Challenge Preview Week 25: L.A. love
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. 13.
Los Angeles Angels (TB-3, SEA-4): So much for third baseman Chone Figgins' (5.5 price tag) wrist limiting him; he's 9-for-13 (.692) with four doubles, four stolen bases and seven runs scored in five games since returning to the lineup. He also is batting a scorching .411 with a .471 on-base percentage and .540 slugging percentage in 45 home games this season, and sure enough, the Angels play all seven of their games at Angel Stadium. Los Angeles Dodgers (@COL-4, @ARI-3): Second baseman Jeff Kent (4.5) is hitting .373 (19-for-51) with four homers and nine RBIs in his past 13 games. He's also a .370/.437/.704 hitter with 20 homers and 68 RBIs in 69 career games at Colorado's Coors Field, and a .305/.383/.520 hitter with nine homers and 45 RBIs in 55 career games at Arizona's Chase Field. St. Louis Cardinals (PHI-3, HOU-4): Right fielder Rick Ankiel (4.7) might be only 2-for-22 (.091) with no extra-base hits and seven strikeouts in six games since allegations broke that he received a supply of human growth hormone in 2004, but keep in mind that all those numbers were accrued in road games and he's a much more comfortable hitter at home. He's a .358/.403/.887 hitter with eight homers and 27 RBIs in 15 games at Busch Stadium this season, and the Cardinals play all seven of their games there. San Francisco Giants (@ARI-3, CIN-4): Left fielder Barry Bonds (4.5) is a .282/.488/.597 hitter against right-handers this season, and the Giants face six righty starters in their seven games. He's also a .321/.511/.699 hitter with 19 homers and 51 RBIs in 65 career games at Arizona's Chase Field. Texas Rangers (@MIN-3, BAL-4): Third baseman Hank Blalock (4.0) is a .323 hitter (10-for-31) with three homers and 10 RBIs in nine games since returning from the DL, even if he's not yet ready to return to his traditional field position. He's a .286/.329/.564 hitter against right-handers this season, and .291/.356/.502 for his career, and the Rangers face nothing but righty starters in their seven games.
Moises Alou, LF, Mets (4.0 price tag): He has hit safely in each of 10 contests in September, batting .421 (16-for-38) with three homers and 10 runs scored. Alou is a .338/.436/.569 hitter against left-handers this season, with his Mets scheduled to face four lefty starters in seven contests, and he's a .314 hitter (11-for-35) with two homers and six RBIs in eight career games at Washington's RFK Stadium.
Alex Gordon, 3B, Royals ( 4.1): You might not realize it, but Gordon is hitting .372 (16-for-43) with three homers and 10 RBIs in 10 games in September, and .302 (42-for-139) with seven homers and 22 RBIs in 36 games since Aug. 1. Since the All-Star break, he's a .305/.335/.517 hitter with six of his eight homers against right-handers, and the Royals will battle six righty starters in their seven games.
Conor Jackson, 1B, Diamondbacks ( 3.7): He's a .346 hitter (27-for-78) with six homers and 17 RBIs in his past 25 games, bringing his full-season slugging percentage up to .456, the highest it has been since June 13 (.459). He's a .302/.376/.497 hitter at Arizona's Chase Field and a .300/.394/.491 hitter against left-handers this season, and his Diamondbacks will see three lefty starters in their six home games this week.
Brandon Phillips, 2B, Reds ( 5.3): He's only one homer from a 30/30 season, batting .371 (39-for-105) with eight homers and seven stolen bases in his past 25 games. It might concern Phillips' owners that the Reds play all seven games on the road, but his being a .306/.346/.503 road hitter should help allay those fears. He's a .347/.384/.637 hitter against left-handers this year, and the Reds draw three lefty starters this week.
Tike Redman, LF, Orioles ( 3.0): Check Corey Patterson's (ankle) status before the week's first game, but while Patterson has been sidelined, Redman has snuck in regular at-bats. He's a .367 hitter (11-for-30) with two homers and nine runs scored in his past eight contests, .344/.375/.557 in 23 games overall. He's also a .396/.420/.625 hitter against right-handers this year, with the Orioles slated for six righty starters in seven games.
Luke Scott, RF, Astros ( 3.7): He's a .298 hitter (14-for-47) with four homers and nine RBIs in his past 15 games, and even when he hasn't started during that span, he has come on as a pinch hitter late. Since the All-Star break, he's a .336/.416/.673 hitter against right-handers, and the Astros battle six righty starters in their seven games. Plus, Scott is a .500 hitter (11-for-22) with five doubles in six career games at St. Louis' Busch Stadium.
Jim Thome, DH, White Sox ( 4.8): He's a .315 hitter (29-for-92) with nine homers and 24 RBIs in his past 24 games, with four of the homers coming in his past six contests. Thome is a .314/.456/.624 hitter against right-handers this season, and the White Sox battle six righty starters in seven games. In addition, he's a .322/.408/.630 hitter with 24 homers in 77 career games at Minnesota's Metrodome, where he'll play Friday-Sunday.
