 2022 season as well. Acuña Jr. was named an All-Star for the second time in his career earlier this month, after leading the National League in the fan voting phase of the selection process, and won’t be there as one of the up-and-coming iconic faces of the game at the Midsummer Classic at Coors Field in Colorado. He was off to a phenomenal start at the plate, slashing .283/.394/.596 with a major league-leading 72 runs scored, 24 home runs, 52 RBI and 17 stolen bases across 360 plate appearances. He also had an outside shot at becoming the first hitter to record a 40-homer, 40-steal campaign since Alfonso Soriano accomplished the feat back in 2005.
Starting Pitchers with an EDGE
Gerrit Cole vs. Astros
9.0 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 12 K
33% CSW, 13 swinging strikes
On the heels of an abysmal six-start stretch, Cole made a massive statement on Saturday night in his return to Houston, tossing a three-hit, complete-game shutout against the Astros in his final outing before the All-Star break. He threw a whopping 129 pitches, generated 13 swinging strikes, and finished with a 33 percent CSW (called strikes plus whiffs) while going the distance against his former organization. The 30-year-old righty has been enmeshed in the ongoing drama surrounding MLB’s crackdown on the use of illegal foreign substances, but has proven that he’s still an upper-echelon fantasy contributor moving forward. He’ll carry a sparkling 2.68 ERA, 0.93 WHIP and 147/22 K/BB ratio across 114 innings (18 starts) into the All-Star break.
Lucas Giolito vs. Orioles
5.1 IP, 6 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 9 K
30% CSW, 16 swinging strikes
Stellar pitching performances were scarce on Saturday’s jam-packed slate, but Giolito closed out the first half with one of his strongest performances, recording nine strikeouts over 5 1/3 innings to pick up a win against the Orioles. The 26-year-old righty induced 16 swinging strikes, including six on his changeup and seven on his slider, and finished with a solid 30 percent CSW. It was a much-needed rebound effort after being lit up for six runs over five frames against the Tigers in his previous outing. He’ll carry a solid 4.15 ERA, 1.17 WHIP and 125/33 K/BB ratio across 104 innings (18 starts) into the All-Star break.
Anthony DeSclafani vs. Nationals
6.0 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 6 K
29% CSW, 10 swinging strikes
DeSclafani finished off his remarkable first-half resurgence with a six-inning gem against the Nationals on Saturday afternoon. He scattered three hits and one walk over six shutout frames, and finished with six strikeouts. The 31-year-old righty will carry a pristine 2.68 ERA, 1.00 WHIP and 99/29 K/BB ratio across 107 1/3 innings into the All-Star break.
Walker Buehler vs. Diamondbacks
6.0 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 7 K
36% CSW, 17 swinging strikes
Buehler was staked to a massive nine-run lead and wound up cruising, scattering three hits and a pair of walks, over six scoreless frames on Saturday night against the Diamondbacks. The 26-year-old righty generated 17 swinging strikes and finished with a near-elite 36 percent CSW. He finishes the first half with a pristine 2.36 ERA, 0.92 WHIP and 114/26 K/BB ratio across 114 1/3 innings (18 starts).
German Marquez vs. Padres
7.0 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 9 K
33% CSW, 10 swinging strikes
Marquez flummoxed a red-hot Padres’ lineup at Petco Park on Saturday evening, scattering three hits and a walk over seven shutout frames. The 26-year-old righty has allowed two earned runs or fewer in five consecutive starts since June 17. He’ll carry a remarkable 3.36 ERA, 1.16 WHIP and 114/42 K/BB ratio across 112 1/3 innings (19 starts) into the All-Star break.
Hitters with an EDGE
Justin Turner vs. Diamondbacks
3-for-4, R, HR (15), 4 RBI
Just a few hours after being named to the National League All-Star roster for the second time in his remarkable career, Turner tallied three hits, including a grand slam on Saturday night to power the Dodgers past the Diamondbacks in a one-sided affair. The 36-year-old veteran third baseman walloped his first career grand slam off lefty Caleb Smith in the second inning. He’s hitting .308/.395/.503 with 50 runs scored, 15 homers and 49 RBI across 349 plate appearances this season.
