- Sean Allen
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A few candidates for the popular fantasy question "Are you for real?" take the mound Wednesday. Cliff Lee's microscopic ERA is too good to question much. When someone is that hot, you keep starting him (while trying to sell high, of course). Dana Eveland owners will get either a rude awakening or a seal of approval, as the A's take on the Angels, the team that's toughest on left-handed pitching. Chad Billingsley is the other start to watch, as his strikeout numbers scream quality, but all we have seen is an excessive quantity of earned runs.
Matchups for Wednesday, April 30
All times are ET. Statistics are from the 2008 regular season.
Yunel Escobar, 2B/SS/3B, Braves (finger)
Adam Everett, SS, Twins (shoulder)
Jermaine Dye, OF, White Sox (groin)
Carlos Gomez, OF, Twins (calf)
Mark Grudzielanek, 2B, Royals (back)
Maicer Izturis, 2B/3B, Angels (back)
Mike Jacobs, 1B, Marlins (finger)
Chipper Jones, 3B, Braves (back)
Mike Lowell, 3B, Red Sox (thumb)
Jeff Mathis, C, Angels (flu)
Daisuke Matsuzaka, SP, Red Sox (flu)
Bengie Molina, C, Giants (quad)
David Ortiz, DH, Red Sox (knee)
Alex Rodriguez, 3B, Yankees (quad)
Grady Sizemore, OF, Indians (ankle)
Justin Upton, OF, Diamondbacks (hamstring)
Shane Victorino, OF, Phillies (calf)
Start 'em, sit 'em
Hitters: There are a few guys who are day-to-day whom you should check on in Tuesday's box scores for signs they can play Wednesday. Carlos Gomez is expected to be ready, but you'll want to see signs he is running, as his hitting isn't much of an asset. Chipper Jones is hit or miss, but if he plays Tuesday, he should be back Wednesday. Bengie Molina played Monday but sat out the previous two contests with sore legs. David Ortiz sat out Sunday with a bruised knee but is expected back. Jermaine Dye expects to play Tuesday, but double-check, as he sat out Monday's suspended game. Alex Rodriguez came out of Monday's game in the eighth inning but didn't show signs of his lingering quad issues. Shane Victorino is expected to be activated from the DL before Tuesday's contest. Grady Sizemore missed Monday's game with ankle woes but might be ready again Tuesday. Mike Jacobs is expected to miss Tuesday's game but will be available to pinch-hit, so he could be ready Wednesday. A matchup against Andy Pettitte should give us an indication of whether Curtis Granderson is going to start against left-handers this season. It is Detroit's first game against a lefty since Granderson returned. More important is whether Granderson has figured out how to hit lefties. He hit only .160 against southpaws in 2007 and is 0-for-7 in his career against Pettitte.
Pitchers: Start 'em if you've got 'em: Aaron Harang, Ervin Santana, Cliff Lee, Chris Young and Dustin McGowan. There is nothing wrong with Harang's matchup; Santana looks to have overcome his road woes but is at home in this game anyway; Lee's numbers are so good, you can't consider benching him; the Phillies have hit a combined .163 in 49 at-bats against Young; and the Red Sox have hit a combined .228 in 57 at-bats against McGowan. Toss out his one rough outing at the start of the season (against the lefty-killing Brewers), and Jonathan Sanchez can be considered downright dominant this season. Considering that the Rockies are 25th in the majors in OPS versus southpaws, Sanchez looks good to go. Since Ty Wigginton is not expected back just yet, only Miguel Tejada (12-for-35, .343) has decent career numbers versus Randy Johnson. Not that it matters though, because the Big Unit is looking like the only thing that can hold him back from another solid season is his health. Until Jeremy Bonderman starts walking fewer batters than innings he pitches, stay away. Need more convincing? He is 1-5 with a 5.26 ERA in his previous six starts against New York. The Tigers are just raking lately (a .900 OPS in the previous week), and after noting that Ivan Rodriguez, Magglio Ordonez, Carlos Guillen and Brandon Inge hit .343 or better versus Andy Pettitte, I am avoiding him for this game. It really looks like the contest at Yankee Stadium will be a slugfest. You just know things are going to turn around for Chad Billingsley. He has struck out 29 batters in his past 16 innings. The Marlins might have the best OPS in the majors versus righties, but they are particularly vulnerable to high-strikeout pitchers. I say use him, especially if you need the K's. I'm on the Ryan Dempster bandwagon, but even if I weren't, I wouldn't argue with the Brewers ranking 30th in OPS versus right-handers (.635). Expect a solid line and possibly a win. You know the story with Brian Bannister and his sabermetric pitching. It's been working so far, and there is nothing that stands out in his matchup against the Rangers that says shy away. Rangers Ballpark hasn't been a hitter's park since 2006, and Bannister has a seven-inning shutout versus Texas under his belt from July 2007. The bloom is about to fall off Dana Eveland's rose. The Angels have absolutely mashed left-handers this season, at a rate (.863) better than that of any other club. He could make me a believer with a good start, but I am not expecting it. Eveland is using too many pitches to get through innings and hasn't made it out of the sixth inning in his past three starts. Oliver Perez doesn't have a heck of a lot of history against his former club, but in 24 at-bats, the Pirates' lineup is 5-for-24 against him. Even though he hasn't been getting deep into games, Ollie offers more strikeout potential than other pitchers who have been averaging five-and-change innings per start.
