- Sean Allen
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The highlight of the week has to be the Rays-Red Sox series as they compete for the top spot in the American League East. The bigger pitching matchup might be Tuesday, but Wednesday's contest will be no slouch. Josh Beckett is making his second start after a visit to noted Dr. James Andrews to see about pain in his elbow. Beckett looked in fine form Friday, striking out seven Rangers over five innings of four-hit ball. On the other side of the mound, Andy Sonnanstine is the forgotten one in the Rays' rotation, despite leading the team in wins. His deceptive repertoire hasn't been tested against Boston this season, but in 20 1/3 innings against the Red Sox last season, he allowed 20 earned runs.
Matchups for Wednesday, Sept. 10
Ronnie Belliard, 1B/2B/3B, Nationals (groin)
Melvin Mora, 3B, Orioles (hamstring)
Carlos Quentin, OF, White Sox (wrist)
Anthony Reyes, SP, Indians (elbow)
Ty Wigginton, 2B/3B/OF, Astros (hamstring)
Jack Wilson, SS, Pirates (finger)
Erick Aybar, 2B/SS, Angels (hamstring)
Milton Bradley, OF, Ranges (wrist)
Chris Dickerson, OF, Reds (ankle)
Mark Ellis, 2B, A's (shoulder)
Sean Gallagher, SP, A's (shoulder)
Jody Gerut, OF, Padres (finger)
Kevin Gregg, RP, Marlins (knee)
Carlos Guillen, 1B/SS/3B, Tigers (back)
Travis Hafner, DH, Indians (shoulder)
Kazuo Matsui, 2B, Astros (back)
Ryan Theriot, 2B/SS, Cubs (ill)
Matt Treanor, C, Marlins (knee)
Start 'em, sit 'em
Hitters: Rickie Weeks can stay on the bench. He is just 1-for-17 against Bronson Arroyo. ... Even though he didn't start Sunday or Monday, Chris Dickerson was called upon to pinch hit in both contests. He looks to be a safe start by Wednesday. He is hitting .322 with six home runs and 15 RBIs since being called up a month ago. ... Kevin Kouzmanoff is a lowly 1-for-10 versus the Dodgers' Derek Lowe. ... Mark Teixeira is a .478 hitter in 23 at-bats versus Andy Pettitte, while Vladimir Guerrero has hit .353 against Pettitte in 17 at-bats. ... Dustin Pedroia has been hitting everything lately, but don't be shocked if he has a rough day Wednesday, as he is just 1-for-10 versus Andy Sonnanstine. ... Jim Thome and Paul Konerko both are a decent 8-for-20 (.400) against Blue Jays ace Roy Halladay. Konerko also has been on a tear with a home run in three straight contests. ... Alex Rios might be the reigning AL player of the week, but look for Vernon Wells to do the damage against Mark Buehrle. Rios is a career 1-for-17 (.059) against the White Sox lefty, while Wells is 15-for-29 (.517). ... Keep a close eye on Milton Bradley's status heading into the game. If his wrist allows him to play, he is a must-start against Seattle lefty Ryan Feierabend. Bradley has a .336 average against southpaws this season with a 1.177 OPS. ... Andre Ethier might be red hot, but Matt Kemp still is the wise start against lefties like Shawn Estes of the Padres. Ethier is hitting .236 against lefties this season, while Kemp is hitting .347. ... Despite the poor overall numbers by Victor Martinez this season, he still is hitting lefties. He has a .340 average against southpaws this season and is a good option versus Orioles lefty Chris Waters.