Joey Gallo vs. Athletics
1-for-2, R, HR (24), RBI, 3 BB
Gallo reached base safely in four of his five plate appearances and also walloped his 24th home run of the season on Saturday in the Rangers’ loss to the Athletics at Globe Life Field. The 27-year-old middle-of-the-order masher is in the midst of a surreal hot streak, going deep 11 times over his last 12 games since June 26. Simply put, we can’t wait to watch Gallo vaporize baseball on Monday night in the All-Star Game Home Run Derby at Coors Field in Colorado.
Brandon Lowe vs. Blue Jays
2-for-3, 2 R, 2 HR (20), 3 RBI, BB
Lowe clobbered a pair of home runs on Saturday, leading the Rays to a narrow victory over the Blue Jays in their penultimate game before the All-Star break. The versatile 27-year-old infielder/outfielder tagged Blue Jays righty Ross Stripling for a pair of round-trippers, crushing a solo shot in the second inning and also adding a two-run blast in the third inning, to record his second multi-homer performance of the 2021 campaign. He’s been locked-in at the dish lately, going deep seven times over his last eight games. Hopefully for fantasy managers, he’s able to carry that momentum into the second half.
Nelson Cruz vs. Tigers
3-for-3, R, BB, SB (2)
Distinguished speedster Cruz tallied three hits and also notched his second stolen base of the season on Saturday afternoon, lifting the Twins to a blowout victory over the Tigers. The 41-year-old slugger has aged like a fine wine, continuing to deliver elite four-category production, slashing .304/.375/.552 with 38 runs scored, 18 home runs and 46 RBI across 312 plate appearances, while also registering his first multi-steal campaign since 2016.
Oscar Mercado vs. Royals
3-for-4, 2 R, HR (1), 4 RBI, SB (2)
There’s never really been a question surrounding Mercado’s power/speed potential upside, but he’s ranked near the very bottom of the major leagues in terms of barrel percentage, average exit velocity and hard hit rate over the last few seasons; including his 15-homer, 15-steal rookie campaign back in 2019. The 26-year-old outfielder has shown some signs of life in recent weeks, hitting .281/.343/.500 with one homer and two steals across 35 plate appearances. He’s at least worthy of a speculative roster spot for fantasy managers in extremely deep mixed leagues and AL-only formats moving forward.
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Liam Hendriks vs. Orioles
1.1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 3 K (23rd save)
Hendriks recorded three strikeouts and picked up a four-out save on Saturday night against the Orioles. The 32-year-old righty has recorded a 2.35 ERA, 0.73 WHIP and 60/4 K/BB ratio across 38 1/3 innings this season. He’s also converted 23 of his 26 save chances so far.
Heath Hembree vs. Brewers
1.0 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 1 K (6th save)
Hembree worked around a two-out walk by Pablo Reyes to spin a scoreless ninth inning on Saturday evening against the Brewers, collecting his sixth save of the season in the process. The 32-year-old righty has solidified himself as the Reds’ primary closer moving forward, at least until either Lucas Sims or Tejay Antone return in the second half of the season, converting six of his seven save chances so far. He’s worthy of a roster spot for fantasy managers in deeper mixed leagues.
Diego Castillo vs. Blue Jays
1.0 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 0 K (13th save)
Castillo was summoned to protect the Rays’ three-run lead in the top of the ninth inning, and managed to work around a fielding error and a walk to preserve the victory. The hard-throwing 27-year-old righty has converted 13 of 15 save opportunities this season.
Will Smith vs. Marlins
1.0 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 1 K (18th save)
Smith coughed up an RBI single to Jazz Chisholm Jr. in the bottom of the ninth inning, but managed to hang onto a two-run lead to collect his 18th save of the season. The 32-year-old lefty has allowed only two runs over 12 innings across 11 appearances since June 13. He’s converted 18 of 20 save opportunities this season.
Edwin Diaz vs. Pirates
1.0 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 3 K (19th save)
Diaz struck out the side in a dominant performance on Saturday night, preserving a two-run lead in the top of the seventh inning to help the Mets salvage a doubleheader split against the Pirates. The 27-year-old righty has been one of the most reliable stoppers on the senior circuit, converting 19 of his 20 save opportunities this season.
