Commentary

Scherzer's recent hot streak

Updated: June 26, 2009, 3:17 PM ET
By AJ Mass | ESPN.com

Daily Notes
Interleague play mercifully comes to an end this weekend with rematches of the Windy City War, the Ohio Players Rollercoaster Rampage and the Battle for the Core of the Big Apple, just to name a few of the matchups.

From a fantasy standpoint, I wonder what would happen in leagues with one-game eligibility if Micah Owings were to be utilized as a DH in Cleveland. (He's a better choice than Paul Janish and has as much power as Jonny Gomes, if not more.) One could make an argument you should be allowed to start Owings in your utility spot on days he pitches, and only get credit for his at-bats and not the 4.87 ERA. It isn't likely to happen, but it is just one more reason I don't like interleague play as it currently works.

Enough whining from me. You came here to see the starting pitcher rankings for the weekend, and that's what you're going to get. Here's the order of preference as we see it for the weekend of June 27-28. Enjoy!

For starters

Selected notes for Saturday: Javier Vazquez is quietly leading the National League in K/9 ratio and Boston has the fourth-most strikeouts in the American League, plus the pitcher has to hit this weekend in Atlanta. Expect double-digit whiffs from Javy. … Mark Buehrle falls just below Kevin Slowey and Felix Hernandez in our rankings thanks to the Cubs' familiarity with what he has to offer. Buehrle is only 4-4 with a 4.57 ERA against the Wrigley Field residents and that's why his stock is a tad down for today. … Tim Wakefield has days where he is unhittable and days where he's no better than a Little Leaguer. The 9-3 record is hard to ignore, but so is the 5.68 ERA at Turner Field. Still, without a whole lot of quality options today, we still like him better than most, including Ryan Dempster, whose career mark against the White Sox is 1-3 with a 5.79 ERA. … Chris Volstad has lost four of his past five, but he's still getting the ground balls, and we think it's just a matter of time before they start to bounce his way. … Paul Maholm faces the Royals, who are hitting only .251 as a team, which should help him to come back from the 6.88 ERA he's posted over his past three starts. … A.J. Burnett has been all over the map this season without any real consistency. He should have a tougher time against the Mets this Saturday, compared with the easy 15-0 victory two weeks ago, but with Tim Redding on the mound, the chances are quite good that he'll get a big lead to work with again. … Are we insane placing Kevin Correia in our top 10? Maybe. But he does have a 3-1 record with a 2.08 ERA in his past four starts, and is coming off a season high in strikeouts, seven, versus Oakland. … Doug Davis may have more losses than anyone pitching Saturday, but that ERA is still more than respectable, and he is 4-2 lifetime against the Angels. … Trevor Cahill has been lights out of late, with a 2-0 record and a 1.86 ERA in his past three, which is in stark contrast to his opponent, Jorge De La Rosa, who has somehow managed to go 2-1 in his past three outings, despite an 8.36 ERA. … Jeremy Guthrie's past success against the Nationals (1.29 ERA) is the reason we like him more than Todd Wellemeyer, who is facing the hot-hitting Twins. … J.A. Happ continues to impress, but the Blue Jays are the toughest offense he could draw in interleague play. Still he's a better bet for success than Barry Zito, whose history in Miller Park is abysmal: 0-3 with a 10.50 ERA. … We're willing to raise Homer Bailey out of the cellar based on rumors of a new split-fingered fastball giving him success in the minors, but we'll need to see him win a game on the major league level before buying in completely. He might well do better than his opponent, "Jon & Kate" look-alike Tomo Ohka, 0-3 with a 7.20 ERA at Progressive Field. … Seth McClung's pitch count has never topped 48 this season, so he won't likely stay in the game too long for Milwaukee. As for Alfredo Figaro, he had a nice debut, but is still only one game removed from Double-A. Color us skeptical. … Finally, veteran southpaw Bruce Chen is the likely candidate to get the call from Triple-A to start on Saturday, but he hasn't pitched in the majors since 2007. Thanks, but no thanks.

