The No. 1 fantasy starting pitcher in the preseason, Johan Santana, makes his first-ever start at the No. 1 pitchers' park in baseball, Petco Park, on Friday. How fun is that? But that's not all: Eight of the top 21 starting pitchers on our Player Rater are slated to pitch. And that doesn't include preseason favorites Felix Hernandez, John Lackey and Justin Verlander. Shall we call this "big-game pitcher Friday"? I think we just did.
Matchups for Friday, June 6
All times are ET.
Ryan Freel, OF, Reds (hamstring)
Tadahito Iguchi, 2B, Padres (shoulder)
Mark Kotsay, OF, Braves (back)
David Ortiz, DH, Red Sox (wrist)
Carlos Pena, 1B, Rays (finger)
Nick Punto, 2B/3B/SS, Twins (hamstring)
John Smoltz, RP, Braves (shoulder)
Ryan Zimmerman, 3B, Nationals (shoulder)
Rick Ankiel, OF, Cardinals (knee)
Nick Blackburn, SP, Twins (nose)
Asdrubal Cabrera, 2B, Indians (hip)
Raul Casanova, C, Mets (bereavement)
Joe Crede, 3B, White Sox (hand)
Ryan Doumit, C/OF, Pirates (thumb)
Ray Durham, 2B, Giants (calf)
Jacoby Ellsbury, OF, Red Sox (wrist)
Jesus Flores, C, Nationals (hand)
Jason Giambi, 1B, Yankees (foot)
Vladimir Guerrero, OF, Angels (knee)
Aaron Hill, 2B, Blue Jays (concussion)
Tim Hudson, SP, Braves (hamstring)
Brandon Inge, C/3B/OF, Tigers (oblique)
Conor Jackson, 1B, Diamondbacks (quadriceps)
Greg Norton, OF, Braves (knee)
Albert Pujols, 1B, Cardinals (calf)
Manny Ramirez, OF, Red Sox (hamstring)
Ramon Santiago, SS, Tigers (shoulder)
Start 'em, sit 'em
Hitters: Adrian Beltre is a lifetime .349 hitter (15-for-43) with six doubles, four home runs, 12 RBIs and a 1.131 OPS against the Red Sox's Bartolo Colon. ... The Red Sox are particularly banged up in their outfield and at designated hitter. With Jacoby Ellsbury and Manny Ramirez likely on the sidelines, and David Ortiz on the DL, the only Sox outfielder worth using for this one is J.D. Drew, 5-for-12 (.417 AVG) lifetime against the Mariners' Felix Hernandez. ... Carlos Guillen is a lifetime .455 hitter (15-for-33) with six doubles, two homers and a 1.365 OPS against the Indians' Paul Byrd. Edgar Renteria also hits Byrd well: He's 11-for-27 (.407) with five doubles and a homer in his career against the right-hander. ... There really isn't a left-handed Yankees hitter you shouldn't be using against the Royals' Kyle Davies, and that includes Robinson Cano, despite his .150 batting average (6-for-40) and one extra-base hit (a double) in his past 10 contests. ... Nate McLouth is 4-for-6 lifetime against the Diamondbacks' Brandon Webb -- supporting his case to remain in your lineup, regardless of his .280 batting average since May 1. ... Nick Markakis has an unreal level of success against red-hot Blue Jays starter Shaun Marcum. He's 5-for-13 (.385) lifetime against the right-hander, with four of those hits going for home runs. ... Jerry Hairston Jr. has elevated himself to must-start status against left-handed pitchers. He's batting .433 with a 1.100 OPS against that side this season. ... Shane Victorino is a lifetime .304 hitter (7-for-23) with two home runs and a .973 OPS against the Braves' Tim Hudson. ... He's an obvious play, but look for continued good things from Albert Pujols, who is 6-for-9 with a double and three home runs lifetime against the Astros' Brian Moehler. ... In their May 27 meeting, the Astros hit the Cardinals' Braden Looper rather well (4 1/3 IP, 9 H, 7 ER), and they should do so again in a home game. Against Looper, Hunter Pence is a lifetime .438 hitter (7-for-16) with two doubles and Kazuo Matsui is a .556 hitter (5-for-9) with a triple. ... Justin Morneau is a lifetime .361 hitter (13-for-36) with six homers against the White Sox's Javier Vazquez. ... Willy Taveras is 7-for-14 with two walks lifetime against the Brewers' Ben Sheets, a guy who, in 2007, allowed all 21 men who attempted to steal against him to convert successfully. ... There's really only one Padres hitter you should consider using against the Mets' Johan Santana, and it's not Adrian Gonzalez, a .221 hitter with an .779 OPS against left-handers and .261/.852 at home this season. Granted, Gonzalez might be too good to sit for most, but it's Kevin Kouzmanoff who is the stronger play. He's a .328/.871 hitter against lefties, and .264/.767 at home, this season.