Hitters: Cesar Izturis may be back in the lineup for the Cardinals, but he is a big 0-for-17 versus Aaron Harang. With Grady Sizemore questionable, consider David Dellucci as a replacement. He enters Tuesday with a six-game hit streak including two home runs. Ryan Spilborghs will likely start with a lefty on the hill for the Giants, but a power pitcher like Jonathan Sanchez doesn't necessarily make him a good sub. However, you can leave Willy Taveras and Scott Podsednik off your roster for this game. With Aaron Harang on the mound, Rick Ankiel and Chris Duncan should start in favor of Ryan Ludwick and Brian Barton for the Cards. Alfredo Amezega will probably be the platoon starter against Chad Billingsley for Florida, as he is 4-for-7 versus the young pitcher. With Shane Victorino forcing them back into a platoon, Jayson Werth may get the start over Geoff Jenkins even with a righty on the hill. Werth has been on fire with four home runs since April 21. Matt Stairs should start with a righty on the hill and he happens to be 2-for-2 versus Daisuke Matsuzaka.
Pitchers: Jamie Moyer looks like a solid spot-start candidate. The Padres have a .179 average and .554 OPS versus lefthanders this season (dead last in the majors for both). In 108 at-bats, the San Diego team is hitting just .241 versus Moyer. Braden Looper is 15-5 in his career at Busch Stadium and only one of his five outings this season could be considered "bad" for your fantasy numbers. He should be a cheap win and a boost to your ERA versus Cincinnati. Jair Jurrjens is going to look pretty darn enticing if he can overcome some control problems. All three of his earned runs in his previous start (against the Mets) scored via bases-loaded walk. It was still a quality start (his third straight) and a win (his second straight). The Nationals are 27th in OPS versus righties. Go ahead and spot him in, just don't fret if your WHIP is a little worse for wear. The Mets would look a lot worse right now if not for their hitting against lefties (they are fifth in OPS versus lefties and 26th versus righties). Tom Gorzelanny is clearly off his game this season and, until he works out the issues (said to be release point), I just can't recommend him. Though I am hopeful he will come around eventually (I am benching him, but not dropping him in my 16-team mixed league). I still consider Nick Blackburn a decent option when searching for a waiver-wire win. He allowed more fly balls than usual during his last start (in Texas) and it showed up on the scoreboard. Blackburn can keep the ball on the ground and let his defense do the work. As a bonus, he may have Adam Everett, a great defender, back working shortstop. Nick Masset is still walking too many batters to consider spotting him in; especially noting that all his earned runs this season were knocked in by the Twins on April 9. With only one quality start in five starts and more walks than strikeouts this season, it's time to let Ubaldo Jimenez sit on the bench permanently in deep leagues and let him go in shallow ones. Most pitchers can be considered for a favorable start against the Giants, but not Jimenez at this point. Shawn Chacon may be five-for-five in quality starts, but the wheels always fall of this bus. His most recent "quality start" came with six walks in seven innings as extra baggage. Shawn Hill is showing good control through two starts (11 strikeouts, 3 walks), but his ERA is a bit ugly. I'm keeping him on my list of pitchers to watch closely, but wouldn't pick him up for a start against the Braves. Only Florida has a better OPS versus right-handed pitching. After two rough starts and one abysmal start to begin the season, Andy Sonnanstine tossed a complete game shutout and a quality start in his two recent outings. Whether this is a young pitcher, with a good minor-league track record, is turning the corner or the ups and downs of a sophomore campaign, is up for debate. Don't scoop him up yet, but if he has an above-average game against Baltimore here, he makes the short list for pitchers to spot start. I don't think I'm going to be gambling on him here, but in 13 long relief innings this season Jim Johnson hasn't walked a batter and has only faced seven batters more than the minimum possible to get through 13 innings. He also tossed two innings on Monday, so regardless of the peripherals I wouldn't bet on him as a spot start. The Blue Jays bats have gone ice cold (.646 OPS over the previous week) and Daisuke Matsuzaka has owned most of the lineup; save Aaron Hill, Alex Rios and Matt Stairs. With Dustin McGowan opposing him on the hill I won't guarantee a win, but I still expect a solid fantasy line. Jarrod Washburn came out of his most recent start after a ball hit his ankle and is also battling a bad cold. Considering Travis Hafner (8-for-20 with three home runs) and Victor Martinez (7-for-19) both hit him hard, I'd avoid him. The Marlins Burke Badenhop has given us no reason to consider him for a start, regardless of matchup. A lack of consistency and a lack of strikeouts are for the main reasons Jeff Suppan will never be a fantasy star. In five starts this season, he has four of the quality kind, but we have to fall back on his lack of consistency and leave him on the wire. Besides, the Cubs have the third best OPS in the majors against righties (.811). It's Kevin Millwood's road starts that have his ERA at a palatable level. I'm not starting him at home until his ERA in Arlington drifts down from 5.00.
There is no precipitation in the forecast for any city hosting a ball game without a roof Wednesday. White Sox-Twins and Astros-Diamondbacks are weather-proof.
Sean Allen is a fantasy baseball and hockey analyst for ESPN.com. You can e-mail him here.