Commentary

Will Mother Nature keep aces off hill?

Updated: May 25, 2009, 5:15 PM ET
By Adam Madison | Special to ESPN.com

Daily Notes

Everyone's favorite ace, Zack Greinke, jumps to the top of the pitcher rankings Tuesday, but two fireballers who are not close behind might surprise. The Yankees' Joba Chamberlain heads to Arlington to face the most potent bats in the majors (his opponent, the Rangers, have a major league-leading .490 slugging percentage), while Jon Lester of the Red Sox heads to Minnesota to face the Twins, whose .291 batting average in May paces the circuit. It's the classic question of whether great pitching beats great hitting.

Mother Nature might also play a significant role in Tuesday's games; up to nine games could be affected by the weather.

For starters

Selected notes: Kevin Millwood has been regressing to the mean in his past three starts, allowing four runs (two earned) to the A's, five runs to the Mariners and three runs to the White Sox, the three worst offensive teams in the American League. It's hard to see things ending well with him going against the powerhouse offense of the Yankees. … The return of Joe Mauer triggered an offensive explosion for the Twins, who have the majors' best OPS since his return on May 1 (.858). Jon Lester has allowed five runs or more in three of his past five starts, so can you really throw him out there against the streaking Twinkies? … Much of the same logic applies to Joba Chamberlain, who faces the majors' toughest team against right-handed pitching (.820 OPS). The one thing Joba has going for him, however, is that the Rangers are third in the AL in strikeouts, and assuming his knee is healthy, he should be fresh because he pitched just two-thirds of an inning in his last outing. … Sporting a 14-to-3 strikeout-to-walk ratio in his past three starts (14 innings), Ian Snell looks primed for a good outing against the struggling Cubs. They clearly miss Aramis Ramirez and are hitting just .239 in May. … Edwin Jackson has put together an recent impressive stretch of pitching, going 22 innings in his past three starts with 20 strikeouts and only four runs allowed (1.64 ERA). He's looking more and more legit. Subsequently, fantasy owners are starting to buy (15.7 percent ownership increase the past week in ESPN standard leagues), so jump in before it's too late. … He hasn't looked pretty doing it, but Jeff Suppan has a 1.63 ERA and 1.26 WHIP against the Cardinals in six starts since joining the Brewers, and he threw seven shutout innings just 10 days ago. … Aaron Cook has improved much in May, to be sure (2.19 ERA, 1.05 WHIP), but his 11-to-9 strikeout-to-walk ratio doesn't exactly scream must-start. The Dodgers thrive on balls in play and working the count -- they are first in the majors in batting average (.286) and on-base percentage (.371) -- and in his previous two starts, Cook has allowed 23 baserunners in 10 innings. … Jarrod Washburn struck out six Athletics and limited the team to five hits and one run in seven innings at the beginning of May, but he is still Jarrod Washburn. Although playing the matchups with middling pitchers against weak offenses is normally something I am fond of doing, make Washburn prove he is over his knee troubles first. … The Giants' .612 OPS against right-handed pitching is last in the majors by 36 points. That makes Kris Medlen, a crafty righty who was dominating in the minors (5-0 with a 1.19 ERA, 10.5 K/9 and 2.4 BB/9), an option in deeper leagues.

Now batting

Hitters' count:

