After finishing in the top half (11th and 8th) in each of the first two contests, Joe Cistaro finally broke through in a big way, scoring 272 points–the highest score we’ve had in three weeks…by FAR. Cistaro facilitates the Home Run Derby blog over at Rotogrinders, so make sure you check that thing out each week to see who everyone else thinks is going to go yard. I like to take a peek at all the comments on days when I’ve been too busy to research. It helps me see which situations might be worth targeting, and/or which situations people seem to be gravitating towards (either way, useful info on the fly). Anyhoo, let’s scope out the winning squad…

Joe’s team: James Paxton, James McCann, Jose Abreu, Yoan Moncada, Matt Carpenter, Tim Anderson, Leury Garcia, Mike Trout, Nelson Cruz

Paxton (52% owned) was the supreme chalk, and he delivered 30.5 points with eight strikeouts and a win over his 5 2/3 innings. Last night’s slate was massive, but even the full slate wasn’t enough to get over half our number away from the red-hot Paxton. Apparently a matchup with the Giants in San Francisco is just too good to pass up.

Joe’s “worst” performer was Mike Trout, who was 61% owned against the lefty Danny Duffy. Trout managed a run and a single, good for only seven points. But it didn’t matter much, as Joe got HUGE performances from Jose Abreu (50 pts), Tim Anderson (54 pts), and Nelson Cruz (42 pts). Catcher James McCann against the lefty Norris was only $3,000, so he was 39% owned and dropped a cool 25 points. Joe attacked the popular White Sox game by rounding out his stack with Leury Garcia (25 pts) and Yoan Moncada (24 points). Moncada was unconventional, as his career .100 ISO against lefty pitching shows. But it all worked out in epic fashion for Joe, with what will probably be one of the highest scores of our 15-week contest.

Yours truly is benefiting from a high BABIP, apparently. I’ve turned in finishes of 4th, 2nd, and 2nd among these degenerates thus far. Which means I’m definitely finishing 23rd next week. Anyway, I thought I could ride my Braves stack to good fortune against Antonio Senzatela, but Ronald Acuña Jr. and Freddie Freeman hindered my chances with 0-for-4 performances. That, and I had Albies and Donaldson instead of weaving in double-dong Tyler Flowers. Fortunately for me, everything else around Atlanta worked, including the aforementioned Paxton, McCann, Anderson, and Cruz. I also got a dinger from Max Kepler…so three homers from my pair of Twins was pretty solid. My final score of 202.50 lagged well behind Joe–so even if the Braves had hit I don’t know if I’d have caught up to Cistaro’s monster night. Not only was Jose Abreu’s 50-point day epic, Abreu was also $500 cheaper than Freeman (who managed 2 points).

Scott Chu, Ray Kuhn, and Mat Harrison rounded out the top five, in what turned out to be a pretty high-scoring affair. Props to Chu (Jerad Eickhoff) and Harrison (Kyle Hendricks) for getting it done with a starter not named Paxton.

Expect a leaderboard update this week, as every degenerate now has two viable scores to keep!