Michael Fulmer  Corey Kluber
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The Detroit Tigers visit the Cleveland Indians on Sunday Night Baseball in what promises to be an exciting duel between All-Star pitchers Michael Fulmer, the winner of last year’s American League Rookie of the Year award and Corey Kluber, the 2014 American League Cy Young award winner.
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Here’s a breakdown of how Fulmer and Kluber have fared as of late and an early prediction for the game.
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Pitching Matchup
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Michael Fulmer (8-6, 3.20 ERA) vs. Corey Kluber (7-3, 2.85 ERA)
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Fulmer’s Last Start
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Michael Fulmer (8-6, 3.20 ERA, 1.10 WHIP), who was recently named to his 1st All-Star game, gave up just three earned runs on five hits (a season-high two home runs) and one walk with five strikeouts over eight innings of a 5-3 win against the Giants on Tuesday.
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Fulmer has won his last two starts, posting a 2.78 ERA in those outings and he’s 3-4 with a solid 2.16 ERA with one complete game in seven road starts. He struggled against the Indians last season though, going 1-2 with a 6.98 ERA four starts, surrendering three home runs in 19 1/3 innings of work. Fulmer, who won last year’s American League Rookie of the Year award, ranks sixth in the AL with eight wins, 109 2/3 innings pitched, a 3.20 ERA and a 1.10 WHIP, continuing his success from last season.
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Fulmer’s strikeout rate has declined from 7.5 strikeouts per nine innings pitched (K/9) in 2016 to 6.8 this season but he’s only allowed six home runs in 16 starts, making him a reliable starter and fantasy baseball asset.
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Kluber’s Last Start
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Corey Kluber (7-3, 2.85 ERA, 0.97 WHIP) had an incredible outing against the Padres last Tuesday, allowing just one earned run on five hits and one walk with 10 strikeouts over eight innings but he took a tough 1-0 loss, as he received little help from his offense or defense.
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The Indians went 0 for 10 with runners in scoring position and left seven men on base and a Cory Spangenberg’s fielder’s choice scored the only run of the game in the fifth inning after the Cleveland defense failed to turn a double play on consecutive ground balls.
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Kluber still managed to make history, recording his fifth straight game with 10 or more strikeouts, an Indians record. The 2014 American League Cy Young Award winner also became just the seventh right-hander to accomplish this feat since 1913.
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Hitters have been helpless against Kluber since returning from almost a month on the disabled list in May because of a back injury. He’s had two 10-strikeout games; Tuesday’s outing against the Padres and June 14 against the Dodgers, and games with 11, 12 and 13 strikeouts against the Orioles, Rangers and Twins.
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Since returning on June 1, Kluber has posted a 1.24 ERA over seven starts, including a 1.26 ERA in six June starts, in which he went 4-0. The right-hander is 1-1 with a poor 10.61 ERA in two starts against the Tigers this season but he’s 5-0 with a 2.85 ERA in seven home starts. Kluber ranks second in the American League with an 0.97 WHIP and two complete games and fourth with a 2.85 ERA and 115 strikeouts.
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Early Prediction & Betting Analysis
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If you are considering placing some action, make sure to do it on a trusted betting site, the betting odds for this game will be released on Sunday but all signs point to a low-scoring affair for the last Sunday Night Baseball before the All-Star break.
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Shop for the best lines available and take Under as your MLB pick because Fulmer and Kluber have been lights out lately and their respective away/home records support this lean.

