With the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline around the corner, teams looking to upgrade their rosters for the season's stretch run have their eyes on a select group of players that could give them a boost for a postseason push.
One of the best starting pitchers in a slim market, the Rangers' Yu Darvish proved Friday night why he could make a huge impact for a team seeking rotation help. The right-hander struck out a season-high 12 batters and walked one in the Rangers' 4-3, 10-inning win over the Rays in Tampa.
Darvish gave up three runs -- on a trio of homers -- on five hits over eight innings, lowering his ERA to 3.44. He induced 28 swinging strikes, setting a new career high by eclipsing the 27 swinging strikes he had against the Astros on April 2, 2013.
Darvish's four-seam fastball, which accounted for 18 of his 28 swinging strikes, hit 98.4 mph. Entering the game, his fastball had eclipsed 98 mph once this season -- a 98.5-mph pitch to the Phillies' Cameron Rupp on May 16.
Other than a rough outing against the Red Sox on July 4 in which he gave up seven runs in 4 1/3 innings, Darvish's ERA is 2.31 in four starts since June 23. Over those four starts, he's struck out 40 and walked six in 35 innings.
So far, the Cubs have been linked to Darvish in trade rumors. Chicago is reportedly showing interest in the ace, even after dealing for left-hander Jose Quintana and even though the front office has indicated it wants controllable starters beyond this season, rather than rentals (Darvish is a free agent at the end of the season).
Here are some other strong performances on Friday by players on the trading block:
Garcia had a night to remember at Dodger Stadium. After trade discussions between the Braves and Twins were rumored to be serious, but did not reach fruition on Thursday, Garcia tossed seven innings and held the Dodgers to three runs on seven hits, walking one and striking out four in Atlanta's 12-3 victory.
The 31-year-old left-hander also smashed a fifth-inning grand slam off Alex Wood to extend Atlanta's lead to 9-0. It was Garcia's first homer since Oct. 1, 2012, off the Reds' Bronson Arroyo, and the first grand slam by a Braves pitcher since Tony Cloninger belted two on July 3, 1966.
Garcia had given up five or more runs in four straight starts prior to his July 16 outing. But against the D-backs that day, he surrendered just one run on four hits over seven innings, walking three and striking out seven. Over his last two starts, Garcia has a 2.57 ERA.
Besides the Twins, other teams that have shown interest in Garcia include the Astros and Royals.
Neshek tossed a scoreless eighth in the Phillies' 6-1 win over the Brewers at Citizens Bank Park. It was his seventh consecutive scoreless outing, and 40th scoreless outing in 42 appearances this season. He has a 1.17 ERA across 39 1/3 innings in 2017, striking out 43 and walking just five.
The Brewers, Nationals, Rays and Yankees have been linked in trade rumors to the 36-year-old sidearm right-hander.
Hand has been one of the game's top relievers in 2017, and after tossing a scoreless eighth with three strikeouts against the Giants in San Francisco on Friday, the left-hander owns a 2.16 ERA with 65 strikeouts to 14 walks in 50 innings this season.
With the 27-year-old Hand controllable through 2019, and so many clubs looking to bolster their bullpen, he could be a hot commodity as the Trade Deadline nears. So far, the Angels, Brewers, Cubs, Dodgers, Mariners, Nationals, Royals and Yankees have all been rumored to have interest in Hand.