Commentary

Lowe should best Haren for one day

Updated: May 27, 2009, 6:44 PM ET
By AJ Mass | ESPN.com

Daily Notes
Only five games on tap for Thursday, so it's time to take a few chances. Don't be afraid to load up your lineup with even the least likely candidates for success on the hitting end of the scale. After all, if a regular bench warmer doesn't actually get into the game for his big league club, you're not going to be missing out on any stats from your regular starters who have the day off. Plus, even if you start a player you absolutely hate and he goes 0-for-3, it's not that huge a deal in the long-term … but if you leave someone on your bench on the one day you can actually start him conscience-free and he hits a home run, you'll be kicking yourself for the next month. On the pitching side, it's fine to be a bit cautious, and treat this as a normal day, but if you have any relievers to slot into your lineup over closers who you know for sure won't see any innings, by all means, throw them in there and hope for some strikeouts, and maybe even a vulture win to boot. As for Thursday's starters, all 10 of them, we rank them as follows:

For starters

Selected notes: Arizona hit only .194 against Derek Lowe in 2007 and just marginally better in 2008, when the D-backs managed a .215 average. That doesn't bode well for Dan Haren getting any run support from his teammates on Thursday, so this could be yet another case where he pitches just fine and yet ends up with little to show for it. … The Orioles are 10th in the American League with a .266 team batting average and could well have only one hitter with an average better than .300 in the starting lineup for this game when the first pitch is ready to be thrown. Add to that the fact Baltimore will be trotting out Triple-A callup David Hernandez for his big league debut, and the odds of Armando Galarraga earning a victory are not too shabby. Hernandez has definite potential, mind you, but we hesitate to recommend any pitcher facing those first-time jitters. … Randy Wolf hasn't done well against the Cubs throughout his career, with a 3-7 record and a 4.71 ERA, but with all that run support the Dodgers have been racking up of late, we still like him to end up the victorious Randy in this showdown. As Randy Jackson might put it after the game, "Randy Wells, dawg, it wasn't my best for you for me today." … Josh Beckett sports a 2-1 career record against Minnesota. Even though Joe Mauer and the Twins have been smoking hot offensively as of late, the Red Sox still have the AL's best on-base percentage and with all those runners putting pressure on Anthony Swarzak, we think Boston will put at least a few runs on the board for Beckett, who won't have to wait long for good "O." … David Huff is being called on for Cleveland to face the Rays, and considering he was hammered by Tampa Bay for seven runs in 3 2/3 innings of work only 11 days ago, we can't expect the result to be all that much different this time around, especially since his only other appearance since then was a three-inning, six-run outing against the Reds this past Saturday.

Now batting

Hitters' count

Matt Kemp, OF, Dodgers: Kemp is slugging .512 in 43 at-bats against Chicago for his career.
Ryan Freel, OF, Cubs: Freel may be new to Chicago, but he has seen Randy Wolf before. He's 5-for-10 with two RBIs against the Dodgers' starter Thursday.
Geovany Soto, C, Cubs: Soto is ready to howl as well, with his lifetime .944 OPS against Wolf.
Delmon Young, OF, Twins: Young has struggled since the death of his mother, but perhaps will find some solace against Josh Beckett, against whom he is hitting .417.
Jason Kubel, DH, Twins: Kubel has a home run in his six at-bats against Beckett, and it's not a huge quantum leap to think he might be able to hit another one on Thursday.
Brandon Inge, C/3B, Tigers: Inge doesn't historically hit for average against the Orioles (.220) but he does have five career home runs and 22 RBIs against the Birds. He's worth a play with the limited slate.
Magglio Ordonez, SS, Tigers: Ordonez also likes facing the orange and black, with a career .311 batting average.
Melvin Mora, 3B, Orioles: Small sample sizes will have to do when the choices are limited, and Mora has a home run in three at-bats against Armando Galarraga.
Eric Byrnes, OF, Diamondbacks: Byrnes is a career .379 hitter against Derek Lowe and has five RBIs in 29 at-bats against the veteran.
Stephen Drew, SS, Diamondbacks: He's been anemic so far in 2009, but in 27 at-bats, his 1.351 OPS against Lowe is quite high indeed.