Selected notes for Sunday:

We'll take our chances with Zack Greinke winning his 10th game of the season against the Pirates. After all, when a pitcher having an ERA of 3.27 over three starts is considered "struggling" that's not too shabby. … Edwin Jackson is a perfect 2-0 against the Astros, with a 3.78 ERA which gives him the nod over Max Scherzer. Scherzer has been on fire of late, winning his past three starts with a 1.83 ERA, but it is hard to completely ignore the Angels' .278 team batting average. … Aaron Cook has also been as solid as they come lately (3-0, 2.25 in his past three) and although he strikes out relatively few, he is facing weak-hitting Oakland. … John Danks should be winning a bit more than he has, and perhaps he'll get back to .500 against the Cubs. Danks is 1-0 with a 1.38 ERA against the team, but he does face Carlos Zambrano, himself 5-2 lifetime against the White Sox. We'll give the slight nod to the home pitcher here. … Brad Penny has gotten run support out the ying-yang this season -- more than six runs per start -- which is why he's 6-2 despite an ERA near 5.00. So although his career ERA versus the Braves is 5.13, he's also 8-4 against them. He doesn't win pretty, but he wins. Tommy Hanson's value takes a hit Sunday against the strong Red Sox lineup. … Joel Pineiro is an enigma, sandwiching two shutouts around five losses, three of which were winnable "quality starts." More than anything else, this is just playing a hunch. … Right-handed hitters are batting just .202 against left-hander Brian Tallet, who squares off against Jamie Moyer and his 5.37 ERA against the Jays. We'll go with youth here. … Livan Hernandez has been awful against the Yankees in his past three outings: 0-3 with a 6.94 ERA. And yet, he's facing fantasy untouchable Chien-Ming Wang, who has done even worse against the Mets with an 8.22 ERA in his past three trips to the mound. If Livan retires the side in the top of the first, he may well have a 6-0 lead by the time he returns for the second. … We like John Lannan and his 1.23 ERA at Camden Yards, but have some doubts as to whether Matt Palmer will rebound from his first loss of the season. … It pains us to put Francisco Liriano so low, but with only one start of more than six innings since May 9 and Albert Pujols in the lineup against him, we're not optimistic. … Russ Ortiz is always a "start him and pray" proposition, but he is 7-3 lifetime at Minute Maid Park. There is that. … Chad Gaudin might want to forget his career numbers at Rangers Ballpark: 1-4 with an 8.10 ERA and yet that still inspires more hope than Matt Harrison's 11.20 ERA in his past three appearances. … Pittsburgh's Charlie Morton is getting the start with Ian Snell being sent to the minors, but he's done little to impress so far and while David Price may well be great one day, we can't count on him this Sunday, with a 6.60 ERA in his past three. … Lastly, we've got Koji Uehara, who may not be fit enough to go to the hill for Baltimore. If not, Daniel Hernandez would get the call, but with all the uncertainty there, it's probably best to avoid the O's staff entirely today.

Now batting (Saturday)

Hitters' count

Jimmy Rollins, SS, Phillies: Rollins should be champing at the bit to get some hits after being benched by Charlie Manuel, and he hit a home run off Brad Mills the last time they faced each other.
J.D. Drew, OF, Red Sox: Four home runs and a .417 batting average against Javier Vazquez are good reasons to greenlight Drew in your fantasy lineup.
Bobby Abreu, OF, Angels: Doug Davis has never fared well against Abreu, who has three home runs in 14 career at-bats and a .357 batting average against the Arizona starter.
Ryan Braun, OF, Brewers: Braun is quite brawny against Barry Zito, with a 1.750 OPS lifetime against him.
Dan Uggla, 2B, Marlins: Uggla seems to have woken up against Baltimore, going 6-for-13 in that series, and hopefully that will carry over to the games against Tampa Bay.
Joe Crede, 3B, Twins: Crede has four RBIs and a .600 average against Todd Wellemeyer in their limited interaction.
Jose Guillen, OF, Royals: Guillen is a career .342 hitter at PNC Park, and has hit .328 overall against the Pirates regardless of the location.
Aubrey Huff, 1B, Orioles: Huff is a .368 hitter against the pitchers currently on the Nationals' 40-man roster, including a 2-for-3 against Shairon Martis.