Pitchers: In his two most recent starts, Derek Lowe has outpitched Arizona's Brandon Webb and Dan Haren. Lowe is on a real hot streak, going 3-1 in his past five starts with a 1.02 ERA, and currently is on a stretch of 19 consecutive scoreless innings. Lowe has a career ERA of 2.81 against the Padres, including a 1.29 ERA in two starts against them this season. ... Ricky Nolasco and Brett Myers can't both come away with a win, but I still would start both of them in any format. Nolasco is coming off eight straight quality starts in which he has struck out 63 and walked just four. Myers also is on a roll of eight straight quality starts, striking out 54 and walking just 10. ... As I've been saying lately, bench Dan Haren until you see some signs of life. He has been hit hard in four of his past six outings and is coming off two whippings at the hands of the Dodgers. I know the Giants, in theory, are an easy matchup, but it seems as though divisional opponents are getting to Haren's stuff. ... Mike Pelfrey continues to dominate the second half, but his home starts are even more of a sure thing lately. He has a 2.66 ERA in Shea Stadium this season. This start should be even better than usual, as Pelfrey is 1-1 with a 0.69 ERA in two outings against the Nationals this year, giving up just one run and eight hits to Washington over 14 2/3 innings.
Hitters: Garret Anderson is a career 30-for-77 (.390) versus Andy Pettitte, with three home runs and 10 RBIs. ... Andruw Jones could be a desperation play, as he has three home runs and a .294 average in 34 at-bats versus Padres lefty Shawn Estes. ... Jerry Hairston Jr. is back in the lineup for the Reds and carries a .371 average against southpaws this season into a matchup with CC Sabathia. Sure enough, Hairston is a respectable 8-for-25 (.320) versus CC in his career. ... Scan your waiver wire closely, because the best power hitter available might be Travis Hafner. He is available in 66 percent of ESPN leagues and is expected to be activated Tuesday. ... Coco Crisp has been raking the ball lately, with a .682 average over the past week and three stolen bases to boot. ... Speaking of three steals, that also is how many Rajai Davis has over the past seven days. In addition, he has a grand slam in that time frame. ... If you're looking for a power surge, look no further than Brandon Wood. When the Angels rookie connects with the ball, it's been leaving the park. Three of his past six hits have been homers. ... Pablo Sandoval is great add off the Giants' roster. In his past five games, Sandoval has 10 RBIs batting behind Randy Winn and Dave Roberts.
Pitchers: The first choice off the wire has to be Bronson Arroyo. Still owned in just 33 percent of ESPN leagues, he has won four straight starts and has had a quality start in eight of his past 10 outings. Noting that two of his four most recent outings were against the Cubs, the Brewers don't seem quite as tough. Yes, he has to take on CC Sabathia, but don't play him for the win here, play him for the ratios and strikeouts. A win would be just a bonus. ... After three brilliant starts in a row, Kevin Millwood was hit hard by the Red Sox in his last outing. Despite that, you should consider using Millwood against Seattle. The Red Sox have an OPS a full .100 points better than that of the Mariners. ... Braves rookie James Parr is an option, as he allowed just two hits in six innings in his debut Thursday. He has another comfortable home matchup, this time against the Rockies. Colorado has the worst team OPS in September (.557). The Braves hitters get to tee off on Livan Hernandez, so Parr's chances of a win are pretty good. ... Only Kansas City (.703) and Oakland (.650) have worse OPSs than Pittsburgh (.705) since the All-Star break. For that reason, I think Brian Moehler won't be a terrible start if you really need a win off the wire. He might not get a quality start, but Houston's bats should back him for a win. ... Speaking of those weak-hitting Royals, Kevin Slowey gets to mow them down Wednesday. Still available in more than 40 percent of ESPN leagues, Slowey had won three straight before dropping a decision by allowing three runs in 5 2/3 innings against the Blue Jays. That was the first time in six starts he had allowed more than two runs. Slowey is 2-0 with a 1.23 ERA in two starts versus Kansas City this season.
The only game with a significant chance of showers is the contest in Atlanta, where the Rockies and the Braves face a 50 percent chance of rain. ... Weather-proof contests to be played in Milwaukee (Reds-Brewers), Seattle (Rangers-Mariners), Houston (Pirates-Astros) and Minnesota (Royals-Twins).
Sean Allen is a fantasy baseball and hockey analyst for ESPN.com. You can e-mail him here.
1dMarc Stein and Ramona Shelburne