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Hit Parade for Week 26

Senior Fantasy Writer
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All stats are updated through Wednesday, Sept. 18.

Catcher

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Notice I include Wilson Ramos and Salvador Perez among the no-brainers this week. That's not a mistake. Normally, I limit that tier to players started in at least 85 percent of leagues, and neither of them comes close. But seeing how the rest of the catcher position stacks up right now and knowing the way they've performed of late, with Ramos batting .315 (17 for 54) with six homers in his last 14 games and Perez batting .393 (33 for 84) with six homers in his last 24, the only way you can justify sitting them this week is if you have one of the four or five catchers I rank ahead of them.
Worth a second look: Tommy Medica, Padres
Medica's position defaulted to catcher when he got entered into our player database as a minor-leaguer oh so many years ago, but these days, he's a first baseman. And he just so happens to be the Padres' first baseman of choice down the stretch, having started eight consecutive games there. He's no first-rate prospect or anything, but he does have legitimate power, having homered twice in 30 at-bats in the majors after hitting 20 in 297 at-bats in the minors. And, to reiterate, he's a catcher-eligible player getting everyday at-bats elsewhere. Those types are almost always Fantasy gold. Oh, and the Padres have great matchups this week.
Approach with caution: Russell Martin, Pirates
Martin has been sitting more than usual recently because manager Clint Hurdle thinks he's fatigued, which might explain his .128 (11 for 86) batting average over his last 25 games. When he gets hot, he's as productive as any catcher, but now would be a curious time to roll the dice on him, especially with the Pirates facing the deep Reds rotation to close out the season.

No-brainers: Buster Posey, Mike Napoli, Carlos Santana, Yadier Molina, Wilson Ramos, Matt Wieters, Salvador Perez, Jonathan Lucroy
Advisable starts: Evan Gattis, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, A.J. Pierzynski, Brian McCann
Shaky starts: Tommy Medica, Josmil Pinto, Carlos Ruiz, Wilin Rosario (calf), Miguel Montero, Alex Avila, Russell Martin, Yan Gomes, J.P. Arencibia, Mike Zunino, Ryan Doumit
Strictly AL/NL-only: Welington Castillo, Chris Iannetta, Joe Mauer (concussion), Travis d'Arnaud, Nick Hundley, A.J. Ellis, Devin Mesoraco, Stephen Vogt, Josh Phegley, Chris Stewart, Jose Lobaton
Don't bother: Dioner Navarro, Hank Conger, Chris Herrmann, Brayan Pena, Geovany Soto, Derek Norris, Ryan Hanigan, John Buck, Erik Kratz, Kurt Suzuki, Max Stassi (concussion), John Jaso (concussion)

First base

The few players who qualify only at DH now appear alongside the first basemen so that their owners might have some context for how to approach them this week. If you see an asterisk (*) next to a player's name, it means he's DH-only and not a legitimate first baseman.
Best Five Hitting Schedules
Team Schedule
1. Rangers HOU3, LAA4
2. Padres ARI4, @SF3
3. Indians CHW2, @MIN4
4. Tigers @MIN3, @MIA3
5. White Sox TOR1, @CLE2, KC4

Oy. David Ortiz owners have gone almost all season without this year-round interleague play thing becoming an issue, so naturally, it pops up during the most crucial week of all. Granted, the Red Sox are in Colorado for only two games, but during a five-game week, that leaves Ortiz with only three opportunities to man DH. The Red Sox were willing to start him at first base in four of their previous seven games in NL parks, but that was when they weren't resting up for the playoffs. I'm not saying you can't start Ortiz this week, but weigh your options carefully.
Worth a second look: Nick Swisher, Indians
Swisher has been on fire over his last 12 games, batting .326 (10 for 55) with five homers and a 1.092 OPS, and judging by his matchups against John Danks, Hector Santiago, Andrew Albers, Pedro Hernandez, Cole De Vries and Mike Pelfrey, it's only going to continue this week. Notice the four left-handers there? Swisher is hitting .292 with a .912 OPS against lefties this year compared to .222 with a .682 OPS against righties.
Approach with caution: Victor Martinez, Tigers
While I can't fully endorse sitting Ortiz this week, I'm all about sitting Martinez. He too is a victim of unfortunate timing, with the Tigers traveling to Miami to close out the season. They did give him a couple starts at catcher the last time they were in the NL, but sticking him there for all three of those games on the eve of the playoffs would be unnecessarily risky. And even if that's what happens, Fantasy owners won't miss his production too much. He has just two extra-base hits in September, giving him a .684 OPS for the month.

