Commentary

Chicago, Lone Star rivalries start up

Zambrano-Danks, Rodriguez-Millwood showdowns highlight schedule

Updated: June 15, 2009, 5:59 PM ET
By Adam Madison | Special to ESPN.com

Most of the true interleague rivalries finished their series on Sunday, but another chapter in the North Siders versus South Siders begins anew, with the White Sox facing off against the Cubs. It's a promising pitching matchup as well, with John Danks toeing the mound against Carlos Zambrano; indeed, the schedule is full of upper echelon starters. There's sure to be a hard-luck loser when Justin Verlander and Adam Wainwright do battle, and Wandy Rodriguez against Kevin Millwood features two surprising pitchers with sub-3.00 ERAs. Despite those sterling numbers, Rodriguez and Millwood are only ranked in the middle of the pack on the day; read on to see who we like more.

For starters

Selected notes: Wandy Rodriguez has always been significantly better at home than on the road in his career, so pitching in Arlington is a red flag. Rodriguez has a respectable 3.74 ERA on the road this season, but that is a facade, since he's allowed seven unearned runs; his 1.57 WHIP tells the real story. The Rangers aren't that great against southpaws, with a .313 OBP that ranks 26th, but at home they slug .487, which is topped only by the Red Sox and Yankees. The Rangers will also be one of the toughest offenses he's faced all year; Rodriguez looks like a boom-or-bust option. … Chris Volstad has a 5.33 ERA in his past six starts, and he's heading into Fenway Park allowing an extra-base hit every 9.59 at-bats, 13 of them home runs; it would be surprising if he left Boston unscathed. … Gil Meche has pitched at least six innings and allowed two runs or less in four of his past five starts, in the process lowering his ERA by 0.90 to 3.70. He's allowed just two home runs in 75 1/3 innings, which gives him a lot of margin for error, and although that home run rate eventually will rise, he has a 0.86 HR/9 the past two seasons, so it's not as if it's a skill he's never demonstrated before. A matchup against the Diamondbacks, the NL's second-worst road offense, makes it likely Meche extends his streak to five out of six. … The acquisition of Nate McLouth hasn't boosted the Braves' offense as hoped; he's hitting .244 since joining the team, and the Braves are hitting just .231 in June. Meanwhile, Aaron Harang's numbers would look a lot better without an inflated .323 batting average on balls in play, an anomaly especially when you consider the Reds possess one of the best defenses in the league. He's also comfortable pitching in Great American Ball Park, as his 2.84 ERA and 33 strikeouts in 38 innings this season attest, and indeed, in his career his ERA and WHIP have improved in Cincinnati. … Before landing on the disabled list in May, Glen Perkins had allowed at least four runs in five consecutive starts, so owners may be gun-shy starting him in his return. But he looked fine in his two rehab starts, and the Pirates lack power, which has been Perkins' bugaboo his entire career. It also helps that the pitch-to-contact hurler is backed by a defense that ranks eighth in the majors in defensive efficiency; last season the Twins were 18th. … Getting hammered by the Rays can be forgiven, but it's Ervin Santana's poor starts against weak offenses like the White Sox (seven runs) and the Mariners (eight runs) that are cause for concern. So despite facing maybe the worst offense in the National League, Santana can't be recommended. On the bright side, the Angels are convinced his elbow is fine, so if it's not health-related, he should turn it around soon, but another mediocre performance at the hands of a paltry offense would be cause for serious concern.

Now batting

Hitters' count:

Nick Swisher, OF, Yankees: The streaky Yankee is hitting .367 and slugging .733 in June, and on Tuesday he faces Shairon Martis, who allows a .959 OPS against left-handed batters.
Johnny Damon, OF, Yankees: The new Yankee Stadium has been a haven for lefties, and Damon is taking full advantage of it, hitting .308 with nine home runs and a .598 slugging percentage at home. He also has great numbers against right-handed pitching, making him fully suited to take advantage of Martis' weakness.
J.D. Drew, OF, Red Sox: June has been Drew's best month for the past two seasons, and his career .988 OPS in June is 50 points higher than in any other month. To wit, he's hitting .347 this June, and 18 of his 24 extra-base hits this season have come against a right-hander, so on paper he should do well against Marlins righty Chris Volstad.
Paul Konerko, 1B, White Sox: Konerko has crushed Carlos Zambrano, with four home runs in 22 at-bats.
A.J. Pierzynski, C, White Sox: Pierzynski also does well against his crosstown rival, going 5-for-15 with one home run against Zambrano, and maybe most importantly, just one strikeout.
Adam LaRoche, 1B, Pirates: Glen Perkins gets tattooed by lefties, with a .355 average against. That's not just limited to this season, either: in Perkins' career, he has a reverse platoon split, allowing lefties to hit .330 off him.
• Chris Granderson, OF, Tigers: Adam Wainwright's OPS against left-handers is 221 points higher than it is against righties. For Granderson, 12 of his 14 home runs have come against right-handers, and eight of his 10 steals as well.

