Commentary

Daily Notes for Sunday: Dice-K, Liriano and Haren going

Updated: September 20, 2008, 8:04 PM ET
By Adam Madison | Special to ESPN.com

In the American League, Daisuke Matsuzaka seeks his 18th win in Toronto as the Red Sox face off against the Blue Jays in their chase for the AL East title. Their opposition, the Rays, host the Twins, a game that means much more for the Twinkies as they toss out ace Francisco Liriano on the mound in their attempt to snatch the division crown from the White Sox. To protect their precarious lead, the White Sox's own ace, John Danks, must conquer a Royals offense that is batting .366 against him in two previous starts.

In the Senior Circuit, the Diamondbacks wrap their three-game series at Coors Field against the Rockies, with Dan Haren hoping to build off his shutout versus the Giants Wednesday. Those same Giants attempt to play spoiler against the rival Dodgers, who have Derek Lowe taking the mound hoping to extend his streak of allowing one run or less to five consecutive starts. The Brewers hope Seth McClung's first start in two months is a success as they attempt to claw back into the wild-card chase. The Phillies, the current wild-card leaders, start veteran lefty Jamie Moyer as he tries to net his fourth win in five starts over the Marlins.

Matchups for Sunday

Time Visitors L/R Record ERA WHIP Home L/R Record ERA WHIP
1:05p.m. Dontrelle Willis L 0-1 8.82 2.13
@
Scott Lewis L 2-0 0.00 0.57
1:07 p.m. Daisuke Matsuzaka R 17-2 2.93 1.35
@
Scott Richmond R 0-2 5.06 1.50
1:15 p.m. Seth McClung R 5-6 4.22 1.43
@
Bronson Arroyo R 15-10 4.57 1.41
1:30 p.m. Mike Pelfrey R 13-10 3.67 1.36
@
James Parr R 1-0 2.20 1.22
1:35 p.m. Roy Oswalt R 15-10 3.66 1.19
@
Ross Ohlendorf R 0-2 7.62 2.08
1:35 p.m. Cha Seung Baek R 5-10 5.06 1.37
@
Odalis Perez L 7-10 4.26 1.48
1:40 p.m. Francisco Liriano L 5-3 3.62 1.31
@
Andy Sonnanstine R 13-7 4.33 1.28
2:10 p.m. John Danks L 10-8 3.32 1.26
@
Brandon Duckworth R 3-1 5.19 1.73
2:20 p.m. Braden Looper R 12-13 4.06 1.31
@
Ryan Dempster R 16-6 3.02 1.22
3:05 p.m. John Lackey R 11-4 3.38 1.18
@
Scott Feldman R 5-7 5.30 1.46
3:05 p.m. Dan Haren R 15-8 3.24 1.12
@
Greg Reynolds R 2-7 7.42 1.64
4:05 p.m. Brandon Morrow R 2-4 2.53 1.05
@
Sean Gallagher R 2-2 5.16 1.72
4:10 p.m. Jamie Moyer L 14-7 3.86 1.34
@
Chris Volstad R 5-3 3.07 1.31
4:10 p.m. Matt Cain R 8-13 3.91 1.35
@
Derek Lowe R 14-11 3.40 1.14
8:05 p.m. Chris Waters L 3-3 4.75 1.47
@
Andy Pettitte L 13-14 4.57 1.41

All times are ET.

Injury report

Out
Ronnie Belliard, 1B/2B/3B, Nationals (groin)
Carlos Guillen, 1B/SS/3B, Tigers (back)
Mike Lowell, 3B, Red Sox (hip)
Fernando Tatis, OF, Mets (shoulder)

Day-to-day
Brian Buscher, 3B, Twins (thumb)
Johnny Damon, OF, Yankees (personal)
J.D. Drew, OF, Red Sox (back)
Yunel Escobar, SS, Braves (hamstring)
Edwin Encarnacion, 3B, Reds (wrist)
Chone Figgins, 3B, Angels (elbow)
Nomar Garciaparra, 1B/SS/3B, Dodgers (knee)
Vladimir Guerrero, OF, Angels (knee)
Yadier Molina, C, Cardinals (quadriceps)
Hanley Ramirez, SS, Marlins (shoulder)
Juan Rivera, OF, Angels (hip)
Geovany Soto, C, Cubs (hand)
B.J. Upton, 2B/OF, Rays (quadriceps)
Michael Young, SS, Rangers (finger)

Start 'em, sit 'em

Hitters: Kelly Shoppach has just 85 at-bats against lefties, but has been quite productive against them with five home runs and a .318 average. One such home run came off Sunday's opposing pitcher, Dontrelle Willis, and Willis walked five and allowed a homer in his most recent start, suggesting his troubles aren't over. … Ty Wigginton is 0-for-10 since his return from a strained groin Wednesday, with four strikeouts; wait for a multihit game or a display of power before you put him back in your lineup for the stretch run. … The Pirates' three best hitters -- Ryan Doumit, Nate McLouth and Adam LaRoche -- have all struggled against Roy Oswalt this season, with two hits (both singles) and no walks in 15 combined at-bats. While McLouth does have some prior success (8-for-23 with one home run) against Oswalt, the other two have struggled immensely, and when you factor in Oswalt's recent lights-out pitching -- even in a brief hiccup in his start against the Marlins, he still struck out 10 -- it shouldn't take much convincing for you to bench the trio for Sunday's game. … John Lackey's OPS allowed against lefties is a whopping 227 points lower than it is against righties, meaning it would be a good idea to sit Chris Davis and Hank Blalock. But the right-handed Marlon Byrd should benefit, especially since he's already 3-for-6 with two home runs and a double off Lackey this season.

