- Tristan H. Cockcroft, Fantasy
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Fantasy Game Notes for Friday: American League
Notable Injuries: Melvin Mora, 3B (foot, day-to-day)
Game Story: It's Buehrle's first start since he signed his extension, and it'll be interesting to see whether contract security changes his approach. If it does, don't count on it happening here. After all, Buehrle has a 2.28 career ERA against the Orioles, whose current hitters are a combined 38-for-196 (.194) with three homers against the lefty. Still, Although Buehrle might manage a quality start, a win will be a tough task because he is facing Bedard. Bedard has been positively filthy at home since the start of last year -- 2.87 ERA, 1.27 WHIP in 26 starts -- and the White Sox rank 29th in the big leagues in runs per game (4.12). Surprise bats to consider: Toby Hall (11-for-25, .440 lifetime against Bedard) and Aubrey Huff (5-for-16, .313, 2 HR lifetime against Buehrle).
Notable Injuries: Troy Glaus, 3B (foot, day-to-day); Aaron Hill, 2B (knee, DL-bound); Lyle Overbay, 1B (hand, DL/could return); Manny Ramirez, OF (illness, should play); Kevin Youkilis, 1B (hamstring, day-to-day)
Game Story: Marcum has a 1.80 ERA and .170 batting average against in 15 career innings against the Red Sox, however, don't bet on continued success this time at Fenway. The Red Sox score runs in bunches, and they've got the left-handed hitters to touch Marcum up: J.D. Drew (.273/.801 against righties), David Ortiz (.345/1.148) and Jason Varitek (.275/.805), to name three. Of course, the Blue Jays shouldn't struggle to score against Tavarez, either. In what could be a high-scoring affair, look to Lyle Overbay (5-for-17, .294), Alex Rios (8-for-12, .667, 1 HR), Frank Thomas (4-for-11, .364, 1 HR) and Vernon Wells (7-for-13, .538, 1 HR) -- every player in that group has performed very well against Taveras.
Notable Injuries: none
Game Story: Westbrook has a 4.05 ERA, 1.30 WHIP and .282 BAA in three starts since his return from the DL, he's up to a full 100-pitch workload and the three days' rest at the All-Star break should only help him. He also has a 2.91 ERA and 1.29 WHIP in 19 starts at "The Jake" since the start of last season, so a matchup versus Kansas City, which he has a 2.41 career ERA against, is a great one. Among Royals hitters, go mainly for left-handers David DeJesus (7-for-19, .368, 1 HR lifetime against Westbrook), Alex Gordon and Mark Teahen. Load up on Indians hitters, meanwhile, against the shaky Perez. Josh Barfield (3-for-5, .600) and Jason Michaels (7-for-18, .389, 2 HR) have nice track records against the left-hander.
Notable Injuries: B.J. Upton, 2B (quadriceps, DL/should play)
Game Story: The Yankees' problems against left-handers this season have been well-documented; as a team they've managed .267/.733 rates against southpaws. Kazmir is a pretty good lefty, and he has performed well against Bobby Abreu, Robinson Cano and Johnny Damon -- holding that group to eight hits in 37 at-bats with 10 strikeouts. Jorge Posada (7-for-15, .467, 1 HR) is the one Yankees hitter who seems to have Kazmir's number. Of course, Clemens is no slouch, either, meaning a low-scoring affair could be in order. He has pitched back-to-back eight-inning, one-run games, and the Devil Rays managed only 47 runs total in their final 14 games of the first half. Greg Norton, incidentally, is one Devil Rays hitter who seems to hit Clemens well (6-for-13, .462, 1 HR).
Game Story: Don't bet against Santana. He has won four straight outings, has six consecutive quality starts and is 32-3 with a 1.78 ERA and 0.87 WHIP since 2004 in 45 starts after the All-Star break. There are only two Athletics hitters with career batting averages better than .250 against him: Dan Johnson (2-for-7, .286) and Nick Swisher (3-for-11, .273), which isn't all that promising. Blanton should keep things close, but don't expect a win. Luis Castillo (5-for-10, .500) and Torii Hunter (3-for-9, .333, 2 HR) are the Twins' standouts against the right-hander, and Jason Kubel, 7-for-19 (.368) with two homers and nine RBIs in his last seven games, is worth a look.
