If you can't beat 'em, join 'em, right? That's seemingly Paul Byrd's mantra (not that he had any choice in the matter). He's with the Red Sox now, playing for the very team that dispatched his Indians last October, and makes his debut for his new squad. Sadly, though, drawing a tough opponent, Roy Halladay. Byrd is taking Clay Buchholz's spot in the rotation.
The wins race is another Friday highlight; Brandon Webb goes for his MLB-leading 18th win in Houston. And if he falls short in his quest, Cliff Lee has a shot to match Webb with 17 against the game's best team, the Angels.
Matchups for Friday, Aug. 15
All times are ET.
Russell Branyan, 3B, Brewers (oblique)
Chris Carpenter, SP, Cardinals (shoulder)
Andruw Jones, OF, Dodgers (knee)
Evan Longoria, 3B, Rays (wrist)
Mike Lowell, 3B, Red Sox (oblique)
Ryan Sweeney, OF, A's (thumb)
Joel Zumaya, RP, Tigers (arm)
Garrett Atkins, 1B/3B, Rockies (strep throat)
Ryan Braun, OF/3B, Brewers (back)
Scott Downs, RP, Blue Jays (ankle)
Jacoby Ellsbury, OF, Red Sox (tailbone)
Carlos Guillen, 1B/3B/SS, Tigers (back)
Jerry Hairston Jr., SS/OF, Reds (hamstring)
Derek Jeter, SS, Yankees (foot)
Chipper Jones, 3B, Braves (stomach virus)
Ryan Langerhans, OF, Nationals (back)
Ron Mahay, RP, Royals (foot)
Kazuo Matsui, 2B, Astros (back)
Carlos Quentin, OF, White Sox (general soreness)
Freddy Sanchez, 2B, Pirates (shoulder)
Marcus Thames, OF/1B, Tigers (shoulder)
Shane Victorino, OF, Phillies (back)
Joey Votto, 1B, Reds (bereavement)
Jack Wilson, SS, Pirates (shoulder)
Start 'em, sit 'em
Hitters: Though he's a .265 hitter with a .640 OPS since June 1, hardly impressive numbers, and has been dropped to the bottom third of the order, Jacoby Ellsbury does possess a nice track record against the Blue Jays' Roy Halladay. He's 4-for-6 with a triple and two home runs in his career versus the right-hander. J.D. Drew (.412 BA, 1.088 OPS lifetime) and Kevin Youkilis (.361/1.008) also have handled Halladay nicely in the past. ... That Tigers offense brings a lot of lumber against a left-hander, with an .821 team OPS that ranks second in baseball, and the Orioles' Chris Waters did get pounded in career start No. 2, stacking the deck in Detroit's favor. Waters, by the way, allowed a batting average 107 points higher to right-handers (.317) than left-handers (.210) in Triple-A, so Miguel Cabrera, Magglio Ordonez, Placido Polanco and Edgar Renteria, each of whom has an OPS better than .850 against left-handers are must-starts. ... The Orioles can also hit lefties well, too, with a .797 team OPS against that side, ranking them sixth. That's bad news for the Tigers' Nate Robertson. Lefty Nick Markakis has an astonishing .965 OPS against left-handers, and Melvin Mora (.979) and Jay Payton (.937) rate right up there, too. ... Obvious must-start, sure, but the monstrous track records are well worth your time nonetheless. Alex Rodriguez is a lifetime .448 hitter (13-for-29) with five home runs and a 1.561 OPS against the Royals' Gil Meche. ... Jose Guillen loves to face the Yankees' Andy Pettitte; during the past two seasons, he's 6-for-10 with two doubles and two home runs against the left-hander. ... The Cardinals slugging outfield duo of Rick Ankiel and Ryan Ludwick combine for a lifetime 9-for-24 with three home runs against the Reds' Bronson Arroyo. Beyond them and Albert Pujols, though, there isn't a lot to like from their side. ... Randy Winn was 3-for-4 with a double in an Aug. 4 game against the Braves' Jair Jurrjens, and he's a .386 hitter (17-for-44) with seven RBIs in 11 games in the month of August. ... The Rockies are hitting too well as a team since the All-Star break (.848 team OPS during that span) to recommend the Nationals' Tim Redding as a fantasy option. Brad Hawpe is hitting .368 with a .982 OPS since the break, and he's 5-for-11 with a homer in his career against the right-hander. ... Kazuo Matsui is one of the few hitters with a strong track record against the Diamondbacks' Brandon Webb; he's 11-for-26 (.423 BA) with four doubles against the right-hander. ... Don't be so hasty to sit new Diamondback Adam Dunn against the lefty Wandy Rodriguez; he's 7-for-17 (.412 BA) with two doubles and two homers in his career against the Astros starter. ... Keep Adrian Beltre in there even against tough Twins left-hander Francisco Liriano. He's a .352 hitter with a .966 OPS against left-hander this season, and is 2-for-5 against Liriano in his career. ... Load up on White Sox right-handers, knowing that the A's Dallas Braden allows .305/.857 rates to right-handed hitters in his career. Alexei Ramirez is one of their surprisingly effective hitters against lefties, with .368/.897 rates against that side. ... Be aware that not only is the red-hot Kevin Kouzmanoff a .306 hitter (30-for-98) with six homers and 22 RBIs in 24 games since the All-Star break, he's also 5-for-9 (.556 BA) with a double and a home run in his career against the Phillies' Jamie Moyer. Adrian Gonzalez is also 4-for-12 (.333 BA) with three homers lifetime against Moyer.