No-brainers: Paul Goldschmidt, Joey Votto, Chris Davis, Prince Fielder, Matt Carpenter, Eric Hosmer, Freddie Freeman, Mark Trumbo, Adrian Gonzalez
Advisable starts: Billy Butler, Nick Swisher, Buster Posey, Mike Napoli, Carlos Santana, Brandon Belt
Shaky starts: Daniel Murphy, Kole Calhoun, Jonathan Lucroy, David Ortiz*, Michael Cuddyer (forearm), Kendrys Morales, Anthony Rizzo, Darin Ruf, Adam LaRoche, Adam Lind, Victor Martinez, Matt Adams (elbow), Adam Dunn, Justin Smoak, Daniel Nava, Brandon Moss, Justin Morneau, Chris Carter, Mitch Moreland, Tommy Medica, Chris Johnson, Logan Morrison, Yan Gomes, Todd Frazier
Strictly AL/NL-only: Lucas Duda, James Loney, Paul Konerko, Kyle Blanks, Joe Mauer (concussion), Chris Colabello, Todd Helton, Brett Wallace, Ed Lucas, Mark Reynolds, Michael Morse, Sean Halton, Daric Barton, Juan Francisco, Lyle Overbay
Don't bother: Mike Carp, Lance Berkman, Garrett Jones, Michael Young, Gaby Sanchez, Josh Satin, Allen Craig (foot), Yonder Alonso (hand), Kevin Youkilis (back)

Second base

Dan Uggla's vision may be better after LASIK surgery in mid-August, but his stroke has been slow to come around since then, even costing him his job for about a week. But after a pinch hit in Game 1 of a doubleheader Tuesday, he started the next two games, collecting a hit in each, one of them a homer. The 33-year-old is as frustrating as ever, but he can still do serious damage in a short period of time. If he keeps starting over the weekend and you have some catching up to do, you might roll the dice on him.
Worth a second look: Howie Kendrick, Angels
After initially indicating he'd come off the bench when he returned from his knee injury, the Angels have entrusted second base duties to Kendrick after all, starting him in five of their last six games. And considering he has hit .333 (7 for 21) during that stretch, rust isn't too much of a concern. The Angels don't have the most favorable matchups this week, but Kendrick was high-end before getting hurt. If you have a hole at second base, make sure you don't overlook him.
Approach with caution: Anthony Rendon, Nationals
Maybe you've gone on autopilot and haven't noticed, but after looking like a mainstay in the Nationals lineup for his first couple months as their primary second baseman, Rendon has become something significantly less than that, sitting one of three games for about a month now. In fact, he and Stephen Lombardozzi have basically alternated starts for the last week and a half. Rendon has been disappointing his owners since about the All-Star break, batting just .224 (37 for 165), and his part-time role preempts any chance of a miraculous turnaround.

No-brainers: Robinson Cano, Matt Carpenter, Dustin Pedroia, Jason Kipnis, Ian Kinsler
Advisable starts: Chase Utley, Brandon Phillips, Martin Prado, Ben Zobrist, Jose Altuve, Aaron Hill, Daniel Murphy, Brian Dozier, Jed Lowrie, Jedd Gyorko
Shaky starts: Emilio Bonifacio, Brett Lawrie, Howie Kendrick, Omar Infante, Neil Walker, Scooter Gennett, Dan Uggla, Brad Miller (hamstring)
Strictly AL/NL-only: Gordon Beckham, Brian Roberts, Anthony Rendon, Nick Franklin, Jurickson Profar, Dustin Ackley, DJ LeMahieu, Marco Scutaro (finger), Cesar Hernandez, Luis Valbuena, Alberto Callaspo, Josh Rutledge, Darwin Barney, Donovan Solano, Mark Ellis, Ryan Raburn, Ed Lucas, Elliot Johnson, Ronny Cedeno
Don't bother: Mike Aviles, Grant Green, Eric Sogard, Ryan Goins, Kolten Wong, Willie Bloomquist, Daniel Descalso, Jordy Mercer, Alexi Amarista, Stephen Lombardozzi, Omar Quintanilla

