Slowey, Billingsley each seek 10th win
Starting pitcher rankings for Friday, June 19
Selected notes: It sure must look weird to see Josh Outman as the No. 5-ranked pitcher on the day, but he's ranked that high due to a combination of things: Outman's inning-munching, quality-start tendencies; the exceedingly weak crop of starting pitchers on the day; and the Padres possessing the league's worst offense at home. Indeed, the Pads were last in home offense for the past three seasons, and second-to-last in 2005; it's just easy to spot start any half-decent pitcher when they head to Petco Park, especially when their counterpart is Wade LeBlanc, a career minor leaguer who hasn't thrown a pitch in the majors all season. Talk about a turnaround: After spending the first five weeks of the season as baseball's worst pitcher, Jose Contreras has come back from a minor league stint to pitch consecutive eight-inning scoreless outings, allowing a combined three hits in the process. The curious thing is that, on the season, he's limited right-handers to a .194 average, and although lefties have tattooed him, any pitcher is going to face more righties than lefties, usually at about a 3:1 ratio. With the Reds having so few quality left-handed hitters, and on the whole, a mediocre offense, it's a small risk for a large reward; after all, not even the great Zack Greinke has allowed just three hits over consecutive starts. Considering Roy Oswalt's mediocre performances against some below-average National League offenses, it's fair to question just how well he'll do against the tough middle-of-the-order lineup of the Twins. Against right-handers, the Twins are tough, with a .781 OPS that ranks sixth, and that's with Joe Mauer missing the first month of the season. Meanwhile, Oswalt has allowed at least four runs to the Cardinals, Dodgers, Nationals, Padres, Reds and Pirates; strip him of the name and he's just another guy at this point. Randy Johnson has a somewhat favorable matchup versus the Rangers, who sport a .295 OBP on the road. However, it's hard to have confidence in a 45-year-old pitcher who has allowed 42 percent of his hits to go for extra bases. The Rangers may not hit for much average or have much patience, but they can drive the ball a long way, and it only takes a few mistakes for a pitcher to cross the line from effective to mediocre. Johnson's starts have tended to be boom-or-bust for most of the season, allowing four-plus runs five times while allowing one run or less five times as well. Having allowed two runs or fewer in five of his past six starts, averaging more than seven innings per start, Jason Marquis has lowered his ERA by more than a run and a half in the past five weeks. While none of the teams he faced were powerhouse offenses -- the Cardinals, who rank 16th in team OPS, were his toughest opponents on paper -- the Pirates, his opponents on Friday, don't fit that bill, either. Against the weaker offenses in the league, Marquis has shown he's just fine, and now that the Rockies' offense has come alive -- an .819 OPS in June, tops in the NL -- the chance at a win makes it worth the gamble. The Red Sox are planning on going with a six-man rotation now that John Smoltz is ready to contribute, but once you factor in how poor Daisuke Matsuzaka has pitched, you have to think he's pitching for a rotation spot versus the Braves. Despite striking out a batter per inning, he's been awful in every other respect, and the Sox have more than enough depth for Matsuzaka to work out whatever kinks are bothering him. He has to be avoided until he shows something.
• Travis Hafner, DH, Indians: Hafner has only four at-bats against Rich Harden, but that's mainly because Harden has walked him four times, which means those plate appearances don't count as official at-bats. In those that did count, however, Hafner has two hits, roping a double and a home run off the righty, who has had trouble with left-handed batters this season anyway. Harden has a .310 average and a .571 slugging percentage allowed against lefties.
• Paul Konerko, 1B, White Sox: Konerko is in a bit of a slump, but is 2-for-7 with a double, a home run and two walks versus Bronson Arroyo. Toss in Arroyo's poor strikeout rate (4.49 K/9), his homer-prone ways (14 homers allowed, tied for fourth-most in the NL), and the hitters' park (Great American Ball Park), and the power potential looms large for Konerko.
• Cody Ross, OF, Marlins: A tremendous source of power against left-handers -- while he's hitting four points worse against lefties, 11 of his 16 hits have gone for extra bases -- he's also been hot in general, hitting .333 with 20 extra-base hits over his past 108 at-bats.
• Ian Stewart, 2B/3B, Rockies: Ross Ohlendorf is allowing left-handers to hit .299 against him, and a whopping 39 percent of those hits have gone for extra bases. That's not just a one-year trend, either: entering the season, southpaws hit .359 with a .608 slugging percentage off of him. And as Stewart has demonstrated this season, he may not hit the ball often, but when he does make contact, it tends to go far.
• Jose Lopez, 2B, Mariners: With another homer on Wednesday, Lopez is now up to five in 55 June at-bats; toss in four doubles, and nine of his 17 hits have been of the extra-base variety. He may swing at everything (zero walks), but that makes those hot streaks oh so hotter, especially when going up against such a hittable pitcher in Jon Garland, a pitcher he's actually 7-for-20 (.350) against lifetime.
• Adrian Beltre, 3B, Mariners: That's right, two members of the worst offense in baseball in this space! Beltre's season-long struggles have come to an end; although his eight-game hitting streak was snapped Wednesday, he's still hitting .362 on the month, adding in eight extra-base hits for good measure. And, like Lopez, he's also hit well against Garland: 6-for-19 (.316) with two doubles and a long ball.
• Jayson Werth, OF, Phillies: The Phillies smartly hit Werth third in the lineup against left-handers, as his .271 AVG/.400 OBP/.529 SLG helps split up lefties Chase Utley and Ryan Howard. Werth has five homers in 70 at-bats against southpaws, just one fewer homer than he has against righties in 94 fewer at-bats.
