- Tristan H. Cockcroft, Fantasy
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Fantasy Game Notes for Thursday: American League
Notable Injuries: Maicer Izturis, IF (hamstring, DL); Jeremy Bonderman, SP (blister, DL/scheduled to start)
Game Story: Santana is now 0-4 with a 7.86 ERA and 1.97 WHIP in five road starts this season, and a road assignment against the Tigers, who average nearly six runs per game at Comerica, is a terrible matchup for the right-hander. He's awfully susceptible to the long ball, which plays in favor of Craig Monroe, Magglio Ordonez and Gary Sheffield. Curtis Granderson, a .321 hitter with a 1.038 OPS against right-handers, is also a standout fantasy option. It's Bonderman's first start back from the DL, and he's safe to activate in a home game. He struggles against lefties, though, so go for Casey Kotchman and Gary Matthews Jr. (5-for-11, .455 career vs. Bonderman).
Game Story: Ramirez has been terrible in his three road starts this season, with a 13.17 ERA and .439 BAA, though to be fair, two did come against the Red Sox and Tigers. Still, the Devil Rays aren't a bad offense, and they're loaded with the kind of right-handed hitters who can give him trouble. Jorge Cantu, Elijah Dukes, B.J. Upton, Ty Wigginton and Delmon Young match up nicely here. Jonny Gomes could even pick up a start at designated hitter, making him a useful AL-only option. Of course, Seo isn't much better a pitcher than Ramirez, with a 3-12 record and 5.93 ERA since his move to the AL. Adrian Beltre (6-for-9, .667, 1 HR), Raul Ibanez (2-for-4, .500) and Richie Sexson (4-for-8, .500, 1 HR) hit him, but I'd go deeper than that; load up on all Mariners hitters.
Notable Injuries: none
Game Story: Though Marcum had 10 no-hit innings at one point in his first two starts of the season, don't read too much into that. He was facing two teams largely unfamiliar with him, but these Orioles have seen him a couple of times already. Miguel Tejada (4-for-7, .571, 2 HR) owns him, and Nick Markakis (2-for-5, .400, 1 HR), Kevin Millar (2-for-3, .667) and Corey Patterson (2-for-5, .400) have moderate success, so this doesn't shape up as one of Marcum's better matchups. Guthrie, meanwhile, has a bit of an advantage in that the Blue Jays have never seen him, but I'd lean more towards his side here only in that he's lights-out against righties (.172/.467 this year) and that's Toronto's stronger side. Lyle Overbay and Matt Stairs are your best under-the-radar picks here.
Notable Injuries: none
Game Story: Consider this a must-win for Sowers, who could be on the verge of a demotion to Triple-A ball with a loss to the Royals, MLB's 25th-ranked offense (4.07 R/G) and one rich in left-handed hitters. It's an incredible risk to use a pitcher coming off a three-start losing streak with a 13.15 ERA, though, so continue to rely on most of your Royals. Esteban German (4-for-5, .800) has hit him well, and Ryan Shealy warrants a start against the lefty. De La Rosa might have a 3-1 record, 2.39 ERA and 1.18 WHIP in four home starts, but don't play his history against an offense like that of the Indians. Even lesser-known Indians like Josh Barfield, Casey Blake and Ryan Garko warrant starts.
Fantasy Game Notes for Thursday: National League
Busch Stadium (outdoor) 1:10 p.m. ET (30 percent chance of rain, high of 85 degrees, winds up to 25 mph)
Tom Gorzelanny, LHP (5-2, 2.43 ERA, 1.15 WHIP) versus
Braden Looper, RHP (5-3, 3.27 ERA, 1.25 WHIP)
Notable Injuries: none
Game Story: Most any pitcher warrants fantasy consideration against the Cardinals these days, and in the case of Gorzelanny, that he's in the midst of a four-quality-start streak and had back-to-back standout efforts against St. Louis on April 10 and 17 makes him a great option here. Cardinals hitters are a combined 8-for-47 (.170) with two doubles against the left-hander, so limit your choices to Albert Pujols. Seriously, that's it. Looper isn't a bad fantasy option either, with four quality starts at home for a 2.52 ERA there on the season. Pirates hitters are a combined 5-for-54 (.093) with only one double against the right-hander, so go only Jason Bay, Adam LaRoche and Ryan Doumit.
