We are getting down to the end of the line, and looking at two-start pitchers this week takes on tremendous importance. I am sure to make some recommendations that you may take umbrage with; I love the fact that despite so much Statcast data research it still comes down to gut sometimes. What will you do?
At this time of year, selecting your pitchers for the week takes on the greatest importance. What stats are you chasing? Need wins, strikeouts, trying to shave a ratio point here and there? We are at the time of year where every stat counts, where every stat can make or break your season.
The following are our two-start options for the coming week. Best of luck to you down the stretch here!
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Two-Start Pitchers for the Week of September 6
These are the set-and-forgets, likely to be the most satisfying two-start options on the top shelf.
Chris Sale vs. Tampa Bay, @ Chicago White Sox: It’s amazing that Sale looks to have not missed a beat after returning from Tommy John surgery. He’s 3-0 with a 2.53 era and 24 strikeouts in 21.1 innings. Granted, two tough opponents await him this week. Small sample size, but the K% is down some from his peak; 35.6% in 2019, 27.9% in 2021. But I am grasping at straws, perhaps. You have been waiting for him, so use him.
Max Scherzer @ St. Louis, vs. San Diego: Those who wrote Mad Max off as a non-ace (me) have been proven wrong: 12-4, 2.40 ERA, 197 punchouts. He was 4-0 with a 1.55 ERA in August. Looks fine to me. Start him in this double-dip this week.
Gerrit Cole vs. Toronto, @ New York Mets: 14-6, 2.73 ERA despite his midseason “troubles,” he has come to life as aces do when his team truly needs him. A 15-strikeout performance last week was one of the most stellar outings all season by any pitcher. Be confident even though he draws Vlad and the Jays this week. Trust your horses.
Kevin Gausman @ Colorado, @ Chicago Cubs: If starting any pitcher at Colorado gives you a thoughtful pause, I understand fully. But there is also the tug that you go with the guys who got you this far in the year. That matchup with the Cubs is enticing given their recent struggles. I would start him in both places, honestly.
Logan Webb @ Colorado, @ Chicago Cubs: What a revelation he has been for the Giants this year. Webb is 8-3 with a 2.54 ERA, chipping in 121 strikeouts. A tough start in Colorado, for sure but he’s been excellent and struck out 10 Brewers last week in seven innings. I would start him without too much thought.
Hyun Jin Ryu @ New York Yankees, @ Baltimore: I just adore watching this guy pitch. It’s a lesson. He’s 12-8 with a 3.92 ERA. He has run across a tough stretch lately, but most of that damage can be pinned to one start where he coughed up seven earned runs. I feel he’s a good bet for a rebound, and he’s a run better on the road than at home. I will be using him.
Sonny Gray @ Chicago Cubs, @ St. Louis: Gray is 7-6 with a 3.89 ERA and 127 punchouts. Many players were counting on Gray to be that second ace in their rotation, and many have been disappointed thus far. But he is 4-0 since August 5, averaging a strikeout per inning over those six starts, with an ERA of 3.80. That’s pretty close to what you were expecting, no? Start him against two teams this week that he should do well against as his Reds push for a playoff spot.
Some interesting two-start options here for the coming week. I thought about bumping Fried and McKenzie up to the top, but paused on that. You may disagree, and that is the beauty of fantasy baseball. See below.
Miles Mikolas vs. Los Angeles Dodgers, vs. Cincinnati: Mikolas is fun to watch, with a four-pitch mix that still befuddles hitters at times without high velocity. He is generally able to limit damage due to a low walk rate. Know what you are getting if use him: five innings, three strikeouts. Two tough draws this week against good offenses makes me think you sit him. But not horrible if you have to use someone.
Max Fried vs. Washington, vs Miami: At 11-7 and a 3.51 ERA, Fried has been extremely useful this year for fantasy players. The 131 Ks in 130 innings plays nicely as well. And he’s been excellent in August (4-0, 1.36 ERA) and his first September start. I am starting him in all of my leagues and you should too. These are two favorable matchups for him.