Florida Marlins (@ATL-3, NYM-4): Left fielder Josh Willingham (4.6 price tag) is a .231 hitter (12-for-52) with no homers and 14 strikeouts in his past 16 games. He's also a .146/.250/.208 hitter with no homers and 12 strikeouts in 48 at-bats in 15 career games at Atlanta's Turner Field. Philadelphia Phillies (@STL-3, @WAS-4): Although left fielder Pat Burrell (5.0) continues his hot second-half play, batting .250 (9-for-36) with four homers and 11 RBIs in 11 games in September, he's not a great road option. He's a .229/.378/.448 hitter in 67 road games, significantly worse than his .304/.438/.604 numbers in 71 home games, and he's a .246 hitter (17-for-69) with three homers in 21 career games at Washington's RFK Stadium. Pittsburgh Pirates (@SD-4, @CHC-3): Left fielder Jason Bay (4.4) is a .240 hitter (25-for-104) with two homers and 29 strikeouts in his past 28 games. He's also a .125 hitter (4-for-32) with one extra-base hit -- a double -- in nine career games at San Diego's Petco Park. Tampa Bay Devil Rays (@LAA-3, BOS-3): Right fielder Jonny Gomes (3.6) is a .192 hitter (20-for-104) with two homers and 44 strikeouts in his past 31 games. He's also a .209/.294/.412 hitter against right-handers this season, with the Devil Rays scheduled to face nothing but righty starters in their six games. Toronto Blue Jays (BOS-3, @NYY-3): Center fielder Vernon Wells (4.5) is a .143 hitter (11-for-77) with one homer in his past 19 games. He's also a .230/.280/.395 hitter against right-handers this season, and the Blue Jays battle five righty starters in six games.
Josh Fields, 3B, White Sox (4.4): He's a .165 hitter (16-for-97) with five homers and 34 strikeouts in his past 24 games, perhaps wearing down from a long rookie season. Road games have been particularly tough on Fields; he's a .226/.289/.361 hitter in 42 road games this season. He's also a .198/.254/.358 hitter against right-handers this season, and the White Sox will see six righty starters in their seven road contests.
Rafael Furcal, SS, Dodgers ( 4.0): Although he has nine stolen bases in his past 36 games, Furcal is also a .224 hitter (33-for-147) with one homer and nine RBIs in that span. Sure, he's headed to Colorado's Coors Field to begin the week, then to Arizona's Chase Field, but note that he's only 5-for-29 (.172) without an extra-base hit this season at the latter. For the year, he's a .244/.310/.304 hitter in 66 road contests.
Ken Griffey Jr., RF, Reds ( 5.4): This has been his healthiest year since 2000 (145 games played), with 138 games played thus far, although the increased workload could be wearing him down in this late stage of the season. He's a .216 hitter (8-for-37) with one homer in his past 10 games. In addition, he's a .242/.327/.438 hitter against left-handers this season, and the Reds will face three lefty starters in their seven road games.
Kenny Lofton, CF, Indians ( 3.7): The Indians simply do not play him much against left-handers, and they'll draw three lefty starters in their six games. He's a .277 hitter (13-for-47) without a home run or a stolen base in his past 15 games. Here's the other problem: Three of the Indians' games come against the Tigers, who have Ivan Rodriguez behind the plate ready to throw out opposing base stealers such as Lofton.
Wily Mo Pena, RF, Nationals ( 2.7): Although Pena is hitting for better power since joining the Nationals, with eight homers in 23 games, the matchups aren't all that appealing for him this week. For one thing, the Nationals play all seven of their games at RFK Stadium, which limits hitters' power potential a bit. For another, Pena is a .187/.252/.424 hitter against right-handers this season and the Nationals will see six righty starters.
MONDAY: Diamondbacks center fielder Chris B. Young (4.9 price tag) is 2-for-4 (.500) with two homers lifetime against Giants right-hander Kevin Correia. He's also a .239 hitter (26-for-109) with eight homers in 28 home games since the All-Star break.
TUESDAY: It's the first of back-to-back days to exploit Dodgers second baseman Jeff Kent (4.5), and this one is a standout because it's a doubleheader day at Colorado's Coors Field. He's a lifetime .500 hitter (8-for-16) against Rockies left-hander Jeff Francis, and although he has never faced right-hander Denny Bautista, don't fear the matchup. Bautista is 2-9 with a 5.82 ERA and 1.65 WHIP in 21 career starts.
WEDNESDAY: Again, Kent should get the call, and it's because he positively owns Rockies right-hander Josh Fogg and the game is again at Coors. He's a lifetime .467 hitter (14-for-30) with six homers and 13 RBIs against Fogg.
THURSDAY: Sticking with the whole Coors Field theme, Rockies right fielder Brad Hawpe (4.9) is a .306/.401/.612 hitter at Coors this season. He's also a lifetime .500 hitter (10-for-20) with three homers against Dodgers right-hander Derek Lowe.
FRIDAY: Athletics designated hitter Jack Cust (4.7) is 2-for-3 with two homers and five RBIs lifetime against Indians right-hander Fausto Carmona. He's also 7-for-16 (.438) with two homers and six RBIs in four career games at Cleveland's Jacobs Field.
SATURDAY: Marlins right fielder Jeremy Hermida (4.1) is 2-for-4 (.500) with a home run lifetime against Mets right-hander Orlando Hernandez. He's also a .365 hitter (35-for-96) with six homers and 14 RBIs in his past 24 games.
SUNDAY: Dodgers first baseman James Loney (3.6) is 2-for-2 with a double and a home run lifetime against Diamondbacks right-hander Edgar Gonzalez. He's also 8-for-14 (.571) with a homer and six RBIs in four career games at Arizona's Chase Field.
Tristan H. Cockcroft covers fantasy sports for ESPN.com. You can e-mail him here.
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