Paul Sewald vs. Angels
1.0 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 1 K (2nd save)
With primary stopper Kendall Graveman unavailable, Sewald was summoned to protect a two-run lead in the ninth inning against the Angels. He struck out Shohei Ohtani, got Jared Walsh to fly out to left field and coaxed a game-ending grounder from Jose Iglesias to twirl a perfect frame. The 31-year-old righty has quietly morphed into one of the premier relievers in the game, posting a minuscule 1.40 ERA, 0.94 WHIP and 44/11 K/BB ratio across 25 2/3 innings this season.
EDGE Priority Pickup
Jose Suarez, SP/RP, Angels
When it comes to viable streaming options for fantasy managers in shallow mixed leagues, Angels southpaw Jose Suarez fits the bill on Sunday afternoon. The 23-year-old left-hander has recorded a sparkling 2.37 ERA, 1.22 WHIP and 29/13 K/BB ratio across 30 1/3 innings (10 appearances, one start), and is lined up to face a Mariners' lineup on Sunday afternoon, which has recorded the fourth-lowest OPS versus left-handed pitching this season. He's at least worthy of a speculative roster spot for fantasy managers in deeper mixed leagues.
Sunday’s Matchup of the Day
With the All-Star break looming, Castillo and Woodruff appear poised to lock horns in a throwback pitcher’s duel on Sunday afternoon. Castillo has overcome a dreadful -week stretch to open the 2021 campaign, recording a 3.00 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, 61/27 K/BB ratio across 60 innings (10 starts) since May 18. Meanwhile, Woodruff has remained an elite fantasy starter, posting a microscopic 2.10 ERA, 0.78 WHIP and 125/25 K/BB ratio across 107 1/3 innings (17 starts) this season. This should be a good one, folks.
American League Quick Hits: Tim Anderson, Whit Merrifield, Chris Bassitt and Joey Wendle have been added to the American League All-Star roster as replacements … Michael Brantley (injury) and Ryan Pressly (paternity) will miss the 2021 All-Star Game … Eloy Jimenez (pectoral) went 2-for-4 with a home run on Saturday in his first minor-league rehab game with High-A Winston Salem … Chris Sale threw a simulated game on Saturday at the Red Sox spring training facility in Fort Myers, Florida … Zack Greinke left Saturday's start against the Yankees with right shoulder soreness … Salvador Perez left Saturday's game against the Indians with back tightness … David Fletcher extended his hitting streak to 23 games — the longest in the majors this season — on Saturday in the Angels’ loss to the Mariners … Aaron Judge slugged his 21st home run of the season, lifting the Yankees to a win over the Astros … Jose Ramirez went 2-for-4 with a solo homer and three runs scored, leading the Indians to a blowout victory over the Royals … Marcus Semien launched his 22nd home run of the season in the Blue Jays' loss to the Rays … Adolis Garcia blasted his 22nd round-tripper of the year in the Rangers’ loss to the Athletics … Xander Bogaerts slugged his 14th long ball of the season in the Red Sox’ loss to the Phillies … Brian Goodwin went 4-for-5 with a solo homer and three RBI to lead the White Sox past the Orioles … Alex Kirilloff and Jorge Polanco went deep in the Twins’ blowout victory over the Tigers … Mike Zunino slugged his 19th home run of the year in the Rays' win over the Blue Jays … Jed Lowrie went 3-for-5 with a solo homer and two RBI in the Athletics’ victory over the Rangers … Andrew Benintendi went 3-for-5 with a solo homer and two RBI in the Royals’ loss to the Indians … Niko Goodrum and Zack Short clubbed back-to-back solo homers, and Robbie Grossman notched his 11th stolen base of the season, in the Tigers’ lopsided defeat at the hands of the Twins … Cedric Mullins doubled in the Orioles’ blowout loss to the White Sox … Abraham Toro went 1-for-3 with a stolen base in the Astros’ loss to the Yankees … Chris Flexen struck out six batters over seven scoreless innings in a win over the Angels … Patrick Sandoval notched six strikeouts over seven innings of two-run ball in a loss to the Mariners … Cal Quantrill surrendered three runs over six innings in a win over the Royals … James Kaprielian allowed two runs over five frames in a no-decision against the Rangers … Mike Foltynewicz gave up three runs over 6 1/3 innings in a no-decision against the Athletics … Ross Stripling was tagged for four runs over 3 2/3 innings in a loss to the Rays … Martin Perez was thumped for three runs over 3 2/3 innings in a loss to the Phillies … Mike Minor was torched for six runs over four innings in a loss to the Indians … Bailey Ober was charged with four runs over 3 1/3 innings in a no-decision against the Tigers … Kyle Funkhouser tossed 2 1/3 scoreless frames in a no-decision against the Twins … Thomas Eshelman was lit up for four runs over two innings in a loss to the White Sox … Yankees placed RHP Jonathan Loaisiga on the COVID-19 injured list, and also placed INF/OF Miguel Andujar on the 10-day injured list with a left wrist sprain … Tigers optioned RHP Matt Manning to Triple-A Toledo.
