- Sean Allen
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The Giants reconfigured their rotation for this week (to give Tim Lincecum an extra start before the All-Star break), and in doing so, they wrecked our plan of having Oakland's former big three all take the mound on the same night. Tim Hudson and Mark Mulder will start, but Barry Zito now is scheduled for Thursday's game instead of Wednesday's. Of the three, only Hudson is an every-week fantasy starter now. But from 2001 to 2003, the trio combined to win 56, 57 and 45 games, respectively, for a total of 158 wins over the three-year span. Now, Mulder is struggling to come back from a shoulder injury, and Zito is one of those rare candidates for a 20-loss season. Hudson just keeps on paying off, though, and as you'll read below, he's a fine start Wednesday as well.
Matchups for Wednesday, July 9
Manny Acosta, RP, Braves (hamstring)
Matt Capps, RP, Pirates (shoulder)
Luis Castillo, 2B, Mets (quadriceps)
Eric Chavez, 3B, A's (shoulder)
Bobby Crosby, SS, A's (hamstring)
Johnny Damon, OF, Yankees (shoulder)
Elijah Dukes, OF, Nationals (knee)
Todd Helton, 1B, Rockies (back)
Omar Infante, 2B/3B/OF, Braves (hamstring)
Mike Napoli, C, Angels (shoulder)
Troy Percival, RP, Rays (hamstring)
Troy Tulowitzki, SS, Rockies (hand)
Lance Berkman, 1B/OF, Astros (eye)
Aaron Boone, 1B, Nationals (calf)
Milton Bradley, OF, Rangers (knee)
Ryan Church, OF, Mets (dizziness)
Jim Edmonds, OF, Cubs (thumb)
Carlos Gonzalez, OF, A's (hamstring)
Bobby Jenks, RP, White Sox (shoulder)
Paul Konerko, 1B, White Sox (oblique)
Donnie Murphy, SS, A's (elbow)
Vicente Padilla, SP, Rangers (neck)
Jarrod Saltalamacchia, 1B/C, Rangers (groin)
Ryan Sweeney, OF, A's (ankle)
Willy Taveras, OF, Rockies (quadriceps)
Dan Uggla, 2B, Marlins (ankle)
Michael Young, SS, Rangers (groin)
Start 'em, sit 'em
Hitters: Lance Berkman was in the starting lineup Monday, so he appears to have recovered from his bout with pink eye. Check on Paul Konerko, who is expected to be activated from the DL in time for Tuesday's game. Note that Konerko has had solid second-half numbers the past of couple years. Willy Taveras started Monday and should be immediately placed back in fantasy lineups. He is 8-for-17 (.471) against Ben Sheets. Dan Uggla might be listed as day-to-day, but I think the odds of him returning by Wednesday are slim to none. Bengie Molina doesn't fear Johan Santana. In 23 career at-bats against him, Molina has 11 hits (.478 average) and two home runs. Bobby Abreu is just 1-for-16 (.063) versus Edwin Jackson, so there is reason to start a hotter hitter from your bench. Juan Uribe (5-for-10), A.J. Pierzynski (5-for-9) and Jim Thome (4-for-8, two homers) all smack Royals starter Brian Bannister around. J.D. Drew is 11-for-35 (.314) with three home runs (1.086 OPS) versus Livan Hernandez. Marcus Thames is 2-for-9 against Paul Byrd, but both hits were home runs. Glendon Rusch should act almost like a tee for Milwaukee's lineup, which loves to face lefties. Make sure you start all of your Brew Crew hitters, especially Rickie Weeks (3-for-7, two homers against Rusch) and Prince Fielder (3-for-4, two homers). Don't count on Chris Duncan or Skip Schumaker starting with lefty J.A. Happ on the hill for the Phillies. Milton Bradley and Michael Young were back in the lineup for the Rangers on Monday despite their day-to-day status. Jarrod Saltalamacchia was not, however. Carlos Gonzalez returned to Oakland's lineup Monday, so his hamstring isn't as bad as first suspected.
Pitchers: After his brief DL stint, Carlos Zambrano looked just fine in his return outing. Big Z has two starts, two wins and a 1.20 ERA against Cincinnati this season, and he should be allowed to throw more than the 87 pitches he threw last time out. Damaso Marte got the save for the Pirates on Monday, and he's still available in 25 percent of ESPN leagues. The only concern with Johan Santana is that his team isn't scoring enough for him to win. Of course you should start him, but keep in mind that the Mets have averaged only two runs of support over his past six starts. Yeah, the Rockies have had an explosive past seven days (.961 OPS), but outside of the thin air in Denver, Ben Sheets should have no trouble with them. Todd Helton is really the only hitter who has hit Sheets well, and he's on the DL right now. The Twins rank behind only Colorado for OPS over the past week (.922), but Josh Beckett should manage to cool their bats a bit, and I wouldn't shy away from starting him. A.J. Burnett has posted an ERA higher than 5.00 in every month this season except May, and he allowed a career-high 12 hits in his last outing against the Angels. Now is when he turns things around, though. Burnett has owned most of the Orioles' hitters, including sluggers Aubrey Huff (4-for-40, .100) and Kevin Millar (3-for-16, .188), and has a 5-1 career record against the team. The Jays might not be able to score for him (they struggle versus lefties like Garrett Olson), but Burnett should pitch a good game. Johnny Cueto looks to be on a crest of his sine-wave season, allowing just six runs in his past four starts. He already has a quality start with eight strikeouts against the Cubs this season (May 5) and should have another couple solid outings before another slump sets in. Javier Vazquez is back in the saddle, pitching well, and should not be benched for any reason against the Royals. A change in his windup mechanics has righted a sinking ship, as Vazquez tossed a complete-game gem with 10 strikeouts in his most recent outing. Vazquez has a career 2.74 ERA against the Royals and is 2-0 in Kauffman Stadium. Take out interleague play, and Tim Hudson has a 2.36 ERA this season. Start him against the Dodgers and expect another solid outing like his seven-inning, one-run, six-strikeout performance last time out. Jered Weaver has been pitching exceptionally well lately, allowing just three earned runs in his previous three outings. Consider that he has allowed just 10 hits in 18 2/3 innings over that span while striking out 18, and he's even more appealing. Plus, Weaver is 2-1 with a 2.36 ERA against the Rangers in seven career starts.
