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Happy Friday to all, but especially those who have MacKenzie Gore in dynasty leagues. After a long layoff, Gore was back in action Thursday night with our good buddy Chris Welsh in attendance. We still have a long way to go, but this was a step in the right direction for Gore. This start came in the Arizona Complex League, so we can't overreact but he struck out eight while allowing just one run over 4.2 innings. Once regarded as the top pitching prospect in the game, it would be awesome to see Gore get back on his feet. 

Let's stick with pitching and talk about Luis Garcia with the Houston Astros. He's struggled some recently to the tune of a 5.38 ERA over his past five starts. While the hard contact has been up, overall I'm not worried about this stretch. Garcia is still generating a ton of swinging strikes and limiting walks. Also, he faces the Royals next week, which is a great matchup. While he's been a bit of a letdown recently, keep Garcia in your lineups in Week 22. 

Of course, as always, you can follow to make sure you get the latest episodes of Fantasy Baseball Today right when they drop on Apple and Spotify.

Is Bumgarner for real?

He did it again. The ageless wonder (is that what we're calling him now?), Diamondbacks SP Madison Bumgarner, spun another gem on Thursday evening. Bumgarner went eight innings deep against the Phillies and allowed just one earned run. More importantly, he was nearly unhittable -- not quite -- but he only yielded three hits and one walk through eight. He also delivered five strikeouts on just nine swinging strikes (on 105 total pitches)

In all seven of his starts since coming off the IL, he's allowed two runs or fewer. His spin rates have absolutely plummeted across the board on all of his pitches. Not just have his spin rates dropped by nearly 300 rpm, he has also seen a massive dip in his velocity. He is now averaging less than 90 mph on his fastball. There are no advanced metrics (his fly ball rate is up, his hard-hit rate is up) to explain how Bumgarner is doing this, but he now has a 1.95 ERA over his last seven starts (despite 31 strikeouts in 46 2/3).

Bumgarner is 78% rostered and has a two-start week next week. We're suggesting to run him out because he has a two start week against the Pirates and Phillies, but everything he's selling screams regression. Neither me nor Scott is a believer, so tread carefully here.

What is wrong with Wheeler?

When you looked at your starting Fantasy Baseball lineup and saw Phillies SP Zach Wheeler matched up against the Diamondbacks, that's a matchup you dream of. There are only a few teams you might be happier to see than Arizona, but things did not go anywhere close to according to plan on Thursday. 

Although Wheeler got off to a solid start, the wheels on the bus came absolutely flying off in his final innings when Philadelphia trotted him back out there for the seventh. He gave up three earned runs himself in the final seventh inning and left two runners on base (those two runners were later tacked on to Wheeler's line when a reliever allowed a two-run double). The final stat line was ugly: 6 2/3, seven hits, six earned runs, one walk, seven strikeouts and 14 swinging strikes on 100 pitches.

The bigger story may be that Wheeler is quietly struggling in the second half. Over his past eight starts, Wheeler has a 4.32 ERA and has allowed at least four runs in five of eight. On the flip side, his underlying numbers still look great and seem to suggest he's due to bounceback. His 66% strand rate is low (72% league average) and has truly been unlucky on the home run front.

Scott doesn't see any real red flags here and wants to remind everyone he had one of his best starts of the season two turns ago. There's no thought you should give to benching Wheeler right now.

More news and notes

  • The Brewers placed Freddy Peralta on the 10-day IL with right shoulder inflammation. Manager Craig Counsell suggested after the contest that Peralta's removal was mostly precautionary in nature. Adrian Houser is expected to return Sunday. 
  • Clayton Kershaw threw from 90 feet Thursday and that marked his fourth consecutive day playing catch.
  • Tony Gonsolin successfully completed a bullpen session Thursday.
  • Mookie Betts will participate in a sim game Sunday and continue with baseball activities Monday and Tuesday. Betts told Dave Roberts that his hip is pain free following his latest cortisone injection.
  • Trevor Bauer's administrative leave has been extended through Aug. 27. I guess anything can happen, but I highly doubt we see him again this season.
  • Get hyped! Byron Buxton will begin a rehab assignment at Triple-A on Friday. In case you forgot, Buxton was batting .369 with 10 homers, five steals over 27 games. 
  • Surprisingly, Adalberto Mondesi resumed a rehab assignment at Triple-A on Thursday. He just experienced oblique tightness last weekend. 
  • When asked about Alex Bregman, Dusty Baker said he had no update. Bregman has not played in a game for the last 10 days, and it's becoming a weird situation. 
  • Meanwhile, Aledmys Diaz racked up three more hits Thursday… .311 average over his last 15 games, 1B 2B 3B OF eligible, and has six games next week.
  • The Tigers placed Eric Haase on the IL with a right abdominal strain. 
  • Pete Alonso is starting at first base and hitting third after getting hit by a pitch on his elbow Wednesday. 
  • The Mets are optimistic that James McCann will avoid the IL. He's missed three straight games with a back injury. 
  • Miguel Sano played Thursday against the Yankees before moving to the paternity list Friday to be with his family for the weekend.
  • The Cardinals are optimistic that Dylan Carlson will be able to return from the IL for Tuesday's series opener against the Tigers. 
  • Luis Severino was cleared of any structural damage to his right shoulder following a second opinion. He will be shut down from throwing for the next week before the Yankees re-evaluate him.
  • Zach Eflin will begin a rehab assignment at Double-A on Saturday. 
  • Odubel Herrera was removed from Thursday's game after being hit by a pitch on the right elbow. 
  • Nick Senzel had his option reversed by the Reds on Thursday. He was optioned to Triple-A on Sunday after he was reinstated from the 60-day IL, but he was examined by several doctors this week who found fluid in his left knee. As a result, the 26-year-old will now revert to the big-league IL and head to Arizona to continue his rehab process.

Key Week 22 scheduling notes

  • Five teams have five games: Braves, Tigers, Angels, Padres, Rays
  • 20 teams have six games.
  • Seven teams have five games: DBacks, White Sox, Pirates, Blue Jays, Royals

Scott's two-start SPs to play in Week 22

  • 75% rostered: Josiah Gray at MIA, at NYM
  • 76%: Cole Irvin vs. SEA, vs. NYY
  • 64%: Tylor Megill vs. SF, vs. WAS
  • 28%: Daniel Lynch at HOU, at SEA
  • 76%: Marco Gonzales at OAK, vs. KC
  • 36%: Ranger Suarez vs. TB, vs. ARI
  • 78%: Madison Bumgarner at PIT, at PHI