Challenge Preview Week 23: Kent, Martin among top bargains
Each week, Tristan H. Cockcroft offers his strategies for the Baseball Challenge game. Look for his best bargains, busts and daily specials every Sunday. All statistics are through the games of Thursday, Aug. 31.Good team matchups
Detroit Tigers (CHW-3, SEA-3): Second baseman Placido Polanco (4.2 price tag) is a .356 hitter with a .410 on-base percentage and .527 slugging percentage in 36 games since the All-Star break. He's also a .345/.387/.506 hitter in 59 home games this season. ... Milwaukee Brewers (HOU-3, @CIN-3): Third baseman Ryan Braun (5.3) is a .533/.563/.933 hitter in four games at Cincinnati's Great American Ball Park this season. He's also 3-for-7 (.429) with two home runs lifetime against the Reds' Aaron Harang, the Brewers' scheduled opponent on Saturday. ... New York Mets (@CIN-3, HOU-3): First baseman Carlos Delgado (4.4) is a respectable .289/.383/.474 in 52 games dating back to June 29. He's also a .259/.333/.667 hitter in six career games at Cincinnati's Great American Ball Park. ... New York Yankees (SEA-3, @KC-3): Left fielder Hideki Matsui (5.7) is a scorching .344/.401/.610 hitter in 55 games since July 1, including 15 of his 23 homers for the season. He's also a .280/.345/.500 hitter in 13 career games at Kansas City's Kauffman Stadium. ... St. Louis Cardinals (PIT-4, @ARI-3): Center fielder Jim Edmonds (3.3) is a .329/.384/.481 hitter in 23 games since Aug. 3, conveniently two weeks after his return from the DL. He's also a .279/.375/.590 hitter in 22 career games at Arizona's Chase Field.Individual bargains
Orlando Cabrera, SS, Angels (4.8 price tag): He's a .328 hitter (43-for-131) with six stolen bases and 26 runs scored in his past 31 games. He's also a .327/.378/.523 hitter against left-handers this season, and his Angels battle three lefty starters in their seven games.
Travis Hafner, DH, Indians (4.0): He's a .308/.396/.658 hitter in 34 career games at Minnesota's Metrodome, where he'll play Monday-Wednesday, and a .300/.375/.643 hitter in 19 career games at Los Angeles' Angel Stadium, where he'll play Thursday-Sunday.
Howie Kendrick, 2B, Angels (3.7): He's hitting .368 (14-for-38) with nine runs scored in 10 games since returning from the DL, five of which were multi-hit efforts. He's also a .326/.367/.457 hitter against left-handers this season, .285/.322/.423 for his career.
Jeff Kent, 2B, Dodgers (4.2): He's a .390 hitter (16-for-41) with two homers, nine RBIs and 11 runs scored in his past 13 games. He's also a .337/.454/.602 hitter against left-handers this year, and his Dodgers draw three lefty starters in their seven games.
Russell Martin, C, Dodgers (4.5): He's hitting .378 (14-for-37) with five homers in his past 13 games. He's also a .355/.465/.598 hitter against left-handers this season, .360/.460/.567 for his career, and his Dodgers will see three lefty starters in their seven games.
Carlos Pena, 1B, Devil Rays (4.6): He's a .326 hitter (14-for-43) with five homers and 12 RBIs in his past 12 games. Plus, he's a .285/.404/.607 hitter against right-handers, and .298/.399/.616 at home, and his Devil Rays face only righty starters in six home games.
