- Will Harris, ESPN Contributor
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Only four American League games are on Thursday's docket. The senior circuit features six contests, including the finale of a three-game set between East division contenders Philadelphia and Florida. Phillies ace Cole Hamels will take the mound against Marlins rookie Chris Volstad. The Mets, also contenders in the tight National League East race, will face Florida this weekend but are using ace Johan Santana Thursday against the Padres.
Matchups for Thursday, Aug. 7
All times are ET.
Joe Crede, 3B, White Sox (back)
Michael Cuddyer, OF, Twins (finger)
Nomar Garciaparra, 1B, Dodgers (knee)
Mark Grudzielanek, SS, Royals (knee)
Adam Jones, OF, Orioles (foot)
Chipper Jones, 3B, Braves (hamstring)
Adam LaRoche, 1B, Pirates (ribs)
Justin Upton, OF, Diamondbacks (oblique)
Billy Wagner, RP, Mets (forearm)
Rick Ankiel, OF, Cardinals (abdomen)
Jason Bartlett, SS, Rays (finger)
Michael Bourn, OF, Astros (ankle)
Milton Bradley, OF, Rangers (quad)
Carl Crawford, OF, Rays (hamstring)
Elijah Dukes, OF, Nationals (leg)
Cristian Guzman, SS, Nationals (thumb)
Start 'em, sit 'em
Hitters: Texas designated hitter Milton Bradley should be on the bench Thursday. He's nursing a sore quadriceps and is 0-for-12 with six strikeouts versus Yankees right-hander Mike Mussina. Struggling White Sox starter Javier Vazquez has had trouble with Detroit's middle infield combo of Placido Polanco and Edgar Renteria. Polanco is hitting .360 off Vazquez in 50 career at-bats, while Renteria is 12-for-27 versus the Sox right-hander. Mets outfielder Fernando Tatis is starting to become a factor in mixed leagues. The 33-year-old had just 56 at-bats to his credit since 2003, but is hitting .316 BA/.361 OBP/.531 SLG this year. Tatis is currently riding an 11-game hitting streak. He's 17-for-43 during that span, with four home runs, 11 RBIs and eight runs scored. Star shortstop Hanley Ramirez is the only Marlins hitter with any past success against Cole Hamels. All of his teammates should be on the bench Thursday if possible. That includes Dan Uggla, who is 3-for-20 versus Hamels and hitting just .197 during the past 31 days. After an 11-for-19 May debut, Reds uber-rookie Jay Bruce hit just .223/.274/.340 in June and the hype subsided. He wasn't much better throughout most of July, but now Bruce is finally heating up again and has a 10-game hitting streak going. He's 8-for-23 with three home runs during the past seven days, and has struck out just twice during that span.
Pitchers: Kyle Lohse's surprising season has seen his ownership surpass 80 percent in ESPN leagues. Lohse has been a bit fortunate, however, and since he's striking out fewer than five batters per nine innings he should be used sparingly in mixed leagues. Lohse has posted a 2.92 ERA at home as opposed to a 5.16 mark on the road, so get him in the lineup Thursday versus the Dodgers.
Hitters: Owners needing infield help can use Oakland shortstop Bobby Crosby on Thursday. Crosby is hitting .333/.478/.667 in his past six games and has had some success against Jays starter A.J. Burnett. Expect Frank Catalanotto to get a start for the Rangers Thursday. He's hitting .441/.484/.678 in 59 career at-bats against Yankees starter Mike Mussina. Catching help can be found in the form of Washington's Jesus Flores. The 23-year-old is hitting a respectable .281/.325/.456 with eight home runs on the year. In the past 31 days Flores has warmed up, slugging four of those home runs while batting .299 and slugging .507. Two of those homers have come during the past seven days, when he's been even hotter at the plate, going 7-for-23 with nine RBIs. Use Flores for Thursday's game at Coors Field.
Pitchers: Rays right-hander Andy Sonnanstine is coming off a sharp outing against Detroit. He can be activated Thursday in pitcher-friendly Safeco Field against the woeful Mariners offense. Arizona's Yusmeiro Petit isn't yet a big factor in mixed leagues, but if the 23-year-old keeps up his outstanding pitching that will soon change. Petit, who was just recently moved into the Diamondbacks' rotation in place of Micah Owings, has compiled a 2.81 ERA and .182 batting average against in his first 16 innings as a starter. He's an option Thursday against a depleted Braves squad. Newly anointed Tigers closer Joel Zumaya is still owned in fewer than a quarter of ESPN leagues. The 23-year-old fireballer has battled control problems this season but has the stuff to succeed in the role. Those needing saves should take the plunge.
Games in Toronto, Seattle and Arizona are always weatherproof. A rainy Thursday around the country could affect every outdoor game on the board save the Tigers' visit to Chicago.
Will Harris is a fantasy baseball and college football analyst for ESPN.com
6hAdam Rubin and Kieran Darcy