- Sean Allen
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The Phillies' rotation is getting a new look. One day after Joe Blanton made his first start for the club, Brett Myers has been recalled to take the mound. At three different levels, Myers combined to strike out 28 batters in 27 innings and managed a 3.00 ERA. Starting him against the Mets might not be the best thing to do (see below), but he definitely should be a speculative pickup in the 70 percent of leagues in which he is available.
Elsewhere, Mike Mussina looks to win his 13th game, which would tie him for the league lead, but Glen Perkins, who hasn't lost since May 30, might have something to say about that. And a pair of 10-game winners square off in South Florida, but one of them has allowed some gaudy numbers to the opposition. Read on.
Matchups for Wednesday, July 23
Wes Bankston, 1B, A's (dehydration)
Coco Crisp, OF, Red Sox (back)
Ray Durham, 2B, Brewers (flu)
Jermaine Dye, OF, White Sox (knee)
Yunel Escobar, 2B/SS/3B, Braves (shoulder)
Khalil Greene, SS, Padres (back)
Jose Guillen, OF, Royals (back)
Adam Jones, OF, Orioles (ankle)
Fred Lewis, OF, Giants (foot)
Gary Matthews Jr., OF, Angels (knee)
Justin Morneau, 1B, Twins (finger)
Nick Punto, 2B/3B/SS, Twins (finger)
Jarrod Saltalamacchia, 1B/C, Rangers (flu/groin)
Omar Vizquel, SS, Giants (foot)
Start 'em, sit 'em
Hitters: Josh Willingham hasn't been tearing it up anyway, but don't even bother with him Wednesday; he is just 1-for-15 in his career against the Braves' Tim Hudson. Justin Upton (strained oblique) is still at least a week away from returning, which means the Diamondbacks can continue to get Mark Reynolds, Conor Jackson (who clubs lefties like Ted Lilly) and Chad Tracy into the lineup most nights. Greg Maddux's superb control has kept Brandon Phillips at bay. He's 1-for-10 with three strikeouts against the crafty veteran. New Brewer Ray Durham has been battling an illness, so it might be a little longer before we get to see Milwaukee's playing-time plans for him and Rickie Weeks. Jermaine Dye is only 4-for-21 (.190) versus the Rangers' Kevin Millwood anyway, so don't sweat too much about him possibly missing Wednesday's game because of a sore knee. Feel free to keep Aubrey Huff out of your plans for the day. In 43 career at-bats against A.J. Burnett, he has managed just four singles and a double (.116). The impending return of the versatile Yunel Escobar will certainly help his fantasy owners. But it also means the end of Gregor Blanco's short-term boost in value, as Escobar should resume his role as leadoff hitter for the Braves. Be sure to find room in your lineup for Nick Swisher. He is 10-for-24 with three home runs in his career versus Kevin Millwood.
Pitchers: A.J. Burnett might be showcasing himself to get out of Toronto; he has allowed just three runs over 15 1/3 innings in his past two starts. He is 6-1 in his career against Baltimore and should be used in this matchup. Zack Greinke's matchup looks like a pitfall. Greinke was roughed up in his last outing, and the Tigers have been destroying the ball, including a 19-4 drubbing of the Royals on Monday. Plus, the Tigers' lineup has a combined .301 average against him (in 163 at-bats). Jeremy Guthrie has churned out plenty of quality starts this season, and two of them have come against the Blue Jays. Look for a third as he duels with Burnett for the win. Try to refrain from starting Hiroki Kuroda. His ERA is 4.99 on the road this season and the Rockies have been mashing the ball of late (1.012 OPS over the previous week). Carlos Marmol, who was still available in 20 percent of ESPN standard leagues as of Monday night, will be closing for the Cubs while Kerry Wood is on the DL. Home runs have been a problem for Armando Galarraga this season, but his owners will be happy to know that only five teams have hit fewer of them this season than the Kansas City Royals. With the Tigers hitting the way they are, Galarraga is almost sure to add to his win total. Nothing to worry about for C.C. Sabathia, Tim Hudson, James Shields, John Lackey or Felix Hernandez owners. There is no harbingers of doom in any of their matchups, so let your studs loose. I know Mike Mussina has been on a tear, but the Twins' .861 OPS leads the league for the month of July. All the same, Mussina's 11-3 record with a 3.00 ERA in his last 16 starts is a stat that screams "must-start!" It should be a good battle, but let's gives the edge to Mussina and the Yankees at Yankee Stadium. Just because he pitches against the Mariners is no reason to get cute and start Clay Buchholz. In fact, Buchholz should remain out of fantasy lineups until he gives us a line better than five innings and four earned runs, which has been about the norm for him. Brett Myers is making a return to the Phillies' rotation, but you'll want to hold off on starting him for now. Wednesday's matchup will be a good test to see if he has his fastball back, but the risk is too great against the surging Mets offense (.847 July OPS). His numbers are good this season, but stay the heck away from Ricky Nolasco against the Braves. Brian McCann (.438 with two home runs), Chipper Jones (.643, with three home runs), Mark Teixeira (.571 with a home run), Yunel Escobar (.429 with a home run) and Jeff Francoeur (.333 with a home run) all have great career numbers against the Marlins' 10-game winner.
