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The Cardinals may never lose again. It was unheralded speedster Harrison Bader who served as the main offensive catalyst on Saturday afternoon, propelling the Cardinals to their franchise-record 15th consecutive victory with an 8-5 win over the Cubs at Wrigley Field. The 27-year-old outfielder tallied a season-high four hits, including a solo homer off righty Adrian Sampson in the second inning, and also jump-started the Cardinals’ late-inning comeback with an RBI single to left field against righty reliever Codi Heuer in the seventh inning. As if an electrifying four-hit effort at the plate wasn’t enough, he also generated a spark on the base paths, swiping a pair of bases to record his first multi-steal effort of the 2021 campaign.
On an afternoon in which veteran southpaw Jon Lester labored through five frames against his former organization, it took a total team effort offensively for the hard-charging Cardinals to keep their miraculous streak alive. In addition to Bader’s exploits, primary igniter Tyler O’Neill went deep for the third consecutive game and is up to 11 round-trippers across 25 games since September 1. Another unexpected contributor, Paul DeJong — filling in for an injured Edmundo Sosa at shortstop — came through with a two-run homer in the ninth inning off righty Tommy Nance in the ninth inning and finished with three RBI in the victory. With seven games remaining in the regular season, the Cardinals hold a commanding five-game lead over the Phillies for the final National League Wild Card playoff spot and will look to keep their improbable streak alive with righty Jake Woodford taking the mound for Sunday’s series finale against the longtime rival Cubs.
Starting Pitchers with an EDGE
Ranger Suarez vs. Pirates
9.0 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 7 K
35% CSW, 15 swinging strikes
Suarez went the distance on Saturday afternoon, tossing a complete-game, four-hit shutout against the Pirates. The 26-year-old converted reliever needed just 97 pitches to record a Maddux at hitter-friendly Citizens Bank Park. He generated 15 swinging strikes, including eight on his changeup, and finished with a stellar 35 percent CSW (called strikes plus whiffs). It was unquestionably his strongest performance since being shifted to the Phillies’ starting rotation back on August 2. He’s recorded a sublime 1.69 ERA, 1.09 WHIP and 56/18 K/BB ratio across 58 2/3 innings (11 starts) during that span. He should be rostered in all fantasy formats and is in line for a tasty road matchup on Friday night against the Marlins to close out the regular season.
Sean Manaea vs. Astros
7.0 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 8 K
33% CSW, 18 swinging strikes
Manaea authored one of his strongest performances of the season on Saturday afternoon, limiting the Astros’ formidable lineup to just one run on three hits over seven frames in a no-decision. A solo homer off the bat of Kyle Tucker in the seventh inning represented the lone tally against him in this one. The 29-year-old lefty racked up eight strikeouts, induced 18 swinging strikes and finished with a strong 33 percent CSW. He’ll carry a 3.94 ERA, 1.22 WHIP and 188/40 K/BB ratio across 173 2/3 innings (31 starts) into a rematch against the Astros on Friday night in his final outing of the regular season.
Corbin Burnes vs. Mets
7.0 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 9 K
32% CSW, 22 swinging strikes
With the Mets eliminated from postseason competition on Saturday afternoon, Burnes took care of business allowing just one run over seven innings to pick up a win. The 26-year-old righty struck out nine batters, generated 22 swinging strikes and finished with a 32 percent CSW. He’ll carry a surreal 2.29 ERA, 0.93 WHIP and 230/33 K/BB ratio across 165 innings (27 starts) into his final regular season outing on Saturday night against the Dodgers.
Hitters with an EDGE
Ian Happ vs. Cardinals
2-for-4, R, HR (24), 3 RBI, BB
The Cubs have been an unmitigated disaster since tearing their roster down to the studs at the major-league trade deadline back in late July, but Happ has emerged as a potential cornerstone for the rebuilding franchise over the last few months. He drilled an RBI single against former teammate Jon Lester in the third inning, and also drew a bases-loaded free pass in the ensuing frame, before slugging a gargantuan 445-foot solo shot to center field off righty reliever Luis Garcia in the ninth inning. The 27-year-old outfielder struggled mightily in the first half, hitting .183 (42-for-230) prior to the All-Star break, but he’s come on strong since the Midsummer Classic, slashing .276/.346/.552 with 15 round-trippers and five stolen bases across 64 games. Based on his second-half surge, it’s not unrealistic to project Happ as a realistic 30-homer slugger who is also capable of posting double-digit stolen bases. That’s an extremely valuable fantasy contributor moving forward.
