Daily Notes: Baker pitchers for his job.
James Shields, RHP (6-3, 3.81 ERA, 1.04 WHIP) versus
Cliff Lee, LHP (4-4, 5.37 ERA, 1.45 WHIP)
Notable Injuries: none
Game Story: Even though Shields has lost his last three starts, he has maintained excellent K:BB numbers (17:1). The Indians can be tough, but they have been cooler of late with a June OPS ranking 15th in the majors. Shields is definitely good-to-go for deep leagues, while shallow leagues may look at the runs he has surrendered over his last three starts and think the strikeouts not to be worth it. Tampa Bay ranks fourth in the majors against left-handers (.829 OPS), so leave Lee alone in this game. Franklin Gutierrez continues to take advantage of playing time and has two home runs in the last week. He is not owned in ESPN leagues and makes a decent spot-start for your outfield. Kelly Shoppach will likely be squeezed into the lineup because of his .389 batting average against righties. Akinori Iwamura is always a good start against southpaws as he hits .404 against them. Carlos Pena is 2-for-his-last-21 heading into Saturday and hits .189 against southpaws. Find another first baseman to sub in.
Dan Haren, RHP (9-2, 1.91 ERA, 0.94 WHIP) versus
Andy Pettitte, LHP (4-5, 3.24 ERA, 1.33 WHIP)
Notable Injuries: Travis Buck, OF (thumb, DL)
Game Story: The Yankees have been raking in June, but that is no reason to bench the major-league leader in ERA. Pettitte is also a safe start as the A's rank 14th in both June OPS and OPS versus left-handers. Oakland will also be without their most dangerous bat versus southpaws, as Travis Buck is on the DL. Robinson Cano is still safe to start as he is 6-for-16 (.375) lifetime versus Haren. Shannon Stewart is 25-for-58 (.431) in his career versus Pettitte and Eric Chavez is 5-for-11 (.455).
John Lackey, RHP (10-5, 2.99 ERA, 1.21 WHIP) versus
Jeremy Guthrie, RHP (4-1, 2.45 ERA, 0.92 WHIP)
Notable Injuries: Reggie Willits, OF (knee, day-to-day)
Game Story: The Angels may be fifth in June OPS, but Guthrie has been keeping up these terrific numbers so long you can't justify benching him. He isn't slowing down either, with a 1.69 ERA in his last three starts. Lackey has me concerned because he threw a lot of pitches in his last start, after it had been pushed back because of a sore shoulder. It's the same deal as Guthrie though, how do you justify benching him? Corey Patterson seems to have picked up some of the offensive slack in the absence of Miguel Tejada. Patterson is 8-for-20 with three stolen bases since Tejada was hurt. Despite hitting for the cycle, Huff is just 5-for-his-last-18 and is 1-for-20 lifetime versus Lackey. Let him ride the pine. Casey Kotchman seems to be showing some lingering effects from his mild concussion. He is 0-for-14 entering Saturday since returning to the lineup. For fantasy purposes, replace him with Kendry Morales who is 7-for-23 in the last week.
Kameron Loe, RHP (4-6, 6.02 ERA, 1.53 WHIP) versus
Julian Tavarez, RHP (5-5, 4.60 ERA, 1.38 WHIP)
Game Story: If the Rangers were in a better position to win this game, Loe might be intriguing in AL-only formats, but his lack of strikeouts and anticipated lack of run support quickly make that idea seem silly. Regardless, Loe has turned it on lately and you should flag him in deep leagues as a guy to keep an eye on. On the other hand, AL-only players not concerned about their WHIP can start Tavarez and expect a win. He has been getting deep enough into games to let the Red Sox offense get him the lead. Kenny Lofton has been tearing the ball lately, going 11-for-21 in the last seven days, with a home run and four steals.
Jon Garland, RHP (5-5, 3.36 ERA, 1.16 WHIP) versus
John Thomson, RHP (1-0, 2.57 ERA, 0.86 WHIP)
Notable Injuries: Jermaine Dye, OF (quadriceps, doubtful)
Game Story: He isn't going to strike out many, but Thomson is intriguing here against the league's worst offense that is further hampered having to play without one of their catalysts (Dye). The Royals have been red hot and Thomson shut down a much tougher team in the Angels in his first start of the season. AL-only leagues can feel free to gamble here. Garland has a career 5.45 ERA in Kauffman stadium over 12 starts and should be benched to avoid the Kansas City steamroller. Alex Gordon remains hot and his ownership in ESPN leagues remains around 25 percent.
Shaun Marcum, RHP (4-2, 3.13 ERA, 1.07 WHIP) versus
Jeff Weaver, RHP (2-6, 7.71 ERA, 1.80 WHIP)
Notable Injuries: Raul Ibanez, OF (hamstring, day-to-day)
Game Story: I can't believe I am saying this, but Weaver looks like a great start here. His ERA over his last three starts is a miniscule 1.74. It looks like his DL stint allowed him to work out some issues and if you choose not to use him here, at least consider a pickup if he has another strong game. Furthering the argument, Troy Glaus (2-for-31, .065), Frank Thomas (5-for-23, .217) and Gregg Zaun (2-for-10, .200) can't figure Weaver out. Watch out for Vernon Wells though, who has three career home runs in 29 at-bats against Weaver. Marcum has earned the right to be started as well, in all but the shallowest of leagues. He is working on his second straight month with an ERA better than 3.00.
