- Sean Allen
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Fantasy Game Notes for Saturday: American League
Game Story: Although Zambrano has a chance to exact some revenge against the team that cut him earlier this season, I wouldn't expect much. He has pitched fairly well in the minor leagues lately, but there is a reason the Jays cut him loose. Start all your Blue Jays batters.. Getting a win from the Doc hasn't been easy. He's tossed at least eight innings in his last five starts with nary a win among them. Plenty of the O's lineup maintains a decent batting average against Halladay, but no one tops 1.000 OPS versus him. It's one of those matchups where you can play both the pitchers and the hitters.
Notable Injuries: Kyle Farnsworth, RP (neck, questionable); Shelley Duncan, OF/1B (pelvis/hernia, questionable); Manny Ramirez, OF (back, questionable); Jacoby Ellsbury, OF (wrist, questionable); Doug Mirabelli, C (hamstring, doubtful)
Game Story: Epic is a strong word, but Wang versus Beckett, each going for win No. 19 in Fenway Park, is pretty close to epic. Expect the unexpected between these two teams this late in the season, and if you absolutely want to play it safe, don't touch either pitcher. Did I just recommend that you avoid the major league leaders for wins? Yes, and mostly because of the strange things that can happen in the fabled Red Sox versus Yankees recent history. If you don't buy all the hoopla and just like numbers, Beckett is still someone to avoid with a 5.49 ERA in three starts versus New York this season; while Wang is 3-1 with a 3.24 ERA in four starts against Boston, so he should be fine. Furthering the case for Wang, Ramirez should be out of the lineup. Manny is 13-for-22 (.591) with two home runs and a 1.517 OPS against Wang. His replacement, Eric Hinske, actually makes a fine spot start for your outfield. Hinske is 10-for-22 (.455) with two home runs and a 1.387 OPS against Wang. Feel free to sub in someone for Bobby Abreu. Abreu is 8-for-47 (.170) versus Beckett.
Notable Injuries: none
Game Story: Blanton is money at home, with a 2.61 ERA in McAfee, but the Rangers are hot, with a .903 September OPS which only trails Milwaukee in the majors. Blanton should be approached with caution. Frank Catalanotto makes a good spot start versus Blanton, as the Cat is 6-for-17 against him and has been hitting well lately. McCarthy should be an absolute afterthought. He will be limited to 45 pitches as he works his way back from the DL. His last outing allowed 35 pitches, and he didn't even get out of the first inning. Forget him. Jamey Wright relieved McCarthy and pitched six innings of one-run baseball last week, so if you are gambling on some decent pitching numbers from a Ranger, go with Wright.
Notable Injuries: none
Game Story: I'm giving Greinke a free pass for his sub-par outing against the Yankees. I don't expect the Royals to win, but I will take the strikeouts and quality innings that Greinke should provide. Casey Blake is not someone to bench though; he is 8-for-24 (.333) with two home runs and a 1.051 OPS versus Greinke. Carmona is a must-start, and he has been good against Kansas City this year. In four starts, Carmona has a 3.12 ERA although he doesn't strike many Royals out (just 11 K in 26 IP). Alex Gordon is 7-for-11 (.636) versus Carmona and warrants a start in any league for this game.
Notable Injuries: Gary Matthews, OF (ankle, out)
Game Story: Weaver and the White Sox haven't seen much of each other, but in the 5 2/3 innings they have faced off in, Weaver has emerged victorious. He has a 0.00 ERA in those limited innings against the Sox. Given Weaver's brief history of boggling teams who haven't faced him much, I think the hand is tipped in his favor and I'll recommend a start here. Garland has a 3.86 ERA in two starts against the Angels this season, and outside of Orlando Cabrera, no one in the lineup hits him very well. Garland has two great starts in a row, and I'll recommend him for mixed leagues in this game.
