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USATSI

Happy Friday, everyone! The weekend slate is upon us and a stacked schedule on both Friday and Saturday will determine some head-to-head matchups, but let's not just blow past Thursday's action. It was a wild night in baseball on the Thursday slate headlined by three teams pouring runs on the board. We had three separate teams post double-digit run totals and one of them was the red-hot Reds. Cincinnati put up a 20-burger on the Cubs on 20 hits. Standouts included: Tommy Pham, who racked up two hits and three RBI: Tyler Stephenson, who racked up three hits and two RBI; Kyle Farmer, who collected a double dong on four hits; and Nick Senzel, who went 4-for-4 with three runs. 

It was a fun day for anyone who happened to have a Red in their lineup with the exception of Joey Votto managers. You know those Votto managers (myself included) saw a 20-spot on the Reds box score and salivated, only to see Votto go 0-for-3 with two strikeouts.

The other two teams with double-digit run totals were the Red Sox (16 runs, 19 hits) and the Dodgers (14 runs, 24 hits). Trevor Story grabbed a sock and shoe on the night. He now has seven homers in his last seven games and nine on the season to go along with six stolen bases. J.D. Martinez collected three hits and brought his average up to a sparkling .383. For the Dodgers, it was more of Mookie Betts -- he collected three hits and three runs. Freddie Freeman also had his best game of the season with four hits, a homer and five RBI.

Below we'll dive into more of the action from Thursday's slate, including another nasty Nestor performance. We'll also do a little bit of a Week 9 preview leaning on Scott White's sleeper hitters, sleeper pitchers and two-start pitcher preferences. Also, make sure you're all caught up with everything going on from the Fantasy Baseball Today team over at CBSSports.com/Fantasy/Baseball. Scott dropped his latest Prospects Report and highlighted why Vinnie Pasquantino needs to be on your radar and what to make of Oneil Cruz heating up. Scott also dropped another waiver wire with hitters and pitchers who could be worth targeting now.

And 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

Nasty Nestor at it again

The best story of the year among starting pitchers has to be centered around what's going down in the Bronx. Yankees SP Nestor Cortes continues to deliver with dominant outing after dominant outing, and Thursday was no different. Cortes delivered his second eight-inning outing of the season, surrendering no runs against the Rays on just four hits and one walk. He only induced seven swings-and-misses with five strikeouts, but the velocity was up nearly 2 mph on three different pitches. That's a great sign. 

So what should we do with Cortes at this point? He might seem like an obvious sell-high because what he's been able to accomplish is unconventional and his entire Fantasy profile feels that way, but I view him instead as a must-start and a hold. He's not going to keep this ERA -- or any of his ratios -- but he pitches behind a great lineup and his delivery makes things very difficult on hitters. Cortes is a unique, unicorn-type starter, and I'm not moving that via trade.

A name to watch

Keep an eye on Guardians OF Oscar Gonzalez. He should be on your watchlist, and if you have the bench space he's the exact kind of high-upside stash you should be using those final roster spots on. Gonzalez was called up to make his major-league debut on Thursday and he responded by ripping off a double, going 2-for-4 and most importantly driving three batted balls over 106 mph. Gonzalez was batting .282 with nine homers and an .814 OPS thus far in the minors and that's coming after he batted .293 with 31 homers and a .871 OPS in 2021 (in the minors). 

Week 9 preview

Odd scheduling notes: 14 teams are playing six games next week but four teams are playing eight games: the Tigers, Brewers, Twins and Cardinals. One team -- the Cubs -- is playing in nine games next week. Adjust your weekly lineups accordingly to maximize your at bats.

Best hitter matchups:

  1. Cardinals
  2. Braves
  3. Tigers
  4. Dodgers
  5. Cubs

Worst hitter matchups:

  1. White Sox 
  2. Angels
  3. Athletics
  4. Phillies
  5. Pirates

Two-start pitchers to stream

  • George Kirby at BAL, at TEX
  • Aaron Ashby at CHC, vs SD
  • Jake Junis at PHI, at MIA
  • Marcus Stroman vs. MIL, vs. STL

News and lineup notes

Every night the Fantasy Baseball Today team dives into all of the happenings around the MLB from top performers to injuries, trades and more. The podcast is a must listen for any diehard, if I do say so myself. Tune in to the podcast to hear the FBT crew expand on the news and notes below.

  • Ronald Acuña has missed two straight games with a grade-1 right quad strain. 
  • Josh Hader was reinstated from the family medical emergency list. 
  • Jack Flaherty threw 25 pitches while facing live hitters Thursday. It was his first time facing hitters since he was shut down with that shoulder injury.
  • Franmil Reyes was placed on the IL with right hamstring tightness, retroactive to May 25. Maybe a little refresh will do the big man well as he's hitting just .195 with three homers. 
  • Tyler O'Neill hopes to be ready to start a minor-league rehab assignment early next week. He's on the IL with a right shoulder impingement. 
  • Seiya Suzuki left Thursday's game with a left ring finger sprain and is day-to-day. 
  • Marcell Ozuna was scratched Thursday due to lower abdominal tightness. 
  • Taylor Ward has now been out of the lineup for five straight games while dealing with a nerve issue in his shoulder. 
  • Shane Baz gave up one run over 2.1 IP in his most recent rehab start at Triple-A. 
  • Yoan Moncada missed Thursday's game due to leg soreness. 
  • Ramon Laureano, Willson Contreras and Josh Rojas each returned to their respective lineups after multi-game absences. 
  • Nico Hoerner will be the Cubs primary shortstop with Andrelton Simmons sliding over to second base moving forward.
  • Drew Steckenrider was optioned to Triple-A, which takes him out of the equation for saves in Seattle. 
  • Cavan Biggio was recalled from Triple-A where he hit .276 with three doubles and two steals.
  • Matt Manning was shut down from throwing after being diagnosed with right biceps tendinitis.