Game Story: Teixeira returns from the DL after a one-game rehab stint at Double-A Frisco (he went 0-for-2 with two walks) and one can only wonder how long he'll need to regain his timing. He's only 3-for-26 (.115) lifetime against Escobar, so it's better to play it safe and sit Teixeira. That goes for the rest of your Rangers, too; they're 45-for-210 (.214) with 51 K's combined against the right-hander. After all, the last time he faced the Rangers (on July 5) Escobar dominated them.
As a result, Millwood becomes a less-appealing option, despite his 4-1 record and 3.66 ERA in his last five starts. He's AL-only worthy in a potentially pitching-rich game, but the Angels generally hit well at home. Casey Kotchman is the standout here -- he's 3-for-6 (.500) with two homers lifetime against Millwood.
Notable Injuries: none
Game Story: The Tigers' offense this year is extraordinary, and the facet of the game that this team seems to be especially potent in is hitting left-handed pitching. Detroit is the big league's best club against that side in both batting average (.304) and OPS (.865). Without even looking at their individual performances this year against southpaws, Carlos Guillen (11-for-36, .306), Craig Monroe (7-for-22, .318, 3 HR), Ivan Rodriguez (12-for-33, .364, 2 HR) and Gary Sheffield (7-for-17, .412, 1 HR) has each dominated Washburn in the past. Then, throw in Brandon Inge (.345/.960) and Marcus Thames (.304/.893) -- a pair of lefty killers. Finally, Bonderman has tossed stellar outings in each of his two career appearances at Safeco (2.30 ERA). Keep Raul Ibanez, 8-for-21 (.381) lifetime against Bonderman, active, though.
Fantasy Game Notes for Friday: National League
Game Story: Lidge is expected to return as the Astros' closer on Friday, but there might not be a save chance for him his first day back -- not with the red-hot Zambrano taking the mound for Chicago. The right-hander finished the first half 5-2 with a 1.75 ERA, 0.88 WHIP and .145 BAA in seven starts. Included in that stretch was a dominating eight-inning effort against the Astros on June 11 at Wrigley. Zambrano has a 2.41 career ERA against Houston. Lance Berkman (7-for-50, .140, 14 K's) hates facing him and only Carlos Lee (12-for-35, .343, 4 HR) is all that successful against Zambrano. Jennings, meanwhile, is 2-0 with a 3.50 ERA in three career starts at Wrigley, but be wary of him here. The Cubs can hit, and surprisingly, Cesar Izturis (10-for-29, .345) loves facing the right-hander.
Game Story: Sometimes a certain pitcher simply has that special something against a certain team. Oftentimes, it's an inexplicable; such is the case with Wells' sheer dominance of the Phillies over the years. He managed five innings of three-hit, one-run ball against them on June 24, and is now 5-0 with a 1.33 ERA in six career starts against Philadelphia. Don't expect length as Wells returns to the rotation here, but it's tough to ignore his track record in deeper leagues. Not that you should sit your usual Phillies, though! Don't be too scared of Kendrick, either, at least not in NL-only formats. The Cardinals rank 23rd in the big leagues in runs per game (4.33). Still, Chris Duncan (.296/.986 against righties) is a useful option, as Kendrick allows .311/.928 rates to lefties.
Notable Injuries: Miguel Cabrera, 3B (shoulder, should play)
Game Story: Willis has historically pitched well against the Nationals -- a 10-4 record and 3.32 ERA in 15 career starts -- and a home game should help him start off his second half on a high note. Ryan Zimmerman (7-for-16, .438) is the only Nationals hitter who has any sort of career mastery against the lefty. Bergmann, meanwhile, isn't the kind of strikeout pitcher who should hold the advantage against the strikeout-prone Marlins. He's 0-2 with a 6.08 ERA and .333 BAA in three starts since his return from the DL, and Marlins hitters are a combined 17-for-49 (.347) with three homers lifetime against the right-hander. Mike Jacobs (1-for-2, .500, 1 HR), Jeremy Hermida (2-for-7, .286) and Hanley Ramirez (3-for-6, .500, 1 HR) have especially strong track records against Bergmann.
Notable Injuries: Josh Hamilton, OF (wrist, day-to-day)
Game Story: Harang doesn't receive nearly enough credit in fantasy. The fact that he's 13-8 with a 3.33 ERA and 1.23 WHIP in 27 road games (26 starts) since the start of last season makes him a pretty strong bet here -- the Mets offense has been rather overrated the past month-plus. Carlos Beltran (5-for-16, .313, 1 HR) and Shawn Green (5-for-11, .455) can handle the right-hander, but don't reach for Mets like Lastings Milledge, who's still getting his feet wet as the team's new left fielder. Stick with Maine in a home game, though, which could potentially be a pitchers' duel. Sure, the Reds can hit, and their only player who has ever faced Maine, Scott Hatteberg, homered in his only at-bat. Keep in mind, however, that the Reds manage only 4.29 runs per game on the road.