Hitters: Looking for a starting catcher? The injury to Hideki Matsui has the Yankees starting Jorge Posada at DH with frequency, meaning Jose Molina is getting extra at-bats. Also, Mike Napoli's injury leaves Jeff Mathis as the regular starter for the Angels. Mathis won't hit for average, but he'll show some pop and is available in most leagues. For help at first base, look to Joe Koshansky. He has been stuck behind Todd Helton for a while now but has a monster bat. Koshansky might not play every day while Helton is out, but when he does play, the ball has a chance of leaving the yard. In his first game of the year, he struck out three times and hit a home run; that seems about right. If Koshansky isn't appealing, Kansas City's Ross Gload has six hits in 15 at-bats (.400) against Javier Vazquez, with three of them going for extra bases. With Luis Castillo on the DL, Damion Easley should be a good sub at second base/middle infield. He has at least a hit in seven straight games and 12 hits total during that span. Also at second base, Ray Durham (owned in 3 percent of ESPN leagues), like teammate Bengie Molina, has no trouble hitting Johan Santana (6-for-14 with two home runs). He is not the same Nomar Garciaparra, but his 7-for-20 (.350) career numbers against Tim Hudson could make him a decent spot start at third base. Or, if you are lucky enough to be in one of the 66 percent of leagues in which he is available, Kevin Kouzmanoff is hitting .337 with a .967 OPS against lefties this season, and he'll face southpaw Scott Olsen on Wednesday. A minor leaguer by the name of Brett Gardner is starting and batting leadoff while Johnny Damon is injured. Definitely a solid fill-in at outfield while he is hitting atop the Yankees' lineup. He has three stolen bases in the past week. Also in the outfield, Denard Span has at least a hit in all six games since being recalled from the minors. Scott Hairston is another outfield option. He has been on a power binge, with three homers in the past week. All three came against left-handers, and Scott Olsen is on the docket for Wednesday. Grant Balfour likely will be the best bet on the waiver wire for a save Wednesday. Dan Wheeler was lit up for a loss Monday, while Balfour's record is unblemished since Troy Percival was injured. J.P. Howell is another possibility. Elsewhere, you can sub in Scott Linebrink, who will pick up the save should Bobby Jenks still be unable to take the mound.
Pitchers: There is not much point in speculating what we will see from Mark Mulder in his first start of the season. He had a good and a poor outing out of the pen since being activated from the DL on June 27. From a fantasy perspective, you definitely should pick him up in deeper mixed and NL-only leagues, as you'll want to have him on your roster in case he shows signs of his former self. Although he rarely flashes it, Cha Seung Baek has a strikeout-pitcher's arsenal. If he has his good stuff, including his off-speed pitches, going, Baek can dominate even the best offenses in the league. The Marlins are exactly that, ranking fourth in OPS versus righties (.792), so Baek will need to have his best stuff to post a quality start. Coming off a six-inning shutout against the Diamondbacks, I'd be willing to gamble on Baek's stuff, but I wouldn't blame you for not following me on that. The Diamondbacks shuffled their rotation, so I'll steal a line from Will Harris' Tuesday Daily Notes: Leave Diamondbacks starter Micah Owings benched. Owings struggled to an 8.22 ERA in June, then missed his first scheduled July start with a sore back. With the Rays rolling the way they are and Edwin Jackson looking masterful in his last start, there is no reason not to let him loose versus the Yankees. Jackson has a 3.44 ERA in five starts at Yankee Stadium and has a quality start already logged there this season. With four key Mariners (Yuniesky Betancourt, Ichiro Suzuki, Jose Vidro and Kenji Johjima) hitting better than .340 in their careers versus Joe Blanton, I'm hesitant to recommend Blanton. He had a good outing against the White Sox but allowed eight runs against the Giants before that. Start Garrett Olson against the Blue Jays. They have the worst OPS in the majors over the past week (.616) and the worst OPS in the majors against lefties (.635). Enough said? Even though the Diamondbacks still are respectable against left-handers (.763 OPS), we can't dismiss John Lannan. He's just been too good to do that. With six of his past seven outings having been quality starts, he looks like a definite option to eat some innings for your team and possibly churn out a win, given the way Owings has been pitching. J.A. Happ was only so-so in his first 2008 start Friday against the Mets. He now faces the Cardinals, who fare just fine against lefties (.772 OPS). It's a risky start, but if you feel Mark Mulder is going to get lit, Happ might be in for his first big league win.
A forecasted disturbance in the Ohio Valley calls for scattered thunderstorms in Detroit (Indians-Tigers) and Pittsburgh (Astros-Pirates). Kansas City has a 50 percent chance of scattered storms that could mess with the White Sox-Royals start time. There is less of a chance of an interruption in Washington, with just a 30 percent chance of isolated thunderstorms for the Diamondbacks-Nationals contest. Weather-proof games will be played in Toronto (Orioles-Blue Jays) and Milwaukee (Rockies-Brewers).
Sean Allen is a fantasy baseball and hockey analyst for ESPN.com. You can e-mail him here.
14hEric D. Williams
5hChris Broussard and Marc Stein