Pitchers' count:

Adam Dunn, OF, Nationals: Just 4-for-22 (.182) against CC Sabathia in his career, Dunn has struck out eight times against one walk.
Adam Lind, OF, Blue Jays: Lind hasn't been awful against left-handers this season, but his performance has declined, with a 19-4 strikeout-to-walk ratio and a .464 slugging percentage, compared to his .575 slugging against right-handers. And Cole Hamels isn't your average lefty; he's dominated left-handers to the tune of a .230 AVG/.253 OBP/.365 SLG this season.
• Nate McLouth, OF, Braves: He is 0-for-4 with 3 K's against Aaron Harang this season, bringing his career numbers to a woeful 1-for-20 (.050) with nine strikeouts.
Ivan Rodriguez, C, Astros: Pudge has been thoroughly owned by Kevin Millwood, with a .114 lifetime average in 35 at-bats, striking out a whopping 10 times.
Jason Kubel, OF, Twins: Paul Maholm has held lefties to eight hits -- and only two extra-base hits -- in 60 at-bats this season, while Kubel has only hit .188 with two extra-base hits in 48 at-bats against southpaws. With numbers like that, Kubel should be nowhere near your starting lineup on Tuesday.
Ryan Ludwick, OF, Cardinals: Justin Verlander has mowed down righties this season -- an otherworldly .181/.232/.254 line against -- so don't expect Tuesday to be the day Ludwick snaps out of his slump.
Brandon Inge, 3B, Tigers: Like Verlander, Adam Wainwright has also been death against right-handers, with a sub-.600 OPS allowed, and Inge is much better against left-handed pitching as it is, as his slugging drops nearly 400 points against righties, and his average more than 100 points.
Carlos Pena, 1B, Rays: Pena has 31 strikeouts in 79 at-bats against left-handers, a large reason he's hitting just .190 against them. Jorge De La Rosa strikes out 40 percent of the left-handed batters he faces, limiting them to a .546 OPS.
Kendry Morales, 1B, Angels: Morales is worthless against left-handed pitching, with a .186/.205/.233 line; only two of his 28 extra-base hits have come off of lefties.

Deep inside the matchups

Can you trust Ervin Santana or Gil Meche in their outings on Tuesday?
Click here to find out. Insider

If you're hardcore

Ryan Church, OF, Mets: Church is hitting .304 against righties this season and has three doubles and a home run in five games since returning from the disabled list. Manager Jerry Manuel confirmed him as the everyday right fielder recently, yet he's still available in over 90 percent of ESPN leagues.
Bill Hall, 3B, Brewers: Hall's struggles have been immense recently, but he did go 2-for-4 against a lefty on Friday, giving him a .311 average against portsiders, and Jeremy Sowers is the kind of soft-tossing southpaw he does well against.
Andruw Jones, OF, Rangers: Despite having an OPS higher against righties than lefties, Jones still only starts against southpaws. Still, he's worth starting against Wandy Rodriguez due to his propensity to hit at home, where 13 of his 15 extra-base hits have occurred, including five of his six dingers.
Mike Jacobs, 1B, Royals: Jacobs has been in one of his brutal slumps in recent weeks, but he's a convincing 6-for-8 with two home runs and two doubles against Doug Davis, one of the rare left-handed pitchers he conquers.
Juan Rivera, OF, Angels: Rivera is hitting .391 with five home runs in just 46 at-bats against lefties, and he plays better defense than the left-handed Bobby Abreu as well, who seems the most likely outfielder to sit as the Angels play without the DH in San Francisco. Giants hurler Jonathan Sanchez is also susceptible to right-handers, with an .853 OPS allowed compared to a .573 OPS against lefties. That said, it's merely speculation, and manager Mike Scioscia may find it hard to bench his regular starter, although you would think he would do whatever he could to get his hottest bat in the lineup. Of course, giving Vladimir Guerrero the day off is also an option.
Jeremy Hermida, OF, Marlins: The streaky Hermida has looked strong in June, with three home runs and a .326 average; he had five consecutive multihit games before his streak broke Sunday after facing four left-handers. (He hits .203 against lefties.)

Triage

Injury list: Out

Coco Crisp, OF, Royals (15-day DL)
Frank Francisco, RP, Rangers (15-day DL, shoulder): Another cautionary tale of a player rushing back from an injury. He is eligible to return from the DL on Friday, but that seems unlikely considering it's a recurring injury. C.J. Wilson once again becomes the temporary closer.

Injury list: Day-to-day

Jason Bartlett, SS, Rays (15-day DL, ankle): Bartlett is expected to return to the Rays on Tuesday.
Joe Crede, 3B, Twins (back)
Michael Cuddyer, OF, Twins (finger): This is the same finger that bothered him earlier in the month. The Twins flew him to Minnesota to consult a hand specialist, and with teammate Denard Span also injured, manager Ron Gardenhire hinted that one of the two could land on the disabled list soon.
Khalil Greene, SS, Cardinals (15-day DL, anxiety): The Cardinals are moving Greene to third base, and he should be activated from the disabled list quite soon, perhaps in time for Tuesday's contest.
Casey Kotchman, 1B, Braves (15-day DL, shin/calf): Kotchman will return from a rehab assignment and be activated from the DL on Tuesday.
Carlos Lee, OF, Astros (leg): "It just cramps up on me. It's not painful," Lee said, and since the 'Stros will get to use the DH, consider Lee probable for Tuesday.
Kazuo Matsui, 2B, Astros (15-day DL, hamstring): He is expected to be activated from the DL on Tuesday.
• Denard Span, OF, Twins (dizziness): Span is taking medication to clear up an inner-ear infection, but there's no word on if he'll be able to suit up for the series versus Pittsburgh beginning Tuesday.
Josh Willingham, OF, Nationals (bereavement)

Weather concerns

• The Pirates-Twins contest will be the lone weatherproof affair.
• The only threat of rain is in the Midwest, where Chicago and Cincinnati have a coin flip's chance of thunderstorms. St. Louis has a 30 percent shot of storms, as well.

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

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