- Sean Allen
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A good day for starting pitchers: 17 of the 30 starters are owned in more than 50 percent of ESPN leagues. But even among the 13 remaining, a few good spot starters can be found here. Look for Mark Buehrle, Matt Garza and Jeremy Guthrie first. Deeper leagues can tap Odalis Perez, Livan Hernandez and Burke Badenhop.
Also, watch the weather in a few cities (more details below). Mother Nature might play a factor in several games.
Matchups for Wednesday, May 7
Yunel Escobar, 2B/3B/SS, Braves (flu)
Chone Figgins, 3B, Angels (hamstring)
Orlando Hudson, 2B, Diamondbacks (hamstring)
Ian Kinsler, 2B, Rangers (hamstring)
Aramis Ramirez, 3B, Cubs (wrist)
Luke Scott, OF, Orioles (flu)
B.J. Upton, OF/2B, Rays (shoulder)
Start 'em, sit 'em
Hitters: Orlando Hudson (hamstring) was in the lineup Monday night after having a pinch-hit appearance Sunday. He's safe to start again. The "buy-low" window might be closing for Joey Votto, who has been batting cleanup for Cincinnati. Jason Giambi might be in line to get a rare start versus a left-hander; he is 3-for-10 with a home run in his career versus Cliff Lee. Of course, whether he can touch this "new and improved" Lee could be another story. Aramis Ramirez (wrist) was still having issues swinging a bat Monday. Look for another option at third base, such as Jose Bautista, who has three home runs in his past 24 at-bats. Second baseman Mike Fontenot has been in the lineup in Ramirez's stead (with Mark DeRosa shifting from second to third base) and has recorded a hit in each of the past three games, including one home run. It sounds like Chone Figgins might miss a few more games because of a pulled hammy. It's worth noting that Robb Quinlan homered while starting for him Sunday. B.J. Upton started Sunday but admittedly was not 100 percent. Having an off day Monday likely helped, but I'd make sure he is OK before starting him in shallow leagues. Meanwhile, check Tuesday's pregame lineups for Yunel Escobar. He was sick over the weekend but is expected back.
Pitchers: No reason to have second thoughts about such stud pitchers as Chien-Ming Wang, Cliff Lee, Clay Buchholz, Adam Wainwright, Erik Bedard and Zack Greinke. Lee has a great matchup -- the Yankees have the third-worst OPS (.626) versus southpaws -- and Buchholz has a 1.40 ERA over his past three starts. One might look at the Cubs' OPS versus right-handers (.828, second in majors) and be concerned about marching out Edinson Volquez. Don't be. He was masterful against the Braves in his previous outing, and Atlanta happens to be the only team that has a better OPS versus righties than the Cubs. Volquez also has logged a decent outing against the Cubs already this season; the only earned run the Cubs scored against him came when he issued a bases-loaded walk. Tim Hudson is a mystery. After getting knocked around in two of three starts, he fired a three-hit shutout Friday versus the Reds. The matchup also has two sides to the story. The Padres are mired in a season-long slump in which they've registered a .643 OPS, which ranks dead last in the majors. Yet current San Diego hitters have a combined .391 average versus Hudson (34-for-87), with Jim Edmonds, Brian Giles and Adrian Gonzalez all hitting .400 or better against him. I'd lean toward starting him just because of how weak the Padres' offense has been, though. I fondly remember sitting in the front row and witnessing Shaun Marcum's first start of the 2007 season, on May 13 versus the Devil Rays. Marcum fired a masterful six-inning shutout that day, which has had me pimping him in fantasy ever since. His ownership in ESPN leagues finally has hit 100 percent, so I feel my work is done. I can sit back and enjoy Marcum's start Tuesday; the Rays' lineup is a combined 2-for-27 against him. Baltimore's Melvin Mora (5-for-11, 2 HR) and Nick Markakis (4-for-9, HR) have smacked Joe Blanton around enough that I'd start him only in deep-mixed or AL-only leagues. John Maine hasn't pitched more than six innings in a start this season and yet has thrown triple-digit pitches in his previous four starts. That kind of inefficiency (and his 0-2 record and 5.73 ERA versus the Dodgers last season) say "avoid." I think of Randy Wolf like I think of Oliver Perez. They're both risky starts with the potential for a big payoff, but even if things go wrong, you'll get some strikeouts. Atlanta has been exceptional versus right-handers this season, but not versus lefties, and four of Wolf's six starts this season have been quality starts. Despite Roy Oswalt's ugly ERA, he is still a no-brainer start. He has four straight quality starts, and the Nationals have the third-worst OPS (.662) in the majors versus righties. Jose Guillen, Mark Teahen, Alex Gordon, Billy Butler and Mark Grudzielanek have all hit Jered Weaver fairly well in the past. Considering that and Weaver's troubles with consistency this season, I'm benching him for this one. After being knocked around by struggling San Diego and the Mets, who also have struggled versus righties (.684 OPS), it's time to look at Micah Owings' fast start as a mirage. Philadelphia has a strong offense, so Owings doesn't look like a great start here, even though he could still get a win despite allowing five runs with that Diamondbacks' offense backing him. I am a fan of Armando Galarraga, and I think his success is valid because his stuff has more movement than most scouting reports suggest. But do you really want to play with fire and start him against the Red Sox? Didn't think so. Say what you will about Brad Penny, but he is a model of consistency these past two seasons, in the first half anyway. The Mets have struggled versus right-handed pitching this season, and no Mets starter except David Wright has a great history against Penny. Start him.