Hitters: The Nationals' Willie Harris, who qualifies at second base, third base and the outfield, has been on a tear since the All-Star break. He is 7-for-12 with a home run and a stolen base to go with seven RBIs. For help at catcher from the free-agent pool in standard leagues, try Jarrod Saltalamacchia. Although he hasn't been hitting well this season, he has more pop than most catchers. Speaking of catchers, Javier Valentin might start for the Reds on Wednesday thanks to his .346 career average versus Greg Maddux (26 at-bats). His OPS against Maddux is a ridiculous 1.255 thanks to four career home runs. It's time to get back on the Billy Butler train. Butler has two home runs and seven RBIs since the break. Nick Punto is nearing a return to the lineup for the Twins and could provide a spark for you if he's back. Also, second baseman Edgar Gonzalez continues to hit like a maniac in the Padres' No. 2 hole. He has two home runs and a .444 average since the All-Star break. Jed Lowrie is getting more looks at shortstop for the Red Sox while Julio Lugo is on the mend. He doesn't have much pop, but he hits in a great lineup for fantasy purposes. Meanwhile, St. Louis' Cesar Izturis also might help; he has swiped two bags since the All-Star break and hits left-handers (like CC Sabathia) at a .294 clip this season. Brian Buscher is 5-for-10 with a home run and five RBIs in the past week, but he might lose at-bats when Punto returns. Looking at the free-agent wire for outfielders, Geoff Jenkins is said to be fine after bruising his shoulder over the weekend, and he likely will get the start against Mets righty John Maine. Austin Kearns has crossed the plate six times in the past week and has a home run to boot, while Nationals teammate Ryan Langerhans has scored five runs. Kearns also has two career home runs in seven at-bats versus Giants starter Kevin Correia. Coco Crisp's sore back shouldn't affect his fantasy starting status Wednesday; he is just 1-for-11 versus Felix Hernandez.
Pitchers: With the Nationals putting up plenty of run support lately (.925 OPS since the All-Star break), Collin Balester should be able to pull out a win against the Giants. San Francisco (.600 OPS for July) doesn't represent a tough matchup for the rookie. That said, you still can't bank on getting a quality start from him. Ian Snell has been dropped in enough leagues that he can be considered a waiver-wire option. Go out and get him for this matchup. He had a quality start against the Rockies in his last outing and has a good history against the Astros (3.81 ERA in nine starts and a relief appearance). Houston also has the third-worst team OPS for July (.668). Still available in 85 percent of ESPN leagues, Bronson Arroyo is a good option for Wednesday. He has won four straight starts and gets to tangle with the Padres' bottom-tier offense. Arroyo struck out nine Padres hitters in a May 24 start on his way to a victory. Glen Perkins hasn't allowed more than three runs in an outing since June 4 (eight games), and he's 5-0 in that stretch. The Yankees don't set the world afire against lefties, and the Twins' bats are providing run support this month. I don't know if Perkins can outduel Mike Mussina, but a quality start certainly looks attainable. Greg Smith has been hot and cold this season, but up against James Shields and the Rays in Tampa/St. Petersburg, it might be best to look for another option. I could see using Doug Davis against the Cubs if you really need pitching. In 13 career starts against them, Davis is 7-5 with a 3.39 ERA. Chicago has been average on offense this month anyway (.750 OPS).Clayton Richard makes his major league debut against the Rangers, which would normally have us recommending you stay away, but someone turned off Texas' offense since the All-Star break (.373 OPS). If you've got the cushion to absorb a bad start, it may be worth the risk to catch lightning in a bottle.
Going down the line for probability: There is a 60 percent chance of rain/thunderstorms in Cincinnati (Padres-Reds), 50 percent chance in St. Louis (Brewers-Cardinals), 40 percent chance in Kansas City (Tigers-Royals) and 30 percent chance in Miami (Braves-Marlins). Weatherproof contests will be played in Tampa Bay (A's-Rays), Houston (Pirates-Astros), Seattle (Red Sox-Mariners) and Arizona (Cubs-Diamondbacks).
Sean Allen is a fantasy baseball and hockey analyst for ESPN.com. You can e-mail him here.
Sean Allen previews Wednesday's major league action from a fantasy perspective.