Giancarlo Stanton vs. Red Sox
2-for-3, R, HR (33), 4 RBI, BB
Stanton delivered the Yankees’ biggest hit of the season on Saturday evening, walloping a go-ahead grand slam off lefty reliever Darwinzon Hernandez with two outs in the eighth inning at Fenway Park. The 31-year-old middle-of-the-order force has heated up at the perfect time heading into a potential postseason run, going deep seven times across his last 13 games since September 12. With the victory, the Yankees are now tied with the Red Sox for the top AL Wild Card spot entering Sunday’s series finale.
Brandon Lowe vs. Marlins
4-for-5, 2 RBI
Lowe collected a season-high four hits on Saturday night against the Marlins, propelling the Rays to their third consecutive victory and second consecutive AL East division title. He drilled an RBI double off Sandy Alcantara in the seventh inning and also added a key insurance run with an RBI double against righty reliever Anthony Bender in the eighth inning. The 27-year-old second baseman has evolved into a four-category fantasy stud, hitting .239/.336/.494 with 90 runs scored, 34 home runs, 88 RBI and seven stolen bases across 593 plate appearances this season.
Aroldis Chapman vs. Red Sox
1.0 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 1 K (29th save)
Chapman was summoned to protect a three-run lead in the ninth inning on Saturday night and managed to hang on, despite giving up a solo homer to Bobby Dalbec with one out in the frame. The 33-year-old stopper was operating with slightly lower average fastball velocity, but was still able to touch the upper-90’s with his heater in this one. He’s converted 29 of 33 save opportunities and appears likely to reach the 30-save milestone for the eighth time in the last decade.
Michael Fulmer vs. Royals
1.1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 2 K (12th save)
Fulmer recorded the final out of the eighth inning and came back out to toss a scoreless final frame, protecting a four-run lead against the Royals to pick up his 12th save of the season. The 28-year-old righty has excelled in a relief role, posting a 3.06 ERA, 1.27 WHIP and 72/19 K/BB ratio across 67 2/3 innings (50 appearances, four starts) this season. He’s converted 12 of 16 save chances.
Dillon Tate vs. Rangers
1.1 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 1 K (3rd save)
Tate recorded the final four outs of the Orioles’ win over the Rangers on Saturday evening, working around a leadoff homer by Nate Lowe in the ninth inning, to net his third save of the season. It was his first save since July 24.
Josh Hader vs. Mets
1.0 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 1 K (34th save)
Hader was brought on to protect a one-run lead in the ninth inning on Saturday night and needed just 19 pitches (11 strikes) to pick up his 34th save of the season. The 27-year-old lefty has reeled off 18 consecutive scoreless appearances and has gone 34 for 35 in save chances this year.
Will Smith vs. Padres
1.0 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 2 K (34th save)
Smith came on to guard a two-run lead in the 10th inning on Saturday night against the Padres and needed just 10 pitches to end the contest. The 32-year-old lefty has converted 34 of his 40 save opportunities this season.
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EDGE Priority Pickup
Shane Baz, SP, Rays
Baz winds up featured in this space for the second time in less than a week, but it’s for some very good reasons. The 22-year-old righty, who posted five strikeouts and allowed just two runs over five frames in his major-league debut on Monday against the Blue Jays, finds himself in line to face a floundering Marlins’ lineup on Sunday afternoon. Simply put, the Fish have scored the second-fewest runs (3.84 per-game) in baseball across 64 games since the All-Star break. It’s a tasty matchup and Baz possesses the type of electrifying stuff that could translate into massive strikeout totals, especially against a rebuilding lineup. He should be rostered in all fantasy formats.