Pitchers: With five wins in his past six starts, Bronson Arroyo has done a good job turning around his season. Sporting a microscopic 1.46 ERA in that time span, he's a must-start against a scuffling Brewers team, one he held to two runs (zero earned) in seven innings less than two weeks ago. After previously allowing 24 home runs in 144 2/3 innings, Arroyo has allowed just three home runs in 43 1/3 innings since Aug. 20. … Mike Pelfrey has a 6.87 ERA and 1.64 WHIP in three starts against the Braves, and has performed much worse on the road (4.78 ERA, 1.67 WHIP) this season, but there are a couple of reasons he's a reasonable play. Since turning his season around in June, he's had a 3.68 ERA away from Shea Stadium, with just three home runs allowed in 61 1/3 innings. As for the Braves, he held them to just three singles in a complete-game performance on Aug. 20, although he did allow three runs (one on a single, one on a double play and one on a wild pitch). He's a good bet for a win, too, with the Mets' offense hitting well (second in the league in OPS and home runs in September) and the Braves tossing out a rookie September call-up. … The Royals have surprisingly knocked around Danks in his two previous starts against the team; he's allowed nearly two baserunners per inning en route to a 7.91 ERA. The Royals have a .776 team OPS against lefties, good for 11th in the majors, so Danks -- especially considering his second-half struggles -- is no lock for a productive outing. … Lackey has been serving up homers at an astronomical rate recently, allowing 18 of his 24 home runs since the beginning of July (86 innings pitched). If anything, his 4.91 ERA in that span is low, and an outing in Rangers Ballpark against the best offense in the majors by OPS could spell disaster. … Dan Haren held the Rockies to two runs in eight innings, striking out nine, back on Aug. 14 in Coors Field. The timing of that start is worth noting, considering it was sandwiched between two starts in which Haren allowed a combined 11 earned runs, and August was in fact his worst month by ERA (5.63) and WHIP (1.59). If Haren could come out of Coors nearly unscathed during a period in which he wasn't pitching at his best, one would be reasonable to think a strong follow-up would be in the cards considering he's coming off a dominating 12-strikeout, shutout performance versus the Giants in his last outing.

Waiver-wire pickups

Hitters: Lyle Overbay is hitting .299 with all of his 14 home runs occurring against right-handers, and has shown particular power against Matsuzaka in his career, with two homers and a .706 slugging percentage in 17 at-bats. … Travis Snider, another Jays lefty, is hitting a robust .372 with six extra-base hits in September. Against Matsuzaka, swinging from the left side is important: He's holding right-handers to a .199 batting average and a .276 slugging percentage. As teams struggle to get a scouting report on Snider, it would be no surprise to see his hot hitting continue. … Juan Rivera is expected to return by the end of the weekend, so he should be in the lineup against the Rangers on Sunday. Rivera scored seven runs in nine games in September hitting fourth or fifth in the lineup, and with 12 home runs in 180 at-bats since July. He has enough pop to make himself useful. … Justin Upton has come back strong from his strained oblique and later an errant pickoff throw to the head, hitting .333 with three home runs, six other extra-base hits and seven walks in 51 at-bats. Facing a pitcher who's coming off seven earned runs allowed in two innings -- against the Padres, not one of the NL's stronger hitting teams -- is beneficial as well, and Upton's hitting .412 in Coors Field this season.

Pitchers: Odalis Perez has some situational use when he's pitching at home, where he has a 2.51 ERA and 1.14 WHIP in 15 starts, including a decent 60 strikeouts in 82 1/3 innings. The Padres have immense trouble against southpaws, with the majors' lowest on-base percentage (.301) when a lefty's on the mound. … A typical rookie's inconsistency: After flirting with a no-hitter through seven innings versus the Yankees on Sept. 5, Brandon Morrow followed that up with consecutive mediocre outings, topped off by allowing six runs in four innings to the lowly Royals, who are actually tied with the Nationals for the worst OPS in the majors against right-handers. On the bright side, Morrow faces an even easier matchup, the A's, who rank last in batting average (.227), on-base percentage (.306) and slugging percentage (.350) since the All-Star break. Morrow's propensity for walks limits the innings he'll pitch, making a win a toss-up, but he has the raw stuff to rack up the strikeouts against such an anemic offense. … Jamie Moyer has dominated the Marlins in four starts, with a 3.12 ERA and 0.92 WHIP. The Fish hit just .236 against southpaws, and Moyer has been even better in Dolphin Stadium (1.29 ERA, 0.57 WHIP), so strongly consider him as a spot start.

Weather concerns

Like Saturday, the only concerns are minute: The Marlins host the Phillies, and have a 30 to 40 percent chance of scattered storms, and the Diamondbacks-Rockies affair has a 30 percent chance of rain. Toronto (Red Sox-Blue Jays) and Tampa Bay (Twins-Rays) are both weatherproof, with clear skies for the rest of the schedule.

Adam Madison is a fantasy baseball analyst for ESPN.com

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