Daily Notes: Hamels is back
Justin Verlander, RHP (17-5, 3.47 ERA, 1.23 WHIP) versus
Jake Westbrook, RHP (5-9, 4.38 ERA, 1.39 WHIP)
Notable Injuries: none
Game Story: Justin Verlander is on a major roll. In his last four starts he's pitched 31.2 innings, allowing three runs, 23 hits and six walks while striking out 26 batters. Play only the mandatory Indians Tuesday. Westbrook hasn't been bad either. He posted a 1.90 ERA in six August starts and has a 3.34 ERA so far in the second half. You can take a shot on him if you're desperate for a starter, but he's not generally recommended against Detroit's potent offense. Play the Tigers' hitters whom you normally would.
Jon Leicester, RHP (2-1, 6.32 ERA, 1.53 WHIP) versus
Mike Mussina, RHP (9-10, 5.28 ERA, 1.50 WHIP)
Notable Injuries: Corey Patterson, OF, (ankle, day-to-day)
Game Story: Leicester tossed 5.2 shutout innings last time out, but his underlying skills suggest that results like that won't come around too often. He's not recommended against the potent Yankees attack. Mussina has been a train wreck during the past month or so. Avoid him here as well. It seems as though I recommend Delmon Young nearly every week, but he's still owned in barely 50 percent of ESPN leagues. Young's lack of triples has kept his slugging percentage low, but he's hit 12 home runs and 36 doubles while batting .293 in his first full season. Grab him for this one, as well as Dioner Navarro and his hot bat if you have a hole at the catcher position.
Jon Lester, LHP (4-0, 4.86 ERA, 1.50 WHIP) versus
A.J. Burnett, RHP (8-7, 3.42 ERA, 1.12 WHIP)
Game Story: Jon Lester has been serviceable for the Sox this year, but his skills say that he's been fortunate to post his 4-0 record. Lester's 24 walks against only 34 strikeouts should tell you to stay away, especially against the lefty-crushing Jays. Burnett, on the other hand, has been fantastic, posting a 1.78 ERA in seven starts since returning from the disabled list in August. Play only the essential Red Sox hitters against the Blue Jays' ace, and play all of your Jays against Lester.
Gavin Floyd, RHP (1-3, 5.79 ERA, 1.52 WHIP) versus
Gil Meche, RHP (8-12, 3.78 ERA, 1.32 WHIP)
Notable Injuries: Mike Sweeney, DH, (groin, day-to-day)
Game Story: Meche has cooled considerably since his hot start, but he's still pitching well, allowing five hits and two runs in each of his two September starts while striking out 10 and walking three. He's recommended here against the anemic White Sox offense. Floyd has been better lately, too, allowing only six earned runs in his past three starts. He can be used in deeper leagues. The Royals' Alex Gordon is a quality option for this matchup. He's hitting .368/.429/.579 during the past week. Jerry Owens is a great choice for those who need steals. He's getting on base at a .476 clip this week and has the green light to run.
Kevin Millwood, RHP (9-12, 5.51 ERA, 1.63 WHIP) versus
Carlos Silva, RHP (11-14, 4.44 ERA, 1.32 WHIP)
Notable Injuries: none
Game Story: Millwood looked as though he was coming around with a 3.86 ERA in July ERA and 2.95 in August. In three September starts, however, he's allowed 13 earned runs and a .354 batting average against in 11 innings. He's to be avoided, as is Carlos Silva, who was pitching better lately but is making this start despite battling a groin injury. Michael Young drove in seven runs Sunday, but the hottest bat in this matchup belongs to outfielder David Murphy, acquired by the Rangers from Boston in the Eric Gagne trade. Murphy is batting .389/.429/.653 overall in 72 at-bats and in the past week his line is an impressive .450/.500/.800.
Jason Hammel, RHP (2-4, 6.13 ERA, 1.62 WHIP) versus
John Lackey, RHP (16-9, 3.21 ERA, 1.26 WHIP)
Notable Injuries: Gary Matthews Jr., OF, (ankle, day-to-day)
Game Story: Lackey hasn't quite been in Cy Young form, but he's still pitching like an ace, with 62 strikeouts against only 18 walks in the second half. Hammel has tossed a very impressive 17 innings in three September starts. He's allowed only four runs, 15 hits and two walks while striking out 14. He's in the zone right now and can be added if you need a starter. Play only the star hitters from both sides in this matchup, which shapes up as a possible pitching duel.