Third base

The David Wright owners who have survived to this point get a big boost for the final week. Their stud third baseman, out since Aug. 2 because of a strained hamstring, is expected back Friday. It's the perfect scenario, really. You'll have three days this weekend to see how much he plays and how well he performs, and assuming everything goes as expected, you'll slot him into your lineup Monday. Even without all that information available to me, I'm willing to rank him 11th at the position for Fantasy Week 26 (Sept. 23-29).
Worth a second look: Jedd Gyorko, Padres
Considering the Padres' matchups against hittable righties Brandon McCarthy, Randall Delgado, Trevor Cahill, Ryan Vogelsong and Yusmeiro Petit in a seven-game week, Chase Headley, who's batting .319 (15 for 47) with five homers in his last 14 games, would have been a fine choice for this spot as well. But I'm going with Gyorko, who's more widely available and also an option for second base. Plus, streakiness is part of the equation with him, so I feel like his .318 (14 for 44) batting average and three homers in his last 11 games are a little more telling.
Approach with caution: Chris Johnson, Braves
Since Aug. 3, when he entered the day with an NL-leading .347 batting average, Johnson is batting .283, which is still a respectable number. But his .712 OPS during that stretch is not. With just three homers, eight doubles and 24 RBI during those 41 games, he hasn't offered much for Fantasy owners, ranking 28th among third basemen in Head-to-Head leagues. The Braves' matchups are only middle-of-the-road this week, so why even bother with a guy who has been so unproductive for so long?

No-brainers: Adrian Beltre, Ryan Zimmerman, Matt Carpenter, Miguel Cabrera, Josh Donaldson, Evan Longoria, Hanley Ramirez
Advisable starts: Martin Prado, Aramis Ramirez, Kyle Seager, David Wright (hamstring), Pablo Sandoval, Chase Headley, Jedd Gyorko, Alex Rodriguez
Shaky starts: Manny Machado, Pedro Alvarez, Emilio Bonifacio, Brett Lawrie, Will Middlebrooks, Matt Dominguez, Chris Johnson, Cody Asche, Trevor Plouffe, Nolan Arenado (thumb), Mike Moustakas, Todd Frazier
Strictly AL/NL-only: David Freese, Anthony Rendon, Jurickson Profar, DJ LeMahieu, Lonnie Chisenhall, Brett Wallace, Luis Valbuena, Alberto Callaspo, Juan Uribe, Danny Valencia, Conor Gillaspie, Jose Iglesias (hand), Ed Lucas, Matt Davidson, Elliot Johnson, Marcus Semien, Juan Francisco, Adeiny Hechavarria, Donnie Murphy (wrist)
Don't bother: Josh Satin, Wilmer Flores, Michael Young, Nick Castellanos, Mike Aviles, Eric Chavez, Daniel Descalso, Alexi Amarista, Kevin Youkilis (back)

Shortstop

Worst Five Hitting Schedules
Team Schedule
1. Rockies BOS2, @LAD3
2. Cardinals WAS3, CHC3
3. Cubs PIT3, @STL3
4. Marlins PHI3, DET3
5. Dodgers @SF3, COL3
A couple of shortstops are hobbled by hamstring injuries right now, making them risky starts for the season's final week. Jean Segura is the more notable name. If he returns over the weekend, you can start him no problem, but if he doesn't, you probably shouldn't take any unnecessary risks. He is batting just .245 with a .593 OPS since the All-Star break, after all. Brad Miller has already missed four games, giving him a slightly better chance of returning over the weekend, but if he doesn't, he's not high-end enough to justify the gamble.
Worth a second look: Alexei Ramirez, White Sox
Ramirez has been hit-or-miss recently but seems to be on the upswing now, batting .455 (10 for 22) with a homer over his last six games. He's been a fairly reliable source of steals all season, so starting him isn't too much of a risk, especially in a week he's scheduled to face J.A. Happ, Jeremy Guthrie, Bruce Chen and the unproven Yordano Ventura.
Approach with caution: Junior Lake, Cubs
The occasional power surge has helped keep Lake a viable option in standard mixed leagues, but as a part-time player, starting just 10 of the Cubs' last 17 games, he can't keep it up. With Charlie Morton, Gerrit Cole, Francisco Liriano, Lance Lynn and Adam Wainwright on tap this week, he's likely to stay in his current 3-for-17 (.176) rut.