Notable Injuries: Mark Redmond, C (finger, questionable)
Game Story: Bazardo will make his first major league start, and he is lucky to draw the light-hitting Twins. Minnesota has toiled near the bottom of the league for offense for over a month now. Bazardo doesn't strike many guys out (69 K in 136 2/3 innings in Triple-A), but he gets the job done (10-6, 3.75 ERA in Triple-A). If you are in one of those extraordinarily deep leagues, he makes a decent spot start for a win. Bazardo only warrants attention because Santana has some troubles with the heart of Detroit's lineup. Magglio Ordonez is 18-for-43 (.419) with five home runs and 17 RBIs in his career against Santana, while Placido Polanco is 9-for-20 (.450) with a 1.100 OPS. Although, Santana has handled Detroit this season with four quality starts in four tries. Still, the numbers against Ordonez and Polanco are troubling. I'd look for just six innings and three earned runs for Santana, but you still have to start him in every league.
Game Story: Seattle is a top-10 team when it comes to hitting lefties, but Kazmir isn't your average southpaw. The Mariners lineup is a career 11-for-63 (.175) versus Kazmir, and the Devil Rays ace should dominate this game. Tampa Bay hits lefties even better than Seattle does, and Ramirez is a below-average southpaw. Look for the Devil Rays to hit Ramirez hard. Earlier this season, Tampa Bay scored three runs against Ramirez, knocking him out after just two innings (if you like the numbers, that's a 13.50 ERA).
Fantasy Game Notes for Saturday: National League
Game Story: After five quality starts in a row, Looper hit the wall his last time out against Arizona. I was just about ready to trust him consistently too. The number support him again though, as Looper has a 1.80 ERA in three starts versus the Cubs this season. Jason Kendall, Jacque Jones and Ryan Theriot hit better than .375 in their career against Looper, but every other Cub has an average worse than .250. Looper should be fine for any league, except shallow ones. Lilly has been solid in four starts versus St. Louis this season, with a 3.67 ERA in 27 innings. Considering that Juan Encarnacion, Adam Kennedy and Preston Wilson (all injured) are the players who have done the most damage in their career against Lilly, the Cubs southpaw should be fine for a start. Since it's a double-header against two southpaws for the Cardinals, you can start some guys with added confidence because they'll have more at-bats. Rick Ankiel and Brendan Ryan make particularly good additions for deeper leagues because they both hit lefties so well (.423 for Ankiel, .397 for Ryan).
Notable Injuries: Derrek Lee, 1B (knee, questionable); Chris Duncan, OF (hernia, doubtful)
Game Story: Pineiro has been torched by the Cubs for a 9.72 ERA in two starts, and makes a great matchup for your Cubs hitters. So, because they have one good matchup and one bad matchup in their double-header, you should judge your Cubs hitters as if they had just one average matchup when deciding whether to start them. Marshall hasn't pitched much of late except for some relief work, and is a bit of a risky proposition. I'd shy away.
Game Story: Two starts versus the Mets and an 8.64 ERA. Most recently, Lohse didn't get out of the fourth and allowed three earned runs against New York. Don't bother with him. Some have been in limited at-bats, but Moises Alou, Lastings Milledge, David Wright, Carlos Beltran and Jose Reyes all hit better than .400 against Lohse. Martinez, on the other hand, should be trusted until he gives us reason not to be. He should get even deeper into this game as his pitch count goes up. The strikeouts may not be there this season, but Pedro is still proving to be a win/ratio machine. Pat Burrell has been great lately, but bench him without question. He is 0-for-17 versus Martinez.
Game Story: Hernandez has actually had success against the Dodgers this season, with a 1.50 ERA in two starts. Considering both those starts were also in Dodger Stadium, Hernandez gets a thumbs-up for a spot start. Lowe is expected to make the start, but he is hurt and has struggled this month (7.84 ERA in September). I'd stay away from him just to be safe. Eric Byrnes and Stephen Drew both hit better than .400 against Lowe, but avoid Chris B. Young and Conor Jackson, who are a combined 1-for-12.
Game Story: Bergmann is your spot-start special of the day. He simply dominates the Braves lineup. In four starts this season, Bergmann has a 1.88 ERA and 28 strikeouts in 24 innings versus Atlanta. Only Brian McCann has sustained success against Bergmann (5-for-15, .333, 2 HRs). This is actually a repeat of last Sunday's pitching matchup where Cormier got touched for four earned runs over six innings. He has a 7.65 ERA away from Atlanta. Don't bother with him. They have all done it in 10 at-bats or fewer, but Dmitri Young, Ryan Church, Wily Mo Pena, Robert Fick, Austin Kearns and Ryan Langerhans all have an OPS better than 1.000 against Cormier. It's a small sample size, but it shows you how hard Cormier gets hit.