Aaron Civale vs. Minnesota, vs. Milwaukee: Civale returns from the IL this week, and it’s hard to know what we are getting back. He was 10-2 with a tidy 3.32 ERA with limited strikeout potential with only 76 in 97.2 innings. That said, he limits walks and has a ferocious spin on his pitches. How long does Cleveland let him go? Is he going to be limited? I would lean towards yes on that one. My bet is many savvy players picked him up last week for these starts. Need to roll the dice, especially if you need wins and ratio control? Look here. Because of the risk of innings or pitch limits, I downgrade him to the middle tier this week.
Triston McKenzie vs. Minnesota, vs. Milwaukee: The talent is palpable and you see it when he pitches. He’s 3-1 in five starts since August 5, and has been exceptional in limiting walks, hits, and home runs, while racking up 34 strikeouts in 34 innings. Yes, the offense in Milwaukee can put up runs, but it looks like McKenzie may be rewarding patient players with his step to the next level. This is the kind of guy who makes your season in the playoffs…or breaks you completely. Ever get that feeling when things are going too well that a dud is coming? Could be this week. And that’s my gut telling me that as I don’t see any real red flags on him. I would use him if I had him and keep my fingers crossed like I do every week. Just can’t bring myself to put him in that top tier yet.
Bailey Ober @ Cleveland, vs. Kansas City: Ober seems to defy logic. He was 1-1 in five August starts with a 2.30 ERA despite not throwing more than 92 MPH on most pitches. He gets movement and limits walks. These matchups are intriguing this week and it looks like Ober should be set up for continued success. Use him if you have need and hope the trend continues for him.
Carlos Carrasco @ Miami, vs. New York Yankees: It seems like everyone is a fan of Cookie, and rightfully so; the man has been through so much these last few years with illness and injury. He’s 0-2 with a ghastly 6.59 ERA. Further research shows that came in two awful starts for him. Since those two in August, he has been usable: he has not given up more than three earned in his last three starts. This is a dice roll, where he has one enticing matchup and one that could be tough. I am leaning towards using him depending on league context, but there is risk here. Buyer beware.
Jameson Taillon vs. Toronto, @ New York Mets: A month ago it looked like Taillon was moving to the level everyone expected as a youngster. In August he was 1-1 with a 5.52 ERA, hurting many teams, including mine. Outings of five and six earned runs in the last two weeks make me think you should bench him. I actually cut him last week for what I think may be a better option in Carlos Hernandez.
James Kaprielian vs. Chicago White Sox, vs. Texas: Kaprielian seemed to be one of those guys who kept outpitching his peripherals…until he did not. The last two starts he has looked gassed, surrendering six and four earned runs while walking an uncharacteristic seven. Do you want to start him against a loaded White Sox offense even with Tim Anderson missing? I do not. That being said an argument can be made that the body of work overshadows the last two rough starts. Again, buyer beware.
Aaron Nola @ Milwaukee, vs. Colorado: I traded for Nola for the stretch run last month in a home league, thinking he might rebound with a pennant race. He’s 7-7 overall with a 4.54 ERA but helps with his 186 strikeouts. Location seems to have evaded him all season. Nola has not won a game since July 25th even though he has pitched well enough to in three of his last five starts. Personally, I have to bank on a return to the double-digit strikeouts and a Hail Mary for wins this week. I will be using him since I paid for him. You may or may not have better options. I think with guys like Nola, you almost always have to keep running them out there.
Blake Snell vs. Los Angeles Angels, @ Los Angeles Dodgers: See above note on Nola. Ha. In all seriousness, we have had really good Snell in August: 3-1. 1.72 ERA, a staggering 54 punchouts in 36.2 innings while limiting walks and home runs. He’s hot and you should use him. But in the back of your mind remember the rest of his season, and recognize an implosion could come at any time. Ah, the anxiety of starting pitching in your playoff run, eh? He has actually thrown well against the Dodgers this year. Roll the dice and use the guy.
Yusei Kikuchi @ Houston, vs. Arizona: Remember in spring when so many analysts were discussing a move up for Kikuchi this season? He’s been better than he has ever been, but he is 7-7 with a 4.12 ERA and 149 strikeouts as well. Decent numbers for the middle of your rotation. However, Kikuchi only has two wins since July 1, and has thrown duds in two of his last three outings. I am wary of starting anyone against Houston, as they are first in MLB with a .267 batting average, and tune up lefties. Pass for me this week.
