- Sean Allen
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Fantasy Game Notes for Sunday: American League
Jacobs Field (outdoor) 1:05 p.m. ET (partly cloudy, high of 82 degrees)
Matt Garza, RHP (1-2, 1.33 ERA, 1.18 WHIP) versus
C.C. Sabathia, LHP (13-5, 3.70 ERA, 1.20 WHIP)
Notable Injuries: none
Game Story: Garza was finally touched for some runs in his last outing against the Angels, but it was still a respectable performance, just two outs shy of a quality start. I'd take my chances with Garza in Cleveland as Victor Martinez and Travis Hafner -- the heart of the Indians order -- are both ice cold. V-Mart is 1-for-19 (.053) during the past week and Hafner isn't faring much better, 3-for-26 (.115). As much as I like Garza here, Sabathia should get win No. 14 in this game. He seems to have cleared an early-July hiccup in his numbers and is back on track. Since it's looking like a pitcher's duel, just go with your regular studs. Toss in Jason Bartlett as well; he is a career .412 hitter against Sabathia (7-for-17).
Camden Yards (outdoor) 1:35 p.m. ET (40 percent chance of showers, high of 85 degrees)
Chien-Ming Wang, RHP (11-5, 3.57 ERA, 1.20 WHIP) versus
Daniel Cabrera, RHP (7-10, 5.04 ERA, 1.45 WHIP)
Game Story: Since the typical reward for starting Wang is a win lacking strikeouts, I'll say avoid him here. Several of the Orioles regulars have hit him very hard in their careers. Jay Gibbons, Ramon Hernandez, Aubrey Huff, Kevin Millar, Brian Roberts and Miguel Tejada all hit Wang better than .300. We'll highlight Millar, who is 7-for-14 (.500) with a 1.286 OPS in his career against Wang. Steer clear of Corey Patterson and Jay Payton though; they are a combined 1-for-11 against Wang. What a roller coaster Cabrera can be, just look at his last start. Who else but Cabrera can pitch a seven-inning one-hitter and have an 0.6 K/BB rate? Even though, of the Yankees, only Hideki Matsui and Alex Rodriguez really hit Cabrera well in their careers, the tough lefty bats in the lineup should give him trouble. His WHIP climbs from 1.30 versus right-handed batters to 1.64 versus lefties. The Yankees have been raking lately (.933 OPS during the past week, first in the majors), so I'd start whoever you can get your hands on in their offense.
Tropicana Field (indoor) 1:40 p.m. ET
Daisuke Matsuzaka, RHP (12-7, 3.79 ERA, 1.26 WHIP) versus
Scott Kazmir, LHP (7-7, 4.02 ERA, 1.51 WHIP)
Notable Injuries: none
Game Story: Make no hesitations with either pitcher, as Matsuzaka manhandled the Devil Rays back on July 3 and Kazmir has been coming on strong in July. It doesn't hurt that Kazmir has owned the heart of the Boston order in his career, as he's kept David Ortiz, Manny Ramirez and Kevin Youkilis each to a batting average worse than .200. Akinori Iwamura was one strikeout shy of the Golden Sombrero versus Dice-K on July 3, so consider showing him the bench in this contest. With these dueling aces on the hill, this is not the place to look for some bats to spot start.
U.S. Cellular Field (outdoor) 2:05 p.m. ET (sunny, high of 79 degrees)
Shaun Marcum, RHP (6-4, 3.87 ERA, 1.18 WHIP) versus
Javier Vazquez, RHP (8-5, 3.71 ERA, 1.09 WHIP)
Notable Injuries: none
Game Story: The White Sox chased Marcum from the mound after just three innings on June 3, and Chicago wasn't even hot then. Well, they are now (.813 OPS in July, sixth in majors) and I'd avoid Marcum. His ERA has increased by a full run since the start of July. Vazquez dominated the Jays on June 1, tossing eight scoreless innings, and he has only been getting better since then. Feel free to use him here. Rob Mackowiak is going to get into most games with Tadahito Iguchi being traded to the Phillies, and Mackowiak is 1-for-1 with a home run against Marcum. Josh Fields is still flashing his power, with three home runs during the last week.
