Commentary

Daily Notes: Harden is back

Updated: September 23, 2007, 3:17 AM ET
By Sean Allen | Special to ESPN.com

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Fantasy Game Notes for Sunday: American League

Jacobs Field (outdoor) 1:05 p.m. ET (sunny, high of 75 degrees)
Rich Harden, RHP (1-2, 2.45 ERA, 1.13 WHIP) versus
Jake Westbrook, RHP (5-9, 4.41 ERA, 1.44 WHIP)

Notable Injuries: Rich Harden, SP (shoulder, DL/will be activated)

Game Story: If Harden throws well at this point, it will be little more than salt in the wound of his owners this year. There is no reason to believe he is healthy after he burned everyone twice already this season, but if you are looking for the fantasy baseball equivalent of the Hail Mary play, look no further. Harden is available in 70 percent of ESPN leagues and will throw as many as 70 pitches in this outing. That's enough to get a win if he can find his spots. Westbrook has been so-so lately but has good career numbers against the remaining healthy A's. Nick Swisher is 1-for-16 against him, and Dan Johnson is 1-for-8. A lot of whether Westbrook can get a win depends on which version of Harden takes the hill for the Athletics, so if you need a win, don't put all your eggs in Westbrook's basket.

Comerica Park (outdoor) 1:05 p.m. ET (sunny, high of 77 degrees)
Jorge De La Rosa, LHP (8-11, 5.40 ERA, 1.60 WHIP) versus
Justin Verlander, RHP (17-6, 3.70 ERA, 1.24 WHIP)

Notable Injuries: none

Game Story: After a nearly two-month DL stint, De La Rosa makes his second September start against a team that could punish him. The Tigers are quite strong against southpaws (.822 OPS), and they managed seven runs off De La Rosa on July 21. Sure, Detroit's bats have been quiet lately, but that is no reason to test the waters with an arm like De La Rosa's. Verlander is more than safe against Kansas City. He is 2-0 in four starts this season with a 3.28 ERA. Billy Butler is 3-for-5 against Verlander, though, and makes a decent pickup for this game.

Yankee Stadium (outdoor) 1:05 p.m. ET (sunny, high of 82 degrees)
Dustin McGowan, RHP (11-9, 3.84 ERA, 1.17 WHIP) versus
Mike Mussina, RHP (10-10, 5.01 ERA, 1.45 WHIP)

Notable Injuries: John McDonald, SS (hip, questionable)

Game Story: McGowan looks as if he will give A.J. Burnett a run for who will be the No. 2 pitcher for the Blue Jays next season. He has fared just fine against the Yankees this season (2-1, 3.66 ERA) and makes a fine acquisition. I'm not saying bench him, but consider this a heads-up that Alex Rodriguez is 1-for-10 against McGowan. Mussina is coming off a fine outing versus Baltimore. Can he keep it up against a team that struggles against righties? Don't put too many eggs in that basket, but don't count against it.

Tropicana Field (indoor) 1:40 p.m. ET
Tim Wakefield, RHP (16-11, 4.73 ERA, 1.35 WHIP) versus
Edwin Jackson, RHP (4-15, 5.99 ERA, 1.80 WHIP)

Notable Injuries: Manny Ramirez, OF (oblique, out); Kevin Youkilis, 1B (wrist, questionable); Hideki Okajima, RP (arm, out); Carl Crawford, OF (groin, out); Brendan Harris, 2B (latissimus, questionable)

Game Story: Overall, Wakefield has killer numbers against the Devil Rays: 4-0 with a 3.56 ERA in five starts. However, that number would be a lot better had he not coughed up seven runs in three innings Sept. 11 in Boston. Let's focus on the fact that Wakefield is a perfect 2-0 in Tropicana Field this season with a 0.69 ERA. Pick him up and start him for a locked-in win. Jackson is going to be an interesting commodity next season; his stringing together a terrific August warrants at least some attention. For now, though, forget him. His 9.15 ERA in September means he is back to his old ways to close out the season. You know Doug Mirabelli will be behind the plate to catch Wakefield's knuckleball, so you can take advantage of a decent spot-start opportunity. Mirabelli is 2-for-3 against Jackson.

Metrodome (indoor) 2:10 p.m. ET
Gavin Floyd, RHP (1-4, 5.65 ERA, 1.53 WHIP) versus
Kevin Slowey, RHP (3-0, 5.00 ERA, 1.52 WHIP)

Notable Injuries: Alex Cintron, SS/3B (hand, questionable); Pat Neshek, RP (arm, questionable); Mike Redmond, C (finger/hand, out)

Game Story: Floyd has one start against Minnesota this season, and it resulted in a shellacking in which the Twins hit four home runs and chased him after 5 2/3 innings with six earned runs. Justin Morneau was kind enough to crank two of his three home runs that day off Floyd. Avoid Floyd even though the Twins' offense this month can be described as inept. Slowey was allowed to hit triple digits for his pitch count in his last outing, so he should be on a longer leash in this game, as well. He should pick his way through this lineup with ease and can be started in most leagues if you are looking for a win. Juan Uribe doesn't put up with Slowey's nibbling. He is 2-for-2 with two doubles versus the control artist.

