Commentary

Oswalt's great matchup versus Nats

Updated: July 9, 2009, 5:44 PM ET
By Adam Madison | Special to ESPN.com

Daily Notes
Dan Haren, Joe Saunders, Bronson Arroyo and Zach Duke are each seeking their ninth wins on the season. Which hurler looks out of place to you? While wins will forever be flawed metric, this is that time of the season where time -- and regression to the mean -- starts to catch up with those fluky wins, and on Friday we expect three of those four pitchers to continue to pay the piper. (Surely you won't have much trouble guessing the exception.) On the opposite end of the spectrum, we have the likes of Ricky Nolasco (6-6, 5.42 ERA) making up ground in a hurry. With the All-Star break soon approaching, you'll hear a lot about second-half studs, but often those second-half performers are just the beneficiary of their luck reverting to normal. Read below for the full rundown on just who the cosmos favors for Friday.

For starters

Selected notes: Vintage Roy Oswalt has appeared recently, as he has struck out eight, eight and six batters while allowing a combined three runs in his past three starts. It's unfortunate that it takes the most middling of offenses for the old Oswalt to show up -- a three-game stretch against the lineups of the Royals, Padres and Giants is enough to make any pitcher envious -- but Oswalt can't control the schedule, and lo and behold, he gets another struggling offense as the Astros host the Nationals in his next start. Such a beneficial matchup means you also have to like the chances of Oswalt turning in his third consecutive win, too. … Joe Blanton has allowed more than three runs in a start just once in his past eight outings, piling up six quality starts along the way. After a brutal start to the season, it's nice to see that kind of bounce back, and while he's still allowing a healthy amount of home runs, his opponent on Friday, the Pirates, are second-to-last in home runs hit this season. The favorable matchup should mean Blanton makes it seven quality starts out of nine. … The real Nolasco has stood up in recent weeks; the one who has racked up 41 strikeouts in his past 34 innings. With a total of five earned runs allowed (1.32 ERA) in those 34 innings, there may not be a hotter pitcher in baseball, as he's a winner of four straight, too. If anything, his ranking on the day is too low. Nolasco shouldn't have trouble against the Diamondbacks. … Francisco Liriano has struck out at least six batters in five consecutive starts, and he has allowed two or less walks in four of those. It may not quite be the Liriano of old, but it gets the job done, as he has a 3.79 ERA in that five game span. While he has allowed 13 home runs in 96 2/3 innings this season, he has allowed only four since June 5. So if he can keep the walks down, we like his chances versus the White Sox. … Those darn Yankees have the best batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage in the AL against left-handers, so Saunders has his work cut out for him. The soft-tossing southpaw has allowed a ridiculous 10 home runs in his past five starts, and is just one home run away from matching the 21 he allowed all of last season. There's a good chance Saunders crosses that threshold on Friday. If he does, hopefully he's comfortably on your bench. … In his past five starts, Derek Lowe has struck out more than two batters just once, and all that contact has come back to bite him, as he's allowed 43 hits and three home runs in 23 innings. It should go without saying that you avoid keeping a struggling pitcher active when he traverses into Coors Field. … For all the talk of Joba Chamberlain's wicked stuff, he has struck out more than five batters just six times, primarily because he rarely pitches more than six innings. He has 41 walks in 84 2/3 innings, and since nine of his runs allowed have been unearned, he's been quite fortunate, otherwise his ERA would be over five. The Angels lead the majors in batting average against right-handed pitching -- by 11 points -- so another short stint could be in store for Chamberlain. … Duke has been dancing on the razor's edge recently, with a 17-11 strikeout-to-walk rate and eight long balls allowed in his past six starts. He's lucky to come away with a 4.61 ERA during that stretch. Don't let his surprising numbers on the season fool you; the sand is about to run out on this hourglass. Duke's numbers have been much worse on the road this season, too, and the Phillies expect Raul Ibanez to return to the lineup, making a risky matchup that much more dangerous.

Now batting

Hitters' count

Kosuke Fukudome, OF, Cubs: In eight July games, Fukudome already has six extra-base hits, one more than his June total in 57 fewer at-bats. Left-handed batters have hit .300 against Brad Thompson in his career, so Fukudome is a good bet to remain hot.
Shin-Soo Choo, OF, Indians: Choo is locked in and even hitting with rare power, roping doubles in five of his six games this month. He's slugged three home runs as well. Edwin Jackson has been great this season, but Choo is great against right-handers and went 2-for-2 with a double and a walk against Jackson in a contest earlier this season.
Luke Scott, OF, Orioles: In a huge nine-game hitting streak in which he's batting .363 with three homers, Scott has shown he's the real deal this season but a little streaky. He followed up a monstrous May with an uneven June, and is still available in more than a third of ESPN leagues. It helps that 12 of Scott Richmond's 15 home runs allowed have been to lefties. You have to figure the odds of Richmond throwing one in Scott's wheelhouse are good.
Willy Taveras, OF, Reds: Taveras is 16-for-43 (.372) in his past 10 games, which, hitting near the top of the Reds' lineup, should result in a plethora of steals. He's 2-for-3 on the basepaths during that streak, and since almost all his hits have been singles, he could be in line for bunches of steals soon.
J.D. Drew, OF, Red Sox: Drew is 4-for-9 with a double and a home run against Brian Bannister, and while that may not sound like much, left-handers have been Bannister's bugaboo for much of his career. Drew normally doesn't show significant power, but in his career Bannister has allowed southpaws to slug 79 points higher than he allows righties to.
Michael Cuddyer, OF, Twins: While he is hitting only .286 against lefties, 13 of his 22 hits have gone for extra bases, giving him a .636 slugging percentage in 77 at-bats. John Danks is, of course, a left-hander, and even better is that Cuddyer is 9-for-18 with three doubles and a home run off of him.
Paul Konerko, 1B, White Sox: He's hit two homers off Liriano in nine at-bats, and 12 of the 13 home runs Liriano has allowed this season have come against right-handers. Konerko is one of those right-handers, as he has one home run in five plate appearances this season.