Dolphin Stadium (outdoor) 7:05 p.m. ET (20 percent chance of rain, low of 76 degrees, heavy winds of up to 29 mph)
Jon Lieber, RHP (2-2, 3.00 ERA, 1.21 WHIP) versus
Dontrelle Willis, LHP (6-3, 4.86 ERA, 1.52 WHIP)
Notable Injuries: Henry Owens, RP (shoulder, likely to be activated)
Game Story: Willis already beat the Phillies at home on April 7, and in 11 career home starts against them, he has a 2.74 ERA and 0.94 WHIP. Interesting stat: Chase Utley is 4-for-21 (.190) with no homers and eight strikeouts against Willis, not that you should ever sit him. Rod Barajas (3-for-6, .500, 2 HR) is the one Philadelphia player with a notable track record against the left-hander, so check the early lineup for his name. Owens is due back for this game, but the Marlins maintain Kevin Gregg will remain their closer for now. Marlins hitters, meanwhile, hit Lieber reasonably well, including Miguel Cabrera (9-for-23, .391, 3 HR), Jeremy Hermida (1-for-4, .250, 1 HR) and Miguel Olivo (4-for-12, .333, 2 HR).
Game Story: Bacsik managed six shutout innings against the Orioles last Saturday, but that might have been more a matter of facing a team completely unprepared for him. He's a fresh face in the rotation, sure, but the Reds' power bats should be able to handle him in their home ballpark. Edwin Encarnacion, Ryan Freel, Alex Gonzalez, Brandon Phillips and David Ross in particular warrant using against the left-hander. As for Belisle, he's not a bad spot start, on a day that's thin on those types. Consider that he's 3-0 with a 2.67 ERA in four starts against the five worst offenses in MLB (Pirates twice, Diamondbacks and Rockies once), and the Nationals rank dead last (3.41 R/G).
Notable Injuries: none
Game Story: It's a meeting of former teammates and Cy Young award winners, and it's their fourth career head-to-head matchup. Glavine has had a no-decision in each of their past three meetings; Smoltz is 2-0. Here's the problem: Glavine is 2-6 with a 6.38 ERA in 10 career starts at Turner Field as a visiting player, including a loss on April 7. Considering the Braves are pitching their ace, it could be a long day for the Mets. Jeff Francoeur (9-for-25, .360), Andruw Jones (16-for-40, .400, 3 HR), Brian McCann (5-for-12, .417) and Edgar Renteria (19-for-49, .388) all hit Glavine well, while only Carlos Beltran (15-for-45, .333, 3 HR) and Carlos Delgado (14-for-46, .304, 5 HR) really hit Smoltz. Expect the pitching to be the story line in this one.
Game Story: Rodriguez handled the Diamondbacks on May 13, and he has five quality-start efforts in eight tries on the season. That makes him a respectable spot-start option, and it should limit your Diamondbacks choices to mainly Eric Byrnes (.295/.875 career vs. LHP), Conor Jackson (.291/.824) and Carlos Quentin (6-for-16, .375, 2 HR in his last five games). Owings, meanwhile, is coming off a terrible start against the Pirates, perhaps a sign of an upcoming adjustment period. Left-handers like Lance Berkman, Mike Lamb and Luke Scott should handle him fine, so avoid the rookie in this game. Also, keep using the red-hot Hunter Pence (17-for-37, .459, 3 HR in his last 10 games).
Game Story: Young has been virtually untouchable at home this season, with a 0.44 ERA, 1.08 WHIP and .186 BAA in three starts, and since last Memorial Day, he has a 3.01 ERA and 1.13 WHIP in 14 starts at Petco. Right-handed batters have yet to take him deep in 115 plate appearances this year, and since that's the Cubs offense's better side, expect another solid effort from Young. Keep Derrek Lee, Aramis Ramirez and Alfonso Soriano active, but go only for Jacque Jones beyond that. Marquis has already beaten the Padres this year, on April 16, and shifting the locale to Petco plays even more in his favor. This should be a pitchers' duel, and Marquis' presence should limit your Padres options to the Giles brothers, Adrian Gonzalez and the improving Mike Cameron.
Waiver Wire Pickups
Rod Barajas, C, PHI @ Florida Marlins
Matt Belisle, SP, CIN versus Washington Nationals
Esteban German, 2B/3B, KC versus Cleveland Indians
Jose Guillen, OF, SEA @ Tampa Bay Devil Rays
Jeremy Hermida, OF, FLA versus Philadelphia Phillies
Braden Looper, SP, STL versus Pittsburgh Pirates
Wandy Rodriguez, SP, HOU @ Arizona Diamondbacks
Matt Stairs, OF, TOR @ Baltimore Orioles
Please Note that the notable injuries are not meant to be a comprehensive report of each team's disabled list. For brevity, we include only day-to-day injuries or new DL additions for players you might otherwise consider using in these games. Long-term DL or day-to-day injuries to starting pitchers who were not scheduled to appear are omitted.
Tristan H. Cockcroft covers fantasy sports for ESPN.com. You can e-mail him here.
Our daily notes examine the matchups of the day ahead and where the advantages are for fantasy.