Pitchers' count

Ryan Theriot, 2B, Cubs: Is it a full moon? It would have to be for Theriot to hit well against Randy Wolf, based on the lifetime .182 average.
Denard Span, OF, Twins: The flu has played havoc with Span this week and he's never had a hit off of Josh Beckett. Let's give him the day off, shall we?
Adam Everett, SS, Tigers: Even though we like to take chances, a .136 career mark against the Orioles makes us hesitate a bit in this instance.
Dane Sardinha, C, Tigers: He's a .105 hitter in May, and while he hasn't played much in his career, that's still not a good split.
Aubrey Huff, 1B, Orioles: Huff does have a home run off of Galarraga in his career, but traditionally, the Tigers keep him tame with a .221 batting average against Detroit …
Ty Wigginton, 3B, Orioles: … but Huff's not nearly as toothless as Wiggy is, with a lowly .188 mark against the Tigers, with a strikeout every 3.5 at-bats.
Casey Kotchman, 1B, Braves: No extra-base hits and a .190 average in 21 at-bats versus Dan Haren does not impress me. How about you?
Chris Young, OF, Diamondbacks: Well, his .182 average facing Derek Lowe would actually raise his 2009 average a few points if he's even able to perform at that level.

If you're hardcore

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Reid Brignac, SS, Rays: With Jason Bartlett out, Brignac is probably going to be in the lineup more often than not for the next few weeks.
Trevor Crowe, OF, Indians: The Indians sent Matt LaPorta down, and brought Crowe back into the fold. Hey, stranger things have happened.
Brendan Harris, SS, Twins: Harris is .333 against Josh Beckett, with two doubles and two RBIs.
Jeff Larish, OF, Tigers: He has a. 435 OBP for May, and has been starting a couple of games a week as of late.
Gregg Zaun, C, Orioles: With all the hubbub about Matt Wieters' debut on Friday, at least we know Zaun should be behind the plate on Thursday.
Garret Anderson, OF, Braves: He's owned in only 3.1 percent of ESPN standard leagues, but has a career .367 average off of Dan Haren, with two home runs.
Michel Hernandez, C, Rays: When else are you going to play him? Besides, he had a bases-clearing double against David Huff the last time the Rays faced him.

Triage

Injury list: Out

Akinori Iwamura, 2B, Rays (60-day DL, ACL tear)
• Jason Bartlett, SS, Rays (15-day DL, ankle)
Jose Reyes, SS, Mets (15-day DL, calf)
Ryan Church, OF, Mets (15-day DL, hamstring)
Kenji Johjima, C, Mariners (15-day DL, toe)
Scot Shields, P, Angels (15-day DL, knee)
Lou Montanez, OF, Orioles (15-day DL, thumb)
Koji Uehara, P, Orioles (15-day DL, hamstring)

Injury list: Day-to-day

Melky Cabrera, OF, Yankees (shoulder): Cabrera had to leave Tuesday's game in the first inning after colliding with the wall chasing an Ian Kinsler triple. He was due for an MRI on Wednesday.
Hanley Ramirez, SS, Marlins (groin)
Nomar Garciaparra, 1B, Athletics (calf): Nomar was scratched from a DH-role on Tuesday, and if he can't even handle that, it's hard to envision a quick return to action.
Coco Crisp, OF, Royals (shoulder): He had to leave Tuesday's game after being unable to swing the bat without problems.
Pablo Sandoval, 3B, Giants (elbow): Sandoval is probably out until Friday, but since the Giants sent Jesus Guzman back to Triple-A, they likely think Sandoval can handle first base in the near future.
Carlos Quentin, OF, White Sox (heel): CQ is still undergoing tests on his left foot, and still hoping to avoid the disabled list.

Weather concerns

• Thursday's weatherproof games: Red Sox-Twins and Braves-Diamondbacks.
• Scattered thunderstorms are in the forecast for Progressive Field in Cleveland and Camden Yards in Baltimore, meaning there's a chance that two of the five scheduled games for Thursday might not actually get played at all.

AJ Mass is a fantasy baseball, football and college basketball analyst for ESPN.com. You can e-mail him here.

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