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Insider

Hideki Matsui continues torrid stretch

8/12/2011

&#8226 Oakland Athletics outfielder/designated hitter Hideki Matsui hit four singles Thursday, scoring two runs and batting in two others, and he boasts the highest batting average since the All-Star break at .431. Matsui is on ESPN's most-added list, but is still available in 15.9 percent of standard leagues.

&#8226 Tampa Bay Rays right-hander Jeff Niemann won his sixth consecutive decision Thursday, holding the Kansas City Royals to one run in 6 1/3 innings. Niemann registered two strikeouts, after averaging eight over his previous four starts. Still, after setting a club record with his 1.06 July ERA, he's available in 17 percent of leagues.

&#8226 Cincinnati Reds right-hander Johnny Cueto lowered his NL-leading ERA to 1.94 with seven shutout innings Thursday, and he added nine strikeouts. Cueto entered play fanning only 5.5 per nine innings. He has been an extreme ground ball pitcher, but Thursday we saw the old version. Each is worth owning.

&#8226 New York Yankees right-hander Bartolo Colon allowed two runs in six innings Thursday, the fifth consecutive outing he has permitted two or fewer runs since his first-inning blowup July 14. Colon has remained reliable, yet he's available in nearly half of ESPN's leagues.

&#8226 Washington Nationals second baseman Danny Espinosa singled and walked in five plate appearances, and was caught stealing twice. Still, fantasy owners should appreciate the effort; Espinosa is mired in a long second-half slump, and before Thursday hadn't tried to steal a base in more than a month. Espinosa appears on ESPN's most-dropped list, but that's a mistake. The power and speed potential remain.

&#8226 St. Louis Cardinals shortstop Rafael Furcal led off Thursday's win with his third home run of the season, second since joining his new team. Furcal hasn't been great with the Cardinals, hitting .234 in 11 games, but he has scored eight runs. He was hitting .197 with the Los Angeles Dodgers. Furcal is owned in 32 percent of leagues, but it should be more.