Kauffman Stadium (outdoor) 2:10 p.m. ET (partly cloudy, high of 87 degrees)
Kameron Loe, RHP (5-8, 5.59 ERA, 1.56 WHIP) versus
Leo Nunez, RHP (0-0, 2.25 ERA, 1.75 WHIP)
Notable Injuries: none
Game Story: I want to recommend Loe for AL-only here, I really do. But the numbers don't justify it. He's had a couple very nice starts sandwiched around some stinkers. I caught his most recent start against Seattle and he looked very strong on the mound and has piqued my interest, but again, the numbers don't justify using him yet. I do want to say watch him in the future, though. That said, I still don't expect the Royals to have their way with him and I'd limit myself to Alex Gordon, who seems to be on another streak lately, and Mark Grudzielanek, who has been tearing the cover off the ball since the All-Star break. Texas is ninth in July OPS (.784), so it certainly doesn't look like the time to try out Nunez. It does, however, look like a decent time to try out Marlon Byrd. He has nine hits in his past 26 at-bats (.346) and just received a lot more playing time with the Kenny Lofton trade.
Safeco Field (outdoor/retractable roof) 4:05 p.m. ET (mostly cloudy, high of 70 degrees)
Lenny DiNardo, LHP (5-6, 2.41 ERA, 1.21 WHIP) versus
Jarrod Washburn, LHP (8-7, 4.05 ERA, 1.38 WHIP)
Notable Injuries: Bobby Crosby, SS (hand, DL)
Game Story: He's not a source of strikeouts, but DiNardo is now pitching deep enough into games to notch some wins and make his nice ratios have more impact on your numbers. When he first transitioned to the rotation, he was lucky to get six innings. But after touching seven innings and then 6 2/3 in his past couple outings, things are looking up. Seattle's bats have cooled during the past week and DiNardo already has a scoreless six-plus inning outing against the Mariners. AL-only owners can spot-start him as needed. Mike Piazza's ownership in ESPN leagues is down to 60 percent, but he is showing no signs of lingering troubles from his DL trip. If you think you can wait one more day, he has struggled against southpaws like Washburn this season. But make sure you have him on your roster soon. Keep in mind that Travis Buck is always a good spot start against lefties; he hits them at a .326 clip, compared to his .261 average against righties. AL-only leagues should feel relatively safe with Washburn. His complete-game shutout this year was against the A's.
Angel Stadium (outdoor) 8:05 p.m. ET (partly sunny, high of 85 degrees)
Jeremy Bonderman, RHP (10-2, 3.69 ERA, 1.19 WHIP) versus
Kelvim Escobar, RHP (11-4, 2.91 ERA, 1.18 WHIP)
Notable Injuries: Gary Sheffield, DH (shoulder, day-to-day)
Game Story: Quite the pitching matchup for this Sunday nighter. You, of course, have to start both even though we are also looking at two of the better offenses in the league. My only word of caution is that Escobar has a disparity in his ERA compared to his WHIP. His pre All-Star break numbers show a 3.19 ERA and a 1.16 WHIP, while his post All-Star ERA is 1.59 but his WHIP is up to 1.32. That is way too many base runners for a sub-2.00 ERA. A correction could be coming soon. Even if Sheffield looks like he is getting back in the lineup, give him the day off. He is 1-for-11 (.091) versus Escobar. You can't bench them but maybe temper expectations for Vladimir Guerrero and Chone Figgins, who both hit worse than .200 in 16 career at-bats against Bonderman.
Fantasy Game Notes for Sunday: National League
Shea Stadium (outdoor) 1:10 p.m. ET (50 percent chance of showers, high of 81 degrees)
Billy Traber, LHP (2-1, 4.09 ERA, 1.42 WHIP) versus
John Maine, RHP (11-5, 3.04 ERA, 1.17 WHIP)
Game Story: Traber has been tossing quite well in relief this season, and he may prove interesting later on, but until he is "stretched out" to a high pitch count you don't even want to consider him. Now might be a good time to give young Lastings Milledge a shot on your team; he is hitting .350 so far against lefties. John Maine has given us no reason to stop using him every time. The fact that he gets the Nationals lineup is a bonus. If you are looking for a Nat to use though, Austin Kearns is hitting .300 with two home runs during the past week.