Shane Victorino, OF, Phillies: In 11 at-bats against Andrew Miller, Victorino has five hits, including two home runs and a double.
B.J. Upton, OF, Rays: Not that it's too hard to find batters who do well off Carl Pavano, but Upton is 5-for-8 (.625) with a home run and a double against him, and that home run came earlier this season.
Nick Swisher, OF, Yankees: Hitting a robust .400 (10-for-25) off Kevin Millwood, he's gone yard three times and chipped in two doubles for a slugging percentage of .840.
Alfonso Soriano, OF, Yankees: He's hitting .500 against Ian Snell in 18 at-bats, and three of those nine hits have been dingers. Toss in a double as well, and his slugging percentage is an obscene 1.056 versus Snell.
Andre Ethier, OF, Dodgers: He has crushed Aaron Cook, with nine hits in 19 at-bats, including two home runs and two doubles. Ethier also is hitting .474 with a .895 slugging percentage against Cook. We can only hope his toe injury allows him to play Tuesday.
Chris Young, OF, Diamondbacks: If you still own him, you have to put him to use some time, right? Fortunately, he's 4-for-12 with three homers against Kevin Correia.
Paul Konerko, 1B, White Sox: Konerko has been crushing left-handers seemingly since he was in diapers (career .905 OPS against), and he's hitting .333 with three home runs in 39 at-bats off them this season. That's bad news for Joe Saunders, against whom Konerko is already 3-for-7 with a home run lifetime.
Ben Zobrist, SS/OF, Rays: With Akinori Iwamura reportedly out for the seaosn, Zobrist should soon add second-base eligibility. He has followed up his eight extra-base hits in April with nine more extra-base hits in May, showing no signs of cooling off.

Pitchers' count:

Ryan Howard, 1B, Phillies: Considering Howard is hitting only .215 against left-handers this season and .230 for his career, there might be something to Howard's career 1-for-10 line with three strikeouts versus Andrew Miller.
Nick Johnson, 1B, Nationals: Surprisingly, Johnson is 2-for-9 with a whopping five strikeouts lifetime against Livan Hernandez.
J.J. Hardy, SS, Brewers: Hardy is already dealing with a back injury, but here's another reason to sit him: He's 5-for-22 (.227) with a double as his lone extra-base hit against Adam Wainwright.
Jason Kubel, OF, Twins: Kubel is hitting a worthless .194 with zero home runs against left-handed pitching, so it makes sense that he's 0-for-3 lifetime against Jon Lester.
Magglio Ordonez, OF, White Sox: Currently sporting a 10-game hitting streak, it's unfortunate he will run into the buzz saw that is Zack Greinke. He is 4-for-31 (.129) lifetime against Greinke, including 0-for-4 this season.
Rafael Furcal, SS, Dodgers: Furcal has just six singles in 31 at-bats against Aaron Cook, resulting in an identical .194 batting average and slugging percentage against the ground-ball specialist.
Stephen Drew, SS, Diamondbacks: Drew is only 2-for-16 (.125) versus Kevin Correia, with no walks or extra-base hits to speak of.
Kelly Johnson, 2B, Braves: He has worked two walks against Tim Lincecum, but that's the only positive thing you can say. He is 1-for-10 with three strikeouts and no extra-base hits otherwise.

If you're hardcore

Alex Gonzalez, SS, Reds: Gonzalez has a little five-game hit streak going, with nine hits in 20 at-bats overall, including two doubles. He's also 9-for-21 lifetime versus Roy Oswalt, including two home runs.
Josh Willingham, OF, Nationals: Ten of Willingham's 12 extra-base hits have occurred in May, including five home runs, and he's 6-for-15 (.400) with three extra-base hits (one home run) off Livan Hernandez.
Mike Jacobs, 1B, Royals: Jacobs owns a career .530 slugging percentage against right-handers, and he's up to nine home runs in 89 at-bats against them this season. Plus, he's 1-for-3 with a home run against Edwin Jackson for his career.
Jason Giambi, 1B, Athletics: Don't look now, but the streaky Giambi has homered in consecutive games and has a five-game hitting streak. He is still dangerous when he gets hot, and traditionally, June has been his best month (career 1.015 OPS).
Willy Aybar, 1B/3B, Rays: He's hitting .356 with two home runs and three doubles in just 45 at-bats this month and should have an increase in playing time with Iwamura out.
Andy LaRoche, 3B, Pirates: His hit streak is up to nine games, although he's not showing as much power as you might hope. He's only 25 years old, however, so unlike most free-agent grabs, he has the potential for more.
Ian Stewart, 2B, Rockies: The Dodgers are throwing out one of the most homer-prone pitchers of our generation in Eric Milton (career 1.52 HR/9) in Coors Field; this can't end well. Stewart has three home runs in 31 at-bats against lefties, slugging .581.

