- Sean Allen
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Five of the players selected to the All-Star game will make their first second-half start on Saturday. Carlos Zambrano, Dan Haren and Ben Sheets all tossed two shutout innings for the National League on Tuesday, while Roy Halladay pitched one scoreless inning for the American League and Justin Duchscherer allowed three hits and an earned run.
Thanks to these All-Stars starting, we have some great pitching matchups across the board on Saturday, so be picky with your hitters. Duchscherer versus Joba Chamberlain, Sheets versus Jonathan Sanchez, Halladay versus Matt Garza, Zambrano versus Wandy Rodriguez and Chad Billingsley versus Haren should all be tight pitching affairs.
Matchups for Saturday, July 19
Hank Blalock, 3B, Rangers (wrist)
Coco Crisp, OF, Red Sox (forearm)
Yunel Escobar, 2B/SS/3B, Braves (shoulder)
Carlos Guillen, 1B/3B/SS, Tigers (personal)
Bobby Jenks, RP, White Sox (back)
Troy Percival, RP, Rays (hamstring)
Alex Rios, OF, Blue Jays (personal)
Jarrod Saltalamacchia, 1B/C, Rangers (groin)
Justin Upton, OF, Diamondbacks (oblique)
Randy Winn, OF, Giants (knee)
Kerry Wood, RP, Cubs (finger)
Dmitri Young, 1B, Nationals (back)
Start 'em, sit 'em
Hitters: A lot of stud pitchers take the mound Saturday, so hitters might not have their best day. Make sure you pick your matchups well if you need to generate offense; especially in the short head-to-head week that the All-Star break causes. Jason Giambi is one Yankee to not consider sitting against Justin Duchscherer and his sub-2.00 ERA. Giambi is 5-for-7 with three home runs and two doubles against "Duke." Nick Markakis (1-for-11) and Melvin Mora (1-for-16) have troubles with Tigers lefty Nate Robertson. Both Alex Gordon and Mike Aviles launched a home run against the Rangers' Eric Hurley in his first career start on June 12. With the All-Star break allowing players to have extra time to rest what ails them, look for the day-to-day list to shrink by Saturday. Hank Blalock, Coco Crisp, Yunel Escobar, Randy Winn and Dmitri Young could all be back by then.
Pitchers: As mentioned, there are plenty of studs to choose from on this slate. I couldn't find any outliers that require warnings for Roy Halladay, Justin Duchscherer, Ben Sheets, Dan Haren, Carlos Zambrano and Josh Beckett. So do as you would, and start 'em. Joba Chamberlain has never faced the A's, not even in relief, but it's pretty clear what we get from him: weak WHIP and win numbers, but very strong ERA and strikeouts. The Brewers are tougher on lefties, but Jonathan Sanchez can be dominant when he is on. He hasn't managed his usual seven innings in his two July starts, but should have plenty of stamina after the break. Matt Garza's career numbers against Toronto aren't pretty, but he was a member of the Twins when Toronto put the hurt on him for seven runs in 2 2/3 innings. Garza actually has a quality start against the Jays this season. He probably is in tough for a win, up against Halladay, but his numbers will still be worth starting. Oliver Perez has strung together three good starts in a row for the first time this season. Look for him to continue against the Reds, against whom he has started 17 games in his career and is 9-3 with a 4.09 ERA. Chad Billingsley is 0-2 with a 9.72 ERA in two starts against Arizona this year, but both starts came in the first month of the season, when Billingsley was still struggling. He should fare just fine now. Bobby Jenks and Troy Percival could be ready to go, but Octavio Dotel, Scott Linebrink, Grant Balfour and Dan Wheeler are still deep-league gambles for saves.
Hitters: At catcher, Max Ramirez will start with Jarrod Saltalamacchia banged up. Ramirez has been hitting the ball when given the chance in recent weeks. It's an unexpected source, but Ross Gload has a pair of stolen bases in the past week. Capitalize on his speed burst before it disappears again. Or give Chris Davis a shot. Only Troy Glaus has more runs than the Rangers' rookie during the past week. Try Ronnie Belliard for assistance at second base. Belliard is 6-for-his-past-12. For help at third base, Chad Tracy is hitting whenever he starts. He is 7-for-15 in the past week with a home run and five RBIs. At shortstop, Brent Lillibridge has been hitting the ball well in Yunel Escobar's stead. Lillibridge is 5-for-his-past-12 with a home run. In the outfield, the 18-percent-owned Garret Anderson is 4-for-10 with two doubles and a 1.100 OPS against Josh Beckett.
Pitchers: Jon Garland was rocked in his last outing before the All-Star break, but was on a roll before that. Still, I wouldn't consider him an option going up against Josh Beckett and the Red Sox; especially noting Manny Ramirez's numbers against him (.522 with three home runs and three doubles in 23 at-bats). The Mariners are much stronger against lefties like Jeremy Sowers, but I'm on board with the Indians young pitcher. Sowers had a complete-game shutout against Seattle in 2006, and added another five shutout innings to his numbers against the Mariners last season. That's 14 career innings, with no runs allowed. Take a chance on him if you need some deep league help. Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley, Pat Burrell and Shane Victorino all have sub-.200 batting averages against Marlins lefty Scott Olsen. After closing out the first half with an eight-inning gem, look for Olsen to build on this start for a good second half. John Lannan has turned into a quality-start machine. Seven of his past eight starts have been of the quality variety, and Atlanta should be a decent matchup for him as they aren't so hot against lefties (.725 OPS). You know the story with Wandy Rodriguez at home: start him. I know he is up against Carlos Zambrano and the Cubs, but he has a 2.72 ERA and .210 average against in seven starts in Minute Maid Park. Looking at Nate Robertson, he has a good start, bad start pattern going lately. This should be a good start based on the pattern. Robertson is also 4-1 with a 3.05 ERA against the Orioles. Livan Hernandez is 0-1 with a 13.50 ERA in two starts versus Texas so far this season. Now might be a good time to pick up Francisco Liriano.
There is a 60 percent chance of scattered thunderstorms in Chicago (Royals-White Sox) and a 30 percent chance in Florida (Phillies-Marlins). Weatherproof games go down in Seattle (Indians-Mariners), Tampa (Blue Jays-Rays), Houston (Cubs-Astros), Minnesota (Rangers-Twins) and Arizona (Dodgers-Diamondbacks).
Sean Allen is a fantasy baseball and hockey analyst for ESPN.com. You can e-mail him here.
Sean Allen previews Saturday's major league action from a fantasy perspective.