Game Story: Rodriguez has that ridiculous home split, where he pitches with a 2.54 ERA in Houston. However, the Pirates have been trouble for Way-Rod. Even in a recent home start they scored four earned runs in just five innings, which was Rodriguez's worst home start of the season. To turn things around again though, many of the Pirates who hit Rodriguez well are hobbled or out (Bay, Nady, Ronny Paulino and Chris Duffy). In the end, Wandy looks like a decent start, but don't expect his usual stellar numbers at home. Morris has a decent 3.00 ERA against Houston, but the Astros' more dangerous hitters have above-average numbers against him. Hunter Pence, Carlos Lee and Ty Wigginton all hit better than .400 and have an OPS greater than 1.000 against Morris. Look elsewhere for your spot start.
Game Story: Saarloos will take this start over Phil Dumatrait, and that is an understandable move by the Reds after Dumatrait surrendered back-to-back-to-back home runs, then two singles and then left the game against Milwaukee last weekend. Saarloos is another soft-tosser though and shouldn't fair much better. Milwaukee has the best team OPS in September and will again be pounding the ball. Suppan is also in for a tough matchup as the Reds lineup has a history of destroying him. When Adam Dunn is a .500 hitter against you, you know something is off. Dunn, Ken Griffey Jr., and Scott Hatteberg all have an OPS better than 1.000 against Suppan and should make him pay in this game. Bottom line: don't go fishing for a win from either starter in this game and start everyone on offense.
Notable Injuries: Cody Ross, OF (hamstring, questionable); Matt Treanor, C (knee, questionable); Armando Benitez, RP (back, questionable); Willy Taveras, OF (quadriceps, questionable); Kaz Matsui, 2B (hamstring, questionable)
Game Story: Jimenez has kept his home ERA at a respectable 3.97, considering his home is Coors Field. If you need strikeouts and help in the WHIP department, Jimenez should be a deep league option for a spot start. I can't out right recommend him against an offense like Florida's though. Mitre's numbers haven't been pretty this year as it is, so using him in his first career start at Coors is an ill-advised move.
Notable Injuries: Milton Bradley, OF (oblique, out)
Game Story: The Giants remain the weakest offense in baseball, and Tomko will know them quite well as he continues to bounce around the NL West. Actually, Tomko doesn't look like a half-bad start here. He has a 3.60 ERA in two starts against the Giants and a 3.24 ERA in just over eight innings at Petco. If you are in a super-deep NL-only league, he is an option. Cain has dominated the Padres with a 2.57 ERA in four starts this season. As a team, San Diego only hits .188 against him. He is definitely an option. Despite those strong numbers, Khalil Greene hits Cain for power. Three of his five career hits against Cain have been home runs.
Waiver Wire Pickups
Eric Hinske, OF/1B, BOS versus New York Yankees
Frank Catalanotto, OF, TEX @ Oakland Athletics
Jamey Wright, RP, TEX @ Oakland Athletics
Zack Greinke, SP, KC @ Cleveland Indians
Alex Gordon, 3B, KC @ Cleveland Indians
Jon Garland, SP, CHW versus Los Angeles Angels
Yorman Bazardo, SP, DET @ Minnesota Twins
Braden Looper, SP, STL versus Chicago Cubs
Rick Ankiel, OF, STL versus Chicago Cubs
Brendan Ryan, 3B, STL versus Chicago Cubs
Livan Hernandez, SP, ARI @ Los Angeles Dodgers
Stephen Drew, SS, ARI @ Los Angeles Dodgers
Jason Bergmann, SP, WAS versus Atlanta Braves
Ryan Church, OF, WAS versus Atlanta Braves
Wandy Rodriguez, SP, HOU versus Pittsburgh Pirates
Ubaldo Jimenez, SP, COL versus Florida Marlins
Brett Tomko, SP, SD versus 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
Sean Allen examines Saturday's matchups and where the advantages are for fantasy.