Challenge Preview Week 24: Garret red hot, get V-Mart
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, Sept. 6.
Cleveland Indians (@CHW-3, KC-3): Catcher Victor Martinez (4.7 price tag) is hitting .330 (33-for-100) with 21 RBIs in his past 25 games. He's also a lifetime .355 hitter with a .442 on-base percentage, .609 slugging percentage, nine home runs and 27 RBIs in 37 career games at Chicago's U.S. Cellular Field. ... Colorado Rockies (@PHI-4, FLA-3): Third baseman Garrett Atkins (5.1) is a .339 hitter (42-for-124) with five homers and 31 RBIs in his past 32 games. He's also a .357/.526/.571 hitter in four career games at Philadelphia's Citizens Bank Park. ... Los Angeles Angels (@BAL-3, @CHW-3): DH Garret Anderson (4.1) is a .415 hitter (27-for-65) with nine homers and 31 RBIs in his last 17 games. He's also a .328 hitter (20-for-61) with three homers and 12 RBIs in his last 16 games at Baltimore's Oriole Park. ... Milwaukee Brewers (@PIT-3, CIN-3): Shortstop J.J. Hardy (4.0) is a .300 hitter (27-for-90) with five homers and 10 RBIs in his past 24 games. He's also a .413/.438/.652 hitter with 14 RBIs in 11 games against the Pirates this season. ... St. Louis Cardinals (@CHC-1, @CIN-3, CHC-4): Right fielder Rick Ankiel (4.4) is a .459 hitter (17-for-37) with five homers and 20 RBIs in his last 10 games. And, although his Cardinals face three left-handed starters in their eight games, Ankiel is a .500/.458/1.091 hitter in 24 plate appearances against that side this season.
Pat Burrell, LF, Phillies (4.7 price tag): He's a .281 hitter (34-for-121) with 12 home runs and 28 RBIs in his past 34 games. He's also a .271/.436/.568 hitter against left-handers this season, with his Phillies slated to battle four lefties in seven games. Three of those contests come against the Mets, who Burrell has 41 homers and 102 RBIs in 131 career games, by far his best power numbers against any opponent.
Robinson Cano, 2B, Yankees (4.7): He's a .345 hitter (69-for-200) with 10 homers and 39 RBIs in 54 games since the All-Star break. He's also a lifetime .331/.363/.507 hitter in 201 games on the road, including .338/.389/.677 rates in 17 career games at Toronto's Rogers Centre, where he'll play Tuesday-Thursday. He's also a .374/.406/.538 numbers in 22 career games at Boston's Fenway Park, where he'll play Friday-Sunday.
Brendan Harris, SS, Devil Rays (3.6): He's a .302 hitter (16-for-53) with eight RBIs and 10 runs scored in his past 13 games. He's also a .326/.397/.437 hitter against left-handers this season, with the Devil Rays set to face three lefty starters in seven games.
Jeremy Hermida, RF, Marlins (4.1): He's a scorching .339 hitter (63-for-186) with eight homers and 27 RBIs in 58 games since July 1. He was also 6-for-11 (.545) with two doubles, a triple and a home run in his only three career games at Colorado's Coors Field (June 2-4, 2006), where the Marlins play Friday-Sunday.
Nick Markakis, RF, Orioles (5.3): He's a .305 hitter (18-for-59) with five homers and 15 RBIs in his past 15 games. He's also a .306/.383/.470 hitter against right-handers this season, and the Orioles will see nothing but righty starters in their six games.
Aaron Rowand, CF, Phillies (5.1): He continues to hit at an elite level, batting .318 (64-for-201) with 12 homers and 36 RBIs in 50 games since the All-Star break. He's also a .300/.362/.514 hitter in 130 career games at Philadelphia's Citizens Bank Park, where he'll play Monday-Thursday, and a .276 hitter (8-for-29) with eight walks in nine career games at New York's Shea Stadium, where he'll play Friday-Sunday.
B.J. Upton, 2B, Devil Rays (5.2): He's a .319 hitter (23-for-72) with six homers and 19 RBIs in his past 18 games, even if the stolen base numbers haven't been there (he has three during that span). He's also a .364/.431/.603 hitter in 48 road games this season, with the Devil Rays set to play all seven games on the road. Three come against left-handed starters; Upton hits .315/.386/.489 against that side for his career.
