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The Tampa Bay Rays bolstered their booming lineup on Thursday, as they acquired Nelson Cruz from the Minnesota Twins, in exchange for two right-handed pitchers: the Rays' number 10 prospect Joe Ryan, and number 17 prospect Drew Strotman. Ryan has posted impressive strikeout numbers in the minor leagues, and is currently representing Team USA in the Tokyo Olympics; this season with the Rays’ Triple-A affiliate Durham Bulls, he’s posted a 3.63 ERA, 0.79 WHIP, and a 75/10 K/BB ratio across 57 innings in 11 starts.
Strotman has also been with Triple-A Durham this season, and has a 3.39 ERA, 1.43 WHIP and a 62/33 K/BB ratio across 58 1/3 innings in 12 starts. He and Ryan will likely continue to pitch at that level with Minnesota, and could be big-league ready soon.
The Rays will also receive right-handed minor league pitcher Calvin Faucher along with Cruz, as a part of the four-player deal. Faucher has a 7.04 ERA, 2.05 WHIP, and a 40/24 K/BB ratio over 30 2/3 innings pitched.
Cruz, 41, is batting .294/.370/.537 with 19 home runs this season over 296 at-bats, and was signed to a one-year, $13M deal by Minnesota this past off-season. The Twins, well out of playoff contention, have had a rather disappointing 2021 season. Through Thursday, they hold a 41-55 record, good for fourth place in the American League Central, and 17 games back of the first place White Sox. Cruz will re-enter free agency at the end of the year, so flipping him for prospects is a rather sagacious move. Cruz has been a long withstanding veteran presence in Minnesota; he may even end up back with the Twins in 2022.
It’s not surprising that Cruz was dealt to an American League team, let alone a potential postseason contender in Tampa Bay. The Rays are 57-39 as of Thursday, one game behind the first place Boston Red Sox in a strong AL East division. If they don’t win the AL East, the Rays have a likely shot at a wild card spot.
Starting Pitchers with an EDGE
Sean Manaea vs. Mariners
7 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 BB, 13 K, 42% CSW
Wow. In this sparkling performance, the 29-year-old southpaw threw a career-high 13 strikeouts, and the third time he’s had double-digit strikeout totals so far this year. Manaea threw the sinker 54 times against Seattle - and justifiably so, it’s his best pitch. 12 of Manaea’s 21 swings-and-misses were off the sinker, contributing to a bonkers 44% CSW on that pitch.
Walker Buehler vs. Giants
7 1/3 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 1 BB, 9 K, 30% CSW
In this matchup with the division rival Giants, Buehler shined, limiting San Francisco to one run: a Mike Yastrzemski sacrifice fly which plated LaMonte Wade, Jr. Buehler induced 12 swings and misses, four of those on one of his most thrown — and effective — pitches, the cutter.
Charlie Morton vs. Phillies
6 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 4 BB, 8K, 29% CSW
Morton pitched the first six innings unscathed, until he gave up consecutive extra-base hits, and a free pass before his departure. The 37-year-old veteran right-hander has recorded at least seven strikeouts in seven consecutive starts since June 17.
Kwang-Hyun Kim vs. Cubs
6.0 IP, 2 H, 2 R, 1 BB, 7 K, 35% CSW
The slider was Kim’s best pitch in this performance, garnering a whopping 42% CSW on that pitch alone, and contributing to a strong 35% CSW on his overall arsenal. His 24-inning scoreless streak was snapped in the fourth inning, when Jake Marisnick smacked a two-run double, all the runs the Cubs would muster.
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Hitters with an EDGE
Enrique Hernandez vs. Yankees
1-for-4, 3 RBI
In rather dramatic fashion, Hernández knocked in a game-tying two-out, two-run double against righty Chad Green in the bottom of the ninth inning. The 29-year-old has seven hits including three homers and eight RBI across six games in the second half so far.
Andy Ibanez vs. Tigers
3-for-4, Triple, 1 RBI, 2 R
The 28-year-old is slashing .333/.333/.500 in 18 plate appearances over his last seven games, including two extra base hits.
Yandy Diaz vs. Indians
4-for-5, HR, 2 R
Diaz was the instigator of a ninth inning rally with a solo homer to left field, his sixth homer of the season, off Cleveland closer James Karinchak. The 29-year-old corner infielder is hitting .389 (14-for-36) with three homers across 11 games since the All-Star break.