• Chris Iannetta, C, Rockies: A .228 hitter on the season, Iannetta hits .296 in the comforts of Coors Field. He has eight extra-base hits, including three home runs, and the Rockies host the Pirates through Sunday.
• Adam LaRoche, 1B, Pirates: He's 7-for-30 (.233) against Jason Marquis, striking out six times against a pitcher who primarily pitches to contact. LaRoche does have a couple of home runs against him, but normally when a batter strikes out 20 percent of the time against a pitcher, it means he's genuinely fooled. The platoon advantage also doesn't mean much: Marquis has limited left-handed batters to a .302 slugging percentage this season.
• Juan Rivera, OF, Angels: Rivera has been scorching hot recently, but consider Chad Billingsley the fire extinguisher, especially against righties: he mows them down to the tune of a .200/.311/.267 line, striking them out more than 29 percent of the time.
• Juan Pierre, OF, Dodgers: The speedster has been grounded a bit this month, hitting just .236 with a .288 on-base percentage. He does have six steals anyway, but you can't nab bases when you're not on base, and Joe Saunders is death to left-handers, limiting them to a .202 average.
• Andre Ethier, OF, Dodgers: A southpaw as well, Ethier is obviously subject to the same splits, and unlike Pierre, Ethier has been rendered ineffective by lefties all season (and career) long, hitting a paltry .205 in 73 at-bats.
• Chris Davis, 1B, Rangers: Well-below the Mendoza Line (.156) against southpaws, even Davis' usual power is missing: a .328 slugging percentage in 64 at-bats won't cut it. Worse, he's struck out nearly half the time, with 31 strikeouts, and Randy Johnson is no stranger to the punchout.
• Stephen Drew, SS, Diamondbacks: He's just a .190 hitter against lefties, while Jarrod Washburn limits left-handed hitters to a brutal .149, making Drew an especially poor option Friday.
Deep inside the matchups
If you're hardcore
• Pedro Feliz, 3B, Phillies: It will be interesting to see how the new contact-oriented Feliz will do versus Rich Hill. In 14 prior at-bats, he was an all-or-nothing hitter, going 3-for-14 with four strikeouts, but two of those hits left the park. He's hitting .340 in June, so maybe he can consolidate those gains against the hittable lefty.
• Jeff Francoeur, OF, Braves: Yeah, Francoeur is in the doghouse of most owners, but he is 3-for-3 with a home run against Daisuke Matsuzaka. Normally that wouldn't be enough to hang your hat on, but Matsuzaka has also really stunk this season; he's yet to allow fewer hits than innings pitched in a start.
• Laynce Nix, OF, Reds: Nix has seven home runs and a .913 OPS against right-handers; exactly half of the 24 hits Jose Contreras has allowed against left-handers have gone for extra bases, and overall they hold a robust .296/.392/.506 line against him. Sounds like somebody's dream matchup.
• Gary Sheffield, OF, Mets: After a 3-for-28 beginning to June, Sheffy is suddenly heating up, going 7-for-17 in his past four games with a double and two homers. On top of that, he is also 3-for-6 with a dinger against Andy Sonnanstine, and righties are batting an obscene .390 versus Sonnanstine this season.
• Mark Teahen, 3B/OF, Royals: Currently sporting an eight-game hitting streak, Teahen is also 5-for-9 with a double and two triples against Brad Thompson.
• Gabe Gross, OF, Rays: Gross has been great in June, hitting .367 with one home run and three steals in 30 at-bats, starting against right-handers.
Injury list: Out
• Coco Crisp, OF, Royals (15-day DL, shoulder)
• Scott Downs, RP, Blue Jays (15-day DL, toe): Downs sprained his left big toe on Tuesday and was placed on the DL, though it's unknown just how long the injury will keep him sidelined. Either B.J. Ryan or Jason Frasor will take over closing duties.
• Raul Ibanez, OF, Phillies (15-day DL, groin)
• Denard Span, OF, Twins (15-day DL, inner ear virus): It doesn't sound like Span will miss more than the minimum; since the stint was retroactive to June 10, he can be activated on June 25.
Injury list: Day-to-day
• Bobby Abreu, OF, Angels (neck)
• Casey McGehee, 2B/3B, Brewers (knee/ankle)
• Vladimir Guerrero, OF, Angels (pectoral): The Angels play at home again on Friday, so Guerrero could DH. Manager Mike Scioscia said Guerrero isn't healthy enough to play the field, and won't be until late June at the earliest; that doesn't exactly bode well for snapping out of his hitting slump, either.
• Derek Jeter, SS, Yankees (ankle): Manager Joe Girardi gave Jeter another day off Thursday, despite Jeter's protests of health. He'll probably return on Friday.
• Hideki Matsui, OF, Yankees (knee): Beginning on Friday, the Yankees will play nine consecutive games in NL parks, limiting Matsui to pinch-hitting duties during that span.
• Joe Mauer, C, Twins (illness; available to pinch-hit): Manager Ron Gardenhire decided to sit his star catcher Thursday, as he's battling flu-like symptoms. With the DH available to them, it would be surprising if Mauer missed much more time.
• 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): Willingham likely will miss Friday's game, but should be available for the weekend. The maximum time one is allowed to stay on the bereavement list is seven days, and Willingham is not expected to need more time.
• We have two weatherproof games on the docket: the Astros-Twins affair and the contest between the Diamondbacks and the Mariners.
• In the Northeast, Boston and the nation's capital, Washington, D.C., also have a 30 percent chance of showers. And down in Miami, the Yankees and Marlins may have to deal with a few thunderstorms of their own (30 percent chance).
Adam Madison is a fantasy baseball analyst for ESPN.com.
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