No-brainers: Ian Desmond, Jose Reyes, Elvis Andrus, Hanley Ramirez, Troy Tulowitzki, Ben Zobrist
Advisable starts: Brian Dozier, Jed Lowrie, J.J. Hardy, Alexei Ramirez, Jonathan Villar
Shaky starts: Erick Aybar, Asdrubal Cabrera, Jean Segura (hamstring), Andrelton Simmons (neck), Jimmy Rollins, Brad Miller (hamstring), Starlin Castro, Alcides Escobar, Stephen Drew, Yunel Escobar, Junior Lake, Zack Cozart
Strictly AL/NL-only: Nick Franklin, Jurickson Profar, Marco Scutaro (finger), Billy Hamilton, Brandon Crawford, Josh Rutledge, Jose Iglesias (hand), Ed Lucas, Elliot Johnson, Xander Bogaerts, Marcus Semien, Ronny Cedeno, Chris Owings, Adeiny Hechavarria, Eduardo Nunez
Don't bother: Mike Aviles, Didi Gregorius, Eric Sogard, Willie Bloomquist, Daniel Descalso, Jordy Mercer, Pete Kozma, Omar Quintanilla, Dee Gordon, Pedro Florimon

Outfield

A trio of injured studs made their returns in the last few days. Of them, Matt Kemp might actually be the most trustworthy in Fantasy given his 4-for-4 performance in his first game back. Domonic Brown also appeared to shake off the rust with two doubles Wednesday, but consistency has been as much an issue as health for him this season. And then there's Starling Marte, who the Pirates had been using as a pinch runner and defensive replacement before his sprained hand allowed him back in the lineup Tuesday. But going a whole month without meaningful at-bats and then leaving again for the birth of his child Thursday probably makes him to risky to use for this crucial final week, unless steals are your primary concern.
Worth a second look: Will Venable, Padres and Angel Pagan, Giants
After a torrid start to the second half, Venable has hit a little bit of a lull here in September, batting .220 (9 for 41) with just two extra-base hits (including a homer) in his last 10 games. But the Padres' matchups this week should get him back on track. Not only are they facing six righties, all but guaranteeing he'll stay in the lineup, but most are hittable types like Brandon McCarthy, Randall Delgado, Trevor Cahill, Ryan Vogelsong and Yusmeiro Petit. And even with the lull, Venable is still the 13th-best outfielder in Head-to-Head leagues in the second half. Pagan hasn't had any sort of lull since returning from a three-month DL stint for a hamstring injury, batting .359 (23 for 64) with five doubles, two triples, a homer and three steals in 17 games. He was an advisable starter more often than not before getting hurt, so if you're struggling to fill that last outfield spot, check to see if he's available.
Approach with caution: Michael Cuddyer, Rockies and Curtis Granderson, Yankees
Cuddyer hasn't slowed down all that much since the All-Star break, batting .333, but he's only the 31st-best outfielder in Head-to-Head leagues during that stretch. Part of that's because he has missed time with injuries, which doesn't really help his case with him nursing one now. Even if the swelling in his forearm goes down enough for him to play most of Fantasy Week 26 (Sept. 23-29), the Rockies are one of only two teams playing five games and have some scary matchups against Jake Peavy, John Lackey, Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke and Hyun-Jin Ryu. Likewise, Granderson has been less productive than his numbers might indicate since returning from the DL Aug. 2, ranking 41st among outfielders in Head-to-Head leagues. And though his splits are actually a little better against lefties than righties this season, four in one week will still be a challenge for him, especially when three are Matt Moore, David Price and Brett Oberholtzer. He's the big-name play, sure, but in most leagues, you can do better.

