Verlander versus Yankee Stadium
Weekend editor's note: The Cubs and Tigers have flip-flopped their starters for Saturday and Sunday. Randy Wells and Justin Verlander now pitch on Saturday, while Ted Lilly and Edwin Jackson will pitch on Sunday.
Starting pitcher rankings for Saturday, July 18
Selected notes for Saturday: There is much to like with Dan Haren, winner of his past three starts with a miniscule 0.82 ERA. We have him at the top of our list, just ahead of Zack Greinke, who also impresses with a 1.88 ERA at home. Adam Wainwright has been solid of late, with a 2-0 record and a 1.07 ERA in his past three outings. Earning him a slight advantage over Ted Lilly, who has a 2.11 ERA in his past three. Jered Weaver has struggled a bit, with a 6.38 ERA in July, and yet he's won two of his three starts in the month. He goes up against Oakland, the AL's worst-hitting team, which is why he's ranked ahead of Josh Johnson, going up against hot-hitting Philadelphia. Johan Santana might well get run support from his Mets against Kenshin Kawakami, but will Santana be able to shut down an Atlanta team he's never beaten? He's 0-4 lifetime against the Braves. We'll give Edwin Jackson a slight nod over CC Sabathia, as the Yankee pitcher has a 5.68 ERA in his past three starts. Jarrod Washburn has had plenty of success at Progressive Field, with a 6-3 record and a 3.44 ERA, plus he's facing Tomo Ohka, never a crowd-pleaser. Clayton Kershaw is 2-0 with an 0.53 ERA in his past three, but those sneaky Astros are actually over .500 for the season and not the pushovers you might think. Brad Penny is 2-0 with a 1.93 ERA at the Rogers Centre, putting him ahead of the middle-of-the-pack pitchers, who all have some fairly mediocre 2009 numbers. Scott Feldman would be the exception there, but we simply don't like him on so much rest; he last pitched July 10. His ERA on six or more days' rest for his career is 5.05. Vin Mazzaro has a 5.63 ERA and an 0-3 record in his past three starts, and Scott Kazmir's ERA in his past three is 5.51. Charlie Morton rounds out the trio of futility, thanks to his 5.40 career ERA at PNC Park.
Starting pitcher rankings for Sunday, July 19
Selected notes for Sunday: Strikeouts, strikeouts, strikeouts! That's what we have on Sunday, with Javier Vazquez facing the Mets, Justin Verlander against the free-swinging Yankees and Jon Lester who has already defeated the Blue Jays twice in 2009. Roy Halladay has been shaky and perhaps even distracted by trade talk, going 0-2 with a 4.50 ERA in his past three, but we expect him to rebound in what could well be an audition for his "new teammates." Matt Cain doesn't usually bring his A-game to Pittsburgh, with an 0-2 record and 5.63 ERA against the Pirates, but remember, they are still the Pirates. Zach Duke is 2-0 with a 1.65 ERA against the Giants the past three times they've met. Joel Pineiro (2.38) and Jason Marquis (1.17) both have solid ERAs in their past three games before the break, and we expect them both to come out with guns a-blazing. Yovani Gallardo, on the other hand, was ice-cold entering mid-July, with an 0-3 record and a 5.29 ERA in his past three. We're hoping for a second-half turnaround starting Sunday. Will the real Johnny Cueto please stand up? Maybe a few extra days off will yield numbers more in line with what he was doing before his past two disastrous performances. Matt Garza has never beaten the Royals (0-4, 4.02 ERA) but he is going up against Luke Hochevar, whose recent run of success we think is more mirage than truth. J.A. Happ is certainly worth starting until he loses, but keep in mind he does have a 9.82 ERA against Florida, though all of that came in relief appearances. Brett Anderson is 2-0 with an 0.49 ERA in his past three, and the Angels in the outfield aren't exactly the regulars, so we'll take a chance on putting him ahead of Erik Bedard, who is 2-0 versus the Indians with a 3.51 ERA. Francisco Liriano and Jose Contreras -- aka "this year's Francisco Liriano" -- are both iffy options at best at this stage of the game. Both Los Angeles pitchers (John Lackey and Hiroki Kuroda) also have far too many questions than answers attached to them as we enter the second half of the season. We'll pass on both this turn and re-evaluate next time out. As for the rest, Fernando Nieve has gone 0-3 with a 5.40 ERA after starting the year 3-0, Aaron Laffey has a 7.88 in his past three starts, and as for Yusmeiro Petit, well, his stat line speaks for itself, doesn't it?