Atlanta Braves (@NYM-3, @WAS-3): Right fielder Jeff Francoeur (4.5) is a .203 hitter (15-for-74) with no homers and 17 strikeouts in his past 17 games. He's also a .127 hitter (8-for-63) with one homer and 15 K's in 18 career games at Washington's RFK Stadium. ... Baltimore Orioles (LAA-3, @TOR-3): Third baseman Melvin Mora (3.3) is a .217 hitter (15-for-69) with no homers and 14 strikeouts in his past 19 games. He's also a .227/.329/.393 hitter in 58 career games at Toronto's Rogers Centre. ... Los Angeles Dodgers (SD-3, ARI-3): Shortstop Rafael Furcal (4.3) is a .228 hitter (29-for-127) with one homer and five stolen bases in his past 31 games. He's also a .251/.323/.336 hitter against right-handers this season, with the Dodgers scheduled to see five righties in their six games. ... New York Yankees (@TOR-3, @BOS-3): Designated hitter Jason Giambi (2.8) is a .217 hitter (13-for-60) with five homers and 14 strikeouts in 21 games since returning from the DL, starting only 15 of the Yankees' 28 contests during that span. ... San Francisco Giants (ARI-3, @SD-3): Left fielder Barry Bonds (4.8) is batting .255 (25-for-98) with nine homers in his past 35 games, starting only 33 of the Giants' 47 contests during that span. He's also a .179/.396/.385 hitter in 26 career games at San Diego's Petco Park.
Jack Cust, DH, Athletics (4.8 price tag): He's such an up-and-down player, isn't he? Cust has hit .171 (7-for-41) with one home run and 17 strikeouts in his past 12 games. He's also a .231/.373/.433 hitter against left-handers this season, with the Athletics set to face three lefty starters in their seven games, (perhaps four depending on the Rangers' Saturday spot starter).
Chris Duncan, LF, Cardinals (3.1): He's about the only player not getting involved in the Cardinals' late-season surge, batting .173 (17-for-98) with one homer and 42 strikeouts in his past 39 games. He's also a .213/.289/.313 hitter against left-handers this season, frequently sitting against them, and the Cardinals will battle three lefty starters in eight games.
Akinori Iwamura, 3B, Devil Rays (4.1): He's hitting for a bit more power lately, with four homers since Aug. 21. Since the All-Star break, however, he's a .284 hitter (60-for-211) with only those four homers in 50 games. He's only a .259/.347/.410 hitter on the road this season, and the Devil Rays play all seven contests on the road.
Paul Lo Duca, C, Mets (2.0): This season, he's a .243/.290/.318 hitter against right-handers and a .230/.265/.315 hitter at New York's Shea Stadium, and note that his Mets face nothing but righty starters in six home games. He's also a lifetime .241/.294/.371 hitter in September/October, his worst rates in all three categories of any month.
MONDAY: In an otherwise bad week for Giants left fielder Barry Bonds (4.8 price tag), Monday's matchup is a nice one. He's 4-for-6 (.667) with a home run against the Diamondbacks' Livan Hernandez this season, 8-for-17 (.471) with four homers against the right-hander lifetime. Bonds is also a solid .296/.485/.627 hitter at home this season.
TUESDAY: It's a doubleheader day for the Tigers, and all indications point to them facing two right-handers on the Rangers' side. That bodes well for Tigers center fielder Curtis Granderson (5.6), who's hitting .333/.390/.620 against righties this year. If Kameron Loe starts a game, that helps; Granderson is 4-for-6 (.667) with three triples lifetime against him.
WEDNESDAY: Rockies right fielder Brad Hawpe (4.9) is a .462 hitter (12-for-26) with two homers and five RBIs in six career games at Philadelphia's Citizens Bank Park. He's also a .319/.419/.601 hitter against right-handers this season, and he was a combined 2-for-2 with a double against Phillies righty J.D. Durbin earlier this year.
THURSDAY: Cubs first baseman Derrek Lee (4.7) is a lifetime .438 hitter (7-for-16) with two homers against Astros left-hander Wandy Rodriguez. He's also a .294 hitter (25-for-85) with five homers and 12 RBIs in his past 22 games.
FRIDAY: Here's the best of the week's matchups for Marlins right fielder Jeremy Hermida (4.1). He's a lifetime .500 hitter (3-for-6) with a triple and a home run against Rockies right-hander Josh Fogg, and a .283/.369/.496 hitter against right-handers this season. The Pirates, incidentally, pounded Fogg in his last start at home (3 IP, 8 ER).
SATURDAY: It's another doubleheader day, this time for the Cubs, and right fielder Jacque Jones (3.7) couldn't ask for better matchups if he starts both games. He's a lifetime .450 hitter (9-for-20) with two homers against the Cardinals' Kip Wells and a .324 hitter (11-for-34) with four doubles and a homer against Joel Pineiro, both right-handers.
SUNDAY: Rockies center fielder Ryan Spilborghs (2.9) has started each of his team's last 14 games against a left-hander, and you should count on that again here. Spilborghs has .347/.400/.600 rates against lefties this season and the Marlins are throwing southpaw Scott Olsen. Unsurprisingly, Spilborghs is 3-for-5 (.600) lifetime against Olsen.
Tristan H. Cockcroft covers fantasy sports for ESPN.com. You can e-mail him here.
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