National League Quick Hits: Manny Machado, Max Scherzer, Walker Buehler, Justin Turner, Taijuan Walker, Freddy Peralta and Omar Narvaez have been added to the National League All-Star roster as replacements … Mookie Betts and Yaider Molina will not attend the 2021 All-Star Game due to injuries … Jacob deGrom will not start on Sunday for the Mets against the Pirates … Starling Marte was scratched from the Marlins’ lineup Saturday due to a personal matter … Carlos Carrasco (hamstring) threw a two-inning simulated game on Saturday at Citi Field … Clayton Kershaw (forearm) played catch on Saturday … Giants recalled C Joey Bart from Triple-A Sacramento … Nationals placed C Yan Gomes on the 10-day injured list with a strained oblique … Javier Baez was removed as precaution on Saturday against the Cardinals after jamming his thumb … Mookie Betts, Cody Bellinger, AJ Pollock, Zach McKinstry and Albert Pujols homered in the Dodgers’ blowout victory over the Diamondbacks … Nick Castellanos slugged a three-run homer to lead the Reds past the Brewers … Freddie Freeman went 2-for-4 with a two-run homer and three RBI in the Braves’ victory over the Marlins … Brandon Crawford went 3-for-3 with a solo homer and three RBI, Austin Slater went 2-for-6 with an RBI and a stolen base, and Thairo Estrada went 4-for-5 with three RBI, powering the Giants to a lopsided win over the Nationals … Jean Segura went 3-for-5 with a solo homer and three RBI to lead the Phillies past the Red Sox … Jazz Chisholm Jr. went 2-for-5 with an inside-the-park home run in the Marlins’ loss to the Braves … Paul Goldschmidt, Tommy Edman and Paul DeJong left the yard in the Cardinals’ lopsided win over the free-falling Cubs … Raimel Tapia stole two bases in the Rockies’ win over the Padres … Alcides Escobar went 2-for-5 with a triple and two RBI in the Nationals’ defeat at the hands of the Giants … Bryan Reynolds went 2-for-3 with a two-run homer, leading the Pirates to a win over the Mets in the first game of Saturday’s twin-billing … Jonathan Villar slugged a solo homer in the first game of Saturday’s doubleheader against the Pirates … Pete Alonso drilled a solo homer in the second game of Saturday’s twin-billing to help the Mets salvage a split … Tyrone Taylor hit a two-run homer in the Brewers’ loss to the Reds … Freddy Peralta posted six strikeouts and allowed three runs over five innings in a no-decision against the Reds … Kwang-Hyun Kim notched seven strikeouts over six scoreless innings in a win over the Cubs … Tylor Megill struck out seven batters over 3 2/3 innings of one-run ball in a no-decision against the Pirates … Max Kranick posted five strikeouts and allowed three runs over three innings in a loss to the Mets … Max Fried surrendered three runs over five frames in a win over the Marlins … Trevor Rogers yielded three runs (two earned) over four innings in a loss to the Braves … Joe Musgrove was charged with two runs (one earned) over 4 1/3 innings in a loss to the Rockies … Tyler Anderson allowed two runs over five innings, and also slugged a solo homer at the plate, in a win over the Mets … Marcus Stroman yielded three runs over five frames in a loss to the Pirates … Vladimir Gutierrez allowed one run over six innings in a no-decision against the Brewers … Zach Davies gave up three runs over 4 1/3 frames in a loss to the Cardinals … Matt Moore allowed two runs over 4 1/3 innings in a no-decision against the Red Sox … Jon Lester was obliterated for nine runs (eight earned) over 2 2/3 innings in a loss to the Giants … Caleb Smith was rocked for nine runs over one inning in a loss to the Dodgers … Diamondbacks activated OF Kole Calhoun from the 60-day injured list.