Rangers Ballpark (outdoor) 3:05 p.m. ET (a slight chance of showers, partly cloudy, high of 90 degrees)
Jon Leicester, RHP (2-2, 7.78 ERA, 1.58 WHIP) versus
Kevin Millwood, RHP (9-13, 5.39 ERA, 1.63 WHIP)

Notable Injuries: Corey Patterson, OF (ankle, questionable)

Game Story: Don't mess with Texas. At least, not while its OPS is seventh in the league for September (.814). In other words, leave Leicester alone. Millwood can be fickle, but the Orioles aren't very intimidating with their 28th-ranked OPS this month. Millwood already has a six-inning start this season in which he allowed just one earned run against the O's. Tike Redman will fill in for Patterson, and he is 4-for-6 versus Millwood. He could be a cheap steal or two.

Angel Stadium (outdoor) 3:35 p.m. ET (sunny, high of 77 degrees)
Jeff Weaver, RHP (7-12, 6.21 ERA, 1.57 WHIP) versus
John Lackey, RHP (17-9, 3.13 ERA, 1.25 WHIP)

Notable Injuries: Gary Matthews Jr., OF (ankle, questionable)

Game Story: Maybe he gets intimidated by his younger, more talented brother, but Weaver has issues pitching against the Halos. In three starts this season, he has a 10.32 ERA and the Angels have hit .400 against him. Start all your big Halos. Lackey, on the other hand, is 3-0 with a 0.00 ERA in three starts against Seattle this season. Bench all your marginal Mariners.

Fantasy Game Notes for Sunday: National League

RFK Stadium (outdoor) 12:05 p.m. ET (sunny, high of 82 degrees)
Cole Hamels, LHP (14-5, 3.59 ERA, 1.14 WHIP) versus
Joel Hanrahan, RHP (4-3, 6.45 ERA, 1.95 WHIP)

Notable Injuries: Wily Mo Pena, OF (wrist, questionable); Dmitri Young, 1B (head/neck, out)

Game Story: Leave Hamels on the sideline still. He only will be up to 70 or 80 pitches in this, his second start off the DL. That might not even be enough innings for the win. Nook Logan should get in the mix with Pena banged-up, and Logan is 5-for-9 off Hamels. Forget Hanrahan is even pitching. He barely makes it into the fifth or sixth with regularity and offers little reward for spot-starting him.

Turner Field (outdoor) 1:05 p.m. ET (a slight chance of showers, mostly cloudy, a high of 87 degrees)
Chris Capuano, LHP (5-12, 5.21 ERA, 1.49 WHIP) versus
Jo-Jo Reyes, LHP (1-2, 6.98 ERA, 1.81 WHIP)

Notable Injuries: Ben Sheets, SP (hamstring, will miss start)

Game Story: Milwaukee is first in the league in OPS versus southpaws (.863) and first in the league in OPS for September (.855). Reyes is going to get lit, hard. Start every Brewer you can get your hands on. Capuano makes his first start since being relegated to the bullpen. He hasn't won a game since May 7; don't expect him to perform well. The Braves' bats are cold (25th in September OPS, .728), so the Brewers should get the win, but it won't be pretty.

Dolphin Stadium (outdoor) 1:05 p.m. ET (scattered showers and thunderstorms, high of 88 degrees)
John Maine, RHP (14-10, 4.04 ERA, 1.30 WHIP) versus
Chris Seddon, LHP (0-1, 8.44 ERA, 1.97 WHIP)

Notable Injuries: Carlos Beltran, OF (leg, questionable); Billy Wagner, RP (back, questionable); Armando Benitez, RP (back, questionable)

Game Story: Maine hasn't been having a great September, but he likes Dolphin Stadium and should do fine here. Maine is 2-0 in two starts in Miami and has a 2.77 ERA versus the Marlins. Florida's team bats a combined .197 versus Maine in its collective career. He'll do just fine. Hanley Ramirez is 1-for-9 versus Maine with three strikeouts. Seddon's ERA as a starter is 11.74, and he hasn't made it past the fifth in either game he's pitched. Start all your Mets, and maybe go out and get Moises Alou and his hot bat.

Wrigley Field (outdoor) 2:20 p.m. ET (sunny, high of 79 degrees)
Tom Gorzelanny, LHP (14-8, 3.55 ERA, 1.34 WHIP) versus
Carlos Zambrano, RHP (16-13, 4.20 ERA, 1.35 WHIP)

Notable Injuries: Jack Wilson, SS (hamstring/personal, doubtful); Cesar Izturis, SS (elbow, questionable)

Game Story: This should be a fine pitchers' duel, assuming both guys have their concentration. Gorzelanny might be fading a bit; his strikeout-to-walk rate this month is going to be his worst of the season. However, he has made the Cubs look like fools on two occasions this season, with a 1.29 ERA versus Chicago. Count Jacque Jones, Aramis Ramirez, Alfonso Soriano, Ryan Theriot and Mark DeRosa among the players who can't hit Gorzelanny; all of them are below the Mendoza Line against him. Zambrano is back on track after his late-August/early-September blowup, and he can be counted on for a solid start. Note that Jason Bay and Xavier Nady hit Big Z hard, though (both with an OPS better than 1.000 versus Zambrano).