Triage

Injury list: Out

Chris Iannetta, C, Rockies (15-day DL, hamstring): The DL stint shouldn't be much longer, if at all, than the minimum.
• Akinori Iwamura, 2B, Rays (knee): It was reportedly Monday afternoon that Iwamura's injury will sideline him for the season.
Scott Kazmir, SP, Rays (15-day DL, quadriceps): The St. Petersburg Times reports that Kazmir probably will not be ready to return as soon as his 15 days are up.
Brandon Phillips, 2B, Reds (hand): A hairline fracture was found in the tip of Phillips' right thumb, a result from a ground ball going off his hand Saturday. Phillips thinks he can play with it and avoid the disabled list, but he's doubtful for the series with Houston, saying he wants to "take a couple of days off to let the swelling go down."

Injury list: Day-to-day

Rick Ankiel, OF, Cardinals (shoulder): Ankiel still has lingering soreness in his shoulder and didn't start Monday's contest.
Geoff Blum, 3B, Astros (hamstring)
• Joba Chamberlain, SP, Yankees (knee): Chamberlain is expected to start Tuesday after suffering a bruised knee in his last start, but it bears watching considering the strength of his opponent, the Rangers, as they could pounce if he is anything less than 100 percent.
Ryan Church, OF, Mets (hamstring/hip)
Joe Crede, 3B, Twins (hand): Crede was hit in the hand by a pitch Sunday.
Yunel Escobar, SS, Braves (hip)
• Andre Ethier, OF, Dodgers (toe): He had hoped to play Monday but ended up being scratched.
Vladimir Guerrero, OF, Angels (15-day DL, pectoral): He is expected to be activated on Monday and return as the DH.
• J.J. Hardy, SS, Brewers (back)
Corey Hart, OF, Brewers (hand)
Torii Hunter, OF, Angels (leg): Hunter suffered leg tightness a couple of innings after crashing into the fence to catch a ball on Sunday, but the fact that he stayed in for a couple of innings after the incident suggests it's a minor injury.
• Nick Johnson, 1B, Nationals (stomach): Johnson was scratched just before Sunday's game with stomach discomfort, so consider him day-to-day.
Chipper Jones, 3B, Braves (toe): The injury isn't serious, and Jones could be back in the lineup Monday.
Derrek Lee, 1B, Cubs (illness)
Felipe Lopez, 2B, Diamondbacks (hamstring)
Jose Reyes, SS, Mets (calf): Manager Jerry Manuel expected Reyes to play Monday, but Reyes said there was "no chance" of that.
Pablo Sandoval, 1B/3B, Giants (elbow): The Giants don't want Sandoval throwing, as they fear he may seriously injure his elbow. With interleague play out of the way, there is no designated hitter spot to hide him in, and a stint on the DL might be required.
Joey Votto, 1B, Reds (ear): Even after Votto hit two home runs in his return Saturday, the Reds still sat him Sunday because of lingering effects of his ear infection. • Jarrod Washburn, SP, Mariners (knee): Washburn was supposed to take his turn Saturday, but knee tightness pushed the start back to Tuesday. The Tacoma News Tribune reports it's something that could persist all season.

Weather concerns

• Games in Milwaukee (Cardinals-Brewers), Minnesota (Red Sox-Twins) and Arizona (Padres-Diamondbacks) will be weatherproof Tuesday.
• Rain is a problem in many regions, beginning in the Northeast. Philadelphia and Baltimore both have a 60 percent chance of showers. In Flushing, N.Y., the Nationals-Mets game is a 50-50 proposition to experience precipitation.
• The Midwest is even worse, with thunderstorms a 60 percent possibility in Cleveland, Cincinnati, Chicago and Kansas City. With rain expected all day and night, a few rainouts sound possible, if not probable.
• Down in Arlington, Texas, there is a 30-40 percent shot of isolated thunderstorms. To the west, in Denver, rain isn't as big a threat on Tuesday as it was Monday, but there remains a reasonable 30 percent chance that showers could affect play.

Adam Madison is a fantasy baseball analyst for ESPN.com.

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