Hunter Pence, CF, Astros (3.9): He's a .263 hitter (10-for-38) with a double and a triple in nine games since his return from the DL on Aug. 21. He's also a .358/.388/.556 hitter against left-handers this season, and his Astros battle three lefty starters in their six games.Poor team matchups
Arizona Diamondbacks (SD-3, STL-3): Center fielder Chris B. Young (4.8 price tag) might have nine homers in 27 games in August, but he's also batting only .204 (23-for-113) with 37 strikeouts. He's also a lifetime .228/.277/.460 hitter against right-handers, and his D-backs will face five righty starters in their six games, perhaps seven depending on the Padres' Wednesday starter. ... Cleveland Indians (@MIN-3, @LAA-4): Shortstop Jhonny Peralta (4.0) is a .247/.308/.356 hitter in 62 road games this season. He's also a lifetime .262/.329/.405 hitter against right-handers, and his Indians will see six righty starters in their seven road contests. ... Los Angeles Dodgers (@CHC-4, @SF-3): Center fielder Juan Pierre (4.2) is a .268/.302/.294 hitter against left-handers this season, and his Dodgers draw three lefty starters in their seven games. He's also a .250/.276/.250 hitter in six games at San Francisco's AT&T Park this season. ... Pittsburgh Pirates (@STL-4, CHC-3): Left fielder Jason Bay (4.7) is a .250 hitter (21-for-84) with two homers in his past 20 games. He's also a .154/.255/.256 hitter in 11 career games at St. Louis' Busch Stadium. ... Toronto Blue Jays (@BOS-3, @TB-3): Third baseman Troy Glaus (3.4) is a .173 hitter (23-for-133) with two homers and 50 strikeouts in his past 37 games, limited by persistent foot problems. He's also a .226/.321/.376 hitter against right-handers, with his Blue Jays slated to battle nothing but righty starters in their six contests.Individual busts
Lance Berkman, 1B, Astros (5.6 price tag): He has long been a weaker hitter against lefties (.270/.383/.416 career rates, .281/.368/.421 this year) than righties (.310/.422/.602 career, .277/.392/.514 this year), and his Astros face three left-handed starters in six games.
Casey Kotchman, 1B, Angels (3.9): He's in the midst of a 43-game homerless drought, during which time he's a .280 hitter (40-for-143). He's also a .276/.348/.345 hitter against left-handers, with his Angels scheduled to see three lefty starters in seven games.
Gary Matthews Jr., CF, Angels (4.6): He's a .204 hitter (20-for-98) with four homers and 10 RBIs in his past 26 games. He's also a .191/.266/.327 hitter against left-handers this season, with his Angels set to battle three lefty starters in their seven contests.
Delmon Young, CF, Devil Rays (3.8): He's a .278/.314/.388 hitter in 69 home games this season, and a .288/.320/.397 hitter against right-handers, good but not spectacular numbers. His Devil Rays will face nothing but righty starters in their six contests.Daily Specials
MONDAY: Marlins first baseman Mike Jacobs (3.5 price tag) was 2-for-2 with a home run against the Nationals' Jason Bergmann on July 13, and he's 3-for-4 (.750) with two homers lifetime against the right-hander. He's also 5-for-15 (.333) with one home run in four games at Washington's RFK Stadium this season.
TUESDAY: Giants second baseman Ray Durham (3.0) is already 4-for-11 (.364) with two homers against the Rockies' Jeff Francis this season, and 14-for-32 (.438) with three homers and 11 RBIs lifetime against the left-hander. He's also a .301/.364/.504 hitter with 26 RBIs in 33 career games at Colorado's Coors Field.
WEDNESDAY: Braves center fielder Andruw Jones (4.6) is a lifetime .750 hitter (3-for-4) with two homers against Phillies right-hander Kyle Lohse. He's also a .267 hitter (52-for-195) with 12 homers and 38 RBIs in 51 games since July 1.
THURSDAY: White Sox designated hitter Jim Thome (4.3) is a lifetime .400 hitter (6-for-15) with four homers against Tigers right-hander Justin Verlander. He's also 4-for-13 (.308) with one homer in five games at Detroit's Comerica Park this season, and he has .252/.407/.580 rates and 11 homers in 39 career games there.
FRIDAY: Phillies second baseman Chase Utley (6.0) has homered in each of his past two games against the Marlins' Byung-Hyun Kim, and he's 4-for-6 (.667) with two homers in his career against the right-hander. He's also 6-for-15 (.400) with one homer in three games since returning from the DL, showing no signs of being less than full health.
SATURDAY: Reds right fielder Ken Griffey Jr. (5.2) is a lifetime .480 hitter (12-for-25) with five homers and 12 RBIs against Brewers right-hander Jeff Suppan. He's also a .284/.417/.564 hitter in 63 games at Cincinnati's Great American Ball Park this season.
SUNDAY: Rockies third baseman Garrett Atkins (5.2) is a lifetime .450 hitter (9-for-20) with two homers against Padres right-hander Greg Maddux. He's also hitting .318 (64-for-201) with nine homers and 46 RBIs in 51 games since July 1.
Tristan H. Cockcroft covers fantasy sports for ESPN.com. You can e-mail him here.
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