Daily Dose: Second-half sleepers

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While the baseball world pauses for the All-Star break, here are a
dozen players with more second-half upside than their under-the-radar
status suggests …

John Bowker – Getting a much-deserved second chance in San Francisco
after hitting .322/.416/.550 at Triple-A and .307/.363/.523 at
Double-A. He’s not going to smack 30 homers and at 25 years old Bowker
is never going to be a star, but he should be able to hit .275 or so
with 20-homer power and solid on-base skills. Playing time will be an
issue, but he started three of the Giants’ last four games.

Alexi Casilla – Casilla flunked his way to the minors by hitting
.180, but earned a trip back to Minnesota by batting .340 at Triple-A
and Ron Gardenhire’s fetish for speedy, light-hitting middle infielders
all but guarantees that he’ll be in the No. 2 spot again before long.
Casilla has hit just .248/.299/.318 in 197 career games, but swiping 20
bases and being caught just three times gives him fantasy value.

Brett Cecil – Had five Quality Starts mixed in with three brutal
outings in his first eight turns in the Blue Jays’ rotation, but the
22-year-old rookie could show more consistency in the second half.
Cecil had a 3.15 ERA and 217/71 K/BB ratio in 217 innings as a minor
leaguer and should settle in as a good mid-rotation guy if he can do a
decent job keeping the ball in the ballpark.

Matt Diaz – Probably won’t get the playing time that he deserves
even with Jeff Francoeur now out of the picture, but will at least see
starts against left-handers and could work his way into the lineup
against right-handers too if Ryan Church or Garret Anderson go down.
Diaz hit .301/.375/.462 in the first half to give him a .315/.354/.457
line in four seasons with the Braves.

Edwin Encarnacion – After batting just .127 in April he spent all of
May and June on the sidelines with a fractured wrist, but Encarnacion
has posted an .840 OPS while starting nine straight games since
returning two weeks ago and faces little competition for playing time
at third base. He hit .272/.351/.458 from 2006-2008 and still has some
room to grow at the age of 26.

Jake Fox – Fox has hit .313/.356/.550 through 90 trips to the plate
with the Cubs while finally getting his first extended shot at the age
of 26. He hit .318/.384/.650 at Triple-A, so he’ll keep producing if
the Cubs keep playing him and Lou Piniella has found different ways to
get him into the lineup. Fox may even see some time behind the plate
with Geovany Soto on the disabled list.

Chad Gaudin – Has gone just 4-7 with a 5.03 ERA since signing with
the Padres, but just four of his 14 starts have come at
pitcher-friendly Petco Park and with 85 strikeouts in 82.1 innings
Gaudin has the potential to slice his ERA by quite a bit if his control
improves. He has a 3.31 ERA and 39/13 K/BB ratio in 32.2 innings spread
over his last five starts.

Jonny Gomes – He hit .311/.400/.556 in the first half while playing
almost strictly against left-handers, but could be pushed into extended
duty with Jay Bruce lost for the next two months. Gomes has shown a big
platoon split during his career, so that may not be such a great thing,
but he’s still managed 20 homers and 10 steals per 500 plate
appearances against righties along with mashing lefties.

Scott Hairston – Started in center field for the last five games of
the first half and has big-time offensive potential after hitting
.270/.330/.520 in pitcher-friendly San Diego. Oakland isn’t a whole lot
friendlier for batters, but Hairston has 25-homer power with 10-steal
speed and could get a chance to play nearly every day in the second

Matt LaPorta – Made his major-league debut in May, but played
sporadically for three weeks and has been stuck at Triple-A ever since
despite batting .309 with 11 homers, 29 total extra-base hits, and a
.925 OPS in 63 games there. I’m not sure what the Indians are waiting
for at this point, because LaPorta is already 24 years old and has hit
at every level, so expect to see him in the second half.

Carl Pavano – A brutal first start skews his overall numbers,
because Pavano is 8-6 with a 4.42 ERA and 76/17 K/BB ratio in 106
innings since his Indians debut. That stretch includes seven Quality
Starts in his last 10 outings and his fastball is back in the low-90s
after often residing in the high-80s with the Yankees. He’ll never live
down his time in New York, but Pavano is once again a solid starter.

Chris Tillman – As if Adam Jones and George Sherrill aren’t enough
the Orioles’ haul for Erik Bedard also included Tillman, who’s on the
verge of the majors after posting a 2.50 ERA and 88/22 K/BB ratio in
86.1 innings at Triple-A. Tillman has always racked up tons of
strikeouts with 426 in 388 innings, but he’s also made major strides
with his control recently and at 21 years old looks like a future ace.