Jim Thome
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It’s always fun to generate and debate lists. We’ll continue with the All-2000 to Present Indians Lineup.
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C – Victor Martinez
1B – Jim Thome
2B – Jason Kipnis
3B – Casey Blake
SS – Omar Vizquel
RF – Shin-Soo Choo
LF – Michael Brantley
CF – Grady Sizemore
DH – Travis Hafner
SP – C.C. Sabathia
SP – Cliff Lee
SP – Corey Kluber
SP – Bartolo Colon
SP – Carlos Carrasco
Closer – Cody Allen
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Baltimore Orioles
Boston Red Sox
Chicago White Sox
New York Yankees
Tampa Bay Rays
Toronto Blue Jays


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Justin Masterson is 0-3 in his past four starts with a 4.78 ERA and a 1.44 WHIP.
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He has not been as effective, but the Cleveland offense isn’t being as helpful either. In his first six starts the Tribe averaged 6.3 runs. In his past five starts they’ve averaged just 1.6 runs. No matter how well you pitch, it’s hard to win when your team’s bats go silent.
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In those past four starts, two have been stinkers. Both against Tampa Bay. He allowed five runs in 5-2/3 innings on May 12th and seven runs (six earned) in five innings on May 29th. He other two starts he gave up a combined three runs over 15-2/3 innings.
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Two bad starts against a team that has his number (he had a 5.40 ERA against them last year, 7.71 in 2009, 5.65 in 2008) doesn’t take away from the season he is having. He has had quality starts in each of his other nine starts, and has allowed two or fewer runs in eight of them.
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Masterson hasn’t had the best luck in May, as evidenced by his .331 BABIP for the month. It was .255 in April. This month is likely just a way of evening things out. It will likely be somewhere around .300 by season’s end.
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While it’s not at the panic stage, fantasy owners should be a little concerned about his walk rate. Masterson had 13 walks in his first seven starts over 47 innings (2.49 BB/9) and 13 in his past four starts over 26-1/3 innings (4.44 BB/9). Control has been an issue for Masterson in the past so it’s something to keep an eye on.
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I wouldn’t blame you if you held him out of tonight’s game against Texas. They certainly have the ability to add to make his numbers continue to rise. There is no need for widespread panic though (even if the Rangers light him up). He has emerged as a reliable fantasy option and should continue to be. He just set the bar so high for himself with the way he started the season.
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If his owners are beginning to panic a bit, you could possibly get him at a discount. If he struggles tonight, it may be worth an inquiry.
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Carlos Santana enters today’s game hitting .203 with 21 runs, six home runs, 21 RBI, and a .706 OPS. In April, you could live with the poor average (.198) because he provided five home runs and 17 RBI in 24 games. This month, however, is a different story.
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Through 19 games Santana’s average is up to .210, which doesn’t exactly excite you, but he only has one home run and four RBI.
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He has a ton of potential, but the results haven’t been there. It’s tough to look at the past to see if a turnaround is in sight because he has played in just 89 games and has just 298 at bats.
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Fantasy owners haven’t given up on him yet as he is still owned in virtually every mixed fantasy league, but if there is ever a time for the taking, it is now.