Dansby Swanson vs. Phillies
1-for-4, HR (Grand Slam), 4 RBI
This was Swanson’s first career grand slam, contributing to a 7-2 win over the Phillies. The 27-year-old has gone deep four times over his last eight games. He's hitting .232/.290/.444 with 42 runs scored, a career-high 17 home runs, 46 RBI and six steals across 391 plate appearances.
Robbie Grossman (Rostered in 40% of Yahoo Leagues)
The Detroit Tigers have won seven straight games including Thursday’s 7-5 win over the Rangers, partially due to some work in the lineup by manager AJ Hinch; Grossman was moved to the three-spot, batting behind Jonathan Schoop. The movement appears to be working: during this current Tigers homestand, Grossman is 7-for-24 with three home runs and seven runs scored, including first-inning runs in each of the last three games. He currently has a 1.06 OPS over 27 plate appearances in his last seven games.
Raisel Iglesias vs. Twins
1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 1 K (20th save)
In this low-scoring affair, Iglesias pitched a three-up, three-down ninth inning including two flyouts and a strikeout. He has now converted 20 out of 23 save opportunities. He now has a 3.32 ERA and 0.88 WHIP in 43 1/3 innings pitched for the Halos.
Alex Reyes vs. Cubs
1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 2 K (23rd save)
Reyes was brought in the ninth for a three-out save. He forced Anthony Rizzo to ground out; he also struck out Patrick Wisdom and Jake Marisnick and issued a free pass to Javier Baez in between. Reyes is now tied for second in Major League baseball with saves.
Diego Castillo vs. Indians
1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 2 K (14th save)
In the bottom of the 10th with Amed Rosario starting on second as the “ghost runner,” Castillo got Jose Ramirez to fly out, and subsequently got Franmil Reyes and Bobby Bradley down on swinging strikes. He’s now converted 14 out of 16 save opportunities.
Mark Melancon vs. Marlins
1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 1 K (29th save)
Melancon was brought in the game for a three-out save; Lewis Brinson was called out on strikes, followed by a Joe Panik lineout and a Sandy Leon groundout. The 36-year-old is currently Major League Baseball’s saves leader, six above Alex Reyes and Liam Hendriks, who are tied for second with 23.
Gregory Soto vs. Rangers
1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 2 K (11th save)
The 26-year-old recorded his 11th save by initially issuing a leadoff walk to Eli White, but struck out the dangerous hitting Adolis Garcia and Joey Gallo. He finished the save by getting Jonah Heim to hit an infield grounder, forcing White out at second. Soto has now converted 11 out of 12 possible save opportunities.
James Karinchak vs. Rays
1 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 3 BB, 2 K (3rd blown save)
Karinchak was first victimized by Yandy Diaz, who started a ninth inning rally with a solo home run. Not long after Diaz’s homer, Brandon Lowe tied things up with an RBI double, plating Brett Phillips.
Kenley Jansen vs. Giants
2/3 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 2 BB, 2 K (4th blown save)
Jansen was able to notch two strikeouts during this appearance, but later had trouble throwing strikes as he issued a bases-loaded walk to Darin Ruf to tie the game. Manager Dave Roberts attempted to appeal that Ruf swung on a full count which would have ended the inning, but was unsuccessful, and ejected from the game. This was Jansen’s third straight blown save.
Friday’s Matchup of the Day
Two first place teams in the Brewers and White Sox will square off in the opener of a three-game set on Friday in Milwaukee. Giolito is coming off a one run, three-hit complete game pitched against the Astros, where he induced 17 swings and misses, contributing to a typical (for Giolito) 36% CSW. Peralta is having quite the renaissance year himself; he has the lowest Hits Per 9 number in all of Major League Baseball, at 4.041. He’s also fifth in WHIP, at 0.898. Expect this to be a rather low-scoring affair.
American League Quick Hits
Kyle Garlick will undergo surgery to fix a sports hernia according to Twins manager Rocco Baldelli...Red Sox placed INF/OF Danny Santana on the 10-day injured list with a left groin strain...Mike Zunino (hip) is out of the Rays' starting lineup again on Thursday...Tigers manager A.J. Hinch said Thursday that Jake Rogers (arm) likely won't be back until September...Tigers placed INF Isaac Paredes on the 10-day injured list, retroactive to July 20, with a right hip strain.