Great American Ball Park (outdoor) 1:15 p.m. ET (partly cloudy, high of 87 degrees)
Carlos Zambrano, RHP (13-7, 3.65 ERA, 1.26 WHIP) versus
Matt Belisle, RHP (5-7, 5.28 ERA, 1.45 WHIP)
Game Story: Zambrano has proven why you never make a fantasy decision based on April. After a month, it didn't look like Zambrano would have 14 wins this year, let alone have a shot at 14 before the end of July. Yet here we are. There is no reason to think Big Z won't mow down the Reds like he has everyone else in recent months. Besides, the big-name Reds will all be more concerned about whether they are changing addresses at the deadline. Opponents have been hitting Belisle at a .358 clip since the All-Star break, so clearly you want nothing to do with him even in NL-only leagues. Start your usual Cubbies with confidence.
Citizens Bank Park (outdoor) 1:35 p.m. ET (60 percent chance of showers, high of 87 degrees)
Ian Snell, RHP (7-8, 3.62 ERA, 1.24 WHIP) versus
Kyle Kendrick, RHP (4-1, 4.44 ERA, 1.34 WHIP)
Game Story: Snell is coming off a rough stretch of starts. Utley or no Utley, the Phillies at home are no cakewalk with their league-leading .915 OPS in July. Factor in Snell's road ERA being a run-and-a-half higher than his home ERA, and it's a logical benching. With Jason Bay starting to heat up, the Pirates are no longer easy pickings for a pitcher. As such, Kendrick is likely better off away from your fantasy lineup despite the fact he is likely in line for a win. Pat Burrell has been quite disappointing this year in leagues that don't use walks, but he is on a five-game hit streak and is actually batting .446 in July, following two straight months of a sub-Mendoza Line average. I'll bet you didn't know his OPS at home is actually 1.018. He is widely available and is a pretty solid pickup for a struggling fantasy offense.
Minute Maid Park (indoor/retractable roof) 2:05 p.m. ET
Mike Thompson, RHP (0-1, 7.84 ERA, 1.35 WHIP) versus
Jason Jennings, RHP (2-6, 4.74 ERA, 1.42 WHIP)
Notable Injuries: none
Game Story: Just in case you like fresh blood, I'll save you some trouble and say avoid Thompson even in the deepest of NL-only leagues. His minor league ERA this season is 6.46 and Triple-A hitters have been hitting him at a .313 clip. I'll bet Lance Berkman and Carlos Lee will feast on those numbers, as will most Astros hitters. Feel free to go a little deeper and use Mike Lamb. He usually starts against right-handers and is batting .353 during the past week. Jennings should have an average outing; not something you would use in any league aside from deep NL-only. Khalil Greene -- whose 17 percent ownership in ESPN leagues still baffles me -- has three career home runs off Jennings.
Busch Stadium (outdoor) 2:15 p.m. ET (partly cloudy, high of 89 degrees)
Yovani Gallardo, RHP (3-1, 2.18 ERA, 1.06 WHIP) versus
Kip Wells, RHP (4-13, 5.57 ERA, 1.54 WHIP)
Notable Injuries: none
Game Story: Twenty-eight percent of ESPN leagues either aren't paying attention or have some rules against picking up Brewers. Gallardo should be close to 100 percent owned, across the board. Looking at the bright side: 28 percent of you have a great spot-start option for Sunday. Kip Wells has two quality starts in a row, but don't allow yourself to be lured in. Wells is 0-2 with a 6.92 ERA in two games against the Brewers this season. Geoff Jenkins and Bill Hall both have career averages of .200 or worse versus Wells.