Scott Baker, RHP (2-2, 5.77 ERA, 1.46 WHIP) versus
Jeremy Bonderman, RHP (8-1, 3.90 ERA, 1.21 WHIP)
Notable Injuries: Brandon Inge, 3B (back, day-to-day)
Game Story: With Matt Garza now in Minnesota to breathe down his neck in person, we are going to find out if how well Baker works under pressure. He needs another gem like his last outing against Toronto to stay in the rotation. However, Baker is in tough as he draws the toughest offense in the league. Two things to take from this: deep leagues need to roster Garza and Baker should not be used in this game. Bonderman isn't as strong a start here either, as Torii Hunter, Joe Mauer, Nick Punto, Jason Tyner and Luis Castillo all have career batting averages better than .300 against him. Justin Morneau, on the other hand, is only 3-for-19 lifetime versus Bonderman.
Buddy Carlyle, RHP (2-2, 5.14 ERA, 1.34 WHIP) versus
Dontrelle Willis, LHP (7-7, 4.83 ERA, 1.56 WHIP)
Notable Injuries: none
Game Story: The Braves have faced more left-handed pitching than anyone else in the league, an advantage of more than 100 at-bats, yet they rank 18th in OPS versus southpaws. If you trust that Willis' forearm is OK, he looks like a safe bet for a quality start. As always when a lefty is up , feel free to use Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Matt Diaz. Jeff Francoeur is a career 10-for-24 versus Willis and the fact he actually has a walk against him is significant. Carlyle is matched up well for NL-only leagues. He has looked good against weaker offenses, including a seven-inning, one-hit effort against these Marlins on June 5.
Mike Maroth, LHP (5-2, 4.73 ERA, 1.56 WHIP) versus
Homer Bailey, RHP (2-1, 6.41 ERA, 1.73 WHIP)
Notable Injuries: Scott Spiezio, OF (finger, doubtful)
Game Story: There may or may not be a physical issue with Bailey. His fastball was not getting out of the 80s in his last outing. Conservative owners will bench him and watch to see if he can touch the mid-90s again. Toss out Maroth's debut with the Cardinals as the Mets have been atrocious in June, and don't play with fire by starting him. Norris Hopper likely gets to play this game as he hits .333 versus lefties. Juan Encarnacion is still seeing the ball well -- especially against right-handers -- and has six RBIs in the last week.
Mike Bacsik, LHP (1-5, 5.08 ERA, 1.56 WHIP) versus
Paul Maholm, LHP (4-10, 4.80 ERA, 1.34 WHIP)
Game Story: Pittsburgh and Washington both rank in the bottom ten for OPS against left-handers, which is encouraging for both pitchers. Maholm has been pitching better than his 10 losses would indicate. He has a 2.91 ERA in his last three starts and he may be the purveyor of a cheap win in NL-only leagues; just don't count on the groundball specialist for strikeouts. Bacsik has averaged just a hair over five innings over his last three starts and should definitely be avoided. Dmitri Young remains the only relevant National to use in fantasy. Use whichever Pirates you normally do and make room for Xavier Nady in shallow leagues, as he is hitting .346 with two home runs in his last six games.
Oliver Perez, LHP (7-6, 3.14 ERA, 1.16 WHIP) versus
Kyle Kendrick, RHP (2-0, 5.00 ERA, 1.28 WHIP)
Notable Injuries: Jayson Werth, OF (wrist, DL)
Game Story: Perez continues to dominate, and a Phillies team that is below average against southpaws should aid that trend. His walks have started to go up (7 in April, 11 in May and 19 in June), but it is not enough to send up a flare yet. Kendrick may not be a can't-miss prospect, but he has good control of his pitches and a strong lineup behind him. The Mets have been weak with the bat in June (.685 OPS, 29th in majors) so Kendrick may be in for a half-decent start of his own. NL-only leagues can use him to try for a win. Spot in Pat Burrell if you have to; he is 4-for-12 with three home runs versus Perez.
Rodrigo Lopez, RHP (4-1, 4.09 ERA, 1.40 WHIP) versus
Wandy Rodriguez, LHP (4-7, 4.57 ERA, 1.29 WHIP)
Notable Injuries: none
Game Story: Rodriguez was effective when he visited the Rockies earlier this month, with a five-hit effort on June 5, striking out seven and walked one. He should be able to last beyond the fifth inning this time as Minute Maid has been much friendlier to pitchers than Coors Field has. Left-handed hitters do more damage against Rodriguez than righties do, making Todd Helton and Brad Hawpe strong plays. Lopez was starting to lull unsuspecting owners into his trap before coughing up eight runs in his last outing. That is more indicative of the pitcher we expect this year, stay away. The Astros are in a position to win this game and Chad Qualls might get a call to pick up the save instead of Dan Wheeler, as Helton, Matt Holliday and Kaz Matsui all hit Wheeler well. Qualls is available in 99 percent of ESPN leagues and might be a cheap Sunday save. Troy Tulowitzki is all or nothing, going 9-for-29 (.310) with 10 strikeouts for the last week. The K's are trouble, but his approach is working. His average has come up from .261 to .280 since June 12 and he is also still available in 99 percent of ESPN leagues.