Pitchers: The last time Roy Halladay pitched at Fenway Park, he was a hard-luck loser in a complete-game effort, a 1-0 loss in which he went 8 2/3 strong innings on April 29. Yes, David Ortiz was active then, too, so no reason to think he can't get at least in the ballpark of that performance. ... Not that Cliff Lee has fared any worse on the road, but he's 6-0 with a 2.43 ERA and 1.03 WHIP in nine starts at home this season. Even against a scorching-hot Angels team he remains a must-start, just don't expect a shutout, that's all. ... Jered Weaver has been an ordinary pitcher in his road games, with a 5-5 record, 4.98 ERA and 1.46 WHIP in 12 starts, and Lee is his counterpart. The lack of win potential and so-so upside in the other Rotisserie categories should limit him to AL-only appeal, if that. ... It might be tough to erase the sting of a 10-run, 10-hit, 6 2/3-inning outing Andy Pettitte had against the Royals when they battled in New York, on June 7, but you need to. Since that day he's 7-4 with a 3.62 ERA and 1.27 WHIP in 12 starts. This might be more of a pitchers' duel than you think, so he'll be well worth your time in the rematch. ... Bottom line on Mike Pelfrey: You do not want him in a road start, since he's 4-3 with a 6.09 ERA and 1.83 WHIP in 10 turns away from Shea this season. What's more, the Pirates' offense is much more threatening than what is perceived. ... He has actually posted his worst strikeouts-per-nine innings ratio of his career (6.02) thus far, but Carlos Zambrano is overpowering enough nonetheless to shut down a strikeout-prone Marlins offense (MLB-high 1,035 K's). ... In another potential pitchers' duel, both Matt Cain and Jair Jurrjens get my A-OK (remember, I don't play for wins). Cain might be 5-5 in his past 12 starts, but he also has a 2.71 ERA and 1.18 WHIP during that span, including a 6 2/3-inning, one-run victory against these Braves on Aug. 4. Jurrjens, meanwhile, took the loss in that Aug. 4 contest against Cain, but he turned in a quality-start effort nonetheless and has a 2.51 ERA and 1.18 WHIP in his past 10 turns overall. ... Matt Garza is 3-5 with a 5.37 ERA and 1.42 WHIP in 11 road starts this season, including an underwhelming four-inning, three-run, six-hit effort at Rangers Ballpark on June 8. When you account for the Rangers' MLB-best .874 OPS at home, there's no way you can risk using Garza at this stage of the fantasy season. ... Interesting pitching matchup in the Diamondbacks-Astros game, with must-start Brandon Webb working for Arizona and dominator-at-home Wandy Rodriguez starting for Houston. Rodriguez is 9-6 with a 3.07 ERA and 1.14 WHIP in 24 starts at Minute Maid Park during the past two seasons, so if you can live possibly without a win from him, consider using both pitchers. ... In spite of the Mariners' respectable .765 team OPS against left-handers (13th in MLB), Francisco Liriano remains a must-start. He has filthy stuff and has looked A-OK in this go-around in the majors, with a 2.31 ERA, 10 K's in 11 2/3 innings and a .209 batting average allowed in his past two starts. ... Gavin Floyd tossed 7 1/3 shutout innings of three-hit baseball against the A's on July 5, and this time, they'll battle in a much more pitcher-friendly ballpark in Oakland. ... Since May 1, Chad Billingsley is 10-5 with a 2.58 ERA and 1.21 WHIP in 19 starts, and his opponent, the Brewers, handles left-handers better than right-handers and might be Ryan Braun-free besides. There's little reason to think he can't win this contest.
