Choosing the winner this week was the easiest one yet, but choosing the honorable mentions was much harder. Nearly the whole rotation deserved some love this week.
Lance McCullers, Jr.
This was the most difficult choice, but Lance's ten strikeouts and lack of walks in a game in which he went toe-to-toe with Clayton Kershaw in his first game back from Double-A. That is quite the accomplishment, especially when considering his last start (August 3rd) was that game where he allowed six runs in 1/3 of an inning. The walks (or lack of them) are especially noteworthy. In his last seven starts, he had averaged three walks a game, but in his two previous starts--not including the 1/3 of an inning game, although he only walked one batter--he's gone seven innings, walked none, and thrown fewer than 100 pitches. His walk rate is down to 8.1% on the season, and while that isn't fantastic, it's still far lower than any other rate he's had in the minors (his BB/9 of 3.01 is also much lower than any before).
Here are Scott Feldman's last five road starts (@ BAL, KC, OAK, SF, & NYY): 33.2 IP, 4 ER, 6 UBB, 17 K. Half of those runs came on two solo shots against Oakland, and half of those walks (plus a run) came against Baltimore, which means he's allowed one run and walked three in 21.2 innings against the other two AL division leaders and the defending WS champs in their own home parks. Add that to a strong-seven inning start against Tampa at home on the 18th in which he allowed two runs, and Feldman has been on fire lately. Before that Baltimore game, his ERA was 5.17, and it's now down to 3.75. Also: Feldman is the nominal sixth starter on the team. And he's had a 1.07 ERA in his past five road games. Suddenly I'm feeling very confident in this rotation going forward.
What can I say about Mike Fiers' no-hitter than hasn't already been said by everyone else? He had a once-in-a-lifetime game that most pitchers will never have, he's made the Carlos Gomez trade into the Mike Fiers trade, he's brought a mini-Deflategate into baseball (and the non-story that the pine tar is just exacerbates the issue with the NFL), and he's allowed one earned run as a starter with the Astros (21 IP). The no-hitter doesn't suddenly make him into an ace, but what it did do was show off his four-pitch arsenal (4-seam, CB, cutter, CH) and the strikeout ability that makes him an above-average third starter. He's probably the fifth-best starter on the team right now (depending on your view of McHugh), and that no-hitter could have come from Kazmir or Keuchel or even McCullers (not a chance that McCullers would've thrown 134 pitches without Jeff Luhnow's eyes from literally popping out of his head), but Fiers was the one with the special night, and that deserves special recognition. Well done, Mike Fiers.