Now batting (Saturday)
• Jason Giambi, 1B, Athletics: He's hit .359 with nine home runs against the current makeup of the Angels pitching staff, and has a .545 OBP against Jered Weaver.
• Travis Hafner, DH, Indians: Pronk is batting .400 against Jarrod Washburn, with three home runs and seven RBIs.
• Prince Fielder, 1B, Brewers: Expect a personal Home Run Derby for Fielder, facing Aaron Harang, against whom he's homered three times in 33 at-bats.
• Carlos Pena, 1B, Rays: Pena is hitting .407 with seven home runs against the Royals since 2006. We'll take our chances with him Saturday, even against Zack Greinke.
• Carlos Lee, 1B, Astros: Lee is 4-for-5 against Clayton Kershaw and in the middle of a .346 July. The beat goes on.
• Alex Rios, OF, Blue Jays: Say what you want about Rios' 2009 struggles, but he loves facing Brad Penny. How much? How about 8-for-11 (.727)?
• Ryan Howard, 1B, Phillies: Howard could take several more steps toward 300 homers this Saturday. He already has two blasts off Josh Johnson and is a .368 hitter when Johnson's on the mound.
• Nick Swisher, OF, Yankees: Color us unimpressed with his .226 average against the current crop of Tigers pitchers.
• Brandon Phillips, 2B, Reds: Phillips has been playing well of late but is only 2-for-12 against Manny Parra.
• Mark Teahen, 2B, Royals: He's hitting .326 in July, but could hit a snag against Scott Kazmir, who has struck him out 5 of the 13 times they've squared off.
• Adam Jones, OF, Orioles: Dig Dug is hitting only .147 against the current White Sox staff, and only .111 so far this season .
• Michael Young, 3B, Rangers: He was 0-for-9 heading into the All-Star Break and has only a .222 OBP against Scott Baker.
• Adam Lind, OF, Blue Jays: On one hand, he's had a hit in nine of 10 games in July. On the other hand, he's hitting only .267 for the month and just .167 against Brad Penny.
• Crisitan Guzman, SS, Nationals: Is 2-for-21 good? We didn't think so either. Ted Lilly owns Guzman, striking him out nine of those 21 at-bats.
• Stephen Drew, SS, Diamondbacks: Take Drew out of your lineup when he faces Adam Wainwright, unless of course a .154 batting average is a step up for you at the shortstop position.
If you're hardcore
• Ryan Raburn, OF, Tigers: He's a .304 hitter against the Yankees' current roster of arms. That might be worth a roll of the dice.
• Angel Pagan, OF, Mets: No, he's not exactly a superstar, but a leadoff hitter is a leadoff hitter.
• Matt Diaz, OF, Braves: We think a 10-for-18 against Johan Santana gives him the start in right field this Saturday.
• Alexi Casilla, SS, Twins: The .225 slugging percentage isn't enticing, we admit, but he has homered off Scott Feldman in the past. Maybe again?
• Nick Green, SS, Red Sox: Green has a .400 average against Brian Tallet, far better than his .182 so far in July. So, how hardcore are you?
• Josh Fields, 3B, White Sox: Only eight at-bats so far this month, with Gordon Beckham on display, but he has a .600 OBP against Jeremy Guthrie.
• Chris Iannetta, C, Rockies: He slugging 1.167 against Padres starter Kevin Correia. We'll take half that output Saturday.
Now batting (Sunday)
• Aramis Ramirez, 3B, Cubs: Ramirez is hitting .343 with seven homers and 22 RBIs against the Nationals in the past three seasons. That's good enough for us.
• Ichiro Suzuki, OF, Mariners: He has a 12-game hitting streak going and has a .444 average against Aaron Laffey.