Petco Park (outdoor) 4:05 p.m. ET (sunny, high of 72 degrees)
Jeff Francis, LHP (16-8, 4.25 ERA, 1.39 WHIP) versus
Greg Maddux, RHP (13-10, 3.95 ERA, 1.21 WHIP)

Notable Injuries: Willy Taveras, OF (quadriceps, questionable); Greg Maddux, SP (back, expected to start)

Game Story: Maddux has been money in Petco this season and, despite his aching back, is worthy of an NL-only start. That's a strong recommendation considering the Rockies are tied with Milwaukee for first in September OPS (.855). Maddux also has done very well against Colorado, though. He has a 2-2 record in five starts and a 3.30 ERA -- even though three of those starts were in Coors Field. Garrett Atkins is an exceptional hitter against Maddux, with a .500 career average (11-for-22), but Troy Tulowitzki is someone to consider benching (2-for-11, .182 versus Maddux). The Padres lineup eats Francis for breakfast. He has an 8.10 ERA in four starts against San Diego and, worse yet, was chased after three innings in Petco while surrendering eight runs. Kevin Kouzmanoff hits .364 against Francis, and Milton Bradley is 4-for-6 against him in his career.

AT&T Park (outdoor) 4:05 p.m. ET (sunny, high of 71 degrees)
Aaron Harang, RHP (16-4, 3.61 ERA, 1.13 WHIP) versus
Jonathan Sanchez, LHP (1-5, 5.88 ERA, 1.63 WHIP)

Notable Injuries: Josh Hamilton, OF (hamstring, out); Ken Griffey Jr., OF (groin, out); Scott Hatteberg, 1B (oblique, out); Alex Gonzalez, SS (knee, questionable); Barry Bonds, OF (toe, questionable)

Game Story: Dominant pitcher gets to face the worst offense in the league without its big slugger. Yeah, Harang is going to be just fine in this game. Sanchez is interesting too, though, as he is in the comfort of his home park and facing a depleted Reds lineup. He could provide some valuable strikeouts to deep NL-only leagues. Try to avoid the ragtag hitters from both sides.

Chase Field (indoor/retractable roof) 4:40 p.m. ET
Chad Billingsley, RHP (11-5, 3.15 ERA, 1.26 WHIP) versus
Edgar Gonzalez, RHP (8-2, 4.61 ERA, 1.25 WHIP)

Notable Injuries: Rafael Furcal, SS (back, questionable)

Game Story: Billingsley certainly is showing his quality heading into next season. The Diamondbacks are actually hitting the ball well in September. They are third in OPS (.848) and represent a formidable challenge for Billingsley. Eric Byrnes and Stephen Drew fare well against Billingsley, but forget about Conor Jackson (0-for-10). The Dodgers have hit .344 against Gonzalez this season, and he sports a 6.46 ERA in three starts to show it. James Loney is 3-for-4 with a home run against Gonzalez.

Busch Stadium (outdoor) 8:05 p.m. ET (cloudy, low of 70 degrees)
Roy Oswalt, RHP (14-7, 3.29 ERA, 1.33 WHIP) versus
Todd Wellemeyer, RHP (3-3, 5.14 ERA, 1.64 WHIP)

Notable Injuries: Jim Edmonds, OF (groin, questionable); Albert Pujols, 1B (calf, out); Russell Branyan, 1B (flu, questionable)

Game Story: Oswalt owners have a very tough call to make. He has been a very poor pitcher on the road this season (5.15 ERA), but he also has yet to pitch in Busch Stadium. In three games against the Cardinals at home, Oswalt is 2-0 with a 0.78 ERA. In the end, with the rash of injuries all across the Cards' lineup, Oswalt should have a terrific game -- almost as if he were pitching to a Triple-A team. Wellemeyer hasn't thrown 45 big league pitches since July and can safely be ignored.

Waiver Wire Pickups

Rich Harden, SP, OAK@ Cleveland Indians
Billy Butler, OF, KC @ Detroit Tigers
Dustin McGowan, SP, TOR @ New York Yankees
Tim Wakefield, SP, BOS @Tampa Bay Devil Rays
Juan Uribe, SS, CHW @ Minnesota Twins
Tike Redman, OF, BAL @ Texas Rangers
Nook Logan, OF, WAS vs. Philadelphia Phillies
Moises Alou, OF, NYM @ Florida Marlins
Xavier Nady, OF, PIT @ Chicago Cubs
Greg Maddux, SP, SD vs. Colorado Rockies
Kevin Kouzmanoff, 3B, SD vs. Colorado Rockies
Milton Bradley, OF, SD vs. Colorado Rockies
James Loney, 1B, LAD @ Arizona Diamondbacks

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 stints 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. He can be reached at alla_rino@TalentedMrRoto.com

Sean Allen is a fantasy analyst for ESPN.com. He was the 2008 and 2009 Fantasy Sports Writers Association Hockey Writer of the Year. You can tweet him @seanard.