Diamondbacks righty Clay Buchholz won after pitching a complete game against the Padres, allowing just one run on five hits (one homer) and no walks with six strikeouts. Buchholz turned in his first complete game since 2015 by mastering the light-hitting Padres at one of the friendliest parks for pitchers in baseball. He threw 76 of his 112 pitches for strikes and did not walk a single batter, exhibiting impressive command as he navigated San Diego's lineup. Buchholz improves to 6-2 with a 2.47 ERA, as the 34-year-old continues to pitch his best baseball in years. He's taken well to the NL West after spending the bulk of his career in the AL East, overcoming injuries to emerge as a co-ace alongside Zack Greinke. While Buchholz's checkered injury past makes him a risky fantasy option, his recent performance is too good to ignore.
Cubs lefty Jon Lester won after allowing five hits and no walks with eight strikeouts over six shutout innings against the Pirates on Thursday. Lester had no margin for error on a day when Chicago's bats produced just one run, but he was in top form while notching his first win since July 15. The victory ended a streak of three straight losses for Lester, who had a 10.32 ERA over his previous five starts entering Thursday. Summer has not been kind to Lester, who has seen his ERA rise from 2.10 in late June to 3.72 following Thursday's outing. With more than 2,300 regular-season innings under his belt, the 34-year-old appears to be slowing down a bit in his 13th season. His 7.2 K/9 rate is his lowest since 2008, while his 3.3 BB/9 rate is his highest since 2011. Thursday was Lester's first start without an earned run since June 20, so he'll look to build on this performance in his next scheduled start at the Tigers on August 22.
Cubs outfielder Ian Happ went 1-for-4 with a solo homer Thursday vs. the Pirates. Happ led Chicago to a 1-0 victory with his 13th homer of the year in the fourth inning against Ivan Nova, providing all the run support Jon Lester would need. The long ball was Happ's first since July 19, snapping a 24-game streak (18 starts) without a homer, during which he batted just .186 with 26 strikeouts in 74 plate appearances. The 24-year-old sophomore has shown a much better batting eye this year with a 15.7 percent walk rate, but he's also striking out more (35.6 percent of the time) and hitting for less power. While the switch-hitter has value in OBP leagues, his .243 average and lackluster counting stats make him a fringe player in standard fantasy formats.
Rockies righty Jon Gray received a no-decision after allowing three runs on five hits (one homer) and one walk with nine strikeouts in seven innings against the Braves on Thursday. Gray continued his recent run of dominance with his fifth quality start in his last six outings, exceeding seven innings for the fifth time during that span. The hard-throwing righty has turned his season around since a disastrous start that led to a brief demotion to Triple-A, which occurred just before his recent hot streak. He's lowered his ERA more than a full run, from 5.77 to 4.76, while continuing to post career bests in K/9 rate (10.5) and K/BB ratio (4.1). He's been flourishing at home as well as on the road, which bodes well for his upcoming start vs. the Padres at Coors Field on August 22.
Cardinals outfielder Harrison Bader went 2-for-3 with a solo homer and a walk Thursday vs. the Nationals. Bader was the only Redbird to notch multiple hits, which included his ninth home run of the year. The 24-year-old rookie has benefited greatly from the trade of Tommy Pham to Tampa Bay as well as a potentially season-ending injury to Dexter Fowler, both of which have opened up regular playing time. He's responded by batting .367 with three home runs and three steals since the start of August, showing off the power and speed to be a fantasy asset for years to come. With Bader finishing the season strong, he is certainly a player to target for fantasy owners with an eye on the playoffs.
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