Notable Injuries: Ryan Doumit, C/OF (hamstring, day-to-day)
Game Story: Snell beat the Braves with a quality start on May 13, and current Braves are a combined 15-for-66 (.227) with 21 strikeouts against the right-hander, making him a strong start as always. Andruw Jones is 0-for-8 with five K's against Snell and Jeff Francoeur 2-for-9 (.222) with four strikeouts. However, Brian McCann (3-for-6, .500) hits Snell well. Hudson, meanwhile, matches up nearly as nicely against the Pirates, who are 27th in the big leagues in runs per game (4.17). Jason Bay (5-for-8, .625, 1 HR) and Jose Bautista (3-for-6, .500) have hit Hudson well over the years, but don't get creative with Pirates.
Notable Injuries: Brian Fuentes, RP (back, day-to-day)
Game Story: Normally Francis, owner of a 7-2 record and 2.99 ERA in 13 starts since May 1, would be worth a whirl on the road , but be awfully careful with him here. The Brewers possess the second-best team OPS against left-handers (.849) this year, with Ryan Braun (.537/1.795), Johnny Estrada (.333/.855), J.J. Hardy (.294/.953), Corey Hart (.304/.967) and Kevin Mench (.320/.873) absolute terrors against that side. In addition, Sheets is a tough matchup for Rockies hitters. Todd Helton (7-for-20, .350, 3 HR) and Willy Taveras (7-for-14, .500) are the only two who appear to handle Sheets, meaning it could be quite a good day for the Brewers.
Notable Injuries: none
Game Story: Maddux hates Chase Field, he simply hates it. In nine career starts there, he has never won, managing a 5.40 ERA and 1.62 WHIP, hardly Maddux-like ratios. Sure, this year's Diamondbacks are weak offensively, ranking 28th (4.12 R/G), but the pitcher's track record is hard to ignore. Be careful. Chad Tracy (5-for-11, .455, 1 HR) always seems to get the best of Maddux. Among Padres, meanwhile, Mike Cameron (13-for-38, .342, 2 HR) and Adrian Gonzalez (3-for-6, .500) always seem to get the best of Davis. Incredibly, Russell Branyan (4-for-6, .667, 2 HR) seems to own the left-hander, so keep tabs on the early lineup to see if his name squeezes in here. The bottom line: Expect a fairly high-scoring outing, especially since Davis has a shaky 4.96 home ERA.
Game Story: Here's an interesting matchup of former Baseball America top-10 overall prospects from 2006, and if you've watched either Cain or Billingsley pitch, surely you know how capable they both are of dominating on any given night. Cain might be more experienced and more likely to last deep into the game, but accounting for the Giants' No. 26 offensive ranking (4.24 R/G), Billingsley shouldn't be called too much of an underdog here. Expect a fun game to watch, perhaps an impressive pitchers' duel. Some hitters to exploit are: Barry Bonds (2-for-4, .500, 1 HR lifetime against Billingsley), Ray Durham (2-for-4, .500, 1 HR) and Dave Roberts (4-for-7, .571) from the Giants; Andre Ethier (4-for-7, .571 lifetime against Cain) and James Loney (2-for-2, 1.000) from the Dodgers.
Waiver Wire Pickups
Chad Billingsley, SP, LAD @ San Francisco Giants
Chris Duncan, OF, STL @ Philadelphia Phillies
Mike Jacobs, 1B, FLA versus Washington Nationals
Casey Kotchman, 1B, LAA versus Texas Rangers
James Loney, 1B, LAD @ San Francisco Giants
Kevin Mench, OF, MIL versus Colorado Rockies
Craig Monroe, OF, DET @ Seattle Mariners
Lyle Overbay, 1B, TOR @ Boston Red Sox
Marcus Thames, OF/1B, DET @ Seattle Mariners
Chad Tracy, 3B, ARI versus San Diego Padres
Kip Wells, SP, STL @ Philadelphia Phillies
Jake Westbrook, SP, CLE versus Kansas City Royals
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.