Kris Bryant went 1-for-3 with a solo homer, a walk and two runs scored Friday vs. the Pirates. Bryant kicked off the second half with his 18th big fly of the year, taking Chris Archer deep in the seventh inning. The slugger picked up where he left off before the All-Star break, as he now has six extra-base hits over his last four games. After slogging through an injury-plagued campaign last year, Bryant is back to his MVP form this year, slashing .297/.404/.559 with 47 extra-base hits, 68 runs and 45 RBIs.
Yu Darvish settled for a no-decision despite tossing six shutout innings against the Pirates on Friday, allowing just two hits and one walk while notching eight strikeouts. After skidding into the All-Star break with three poor starts in a row, Darvish turned in his first scoreless outing of the year to kick off the second half. It only lowered his ERA to 4.72, however, as he hasn't been able to post back-to-back quality starts this year. He hasn't been the same pitcher since joining the Cubs last year, as he's battled control issues with an ERA close to five. His strikeout potential (10.4 K/9 this year) makes him tough to bench, but fantasy owners should view him as a high-risk, high-reward option.
Chris Archer took a no-decision Friday against the Cubs after allowing three runs on three hits and two walks with 10 strikeouts in six-plus innings. Coming off a dismal first half in which he posted a 5.49 ERA, Archer started the second half on the right foot with his first quality start in over a month. Friday's outing also marked Archer's first with double-digit strikeouts this season despite sporting a strong 10.4 K/9 rate. Archer traded zeroes with Yu Darvish for six innings before being faltering in the seventh, when he allowed a leadoff homer to Kris Bryant, followed by a single and a walk. While Friday's performance was encouraging, Archer will need a few more efforts like that before fantasy owners can start trusting him again.
Stephen Strasburg improved to 11-4 with a 3.46 ERA after twirling six shutout innings against the Phillies on Friday, scattering seven hits and one walk while striking out six. The 30-year-old righty wasn't at his absolute best, but he worked around traffic on the bases and limited Philadelphia to just one extra-base hit. After scuffling in June with a 5.70 ERA, Strasburg appears to have gotten himself back on track in July with back-to-back scoreless outings. His 11 wins lead the National League, while the rest of his stats are pretty much on par with his career averages.
Starling Marte went 1-for-4 with a three-run homer Friday against the Cubs. Marte accounted for all three of Pittsburgh's runs with one swing in the eighth inning, taking Pedro Strop deep to tie the game at 3-3. Unfortunately for the Pirates, the Cubs rallied for a run in their half of the frame and went on to win, 4-3. The long ball was Marte's 13th of the season and first of July, putting him on pace to potentially surpass last year's career high of 20 homers. He also has 48 RBIs, 55 runs, 13 steals and a .278 batting average, making him an all-around fantasy threat.
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