No-brainers: Mike Trout, Andrew McCutchen, Chris Davis, Adam Jones, Shin-Soo Choo, Matt Carpenter, Jayson Werth, Yasiel Puig, Jay Bruce, Hunter Pence, Alex Gordon, Matt Holliday, Alfonso Soriano, Mark Trumbo, Giancarlo Stanton, Justin Upton, Alex Rios
Advisable starts: Matt Kemp, Bryce Harper, Coco Crisp, Martin Prado, Ben Zobrist, Wil Myers, Nick Swisher, Yoenis Cespedes, Shane Victorino (thumb), Austin Jackson, Will Venable, Carlos Gomez, Carlos Beltran, Josh Hamilton, Marlon Byrd
Shaky starts: Alejandro De Aza, Torii Hunter, Angel Pagan, Kole Calhoun, Domonic Brown, Desmond Jennings, Michael Bourn, Leonys Martin, Starling Marte, Michael Cuddyer (forearm), Adam Eaton, Denard Span, Colby Rasmus, Curtis Granderson, Christian Yelich, Eric Young, Emilio Bonifacio, Evan Gattis, Norichika Aoki, Darin Ruf, Carl Crawford, Gerardo Parra, Michael Brantley, Daniel Nava, Nick Markakis, Brandon Moss, Andre Ethier (ankle), Dayan Viciedo, Josh Reddick, Chris Carter, Khris Davis, Rajai Davis, Nate McLouth, Junior Lake, Josh Willingham, Logan Morrison
Strictly AL/NL-only: L.J. Hoes, Avisail Garcia, Jon Jay, Moises Sierra, Charlie Blackmon, Dexter Fowler, Jordan Schafer, Jonny Gomes, Dustin Ackley, Ryan Ludwick, Jarrod Dyson, Corey Dickerson, Justin Ruggiano, Raul Ibanez, Nate Schierholtz, Lucas Duda, Kyle Blanks, Brian Bogusevic, Juan Lagares, J.B. Shuck, Cesar Hernandez, Ryan Raburn, Abraham Almonte, Ichiro Suzuki, Ryan Doumit, Oswaldo Arcia, Jose Tabata, Matt Joyce, Chris Colabello, Alex Presley, B.J. Upton, Chris Denorfia, Chris Young, Lorenzo Cain, David Murphy, Drew Stubbs, Anthony Gose, Mike Carp, A.J. Pollock, Gregor Blanco, Seth Smith, Jackie Bradley, Michael Morse, Sean Halton, Andy Dirks, David Lough, Franklin Gutierrez
Don't bother: Caleb Gindl, Trevor Crowe, Grant Green, Nick Castellanos, Mike Aviles, Garrett Jones, Jake Marisnick, Michael Saunders, Stephen Lombardozzi, Alexi Amarista, Justin Maxwell, Jacoby Ellsbury (foot), Allen Craig (foot), Brett Gardner (oblique), Robbie Grossman (oblique)

The Hit Parade is your guide to setting your lineup for the upcoming scoring period. Looking at matchups for the week ahead and considering other factors such as streaks, injuries and lineup changes, we sort all Fantasy-relevant hitters at each position into five categories: "no-brainers," "advisable starts," "shaky starts," "strictly AL/NL-only" and "don't bother."

These designations rate each player's Fantasy value for the current week only and have no bearing on his value for the season as a whole. Injuries are shown in parentheses.

Any players not appearing on these lists are presumed to be below "don't bother" status and are obvious sits in Fantasy.

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us on Twitter @CBSFantasyBB or Scott White at @CBSScottWhite . You can also e-mail us at fantasybaseball@cbsinteractive.com .

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Player News
Duquette: If O's advance, 'possibility' Chris Davis added to roster
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(10:43 am ET) If Orioles advance to the AL Championship Series, executive vice president Dan Duquette said it is a "possibility" the team keeps a roster spot open for infielder Chris Davis, who is serving a 25-game suspension for testing positive for amphetamines, according to MASNsports.com.

Starling Marte picks up a hit Wednesday
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(12:26 am ET) Pirates outfielder Starling Marte collected one of the few hits for his club Wednesday against the Giants. 

