Who was on top of his game on Wednesday?
1. Alfredo Simon, Detroit Tigers: I was counted among the doubters, because there's plenty of reason to be skeptical, starting with last year's 130-point jump in opponents' OPS in the second half. But he also notched three quality starts against the Pirates in four turns pitching for the Reds last year, and none of them were as good as his completely dominating turn against them on Wednesday, throwing eight shutout innings in a 1-0 win. Perhaps even more impressive was that this game was further evidence of his increasingly deep repertoire beyond a core sinker-splitter mix. And to be fair to him, maybe that second-half fade could have been a matter of his wearing down in his first season making more than 20 starts since 2007.
2. The San Diego Padres' trio of threes: Justin Upton's third home run of the year handed ace set-up man Joaquin Benoit his third win of the season, sealed by closer Craig Kimbrel's third save, as the Pads snuffed the Snakes 3-2. This is where my Dad might harrumph about how this is all an exercise in numerology and phonebook trivia, but that odd bit of numerical kismet aside, Upton's power and that late-game combo should serve Bud Black's club in good stead for as long as GM A.J. Preller keeps all of them in San Diego.
3. Collin McHugh, Houston Astros: The Astros' great retread find added a new amazing start to his lengthening list, whiffing 11 Oakland Athletics in a 6-1 win before exiting with two outs in the sixth inning. So that's 11 of his 17 outs coming via strikeout, but to make that even more impressive, ESPN Stats & Information researcher Dan Braunstein notes, “All 11 of McHugh's strikeouts came with his breaking pitches, the most by any pitcher since Clayton Kershaw had 14 breaking-ball whiffs in his no-hitter last season.” Add in a 50-foot curve that Brett Lawrie swung on, and it was a devastating night for McHugh on the mound.
4. Travis Wood, Chicago Cubs: Ah, how sweet revenge must be, beating your former team. Wood has been reliably strong against the Cincinnati Reds, notching his eighth quality start in 11 career spins against his original franchise on Wednesday in the Cubs' 5-0 romp facing former Cub Jason Marquis. Allowing just five baserunners in seven shutout innings, Wood posted a Game Score of 76, a career-best against the Reds. The problem is that he has rarely been given much in the way of run support: The Cubs have scored two runs or less in seven of those 11 starts, and the five they plated were the most Wood has ever received from his teammates on the North Side.
5. Nelson Cruz, Seattle Mariners: Make that six home runs hit in five consecutive games for Cruz, even though the Mariners got swept in L.A. He's the one thing going right for the M's at the moment, as he now leads the majors in taters.
Christina Kahrl writes about MLB for ESPN. You can follow her on Twitter.