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Given his struggles and small sample size it will take a bit of a leap of faith. He has delivered in the minor leagues, but there is a chance that he’s the catcher version of Chris Davis, who kills it in the minors, but struggles with major league pitching.
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Part of Santana’s struggles can be attributed to bad luck. His BABIP is a mere .216. In about the same amount of at bats last year for the Tribe Carlos had a BABIP of .216. Like his average that improved slightly yet remains below par, his BABIP has improved to .245 for the month, which is up from .194 in April.
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There is no guaranteeing that he’ll turn this thing around. If he can at least provide the home runs and RBI he is capable of, Santana will at least have some value. If you’re a gambler, it’s worth at least trying to pin down his asking price. If you find a realistic owner, you could possibly work something out. If that owner is holding out hope that Santana will perform like everybody expected him to, the bounty will likely be too high.
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Thomas Ondrey / The Plain Dealer
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Cleveland Indians pitcher Josh Tomlin is off to one of the more surprising starts in the league. He was decent last year going 6-4 with a 4.56 ERA and a 1.25 WHIP, but not many expected him to be one of the elite pitchers. That’s what he is right now.
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Tomlin is 4-1 with a 2.43 ERA and a 0.81 WHIP. He is tied for seventh in wins with the likes of Roy Halladay, Tim Hudson, Dan Haren, and Tommy Hanson. I know A.J. Burnett and Carlos Zambrano also have four wins, but still it’s pretty elite company considering only 23 pitchers have four or more wins. His ERA ranks 14th.
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Wins are subjective because you can’t help the run support you get. ERA though is more under a pitcher’s control. Tomlin is one of eight pitchers with four or more wins and an ERA below 2.50.
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Tomlin’s WHIP is the second lowest in the league behind Josh Johnson’s 0.71. Only six pitchers (Tomlin, Haren, Jared Weaver, Kyle Lohse, Hudson, and Halladay) have four or more wins, an ERA below 2.50 ERA, and a WHIP below 1.00.
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You get the point. While he’s not considered an elite pitching talent, he is putting up numbers that put him in the conversation…until you start talking about strikeouts.
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Tomlin is tied for 81st entering Thursday’s games with 23 strikeouts. His K/9 ratio of 5.09 ranks 93rd. It’s actually slightly below the 5.30 mark he established last year. He was a little better last year for Triple-A Columbus at 6.71, but that is a far cry from a strikeout artist.
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Suddenly the foundation of Tomlin as a top fantasy option is starting to show some cracks. When you struggle to make batters miss, you put yourself at greater risk.
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Even more troublesome is his .157 BABIP, which is the lowest in the league. He also has the second lowest strand rate at 90.9 percent. That kind of luck isn’t likely to continue all year.
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The Tribe have improved so a double-digit win total isn’t out of reach. With his control the WHIP should remain an asset to fantasy owners. The ERA will definitely inflate, but it could still prove useful to fantasy owners, however without the strikeouts he is best used when he has favorable match-ups.
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He could also be used as trade bait. I consider him more valuable as an add-on to a two-for-one deal in which you’re looking to acquire the best piece in the trade. Nobody is going to give you much straight up for him, but he could be the piece to help you land a coveted player.
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2011 AL Central Preview