Jeff Weaver, RHP (6-12, 6.34 ERA, 1.60 WHIP) versus
Chad Gaudin, RHP (11-11, 4.47 ERA, 1.53 WHIP)
Notable Injuries: none
Game Story: You'll want all your hitters in the lineup for this matchup of struggling starters. Both have made three September starts. Weaver's ERA for the month is 15.43; Gaudin's is 9.21. Look elsewhere for pitching help. Shannon Stewart, Dan Johnson and Mark Ellis are swinging Oakland's hottest sticks, batting over .400 for the week. During that span, Stewart is getting on base at a .484 clip while Ellis is slugging .600. Johnson has simply hit .400/.455/.900 with three home runs. Add those guys as well as Seattle's Jose Vidro, who's batting a nifty .435/.536/.652 for the week.
Chad Billingsley, RHP (11-4, 3.14 ERA, 1.26 WHIP) versus
Jeff Francis, LHP (15-8, 4.35 ERA, 1.39 WHIP)
Game Story: Billingsley and Francis are two of the game's outstanding young hurlers, but neither should be in your lineup for this Coors Field matchup. Instead, play all of your hitters from both sides and look for bats to pick up. Doubleheaders in Denver are a great way to pile up the numbers in daily leagues. James Loney and Troy Tulowitzki should be at the top of your wish list. Both are quality hitters who have been on fire of late. Loney has smacked two homers and put up an impressive .542/.577/.917 line in the past week, while Tulowitzki is hitting .417/.548/.750 with two long balls of his own during that same span.
Los Angeles Dodgers @ Colorado Rockies
David Wells, LHP (8-8, 5.27 ERA, 1.52 WHIP) versus
Mark Redman, RHP (1-4, 9.67 ERA, 2.00 WHIP)
Notable Injuries: Willy Taveras, OF, (quad, day-to-day); Kazuo Matsui, 2B, (hamstring, day-to-day)
Game Story: Veteran left-handers collide in the Coors Field nightcap, and it goes without saying that you don't want any part of either hurler. Wells has been very solid in his four starts since coming to the Padres from the Dodgers, and is a name to watch for his next outing, but can't be activated here. Redman is unrosterable under any circumstances. Load the lineup with hitters from both sides, and sit back and count your stats.
John Maine, RHP (14-9, 3.72 ERA, 1.26 WHIP) versus
Joel Hanrahan, RHP (4-3, 5.83 ERA, 1.87 WHIP)
Game Story: Maine has struggled to a 5.46 ERA since the All-Star break, dropping his ownership in ESPN leagues to below 75 percent for the first time since April. He shut down the Braves last time out, however, and should build on that success with this outing in pitching-friendly RFK Stadium. Grab him if you can, but pass on Hanrahan, who hasn't made it out of the fourth inning in three of his past four starts. Play only the essential Nationals hitters here, but load up on Mets, including Moises Alou. The 41-year-old outfielder has proved once again that he can still rake when healthy. Alou is batting .332 overall this year, .375 this week and sports an impressive 1.134 OPS in September.
Chris Seddon, LHP (0-0, 10.50 ERA, 1.83 WHIP) versus
Jo-Jo Reyes, LHP (0-2, 7.75 ERA, 1.90 WHIP)
Notable Injuries: none
Game Story: Seddon gets some airtime as a prospect, but his minor league track record is wholly unimpressive and he was hammered for seven earned runs by the Nationals in his first start. Avoid. Reyes has more upside, but he's not close to figuring it out either, so pass on him as well. Pile all your Braves and Marlins hitters into the lineup, and if you have room left over, grab Florida first baseman Mike Jacobs and Atlanta shortstop Yunel Escobar. Those two have had the hot hands for their clubs of late.
Aaron Harang, RHP (15-4, 3.65 ERA, 1.13 WHIP) versus
Carlos Zambrano, RHP (16-12, 4.14 ERA, 1.34 WHIP)
Notable Injuries: Alex Gonzalez, SS, (knee, day-to-day)
Game Story: After he signed his new contract, Zambrano went through a stretch during which he was simply awful, and then made headlines by bashing Cubs fans for booing him. He has seemingly recovered, though, allowing only one run in each of his past two starts. Harang has been steady as the Reds' ace, and this would seem to shape up as a pitching duel. Only the top hitters from both teams are recommended here, but a word of caution to the risk-averse: Zambrano is pitching on only three days' rest for the first time in his career.