Even in the lower shelf, there are some options you could choose here to help cover your innings this week. Take a look.
Kyle Freeland vs. San Francisco, @ Philadelphia: Freeland is the type of pitcher you can roster now at the back end of your rotation and play matchups with, but probably not this week. Lefties have tuned him up to a 6.55 ERA this year. Pass this week for me.
Andre Jackson @ St. Louis, vs. San Diego: Getting his first two major league starts this week, it is hard to know what we will get out of Jackson, as he is not fully stretched out to be a starter. Maybe 2-3 innings at a time? That is not going to help you. Pass for me.
JA Happ vs. Los Angeles Dodgers, vs. Cincinnati: Happ had been resurgent with the Cardinals until his first September start, when he was shellacked for eight hits and seven runs in one inning. Egads! My recommendation is to definitely pass this week. How much stock do you put in his 3-0 August? Answer that question, but smart players will bench him this week.
Justin Steele vs. Cincinnati, vs. San Francisco: Early results have been encouraging for Steele: he has a nice three-pitch mix and is working on adding a changeup to it now. Guys like Steele are the ones you don’t count on making a difference at the beginning of the season but are guys you can use to fill in when your other back-end guys go down. However, I don’t like these matchups for him this week, but if you need to roll the dice, he might not be a bad option.
Brady Singer @ Baltimore, @ Minnesota: I was a champion of Singer to begin the season, thinking he had enough upside to be my fourth or at least fifth pitcher in my rotations, and I invested heavily. It’s not gone as well as I had hoped: 3-9, 4.87 ERA, 1.60 WHIP. I was wrong. Maybe next year. That being said, he’s given up two or fewer earned runs in each of his last three starts, adding in 19 strikeouts. The bad: 26 hits and 12 walks during that time. Pass unless you like these matchups for him.
Bryse Wilson vs. Detroit, vs. Washington: Can’t recommend him here. Have not seen enough to suggest using him could be ok this week, despite two favorable matchups on paper.
Steven Matz @ New York Yankees, @ Baltimore: I fully expect criticism over putting Matz in the lower shelf while I have others rated above him. He’s 10-7 with a 3.80 ERA. Matz has had six good starts since August 1, posting two wins and 1.30 ERA. All excellent. Here have been his opponents during that time: Indians, Angels, Mariners, Tigers (twice), and Baltimore. He’s gotten good results whole pitching against moribund teams. I pass on him this week. Some of this may have to do with the number of times he has burned me in the past. I could see a valid argument for starting him, but I will not be.
Paolo Espino @ Atlanta, @ Pittsburgh: Espino does not walk anyone but also lacks strikeouts as well. He’s about league average otherwise. I do not like matching him up against teams like Atlanta and will look elsewhere if I need an arm due to the low strikeout potential.
You would have to be desperate to use these guys this week.
Patrick Corbin vs. New York Mets, @ Pittsburgh: Speaking of homer prone…33 home runs allowed this year with a 6.26 ERA? The xERA is not much better at 5.91. Ugh. Pass.
Matt Harvey vs. Kansas City, vs. Toronto: Harvey just doesn’t miss enough bats anymore despite a decent 6.4% walk rate. And he’s homer prone. Pass. Makes me sad; I want him to be great again.
Alexander Wells vs. Kansas City, vs. Toronto: At some point, one of Baltimore’s young starting pitchers is going to develop into a usable fantasy player for you. However, that time is not now, nor is it Wells. Wells has shown some ability in a limited showing, with seven strikeouts in one start last month. But with so little to play for, do not look for Baltimore to suddenly stretch him out and pitch him five innings. Looks more like two or three innings before giving way to a bulk reliever. He’s not going to help you this week. Maybe we can revisit him next year.
Packy Naughton vs. Texas, @ Houston: Naughton is highly thought of in Los Angeles, but has a ways to go before he can be useful to your squad. He’s just not likely to get enough innings to help you, and his middling K rate (9.3%) and high BB rate (11.6%) should turn you away from Packy. Not yet. Maybe next year?
Matt Moore @ Milwaukee, vs. Colorado: Just because Philadelphia starts him in the middle of a playoff run doesn’t mean you should. Could give you a few punchouts but could be a disastrous four or five innings too. Pass.
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