Pitchers' count

Curtis Granderson, OF, Tigers: Granderson is only a .143 hitter against the Astros over the years, with nary an extra-base hit to his name.
• Kaz Matsui, 2B, Astros: Matsui is 0-for-12 for his career against the Tigers. That's not exactly something we'd put in bold print on our résumé.
Edgar Renteria, SS, Giants: Unless you count OBP, Renteria is not a guy you want to play today. Against Seth McClung, he has no hits in 11 plate appearances, but has walked six times.
Elijah Dukes, OF, Nationals: Jeremy Guthrie loves to see Elijah Dukes at the plate. Dukes is 0-for-8 against him lifetime.
Khalil Greene, SS, Cardinals: In the midst of an 0-for-11 slump, Greene has never had a hit off Kevin Slowey of the Twins.
Alfonso Soriano, OF, Cubs: It's all or nothing with Soriano against Mark Buehrle. He has two career home runs, but little else as attested to by his .207 batting average.
Jay Bruce, OF, Reds: Bruce's .173 in June is bad enough. The 0-for-12 against the Indians in May seals the fantasy benching.

If you're hardcore

Andruw Jones, OF, Rangers: With three home runs in nine at-bats against Kevin Correia, Jones might be an unexpected source of power this Saturday.
Ronny Cedeno, 2B, Mariners: He'll likely play for the injured Yuniesky Betancourt, and is a career .400 hitter facing Eric Milton.
Brad Ausmus, C, Dodgers: He has only 15 at-bats this month, but if he gets a few on Saturday, they should be good ones. Ausmus is 2-for-3 against Felix Hernandez.
• DeWayne Wise, OF, White Sox: Rocking a four-game hitting streak, Wise has a .333 average against Ryan Dempster.
Gary Sheffield, OF, Mets: We haven't seen Sheffield around the Shake Shack lately, but he's got three home runs off A.J. Burnett.
Ryan Spilborghs, OF, Rockies: Spilborghs has reached base safely in seven straight games dating back to June 13, a nice feat for a part-time player.
Jack Cust, OF, Athletics: Cust has 11 home runs in the past three years of interleague play.

Now batting (Sunday)

Hitters' count

Joey Votto, 1B, Reds: Good sign No. 1: 5-for-12 in his Toronto return to the Reds' lineup. Good sign No. 2: Two homers in two at-bats off David Huff in their last meeting.
Paul Konerko, 1B, White Sox: He has hits in 14 of his past 15 games, and four career home runs off Carlos Zambrano.
Corey Hart, OF, Brewers: A 10-game hitting streak followed up by an 0-for-12 against Minnesota, Hart gets back on track against Jonathan Sanchez, against whom he hits .429.
Hank Blalock, DH, Rangers: Rarely do you see an .875 batting average and a 2.639 OPS, but that's what Blalock gives you against Chad Gaudin. Scary good.
Marco Scutaro, SS, Blue Jays: With three home runs and a .438 batting average off Jamie Moyer, how could you not start Scutaro?
Joe Mauer, C, Twins: The quest for .400 would be a lot easier if Mauer got to hit against Joel Pineiro more often. He's 11-for-15 against Pineiro.
Alex Rodriguez, 3B, Yankees: Sit A-Rod and spoil your lineup. Rodriguez is a career .579 hitter off Livan Hernandez, with three homers and 10 RBIs.

