6: 04 AM UTC
Despite the smaller slate on Monday, there are still plenty of intriguing pitching options when it comes to filling out your fantasy lineups.
From a trio of aces to a couple of solid second-tier options to some tempting high-risk, high-reward starters, here’s a closer look at all of the key pitchers set to take the mound:
Walker Buehler, RHP (vs. D-backs)
The stat(s): 15.7 K/BB ratio
The matchup: There’s really a lot to unpack when examining Buehler’s first seven starts of 2021. On the one hand, his strikeout totals have returned to normal — he has 35 K’s over 26 1/2 innings in his last four starts after striking out just four batters in each of his first three outings. On the other hand, he allowed three homers his last time out — against a struggling offense in the Mariners, no less — and he’s served up at least one home run in six of his seven outings this season. Four of the eight homers he’s allowed have against his four-seamer, a pitch he didn’t allow a single longball against in 2020. Make of that what you will, but the good news in this particular matchup is that Monday’s game against the D-backs will be played at Dodger Stadium. While Arizona’s offense is one of the best in the league at home (5.7 runs per game, .270/.332/.459 slash line), it’s a completely different story on the road, where the D-backs average just 4.3 runs per game while hitting .217 with a .370 slugging percentage.
Gerrit Cole, RHP (vs. Rangers)
The stat(s): 78 K’s, 3 walks, 0.68 WHIP
The matchup: Nothing significant jumps out about this particular matchup, as the Rangers rank in the middle of the pack in most offensive categories, though they do have the ninth-highest strikeout rate in the Majors. That said, Cole is about as matchup-proof as it gets. The Yankees ace has racked up 49 strikeouts — and zero walks — over 34 1/3 innings in his last five starts. He’s yet to allow more than two earned runs or five hits in any of his eight starts this season, and he’s completed at least seven innings in half of those outings.
Yu Darvish, RHP (vs. Rockies)
The stat(s): .068 opponents’ BA vs. slider since 2020
The matchup: Darvish will face the Rockies for a second straight start, though this one will be at Petco Park instead of hitter-friendly Coors Field. The right-hander figures to have plenty in the tank after pitching just four innings on Wednesday, though the short outing had little to do with his performance. Darvish held Colorado to one unearned run off two hits over four innings, but he was lifted for a pinch-hitter in the fifth inning with the Padres trailing 1-0 in Game 1 of a seven-inning doubleheader. He’ll be in a good spot to bounce back here, facing a Rockies team that averages just 3.3 runs per game on the road (29th in MLB), while hitting .224 with an MLB-low .319 slugging percentage away from home.
Taijuan Walker, RHP, (vs. Braves)
For those looking to save a little at the pitcher’s spot, Walker presents a decent value option. The right-hander has pitched seven innings in three of his last four starts while allowing no more than one run in each of those three seven-inning outings. He enters with a 2.20 ERA and has allowed only one home run in 41 innings. Of course, it’s worth noting that Walker doesn’t have the strikeout upside of the top-tier pitchers (he has 39 K’s in 41 innings) and the Braves rank among the top 10 in most offensive categories.
Madison Bumgarner, LHP (vs. Dodgers)
Is Bumgarner … back? OK, he may not be the perennial Cy Young contender he was with the Giants, but the left-hander has allowed one run or fewer — and no more than four hits — in each of his last five outings. He’s 4-0 with a 0.90 ERA during that span while allowing just 12 hits over 30 innings. Plus, he figures to be revved up for his latest showdown with the Dodgers.
Yusei Kikuchi, LHP (vs. Tigers)
Kikuchi has struggled with the longball at times over the last few years, but he’s pitched well of late — and he has a prime matchup here. The left-hander has a 2.66 ERA while striking out 25 batters in 20 1/3 innings over his last three starts, which includes road starts against both the Astros and Dodgers. He struck out a career-high 11 batters on Tuesday against the reigning champs. Now, he gets to face a Tigers club that has the highest strikeout in the Majors (29.0%), while ranking 28th in runs per game (3.5) and last in OPS (.645).
Adbert Alzolay, RHP (vs. Nationals)
Alzolay has been consistent this season, allowing no more than three runs in each of his last five starts. He’s also thrown 94 pitches in two of his last three starts, so the Cubs aren’t exactly limiting the 26-year-old right-hander anymore. That said, the matchup here isn’t exactly ideal, as the Nationals don’t strike out all that often (fourth-lowest K% in MLB) and they rank in the top 10 in average, on-base percentage and OPS.
Jon Lester, LHP (vs. Cubs)
This is based on nothing more than Lester facing the Cubs for the first time in a Nationals uniform — and who better to thrive in an emotional game than the three-time World Series champ? Prior to signing with the Nats in January, Lester — who made it clear he would have loved to return to the North Side of Chicago — spent the last six seasons with the Cubs, playing a pivotal role in helping the team snap its World Series drought in 2016. He’s pitched well in three starts after getting a late start to the season, posting a 2.25 ERA over 16 innings, but this is simply about the situation. Would anyone really be shocked if Lester tossed a gem against his former club?
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