28 February 2011

LestersLegends.com is teaming up with EE Sports World.com to break down all the divisions in baseball. My assignment was the AL Central. I’ll review the teams in the order I expect them to finish.
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First Place:  Minnesota Twins
The key to the Twins success is the health of Justin Morneau and Joe Nathan. Minnesota did an excellent job piecing things together last year with Jim Thome, Michael Cuddyer and company, but if they want to repeat as American League Central Champions, they’ll need Morneau’s bat. The Twins always seem to get by at closer so this isn’t nearly as primary a concern. Even if he falters, they have Matt Capps as an insurance policy.
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The Twins added Tsuyoshi Nishioka in the offseason to bolster their middle infield. The rest of their moves were just securing their free agents, namely Carl Pavano and Jim Thome. Delmon Young and Danny Valencia were pleasant surprises for the Twins last year while Michael Cuddyer once again showed his versatility. Denard Span struggled at times, but should bounce back.
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Francisco Liriano shined in the rotation, which will be the key to the Twins success. If they can get strong efforts from Liriano, Pavano, Scott Baker, and company there is a good chance that Ron Gardenhire pulls the right strings again to maintain A.L. Central dominance.
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Second Place:  Chicago White Sox

The White Sox added some firepower in the offseason by bringing in Adam Dunn to join the likes of Alex Rios, Paul Konerko, Alexei Ramirez, and Carlos Quentin. Juan Pierre will once again set the table, and Gordon Beckham looks to break out.
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The White Sox have a solid rotation, and should get a nice boost when Jake Peavy returns from shoulder surgery around the All-Star Break. Until then, it will be up to John Danks, Mark Buehrle, Gavin Floyd, and Edwin Jackson to carry the load. The White Sox lost Bobby Jenks in the bullpen, but Matt Thornton and Chris Sale should be up to the task.
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Ozzie Guillen will be entertaining, or annoying depending on your point of view, once again. You cannot accuse him of not speaking his mind. The White Sox seem to have a mental block that keeps them from getting past the Twins. If they can overcome it, the division is theirs for the taking.
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Third Place:  Detroit Tigers
Miguel Cabrera is the most talented player in the division, but he may also be the most troubled. Good news for Tigers fans and his fantasy owners that his arrest happened before the season started. He’s dealing with a serious issue though that is bigger than baseball. Fortunately the structure of the season could be what he needs to keep his life in order.
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On a less serious note, the addition of Victor Martinez gives the team a little more firepower. With Austin Jackson, Ryan Raburn, Carlos Guillen, and Jhonny Peralta, the Tigers could have a potent offense in 2011. Justin Verlander anchors the pitching staff with Max Scherzer living up to his promise. There are question marks in the back end of their rotation, which makes it hard for me to imagine they can surpass the Twins or the White Sox.
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Fourth Place:  Cleveland Indians
The Indians could actually surprise some people this year. Shin-Soo Choo is one of the most underrated players in the American League. Grady Sizemore is trying to recover from knee surgery. He was one of the most exciting players in baseball, and could really help their offense. Carlos Santana looks like one of the best young catchers in the league while Orlando Cabrera will provide veteran leadership. If players like Michael Brantley and Matt LaPorta can take the next step, the Tribe have an outside shot of taking third place.
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That is, if they get the pitching they need. Fausto Carmona had a strong year, but if he loses his mechanics on his sinker, he can go south fast. Justin Masterson has the goods, he just needs to work on his control issues. Too many free passes lead to big innings. Chris Perez is a solid closer, but the rest of the pitching staff is loaded with question marks.
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Fifth Place:  Kansas City Royals
Zack Greinke is gone. Jeff Francis, Luke Hochevar, Kyle Davies, and Vin Mazzaro do not intimidate opposing batters. Joakim Soria is one of the best closers in the American League, but how many leads will he be able to protect? Speaking of protecting, who is going to protect Billy Butler in the Royals’ lineup? Mike Aviles had a strong finish to last year and Kila Ka’aihue has a cool name and some pop, but this is a team that is going to struggle to avoid 100 losses.
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Justin Masterson went 6-13 with a 4.70 ERA, a 1.50 WHIP, and 140 strikeouts in 180 innings pitched. The main culprits for his struggles were control, as he walked 3.65 batters per nine innings, his inability to get lefties out, and inconsistency.
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They hit .290 against him with ten HRs and a .784 OPS in 389 at bats. Righties hit .263 with four HRs and a .681 OPS in 320 at bats. He had nearly twice as many walks against lefties (46) as righties (27).
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He also struggled away from Jacobs Field, where he went 3-5 with a 3.28 ERA and a .239 BAA. On the road Masterson was 3-8 with a 6.23 ERA and a .317 BAA.
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He had seven or more strikeouts in four of his first ten starts, but just three the rest of the season. In fact, he had 54 strikeouts in 53-2/3 innings in those ten starts. However, he went 0-5 with a 5.87 ERA.
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He had just 86 strikeouts in his final 126-1/3 innings, but had much better results. He went 6-8 with a 4.92 ERA after May. Those aren’t great numbers, but he hit another rough patch in July going 1-3 with a 6.32 ERA and a .314 BAA.
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If he can pitch like he did in June (2-2, 4.13 ERA, .235 BAA), August (2-2, 3.28 ERA, .235 BAA), and September (1-1, 2.25 ERA, .236 BAA), you’re looking at an exceptional fantasy value.
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He’s bound to go through his struggles. Most pitchers do. He just needs to cut down on his walks, and he should be fine. He’s not much of a risk. My only concern is if he struggles early, he could go back to the bullpen, where he was effective last year. He’s a big kid (6’6″, 250) with a live arm and a ton of potential. Keep him in mind at the end of your fantasy drafts.
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Carlos Santana missed some time with a minor knee injury, but he’s back at it.  Through 15 games for Triple-A Columbus Santana is 17 for 51 (.333) with 10 runs, 4 doubles, 5 HRs, 16 RBIs, 2 SBs, and 11 walks. His on-base percentage is .452, his slugging percentage is .706, and his OPS is 1.157.

