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Every weekday during the MLB season, we’ll provide you with our ultimate DFS cash game lineup. Please note that the column is written in the morning, and you should check all lineups to make sure the players we’ve recommended are starting that day. There are three early games on Thursday, May 26 (Arizona at Pittsburgh, 12:35 p.m. ET; Miami at Tampa Bay, 1:10 p.m. ET; Toronto at New York Yankees, 4:05 p.m. ET), so please keep that in mind when setting lineups.
Starting pitcher: Gerrit Cole ($9,900) vs. Arizona and J.A. Happ ($6,700) @ New York Yankees
Jose Fernandez is the obvious top pitcher, but there’s a matchup between Jon Gray and Clay Buchholz in Boston that we want to target, so we need to save a little money on the mound. Cole had one of the more bizarre lines of his career in his last start, dancing around 10 hits without the benefit of a strikeout and somehow allowing just one run in seven innings in a win over the Rockies. He was excellent in his two starts before that, earning wins over the Cardinals and Cubs while allowing just two runs and striking out 14 batters in 14 innings. Cole $3,300 cheaper than Fernandez, and he has nearly the same ceiling.
Happ bounced back from a rough outing two starts ago to surrender three runs on three hits in 7 1/3 innings against the Twins. He has notched a quality start in eight of his nine trips to the mound this season, making $6,700 feel like a pittance for his services. In his lone start against the Yankees this year, he allowed one run on seven hits in six innings, striking out four and walking three. We can live with that production at $6,700.
Catcher: Jason Castro ($3,000) vs. Baltimore, Kevin Gausman
We’ve got a lot of big bats coming, so we needed to go particularly cheap at catcher. Castro is likely to contribute a strikeout or two on Thursday, but he has been hitting the ball hard when he has managed to make contact. He has a homer, three doubles and nine walks in his last 10 games, finding ways to get on base that don’t require him putting the ball in play. That’s enough to like considering the price.
First base: David Ortiz ($5,200) vs. Colorado, Jon Gray
And so begins the parade of bats. Ortiz leads the majors in slugging percentage, OPS, doubles and RBI. He has seven hits, including five doubles and a homer, in his last four games, and he’s not even one of the two hottest hitters on his own team. We’ll hear from both of them a bit later. Gray has allowed 24 runs and 34 hits in 32 innings this season. You want to invest in the Red Sox offense on Thursday.
Second base: Devon Travis ($3,600) @ New York Yankees, CC Sabathia
Travis came off the DL on Wednesday, going 1-for-4 with a pair of strikeouts. Travis turned into a key hitter for the Blue Jays last season before shoulder inflammation cut short his rookie year. He hit .308/.361/.498, and he was even better when he faced lefties, against whom he slashed .328/.371/.603 with four homers in 62 plate appearances. There’s no reason to ease in with Travis. The shoulder is healthy, making him an attractive play.
Third base: Nolan Arenado ($4,900) @ Boston, Clay Buchholz
Arenado has just one hit in his last 16 plate appearances, a run of futility we’re not used to seeing from one of the best hitters in baseball. Buchholz should almost certainly be the cure for what ails him. The Boston right-hander has been terrible this season, surrendering at least five earned runs in five of his nine starts. There will be fireworks at Fenway on Thursday.
Shortstop: Xander Bogaerts ($4,500) vs. Colorado, Jon Gray
Bogaerts extended his hitting streak to 18 games with a home run on Wednesday. He’s now 32-for-84 and slashing 4.05/.447/.633 with four homers, six doubles and 13 RBI during the streak. It’s hard to imagine Gray and the Colorado bullpen being the pitchers who finally shut him down. He is dealing with a minor thumb ailment after being spiked by Carlos Gonzalez, but he is expected to play.
Outfield: Andrew McCutchen ($4,300) vs. Arizona, Patrick Corbin; Jackie Bradley Jr. ($4,000) vs. Colorado, Jon Gray; Carlos Gonzalez ($3,900) @ Boston, Clay Buchholz
Let’s start in the middle with Bradley, who is now one day away from a 30-game hitting streak. At this point, Bradley would have to climb all the way up to $5,000 before you would have to think twice about getting him in your lineup. Bradley is hitting .415/.488/.783 with eight homers, nine doubles and three triples during the streak. McCutchen is on a streak of his own, though he’s not exactly within striking distance of Bradley or Bogaerts. He’s on a five-game hitting streak, and has 10 hits in his last seven games. A matchup with the lefty Corbin should suit him well. Finally, Gonzalez has started to break out of his month-long slump, going 6-for-12 with a triple in his last three games. A mini-stack featuring him and Arenado against Buchholz should pay dividends Thursday.