Pitchers: Felix Hernandez has made exactly one start in his career at Boston's Fenway Park, and he tossed a one-hit shutout on April 11, 2007. Not that he should be expected to repeat that, but the Red Sox are averaging 3.81 runs per game without David Ortiz in the lineup since the start of the 2007 season, down from 5.28 with "Big Papi." Ortiz homered off "King Felix" in their May 26 meeting, but his absence means Hernandez is a safer choice this time around. ... Bartolo Colon beat Hernandez in that May 26 game, going seven innings and allowing one run on five hits, so feel free to use both pitchers. Tough game to play for wins in what should be a pitchers' duel, but remember, my aim is ERA/WHIP/K's, first and foremost. ... The Indians have historically clobbered Justin Verlander: He's 3-6 with a 7.03 ERA and 1.58 WHIP in 10 career starts against them. Sure, Verlander has a 2.77 ERA and 1.27 WHIP in his past four starts -- three of which were quality starts -- but his history says be conservative; think AL-only. ... In case any of you have been troubled by Brandon Webb's two losses in his past three turns, allow me to say: Must-start! He's 2-0 with a 3.46 ERA in two career starts at Pittsburgh's PNC Park, and really was only bad in the May 26 outing at Atlanta, which wasn't nearly as easy a matchup as this is. ... A case in which history isn't especially relevant: Ian Snell is 2-0 with a 2.55 ERA and 1.42 WHIP in four career starts against the Diamondbacks. That's a high WHIP, and his command this year has been awfully shaky, so expect a comedown here. ... Shaun Marcum may have a 6.39 ERA in seven career games (five starts) against the Orioles, but don't fret -- he did beat them in Baltimore on April 15 (6 2/3 IP, 4 H, 2 ER). He's also 4-2 with a 2.76 ERA and 0.88 WHIP in seven home starts this season, putting him in the must-start-regardless-of-matchup class. ... Call this a good time to sit Johnny Cueto, 0-4 with a 7.99 ERA and 1.73 WHIP in five road starts. The Marlins hit right-handers as well as most anyone in the league (.795 team OPS). ... Though the Phillies' offense is red-hot, Tim Hudson is a must-start anytime he's pitching at home. He's 5-1 with a 2.81 ERA and 1.13 WHIP in six home starts this season, so keep him in there in all but leagues with strict starts/innings caps. ... Count on a low-scoring, pitchers'-duel type affair in Washington, as Jason Bergmann should be able to hold the Giants at bay, especially considering he tossed 12 2/3 scoreless innings in his past two home starts, both against better offenses than this. The win might be a challenge for him, though: He's going up against Tim Lincecum, who has a string of 11 consecutive quality starts. ... As Sean Allen noted in his Wednesday Daily Notes, the Rangers are a weaker team against left-handers (.773 team OPS) than right-handers (.832). Not that Scott Kazmir is the type of pitcher especially susceptible to poor matchups, but another effort like his May 26 one against these Rangers (Win, 7 IP, 4 H, 1 ER) should be expected. ... Javier Vazquez is 4-0 with a 2.74 ERA and 1.05 WHIP in six starts against the Twins since the start of last season. ... In case you're wondering, Ben Sheets is 1-2 with an 8.84 ERA and 1.76 WHIP in three career starts at Colorado's Coors Field. All of those turns came in 2005 or earlier, though, so don't be so afraid to use him in NL-only formats. Sit him only if you're rich in alternatives or have a strict starts/innings cap.