Marte finished 1 for 4, singling in the seventh inning. He was one of three Pirates to notch a hit against Madison Bumgarner during the contest. Bumgarner gave up just four hits during a complete game shutout. Marte also struck out once and stranded two runners. 


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Hudson has delivered an ERA under 4.00 for eight straight seasons, but he was rocked this September, going 0-4 with an 8.72 ERA and 14:5 K:BB ratio in 21 2/3 innings over five starts. Hudson has pitched in six postseason series (four with Oakland, two with Atlanta), finding himself on the losing side each time. He owns a 3.46 ERA postseason ERA in 54 2/3 innings. Hudson faced the Nationals twice during the regular season, earning a win each time.


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(12:19 am ET) Giants pitcher Jake Peavy will take the mound for Game 1 of the National League Division Series in Washington against the Nationals Friday.

Peavy excelled after returning to the NL West this summer, going 6-4 with a 2.12 ERA and 58:17 K:BB ratio in 78 2/3 innings over 12 starts. Prior to joining the Giants, he delivered a 4.48 ERA in 30 starts with the Red Sox after posting a 4.00 ERA in 84 games (83 starts) with the White Sox. He's posted a 3.77 ERA, 1.05 WHIP and 14:3 K:BB ratio in 14 1/3 innings in two starts at Nationals Park.


Report: Justin Smoak likely to hit free agency this offseason
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12:06 am ET) Mariners first baseman Justin Smoak will likely reach free agency this offseason, as the team is expected to pay the $150,000 buyout of his 2015 option, the Seattle Times reports.

Smoak has a $3.65-million club option for next season, but the Mariners figure to pay the buyout and decline to tender the first baseman a contract. The option would have vested if he made 525 plate appearances in 2014. Instead, he hit .202/.275/.339 in 276 plate appearances.


Russell Martin collects one hit Wednesday
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(12:02 am ET) Pirates catcher Russell Martin picked up one hit Wednesday against the Giants.

The Pirates only mustered four hits against Madison Bumgarner, so Martin was one of the standout performers during the contest. During his last at-bat, the fans chanted for Martin to re-sign with the club during the offseason. The team continued to chant even after Martin flew out. He gave the fans a tip of the cap before going into the dugout. Martin is set to be a free agent during the offseason.


Andrew McCutchen goes hitless Wednesday
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(10/1/2014) Pirates outfielder Andrew McCutchen went hitless Wednesday against the Giants.

The entire Pirate offense was shut down by Madison Bumgarner, who allowed just four hits all night. McCutchen struck out, flew out and grounded out in three at-bats. He did reach base once, walking in the fourth inning. McCutchen hit .314/.410/.542 over 548 at-bats during the regular season.


Joe Panik delivers three hits in wild-card win
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(10/1/2014) Giants second baseman Joe Panik enjoyed a fantastic postseason debut Wednesday, going 3 for 5 in his team's 8-0 wild-card win over the Pirates.

Panik plugged a hole in the infield in the middle of the season, hitting .305/.343/.368 in 269 at-bats during the regular season. He figures to continue to occupy the second spot of the lineup in the National League Division Series, starting with Game 1 Friday in Washington.


Brandon Belt drives in three runs in wild-card win
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(10/1/2014) Giants first baseman Brandon Belt went 2 for 3 with two walks and three RBI in his team's 8-0 wild-card victory over the Pirates Wednesday.

Belt was on base when Brandon Crawford opened up the scoring with a fourth-inning grand slam, and the first baseman tacked on a run in the sixth and two more in the seventh on a pair of singles. Belt and the Giants face the Nationals in Washington Friday in Game 1 of the National League Division Series.


Josh Harrison the only bright spot Wednesday
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(10/1/2014) Pirates infielder Josh Harrison was the lone bright spot Wednesday night.

Harrison was the only player on the club to collect two hits during the outing. In his final two at-bats, Harrison hit two singles. The Pirates managed just four hits off Madison Bumgarner during the contest. Half of those came from Harrison's bat. Harrison enjoyed a breakout during the regular season, hitting .315/.347/.490 over 520 at-bats. 


 
 
 
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