With Lou Marson hitting .088 (3 for 34) and Mike Redmond (soon to be 39) better suited for a back-up role (and mentor), Santana could get his call before long.

Aroldis Chapman continues to impress for Triple-A Louisville. Through three starts he’s 1-1 with a 0.60 ERA and 18 Ks in 15 innings. It’s not all rose for Chapman though. He also has 10 walks so far. He’ll have to work out his control issues before the Reds call upon him.

Stephen Strasburg does not share that problem. In 12-1/3 innings for Double-A Harrisburg he has surrendered just 3 Walks in 12-1/3 innings. He’s racked up 17 Ks already to go with his 2-0 record, 0.73 ERA, and 0.811 WHIP. I expect Strasburg will test the Triple-A waters before the Nationals give him the call. They do not want to rush their prized prospect. Plus, his clock doesn’t start.

Carlos Santana is killing it for Triple-A Columbus. In four games Santana is 7 for 16 (.438) with 6 runs, 2 doubles, 4 HRs, 8 RBIs, and 2 walks. His on-base percentage is .500, his slugging percentage 1.313, and his OPS a ridiculous 1.813. He has 21 total bases in four games. If he continues to rake like this, he’ll be getting a call sooner rather than later.

Meanwhile Aroldis Chapman was impressive in his debut for Triple-A Louisville. He went 4-2/3 innings allowing one run while striking out nine. In spring training Chapman was 1-0 with a 1.69 ERA. He had 15 Ks in 10-2/3 innings.

Chapman isn’t the only pitcher on the fast track. Stephen Strasburg shined this spring for the Nationals going 1-0 with a 2.00 ERA. He had 12 Ks in 9 Innings. In his debut for Double-A Harrisburg Strasburg allowed one earned run (plus 3 unearned) in five innings to pick up the victory. He struck out 8 while walking 2.

It’s just a matter of time before these three get their call.


Image courtesy of Icon SMI

Grady Sizemore is a coveted fantasy player because of his ability to score runs, hit HRs, and steal bases. He battled through a hernia and an elbow injury last year, but still managed to put up a respectable 73 runs, 18 HRs, and 13 SBs in 103 games.

Even with his shortened season he’s averaging 107 runs, 25 HRs, 78 RBIs, and 26 SBs over the past five years. He’s struggled at the plate the past two seasons, but his average over that five-year stretch is .276. Not great, but not terrible either. Not when you consider what else he brings to the table.

I know the Indians’ lineup isn’t what it used to be, but they have some good young talent in Shin-Soo Choo, Matt LaPorta, Asdrubal Cabrera, and Michael Brantley to go along with veterans Jhonny Peralta and Travis Hafner.

The question is, where do you take Sizemore in fantasy drafts? He’s clearly not a first rounder any more. Not coming off an injury, even if he did shut it down early. I wouldn’t hesitate to grab him towards the end of the second round. I have him as my 4th ranked outfielder (click to see rankings), and I like the advantage he gives you in runs and SBs while chipping in with a respectable amount of HRs. All of this is dependent upon his health, but I’m not overly concerned with it. From 2005-2008 he missed just nine games.

Prediction:  .275, 110 runs, 28 HRs, 80 RBIs, 35 SBs

 

Past profiles:
Arizona Diamondbacks:  Brandon Webb
Atlanta Braves: Yunel Escobar
Baltimore Orioles:  Adam Jones
Boston Red Sox:  Clay Buchholz
Chicago Cubs:  Geovany Soto
Chicago White Sox:  Jake Peavy
Cincinnati Reds:  Joey Votto


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