Ben Sheets, RHP (12-5, 3.78 ERA, 1.23 WHIP) versus
Felipe Paulino, RHP (0-0, 11.25 ERA, 2.25 WHIP)
Notable Injuries: none
Game Story: Sheets has allowed five runs in each of his past two outings, and threw only 50 pitches in a Friday start versus the Reds. He's being brought back on three days' rest, and manager Ned Yost claims that the Brewers have addressed a mechanical flaw in Sheets' delivery that affected him in his last two subpar outings. I'd use him if you have him. The Astros want to take a look at the 23-year-old fireballer Paulino, so they removed Woody Williams from the rotation. I don't think Paulino will be ready to contribute anytime soon, and I doubt that his future is as a starter, but if you're desperate for strikeouts there is some significant upside here. Play only the star Astros hitters against Sheets, but play all the Brewers' hitters whom you normally would.
Cole Hamels, LHP (14-5, 3.50 ERA, 1.13 WHIP) versus
Kip Wells, RHP (6-17, 5.77 ERA, 1.65 WHIP)
Game Story: Hamels is making his return from an elbow injury that cost him a month. He's looked good in his throwing sessions and the team thinks he's ready to go, so I'd put him in there if you're fortunate enough to own him. Be conservative in selecting your Cardinals hitters as well. As for Wells, he's been so bad lately that he's not recommended in any format right now. Load up on hitters from the red-hot Phillies, who are back into the playoff picture after a sweep of the Mets. Jayson Werth is the top pickup here. He's hitting .374/.481/.527 in the second half, and has plenty of opportunity with Victorino still ailing.
Jonathan Sanchez, LHP (1-4, 5.29 ERA, 1.53 WHIP) versus
Micah Owings, RHP (6-8, 4.78 ERA, 1.38 WHIP)
Notable Injuries: Barry Bonds, OF, (foot, out)
Game Story: The Giants have not been hitting well lately, and they'll be missing on-base machine Barry Bonds for a while. Still, Owings has been struggling so much that he's only for the desperate. This is his first action since Sept. 8. Sanchez looks like a poor bet at first glance. He's made three starts since joining the rotation, pitching 15.1 combined innings. During that span, he's allowed four home runs and nine earned runs, but he's also fanned 19 while walking only three. He's got some upside in this matchup, and is a definite target if you're chasing strikeouts or WHIP. No hitters stand out in this one, so play the ones you normally would.
Tom Gorzelanny, LHP (14-7, 3.45 ERA, 1.30 WHIP) versus
Greg Maddux, RHP (12-10, 3.91 ERA, 1.20 WHIP)
Notable Injuries: Milton Bradley, OF, (oblique, out)
Game Story: Gorzelanny has had a fine season, yet is unowned in 50 percent of ESPN leagues. He's in solid form currently, allowing only three combined runs in his last two starts. Grab him for this Petco Park matchup, as it will likely be a pitching duel. Maddux was hit hard in his last start, but he was pitching extremely well prior to that. He's won 15 games or more in 19 of his 20 major league seasons, and will doubtless be highly motivated here, as he's sitting on 12 wins with three starts to go. Grab him too, and play only the essential hitters from both sides in what should be a low-scoring affair.
Delmon Young, OF, TB @ New York Yankees
Gil Meche, SP, KC versus Chicago White Sox
Alex Gordon, 3B, KC versus Chicago White Sox
Jerry Owens, OF, CHW @ Kansas City Royals
David Murphy, OF, TEX @ Minnesota Twins
Jason Hammel, SP, TB @ Los Angeles Angels
Shannon Stewart, OF, OAK versus Seattle Mariners
Mark Ellis, 2B, OAK versus Seattle Mariners
Dan Johnson, 1B, OAK versus Seattle Mariners
Jose Vidro, DH, SEA @ Oakland Athletics
James Loney, 1B, LAD @ Colorado Rockies
Troy Tulowitzki, SS, COL versus Los Angeles Dodgers
Moises Alou, OF, NYM @ Washington Nationals
Mike Jacobs, 1B, FLA @ Atlanta Braves
Yunel Escobar, SS, FLA versus Florida Marlins
Jayson Werth, OF, PHI @ St. Louis Cardinals
Jonathan Sanchez, SP, SF @ Arizona Diamondbacks
Tom Gorzelanny, SP, PIT @ San Diego Padres
Greg Maddux, SP, SD versus Pittsburgh Pirates
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.
Will Harris is a fantasy baseball and college football analyst for ESPN.com and TalentedMrRoto.com. He can be reached at willharris@TalentedMrRoto.com