Coors Field (outdoor) 3:05 p.m. ET (20 percent chance of showers, high of 85 degrees)
Chad Billingsley, RHP (7-0, 3.38 ERA, 1.23 WHIP) versus
Ubaldo Jimenez, RHP (0-0, 3.75 ERA, 1.08 WHIP)
Notable Injuries: none
Game Story: I like both of these young pitchers (Billingsley now, Jimenez for the future) and it will be interesting to see how they match up in Coors Field. Billingsley was torched there last season, but he has matured a lot since then. However, the Rockies also handed him his only blown save of the year back in April. If it were my fantasy team, a cautious benching for Billingsley would be in order. When a pitcher gets lit in Colorado, it can be devastating. Jimenez, on the other hand, is going to have to learn to pitch in the thin air. I won't advocate using him in this start, but make a note to glance at the box score. I've been watching Jimenez for a while, and I think he can make an impact sooner rather than later. Since I'm cautiously optimistic for both pitchers and there isn't much batter-versus-pitcher history because they are both young, I'll stick to saying "start your regulars" here.
AT&T Park (outdoor) 4:05 p.m. ET (mostly cloudy, high of 70 degrees)
Sergio Mitre, RHP (4-5, 3.34 ERA, 1.30 WHIP) versus
Matt Morris, RHP (7-6, 4.16 ERA, 1.45 WHIP)
Notable Injuries: none
Game Story: Assuming Dontrelle Willis or another Marlin doesn't earn the dubious honor of surrendering No. 755 on Saturday, Mitre will be trying to beat Bonds while facing him for the first time. Mitre actually shuts down left-handed batters nicely, keeping them to a tidy .254 batting average, though who are we kidding? Bonds is in for 200 straight walks to run out the season. In all seriousness, Mitre is well worth the price of admission when he is "on" and the Giants' .726 July OPS and .703 season OPS versus right-handers should be an easy match for Mitre. In a little over a month, Morris' ERA corrected itself from the mid-2.00s to the low-4.00s. The Marlins rank third in July OPS, fifth in OPS during the past week and seventh in OPS versus righties this season. Morris looks like he'll be hit pretty hard in this game. Jeremy Hermida, who's hitting .421 during the past week, is among my top candidates to do the damage against Morris.
Chase Field (indoor/retractable roof) 4:40 p.m. ET
Tim Hudson, RHP (10-5, 3.24 ERA, 1.17 WHIP) versus
Livan Hernandez, RHP (6-6, 4.59 ERA, 1.60 WHIP)
Notable Injuries: Chipper Jones, 3B (groin, questionable)
Game Story: Hudson looks good for a quality start here, but I will warn against a troubling WHIP for him in this game as Conor Jackson, Chris B. Young, Orlando Hudson, Stephen Drew and Eric Byrnes are all hitting better than .300 during the past week. Still, I think Tim Hudson holds them from scoring too much and walks away with a win. Hernandez has been pitching better at home but still has not proven very useful. The 1.60 WHIP really kills any chance of me recommending him, regardless of matchup. Don't shy away from any Braves hitters you usually use.
Waiver Wire Pickups
Jason Bartlett, SS, MIN @ Cleveland Indians
Kevin Millar, 1B, BAL versus New York Yankees
Rob Mackowiak, OF, CHW versus Toronto Blue Jays
Josh Fields, 3B, CHW versus Toronto Blue Jays
Mark Grudzielanek, 2B, KC versus Texas Rangers
Marlon Byrd, OF, TEX @ Kansas City Royals
Lenny DiNardo, SP, OAK @ Seattle Mariners
Travis Buck, OF, OAK @ Seattle Mariners
Jarrod Washburn, SP, SEA versus Oakland Athletics
Lastings Millegde, OF, NYM versus Washington Nationals
Austin Kearns, OF, WAS @ New York Mets
Pat Burrell, OF, PHI versus Pittsburgh Pirates
Khalil Greene, SS, SD @ Houston Astros
Sergio Mitre, SP, FLA @ San Francisco Giants
Jeremy Hermida, OF, FLA @ San Francisco Giants
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