Pitchers' count

Garret Anderson, OF, Braves: He has a mere .222 OBP against Brad Penny for his career. We'll pass on Anderson for Sunday.
Brian Roberts, 2B, Orioles: Roberts has been great the past two weeks, with hits in 12 of his past 14 games, but he's never had a hit facing John Lannan.
Miguel Cabrera, 1B, Tigers: It's a testament to how good Cabrera usually is that a lifetime .238 average with seven strikeouts against Russ Ortiz sticks out like a sore thumb.
Lance Berkman, 1B, Astros: Edwin Jackson has done well against Berkman, retiring him in six out of seven at-bats.
Ryan Ludwick, OF, Cardinals: He hit two home runs on the latest road trip, but he's batting only .222 at home so far this season. We're not buying it.
Pat Burrell, DH, Rays: Pat has no bat against Andrew Miller, with a career goose egg at the plate.
Alexei Ramirez, SS, White Sox: Ramirez's bat isn't the problem; he's hit safely in eight of his past nine games. However, the errors in the field are beginning to annoy Ozzie Guillen, and we fear a random benching if he boots another ball or two before Sunday arrives.

If you're hardcore

Adam Rosales, 3B, Reds: He went 3-for-7 in the first series between the Reds and Indians this year. Maybe a rematch will reawaken his slumping bat.
Milton Bradley, OF, Cubs: True, he has more DNPs in June than RBIs, but he is 3-for-6 with a home run facing John Danks.
Rich Aurilia, 1B, Giants: He's gotten quite a few spot-starts this month, and has a career .438 average against Brewers starter Jeff Suppan.
Tony Gwynn Jr, OF, Padres: Have you noticed the .338 batting average for the month of June? Not many people have, judging from the less than 2 percent ESPN.com league ownership.
Ramon Vazquez, 3B, Pirates: Definitely for hardcore owners only, but Vazquez is 3-for-7 lifetime against Royals ace Zack Greinke.
Gerardo Parra, OF, Diamondbacks: A four-game hitting streak and the injury to Eric Byrnes should guarantee plenty of at-bats for Parra in the near future.
Nick Evans, 1B, Mets: Evans nearly single-handedly won the series against St. Louis for the Mets with four RBIs in the past two games.

Triage

Injury list: Out

• Eric Byrnes, OF, Diamondbacks (15-day disabled list, fractured left hand)
Jeff Bennett, P, Braves (15-day disabled list, fractured left hand)
Kyle Farnsworth, P, Royals (torn groin muscle)
Reed Johnson, OF, Cubs (back spasms)
• Yuniesky Betancourt, SS, Mariners (15-day disabled list, hamstring)

Injury list: Day-to-day

Evan Longoria, 3B, Rays (hamstring): Longoria should be fine to play this weekend after getting an unexpected day off Thursday, but that hamstring does keep acting up, which is definitely something to be concerned about.
Antonio Bastardo, P, Phillies (shoulder): Leaving a start in the middle of an inning with shoulder strain doesn't bode well for making your next scheduled start.
Nick Punto, SS, Twins (ribs): An MRI and X-rays showed Punto is merely sore, but that doesn't mean he'll be in the lineup this weekend. Michael Cuddyer may even get some action at second base if Punto can't go.
Asdrubal Cabrera, 2B, Indians (shoulder): Cabrera could be back any day now in Cleveland. Just make sure he's actually back before inserting him in your lineup.
Kenshin Kawakami, P, Braves (bruised neck): He seems OK after getting hit with a Joba Chamberlain line drive on Wednesday, but may be skipped over for his next start as a precaution.
Kenji Johjima, C, Mariners (toe): He's back from the disabled list, but may not catch back-to-back days right off the bat.
Nick Johnson, 1B, Nationals (ankle): Brittle Johnson has avoided the disabled list so far this season, but left Thursday's game after getting hit by a pitch. Only being day-to-day, for Nick, is great news.

Weather concerns

• The weekend's weatherproof games: Angels-Diamondbacks, Tigers-Astros, Giants-Brewers, Marlins-Rays and Phillies-Blue Jays.
• Texas brings the heat this weekend, with the mercury going as high as 104 degrees on Saturday before settling back down to a "cool 100" on Sunday.
• The rain gods apparently aren't happy with intracity rivalries, as Saturday brings isolated thunderstorms to both Chicago and New York. Both cities should be in the clear for Sunday, though.
• On Sunday, the thunderstorms move on to Cleveland, Pittsburgh and Baltimore, but all other games should be free of any raindrops.

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

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