Dave Bush, RHP (6-6, 5.06 ERA, 1.34 WHIP) versus
Jason Marquis, RHP (5-4, 3.46 ERA, 1.25 WHIP)
Notable Injuries: none
Game Story: Bush may finally be coming around, with a 3.06 ERA in his last three starts and two wins in that span. His ownership has slipped to 19 percent in ESPN leagues and he is worth watching in this start. I'd say start him, but the Cubs have been eating up opposing pitching lately. Marquis is nothing more than a fantasy fishing rod for wins, and that's all he is in this matchup too. Only Johnny Estrada has struggled against Marquis in his career (1-for-7), so don't shy away from starting Brewers. Most Cubs should be started as well, notably Mark DeRosa and Cliff Floyd. Derrek Lee is 5-for-his-last-23 (.217) and is only 2-for-13 (.154) versus Bush in his career. With Ryan Dempster on the DL, keep an eye on Rocky Cherry. Besides having a terrific name, he had four saves in Triple-A this year.
Micah Owings, RHP (5-2, 3.79 ERA, 1.39 WHIP) versus
Tim Lincecum, RHP (2-2, 5.19 ERA, 1.32 WHIP)
Notable Injuries: none
Game Story: One young arm doing better than expected versus one young arm doing worse than expected. I actually like both Lincecum and Owings' chances, as both the Diamondbacks and Giants rank in the bottom five for June OPS. Four of Owings' last six starts have been quality starts, but be warned, Owings pitched out of the bullpen on Thursday. Watch out for Barry Bonds as well, Owings has surrendered five home runs to left-handed hitters and none to righties. Lincecum answered the call in his last outing, and is a safe start for NL-only and deep leagues here. Chad Tracy is a good spot-start for corner infield as his batting average becomes a respectable .299 if you take away left-handed pitchers.
Justin Germano, RHP (5-1, 2.67 ERA, 0.93 WHIP) versus
Chad Billingsley, RHP (4-0, 4.01 ERA, 1.27 WHIP)
Notable Injuries: Terrmel Sledge, OF (hand, day-to-day)
Game Story: Germano pitches in the most pitcher-friendly park in the majors, yet has a road ERA nearly a full two runs better than his ERA in Petco. Something has to give here, and that split will be corrected one way or another. Here's betting it's from being touched up on the road. I know he has a 0.93 WHIP, but I am still not starting him in a hotly-contested NL-West battle outside the friendly confines of Petco. Billingsley isn't stretched out enough yet to start using him. He tossed 78 pitches in his last game after throwing 70 in his first start. He'll have to get up to 90 pitches before he is a safe option for fantasy. James Loney is hitting .538 (14-for-26) this past week and by all accounts is for real. He is available in almost every ESPN league. It may come as a surprise to lean that only J.J. Hardy has more home runs than Khalil Greene among major-league shortstops. While Hardy has been experiencing a prolonged slump, Greene is hitting .297 in June and has four home runs in the last week. Guess what? He's available in 92 percent of ESPN leagues.
Franklin Gutierrez, OF, CLE versus Tampa Bay Devil Rays
Akinori Iwamura, 3B, TB @ Cleveland Indians
Shannon Stewart, OF, OAK @ New York Yankees
Kendry Morales, 1B, LAA @ Baltimore Orioles
Kenny Lofton, OF, TEX @ Boston Red Sox
Alex Gordon, 3B, KC versus Chicago White Sox
Jeff Weaver, SP, SEA versus Toronto Blue Jays
Shaun Marcum, SP, TOR @ Seattle Mariners
Jarrod Saltalamacchia, C, ATL @ Florida Marlins
Matt Diaz, OF, ATL @ Florida Marlins
Buddy Carlyle, SP, ATL @ Florida Marlins
Juan Encarnacion, OF, STL @ Cincinnati Reds
Paul Maholm, SP, PIT versus Washington Nationals
Xavier Nady, OF, PIT versus Washington Nationals
Pat Burrell, OF, PHI versus New York Mets
Chad Qualls, RP, HOU versus Colorado Rockies
Troy Tulowitzki, SS, COL @ Houston Astros
Mark DeRosa, 2B/3B/OF, CHC versus Milwaukee Brewers
Tim Lincecum, SP, SF versus Arizona Diamondbacks
Chad Tracy, 3B/1B, ARI @ San Francisco Giants
James Loney, 1B, LAD versus San Diego Padres
Khalil Greene, SS, SD @ Los Angeles Dodgers
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.
Sean Allen is a fantasy baseball analyst for ESPN.com and TalentedMrRoto.com. He can be reached at alla_rino@TalentedMrRoto.com
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