Jacob deGrom outduels Clayton Kershaw, Mets take 1-0 NLDS lead

Jacob de Grom
AP Photo/Kathy Willens

Jacob deGrom put together one of the best post-season starts in Mets history, outdueling three-time Cy Young Award winner Clayton Kershaw to pitch his team into a 1-0 NLDS lead. The right-hander fanned 13 over seven shutout innings, holding the Dodgers to five hits and a walk as the Mets won 3-1.

deGrom’s game score of 79 is the fifth-best by a Mets starter in the playoffs, behind Jon Matlack, Mike Hampton, Bobby Jones, and Tom Seaver, according to Baseball Reference. As Katie Sharp notes on Twitter, deGrom is one of three pitchers to hold the opposition scoreless on 13 or more strikeouts and one or fewer walks. The other two are Tim Lincecum and Mike Scott.

In the eighth inning, reliever Tyler Clippard allowed a one-out double to Howie Kendrick followed by an RBI single to Adrian Gonzalez as the Dodgers finally got on the board. Closer Jeurys Familia entered and recorded the final out of the eighth inning by inducing a weak line out from Justin Turner. In the ninth, Familia worked a 1-2-3 frame to wrap up the game.

Kershaw remains winless in the post-season since Game 1 of the 2013 NLDS, a span of seven starts. He gave up a solo home run to Daniel Murphy in the fourth inning, then walked the bases loaded in the seventh inning before departing with two outs. Reliever Pedro Baez entered and allowed two of his inherited runners to score when David Wright lined a single to center field. On the evening, Kershaw was on the hook for three runs on four hits and four walks with 11 strikeouts. Though he lost his command a bit towards the end of his start, the lefty pitched quite well and will be on the receiving end of some unnecessary criticism as a result of taking another post-season loss.

deGrom and Kershaw both struck out 11 batters, the first time that has happened in a major league post-season game.

Michael Cuddyer didn’t look too good out in left field for the Mets.

Game 2 of the NLDS will continue on Saturday at 9:00 PM EDT. Noah Syndergaard will start for the Mets opposite Zack Greinke of the Dodgers.

Clayton Kershaw, Jacob deGrom create MLB first with 11 strikeouts each in the playoffs

Jacob deGrom
AP Photo/Alex Brandon

For the first time in major league history, both pitchers in a playoff game have struck out at least 11 batters, per MLB.com’s Paul Casella. Mets starter Jacob deGrom has pitched just a hair better than Dodgers starter Clayton Kershaw overall. deGrom has blanked the Dodgers over six frames on five hits and a walk. Kershaw made one mistake, resulting in a solo home run to Daniel Murphy in the fourth inning. He’s allowed four hits and four walks total in 6 2/3 innings.

The last time opposing starters each struck out 10 in a post-season game was back in 1944 in Game 5 of the World Series when Mort Cooper of the St. Louis Cardinals struck out 12 and Denny Galehouse of the St. Louis Browns struck out 10.

Michael Cuddyer not shining in left field early in NLDS Game 1

Michael Cuddyer
AP Photo/Kathy Kmonicek

Mets outfielder Michael Cuddyer has already made a pair of mistakes in left field and he’s only four innings into the first game of the best-of-five NLDS against the Dodgers.

Leading off the second inning, Justin Turner sent a well-struck liner to Cuddyer which was quite catchable, but the ball clanked off of the veteran’s glove. Turner was credited with a double. Mets starter Jacob deGrom was able to work around the misplay, striking out Andre Ethier, A.J. Ellis, and Clayton Kershaw to close out the frame.

With two outs in the third inning, Corey Seager sent a fly ball down the left field line. Cuddyer took an inefficient route and the ball bounced about a foot inside the foul line, then into the stands, giving Seager a ground-rule double. To add insult to injury, Cuddyer ended up tumbling over the fence. deGrom, again, worked around Cuddyer’s mistake, striking out Adrian Gonzalez to end the inning.

Because he bats right-handed, Cuddyer got the start in left field over the left-handed-hitting rookie Michael Conforto against Kershaw, a southpaw. Conforto mustered only a .481 OPS against lefties this season compared to Cuddyer’s .698. Despite the batting disparity, one wonders how short a leash manager Terry Collins has on Cuddyer given his defense.