Hitters: With a righty on the hill, David Dellucci should start and bat third for the Indians. He has reached base two of the three times he has faced Wang. Geoff Jenkins should start over Jayson Werth since the Phillies face Owings, a righty. Expect Fred Lewis to sit against lefty Phil Dumatrait. Eugenio Velez becomes an option if you are looking for swipes. Skip Schumaker and Rick Ankiel have become fixtures against lefties and righties, so it's down to Chris Duncan sitting versus lefties (like Jeff Francis), with Ryan Ludwick starting in his place. Eric Hinske punished his former team, the Blue Jays, in a series April 22-24, going 5-for-11 with five RBIs and a home run. Meanwhile, Johnny Gomes likely will sit versus Marcum. Chicago has been mixing and matching Felix Pie and Reed Johnson against right-handed pitchers. Your guess as to who starts is as good as mine with another righty on the docket, although Johnson is 2-for-2 versus Volquez. Mark Kotsay has nine hits in his past 21 at-bats (.429), with a home run and a stolen base. If you need a fill-in outfielder, ride his hot streak.
Pitchers: The only thing Matt Garza is missing is a few strikeouts and some love in ESPN leagues. Still owned in just 2 percent of leagues, Garza just missed a quality start against Boston in his return from the DL and then got the win and a quality start in his next outing against Baltimore. Toronto's offense has been sputtering, so it's the perfect time to give Garza a test drive. You never know; you might just keep him. Replacing the defrocked Rich Hill, Jon Lieber has been effective this season working in long relief. With a track record of giving up too many walks and home runs, though, a start at Great American Ball Park might not be the best place to use him. If he sticks for awhile, I can envision him being useful in spot starts, but not this one. You might not realize that five of Jeremy Guthrie's seven starts this season have been quality ones. He also has lasted at least five innings in every start without giving up more than three runs in any of them. He's one of your best waiver-wire options for this slate of games. March out Mark Buehrle with confidence. The Twins have downright stunk against left-handed pitching this season (.592 OPS, last in majors). Patrick Misch has some upside, but we'll wait until he stops surrendering two home runs per outing before using him. If he were up against a team vulnerable to lefties, I might even recommend him, but the Pirates know how to hit southpaws. Tom Gorzelanny is skipping a start, and former Reds prospect Dumatrait will fill in. I have called Dumatrait "Captain Gopherball" since he allowed back-to-back-to-back home runs to Rickie Weeks, J.J. Hardy and Ryan Braun on Sept. 9 of last season. Until I see him avoid the long ball, you won't find me backing him as an option. The loss of Yovani Gallardo didn't hurt me as a fantasy owner too much; my primary fantasy concern when I heard about Gallardo's knee injury was that we would have to talk about Dave Bush again. Is the potential there? Yes. Is he ever going to realize it? I'd have to go with "probably not" at this point. The Marlins have the third-highest OPS (.823) versus righties this season. Leave Bush alone. For super-deep NL-only leagues, consider Badenhop as an option. He finally had success keeping the ball down against the Dodgers in his most recent outing, logging a quality start in the process. Like the Dodgers, the Brewers hit lefties well, but righties not so well. Badenhop is an extreme sinkerball pitcher and needs to induce ground balls to be successful. Considering the Brewers have slugged just .370, I could see Badenhop repeating his success and getting his first big league win. Who knew we could ever refer to Odalis Perez as a hard-luck pitcher? Perez is coming off his fourth straight quality start but is now running into a Houston lineup that rakes against lefties (.848, third in majors). The White Sox's bats have gone ice cold (.519 OPS over previous week), making now the perfect time to plug in good ol' Livan Hernandez. Three of the four earned runs Jeff Francis allowed in his last start were inherited runners that his bullpen allowed to score, and he had a quality start in his outing prior to that one. Sure, the Cardinals are solid against lefties, but the aforementioned previous outing was against the Dodgers, who also hit lefties well. It should be a rare pitchers' duel at Coors Field. Seeing Arizona on a pitcher's docket is becoming an automatic sit for them, regardless of whether the pitcher is right-handed or left-handed. Certainly Kyle Kendrick should be on no one's mind as a spot start against the Diamondbacks. Other than a throttling at the hands of the Tigers, Vicente Padilla has been fairly usable in deep or AL-only formats this season. If you just need someone to eat innings, this is a good matchup for him, considering the Mariners are a bottom-five offense against righties.
Detroit, Kansas City and Chicago all have a 70 percent chance of showers, with thunderstorms as a possibility. The forecasts are calling for precipitation right into the evening, so plan your lineup accordingly with your Red Sox, Tigers, Angels, Royals, Twins and White Sox. The forecast is a little better for Pittsburgh, with a 60 percent chance of rain but no thunderstorm as a possibility. The Giants and Pirates might just be playing on a wet field. The Cubs-Reds and Cardinals-Rockies games also could be affected; Cincinnati and Denver have a 30 percent chance of rain, with risk of a thunderstorm. The Rays-Blue Jays, Nationals-Astros, Phillies-Diamondbacks and Rangers-Mariners are all safe from inclement weather.
Sean Allen is a fantasy baseball and hockey analyst for ESPN.com. You can e-mail him here.
Sean Allen breaks down Wednesday's games from a fantasy perspective.