Pitchers' count

Matt Holliday, OF, Athletics: Holliday is just 1-for-6 with a walk and a strikeout against Matt Garza this season, and in general, has struggled with the tougher pitchers of the American League. Garza is mowing down hitters, as batters have mustered a porous .664 OPS against him. Expect Holliday's struggles to continue.
Mike Cameron, OF, Brewers: Cameron has struck out 40 percent of the time against Chad Billingsley. As you might imagine, if he is punching out that often, Cameron hasn't had much success against Billingsley, with two hits in 20 at-bats.
Jason Kubel, OF, Twins: Benching Kubel against left-handers is standard operating procedure, as his .179 average against southpaws suppresses his otherwise amazing numbers. He's never shown power versus lefties, with just six career home runs in 281 at-bats.
Clint Barmes, 2B/SS, Rockies: Barmes has beat the ball into the ground against Lowe, going 4-for-14 with no extra-base hits. Even though he has been hot recently, he makes his living against left-handers, not righties, so don't be surprised if Barmes cools off for a day.
Felipe Lopez, 2B, Diamondbacks: He's only good for his batting average these days, but Lopez is 1-for-14 (.071) against his scheduled opponent, Nolasco.
Jorge Cantu, 1B/3B, Marlins: Few hitters have bested Haren this season, so you can't go wrong in playing it safe with Cantu, especially given his poor track record (.235 average in 17 at-bats).
Johnny Damon, OF, Yankees: Saunders has allowed just four extra-base hits in 110 at-bats against left-handed hitters, and since Damon is slugging a mediocre .414 and batting .263 versus left-handers, chances are it'll be a quiet night for Damon.

If you're hardcore

Colby Rasmus, OF, Cardinals: Rasmus has stroked four home runs in his first seven games in July, and the rookie just keeps getting better. He's now hitting .308 with 10 home runs against right-handers in his inaugural season.
Billy Butler, 1B, Royals: A career .336 hitter against lefties, he has continued his lefty mashing this season with a .327 average and five dingers in 101 at-bats. That's about the gist of his value, but that makes him useful in deeper leagues, even against pitchers the quality of Jon Lester.
Josh Willingham, OF, Nationals: Willingham has begun July with a seven-game hitting streak, and he's even stealing bases now, with two this month. He's hitting .353 since June 9.
Andruw Jones, OF, Rangers: With five home runs in his past four games, Jones is suddenly hot again. His production comes in spurts and facing a left-handed pitcher should mean another start.

Triage

Injury list: Out

David Eckstein, SS, Padres (hamstring)

Injury list: Day-to-day

Mark DeRosa, 2B/3B/OF, Cardinals (wrist)
Vladimir Guerrero, OF, Angels (knee)
Torii Hunter, OF, Angels (adductor): "I've been playing on it for a month," Hunter said about his strained groin. "It's just been going downhill." A DL stint seems fairly likely. Consider him doubtful for Friday.
• Ibanez, OF, Phillies ( groin): It's likely that Ibanez will be activated from the 15-day DL in time to suit up on Friday for the Phillies' three-game series with the Pirates.
Chipper Jones, 3B, Braves (groin): Jones missed a second straight game Wednesday, but plans to return to action on Thursday.
Hanley Ramirez, SS, Marlins (hip)
Brian Roberts, 2B, Orioles (respiratory infection)
Freddy Sanchez, 2B, Pirates (back): Pirates brass hopes Sanchez can start on Friday. Sanchez missed his sixth consecutive game on Wednesday.
Geovany Soto, C, Cubs (oblique)

Weather concerns

• Six games will be played under domes Friday: Athletics-Rays, Dodgers-Brewers, Nationals-Astros, White Sox-Twins, Marlins-Diamondbacks and Rangers-Mariners.
• Only three games could experience precipitation, two of which are hosted in the Midwest: the Cardinals-Cubs (40 percent chance of storms) and Indians-Tigers (also 40 percent). Further west, Denver also has a moderate risk of thunderstorms (30 percent).

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

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