Thursday brings a limited MLB schedule consisting of only eight games. Six of them have early start times, and there aren't many top-tier pitching options set to take the mound. We could see some high-scoring affairs, including a matchup between the Cardinals and Rockies at Coors Field. As far as impactful series go, two AL East teams battling for a Wild Card spot will face each other when the Red Sox host the Orioles. Let's take a look at the options available across Yahoo, and discuss some pitchers and hitters to target for your entries.
Dylan Cease ($55) stands out amongst the lackluster starting pitching options. He's in the midst of a spectacular campaign that has seen him record a 1.98 ERA and a 2.70 FIP. After posting a robust 31.9 percent strikeout rate last season, he's been even better with a 32.8 percent mark this year. As if his numbers weren't impressive enough, he also has a great matchup versus the Royals, who have scored the seventh-fewest runs in baseball.
Merrill Kelly ($48) is on an impressive stretch in which he has allowed two or fewer runs in seven straight starts. He also logged at least six innings in each of those outings. It's been the continuation of a valuable season that has seen him record a 3.18 FIP and a 1.13 WHIP. Up next is a very favorable matchup against the Pirates, who have the third-worst OPS in baseball.
With aces Zack Wheeler and Aaron Nola at the top of the Phillies' rotation, Kyle Gibson ($37) can serve as an innings-eater while filling out the back of it. He's allowed too many home runs, having already been taken deep 15 times over 115.2 innings. Otherwise, he does have a 1.17 WHIP. Home runs might not be an issue for him in a matchup versus the Marlins, who rank inside the bottom-10 in baseball in long balls.
The Royals traded away some of their veterans at the deadline, but they had no intentions of moving Zack Greinke ($30). There probably wouldn't have been much of a market for him, anyways, given his 4.58 ERA and 4.42 FIP. Over his last 12 starts, he has a 5.68 ERA and a 1.47 WHIP. The White Sox don't have a ton of dangerous hitters, but this could still be a matchup for them to exploit. Andrew Vaughn ($16) has been consistent on his way to posting a .350 wOBA, and Jose Abreu ($17) has been as reliable as ever with his .368 wOBA.
Nick Lodolo ($38) has shown tremendous strikeout upside during his first stint in the majors, but he's also allowed 1.5 HR/9 on his way to a 4.40 ERA and 4.48 WHIP. One Cubs hitter who could exploit his home run issues is Patrick Wisdom ($11), who has gone deep 20 times. Also, he has a 140 wRC+ versus left-handed pitchers.
Donovan Solano ($14) has been getting more playing time for the Reds, and he's cashed in by hitting 21-for-65 (.323) with two home runs and four doubles over his last 19 games. He won't be facing an overwhelming force in Drew Smyly ($30), who only has an 18.5 percent strikeout rate. While Smyly remains tough on lefties, right-handed hitters have a .350 wOBA against him this season.
Stacks to Consider
Rockies vs. Dakota Hudson ($25), Cardinals: C.J. Cron ($14), Randal Grichuk ($21), Ryan McMahon ($18)
Pitching at Coors Field is a nightmare scenario for Hudson. He pitches to contact, evident by his 12.7 percent strikeout rate. Also, he walks too many batters with his 10.4 percent walk rate contributing to his 1.39 WHIP. The Rockies figure to be a popular team to stack, and rightfully so. One of their hottest hitters has been Grichuk, who is 29-for-84 (.345) with a .571 sugging percentage over his last 23 games.
Cardinals vs. German Marquez ($31), Rockies: Paul Goldschmidt ($25), Nolan Arenado ($27), Lars Nootbaar ($18)
Marquez has a 3.13 ERA and a 1.07 WHIP over his last five starts, but don't get too excited. Four of his five opponents during that stretch rank inside the bottom-half of the league in runs scored. When he faced a good lineup in the Dodgers, he allowed five runs (four earned) over six innings. In total, he has a 5.18 ERA and a 4.75 FIP for the season. This is still a prime opportunity to roll with a Cardinals stack.
Astros vs. Cole Ragans ($28), Rangers: Jose Altuve ($19), Trey Mancini ($13), Jeremy Pena ($10)
Ragans made his major league debut against the White Sox last week, holding them to one unearned run over five innings. He did allow three hits and four walks, though, so it wasn't all smooth-sailing. This will be a more difficult task versus the Astros, who have a .759 OPS at home. Their lineup is also deeper now with the addition of Mancini, who has already hit three home runs over 19 plate appearances since being acquired from the Orioles.