Hitters: Yuniesky Betancourt was the only Mariners hitter with two hits against the Red Sox's Bartolo Colon in their May 26 meeting, and he's 10-for-25 (.400) lifetime against the right-hander. ... Franklin Gutierrez has an extra-base hit in each of three career games in which he has faced the Tigers' Justin Verlander. He's 4-for-8 with two doubles and a homer total against the right-hander. ... The Yankees need to get Wilson Betemit into their lineup on Friday, considering he's 3-for-4 with two home runs lifetime against the Royals' Kyle Davies. Expect it to happen -- probably at first base -- but check the early lineup to be sure. ... Adam Jones had two walks and a home run against the Blue Jays' Shaun Marcum in their April 15 meeting. ... The Brewers' Ben Sheets is one of the few right-handed pitchers Ryan Spilborghs has hit well in the past. He's 2-for-2 with a home run in his only two career plate appearances against Sheets. ... Jason Kendall, surprisingly, is one of the most successful hitters at Colorado's Coors Field, batting .395 with 23 RBIs in 32 career games there. He's also 2-for-2 in his career against the Rockies' Ubaldo Jimenez, so use him Friday, and in all three weekend games, for that matter. ... Russell Branyan has hit 16 homers with 41 RBIs between the majors and minors this season, and he's a .360 hitter with a 1.404 OPS against right-handers at the big league level. With Coors Field helping him, he's worth a look. ... In case you missed it, Eric Chavez is 6-for-21 with a home run since his return from the DL -- not a bad start for someone who missed so much time. He's also a lifetime .304 hitter (14-for-46) with a homer and nine RBIs against the Angels' John Lackey. ... Maicer Izturis has started each of the Angels' past 10 games against a right-hander, and he's a lifetime .440 hitter (11-for-25) with two doubles and a homer against the A's Joe Blanton. ... Luis Castillo is a lifetime .425 hitter (17-for-40) with six extra-base hits against the Padres' Randy Wolf, and it's not like San Diego's Petco Park will hurt him because he's no power hitter. What he is, is a good spot start here.
Pitchers: Paul Byrd is actually 4-2 with a 2.88 ERA and 0.99 WHIP in eight career starts at Detroit's Comerica Park, including a 2-0 record with a 5.30 ERA and 1.34 WHIP in three starts there in 2007. Those 2007 numbers seem about right for your expectations this time around, but that's good enough for AL-only consideration. ... Darrell Rasner is 5-2 with a 3.18 ERA and 1.11 WHIP in eight career games (seven starts) at Yankee Stadium, and he fits the bill as a perfect matchups type in those circumstances. Plus, it's a start against the Royals, a bottom-10 offense. ... The Braves actually rank 11th-worst in terms of team OPS against left-handers (.716), and Jamie Moyer is 3-1 with a 3.41 ERA and 1.45 WHIP in five road starts this season. Not that he's a great option based on the matchup, but it's good enough for those of you in NL-only formats. ... I'd be more concerned that Nick Blackburn might be a tad jittery in his first start since being hit in the face by a line drive than that his matchup is a poor one. He has a 4.00 ERA and 1.56 WHIP in three starts against the White Sox this season, and seven quality starts in 12 tries overall, so AL-only owners at least should keep using him. ... Although Joe Blanton isn't a strong bet for a win battling the Angels' John Lackey, he's well worth ERA/WHIP consideration. He was 3-0 with a 3.08 ERA and 1.33 WHIP in four starts against the Angels in 2007, and is 8-10 with a 3.14 ERA and 1.14 WHIP in 24 starts at home since the beginning of last season. ... Sean Gallagher's best start so far came against these Dodgers and Hiroki Kuroda on May 27 (Win, 7 IP, 4 H, 1 ER), so NL-only owners at the very least shouldn't hesitate to use him. Gallagher is 3-1 with a 4.55 ERA and 1.30 WHIP in five starts. ... Kuroda, meanwhile, went 6 1/3 strong innings, allowing two runs (one earned) in that game, which is enough to support his case as an NL-only and deep-mixed play. He has yet to lose in five starts at home, during which time his ERA is 3.90.
Only two Friday games are weatherproof: Orioles-Blue Jays and Cardinals-Astros. Beyond that, the weather report looks fairly clean, with a few exceptions. Heavy winds are expected in Chicago, Detroit, Florida and Texas, with the weather in Chicago most troublesome. The forecast calls for a 70 percent chance of rain, threatening Twins-White Sox. Meanwhile, rain could also be an issue for Reds-Marlins and Indians-Tigers, but neither seems particularly likely to be washed out (chances are 30 percent or lower).
Tristan H. Cockcroft covers fantasy sports for ESPN.com. You can e-mail him here.