American League Quick Hits: Twins placed Joe Ryan on the bereavement list … Rays recalled Josh Fleming from Triple-A Durham … Yankees manager Aaron Boone said Saturday that Jonathan Loáisiga (shoulder) “could” be activated from the injured list for Tuesday’s series opener against the Blue Jays … DJ LeMahieu (hip/groin) was absent from the Yankees’ starting lineup for Saturday’s game against the Red Sox … Jed Lowrie (hand) remained out of the Athletics’ lineup on Saturday against the Astros … Max Kepler (illness) remained absent from the Twins’ starting lineup for Saturday’s game against the Blue Jays … Shohei Ohtani went 2-for-3 with a triple and three RBI in the Angels’ blowout victory over the Mariners … Teoscar Hernandez, Marcus Semien and George Springer homered in the Blue Jays’ win over the Twins … Jose Ramirez went 2-for-4 with a two-run homer, three RBI and a stolen base, leading Cleveland to a victory over the White Sox … Starling Marte scalded an RBI double to lift the Athletics to a walk-off victory over the Astros … Miguel Cabrera went 3-for-4 with four RBI to power the Tigers to a win over the Royals … Mike Zunino went 2-for-4 with a two-run homer in the Rays’ win over the Marlins … Kelvin Gutierrez went 2-for-3 with a two-run homer in the Orioles’ victory over the Rangers … Kyle Tucker blasted a solo homer in the Astros’ loss to the Athletics … Bobby Dalbec slugged a solo homer in the Red Sox’ loss to the Yankees … Nicky Lopez went 2-for-4 with a stolen base in the Royals’ loss to the Tigers … Nate Lowe and Jose Trevino drilled solo homers in the Rangers’ loss to the Orioles … Robbie Ray allowed one run over six innings in a win over the Twins … Eli Morgan struck out six batters over six scoreless innings in a win over the White Sox … Shane McClanahan yielded one run over five innings in a win over the Marlins … Nick Pivetta posted seven strikeouts and allowed one run over 5 1/3 innings in a no-decision against the Yankees … Nestor Cortes yielded two runs over 4 1/3 frames in a no-decision against the Red Sox … Framber Valdez allowed one run over 6 2/3 innings in a no-decision against the Athletics … Jon Heasley fired 5 1/3 scoreless frames in a no-decision against the Tigers … Tarik Skubal tossed four scoreless innings in a no-decision against the Royals … Chris Ellis hurled three scoreless frames in a no-decision against the Rangers … Lance Lynn was shelled for six runs over six innings in a loss to Cleveland … Jordan Lyles allowed three runs over 6 2/3 innings in a loss to the Orioles … John Gant was charged with two runs (one earned) over three innings in a loss to the Blue Jays … Tyler Anderson was obliterated for nine runs over two innings in a loss to the Angels … Tanner Houck walked four batters and was charged with two runs over 1 2/3 to take a loss in relief against the Yankees … Luis Severino struck out four batters over two scoreless innings to pick up a win in relief against the Red Sox.
National League Quick Hits: Pirates manager Derek Shelton said Saturday that David Bednar (oblique) is “progressing well” and “getting closer” to a late-season return … Noah Syndergaard (elbow) whiffed two batters in a scoreless inning on Saturday in his final minor-league rehab outing with Triple-A Syracuse … Reds placed Wade Miley on the 10-day injured list with a neck strain … Edmundo Sosa (wrist) was absent from the Cardinals’ starting lineup for Saturday’s game against the Cubs … Odubel Herrera (ankle) was absent from the Phillies’ lineup for Saturday’s contest against the Pirates … Nico Hoerner was scratched from the Cubs’ starting lineup on Saturday due to general soreness … Joey Votto was scratched from the Reds lineup on Saturday due to left knee soreness … Brandon Belt homered twice and collected four RBI in the Giants win over the Rockies … Jorge Soler went 3-for-4 with a three-run homer and four RBI, powering the Braves to an extra-inning victory over the Padres … Nick Castellanos crushed a solo homer to lift the Reds to a walk-off victory over the Nationals … Bryce Harper clobbered his 34th round-tripper of the season and rookie Matt Vierling belted his first career homer in the Phillies’ victory over the Pirates … Ketel Marte went 3-for-5 with a solo homer in the Diamondbacks’ win over the Dodgers … Eduardo Escobar went 2-for-3 with a pair of RBI in the Brewers’ win over the Mets … Trea Turner homered twice in the Dodgers’ loss to the Diamondbacks … Adam Frazier notched three hits and also stole a base and Manny Machado slugged a grand slam in the Padres’ extra-inning loss to the Braves … Nick Fortes went 2-for-2 with a pair of walks and a stolen base in the Marlins’ loss to the Rays … Brandon Nimmo went 3-for-4 in the Mets’ loss to the Brewers … Lane Thomas and Keibert Ruiz swatted solo homers in the Nationals’ loss to the Reds … Zac Gallen struck out eight batters and allowed one run over six innings in a win over the Dodgers … Anthony DeSclafani yielded two runs over four innings in a no-decision against the Rockies … Jon Lester was charged with four runs (three earned) over five innings in a no-decision against the Cubs … Adrian Sampson gave up two runs over six innings in a no-decision against the Cardinals … Erick Fedde surrendered five runs over 4 2/3 innings in a no-decision against the Reds … Vladimir Gutierrez allowed four runs across 2 2/3 innings in a no-decision against the Nationals … Huascar Ynoa was lit up for seven runs over 4 2/3 innings in a no-decision against the Padres … Vince Velasquez gave up two runs over three innings in a no-decision against the Braves … Clayton Kershaw was charged with four runs (three earned) over 4 1/3 innings in a loss to the Diamondbacks … Sandy Alcantara was charged with five runs (three earned) over six innings in a loss to the Rays … Rich Hill gave up two runs over five innings in a loss to the Brewers … Jon Gray allowed four runs over 4 2/3 innings in a loss to the Giants … Wil Crowe surrendered three runs over 4 2/3 innings in a loss to the Phillies.