Hitters: Adam Lind is a .328 hitter (30-for-92) with an .899 OPS in 25 games since the All-Star break, plenty to convince us he should be able to handle the hittable new Red Sox right-hander, Paul Byrd. ... Juan Rivera has been doing an adequate job as a part-timer recently, with four home runs and 12 RBIs in 20 games since the All-Star break. He's 3-for-9 with two homers in his career against the Indians' Cliff Lee, so consider him as a spot-start candidate. ... Another Orioles right-hander to throw in there against the Tigers' Nate Robertson: Kevin Millar, 8-for-23 with two doubles and five walks in his career against the lefty. ... The Pirates were expected to get Adam LaRoche back in the lineup on Wednesday, in which case he's well worth a look on Friday, against the Mets' Mike Pelfrey, who allows a .322 batting average and .877 OPS to lefties. Toss in that he's a great second-half hitter (.300/.907 career rates) and excels at PNC Park (.291/.862) and it's clear his matchups are all in perfect alignment. ... Rockies spot starter Jorge De La Rosa suffers his share of struggles against right-handed hitters, who hit .296 with an .876 OPS against him for his career, so feel free to pick and choose spot-starts from the brief list of lefty-killing Nationals. Ronnie Belliard (.296 BA, 1.081 OPS against lefties in 2008) and Jesus Flores (.353/.949) are two of the stronger candidates, and Lastings Milledge (.287/.735) is one of the more obvious choices. ... Facing a left-hander (the Rangers' Matt Harrison), the Rays are almost certain to start both Rocco Baldelli and Justin Ruggiano at the corner outfield spots. Baldelli is a .298 hitter with an .838 OPS against southpaws for his career, while Ruggiano had .310/.921 rates against them in Triple-A ball this year. Also take a look at Willy Aybar, hitting a respectable .264/.821 against that side this season. ... The Astros might roll the dice on Mark Loretta even against a right-hander, knowing that he's a lifetime .400 hitter (10-for-25) with two doubles against the Diamondbacks' Brandon Webb.
Pitchers: This might come as a surprise, but the new Red Sox Paul Byrd is 3-1 with a 4.06 ERA and 1.39 WHIP in five career starts at Fenway Park, and 4-3 with a 2.86 ERA and 0.89 WHIP against the Blue Jays in seven career turns. Most current Blue Jays hit poorly against him -- they combine for a lifetime .226 batting average and .620 OPS -- making the only black mark on this matchup his opponent, Roy Halladay, which merely limits his win potential. ... If Jensen Lewis happens to be available in your league, scoop him up. He appears the favorite for saves in Cleveland right now, and this is a game the Indians can win. ... In spite of the note about A-Rod above, Gil Meche actually warrants a bit of AL-only appeal, even in a starting assignment at Yankee Stadium. He's 2-1 with a 4.09 ERA and 1.27 WHIP in his past six starts there, but, most importantly, he's on a monstrous hot streak, going 7-1 with a 3.06 ERA and 1.23 WHIP in his past 11 starts overall. ... Bronson Arroyo is a respectable 6-2 with a 3.58 ERA and 1.17 WHIP in his past eight starts, and has managed quality starts both times he has battled the Cardinals. He's actually 17-12 with a 3.55 ERA and 1.21 WHIP in 46 career starts at Great American Ball Park and be faces a Cardinals spot starter, so this could be one of those sneaky-good matchups. ... Josh Johnson pitched surprisingly well against these Cubs in Chicago on July 25 (5 1/3 IP, 7 H's, 2 ERs, 8 K's), and be aware that the Cubs boast a team OPS more than 100 points lower on the road (.734) than at home (.868). He'll have a tough time getting a win against Carlos Zambrano, but expect him to hang in there and be helpful in deeper leagues. ... Jamie Moyer is 6-3 with a 3.05 ERA and 1.21 WHIP in 12 road starts this season, and he has won both of his two career starts at Petco Park, with a 3.95 ERA and 1.17 WHIP in those. He's a standout spot starter.
Diamondbacks-Astros and Mariners-Twins are the only two weatherproof affairs, but as we know, games in Oakland, Los Angeles and San Diego might as well be called that, too. Rain mostly appears to be an issue in the Northeast, with the chances better than 50 percent for rain in both Boston, threatening Blue Jays-Red Sox, and New York, putting Royals-Yankees at risk. Not that those are the only problematic cities. We're at the stage of the season when showers might lead to the occasional delay in Florida, like we saw this past Tuesday, and there's a 30-percent chance of rain in Texas and Washington, too.
Tristan H. Cockcroft covers fantasy sports for ESPN.com. You can e-mail him here.