• Nick Markakis, OF, Orioles: Markakis is 8-for-16 against White Sox starter Jose Contreras. Not too shabby.
• Jacoby Ellsbury, OF, Red Sox: He won't make Halladay feel good about Boston. Ellsbury is a .353 hitter against Doc, including two home runs. That's a lot of pop
• David Ortiz, DH, Red Sox: but not as much as Big Papi, who has five home runs and 22 RBIs in his career against the "on the trade block" Halladay.
• Marco Scutaro, SS, Blue Jays: He's reached base safely in 11 straight games, and he has a .412 OBP against Jon Lester.
• Derek Jeter, SS, Yankees: Jeter has been hot, with hits in 17 of his past 18 games, and he's a .364 hitter against Justin Verlander.
• Chris Young, OF, Diamondbacks: His .185 average in July is pretty much what he's done all season, but it's a new "half." He sports a .429 average against Joel Pineiro. Follow Young to freedom!!!
• Grady Sizemore, OF, Indians: Yes, he's making huge strides, with a 1.014 OPS in July, but hits a bump in the road against Erik Bedard. Sizemore is 0-for-12 against Bedard.
• Ryan Braun, OF, Brewers: Assuming Johnny Cueto will be back at full strength, we'll bench Braun and his .182 mark against the Reds starter.
• Joey Votto, OF, Reds: Smoking hot in July with a .354 average, but we give the edge to Yovani Gallardo today, who gets Votto out at an 83 percent clip.
• Jason Bartlett, SS, Rays: He's slipping, with only a .219 average in July, and he hit only .214 against the Royals last season.
• Jimmy Rollins, SS, Phillies: Rollins hasn't figured out Andrew Miller yet, having been retired in 14 of 15 at-bats against the Marlins pitcher.
• Nate McLouth, OF, Braves: McLouth has a mere .214 OBP against the Mets this season, having already played them five times while with the Pirates.
• Kevin Kouzmanoff, 3B, Padres: The Kouz has only a single in his career exploits against the Rockies' Jason Marquis.
If you're hardcore
• Edwin Encarnacion, 3B, Reds: He went 3-for-3 in the first game of the "second half" with a home run and two career round-trippers off of Yo-Ga.
• Austin Kearns, OF, Nationals: He does have five home runs and 14 RBIs against the Cubs since 2006. Who knows?
• Gabe Gross, OF, Rays: He's a .308 hitter against the current Royals staff and has had four starts already this month.
• Mike Napoli, C, Angels: Napoli is hitting .333 in July and is a perfect 3-for-3 off Brett Anderson.
• Daniel Murphy, 1B, Mets: He's hitting .318 since July 8, and at least he's driving in some runs for the Mets -- three in his past two starts .
• Jeremy Hermida, OF, Marlins: What's happening? Hermida is 3-for-4 with three RBIs facing J.A. Happ. That's what's happening.
• Rich Aurilia, 1B, Giants: The epitome of a hardcore play, Aurilia is 8-for-13 (.615) against Zach Duke. Now do you trust Bruce Bochy enough to put him in the lineup Sunday?
Injury list: Out
• Cory Wade, P, Dodgers (15-day disabled list, shoulder)
Injury list: Day-to-day
• Lance Berkman, 1B, Astros (calf): After a few days off, Berkman strained his calf running out a ground ball in the eighth inning Thursday. Chalk it up to rust.
• Grant Balfour, P, Rays (bereavement list): Balfour flew to Australia for his grandfather's funeral, but the fatigue of a long flight back might keep him unavailable for a day or two.
• Evan Longoria, 3B, Rays (infected finger): He passed on the All-Star Game and will likely return to the lineup this weekend, but the team would like to see how he feels swinging the bat before making a decision.
• Chris Dickerson, OF, Reds (back): He was supposed to play right field in the wake of Jay Bruce's injury, but back spasms made him a late scratch Thursday.
• With all but one "dome team" on the road, this weekend has just the one set of weatherproof games: Red Sox at Blue Jays.
• Isolated thunderstorms and hot temperatures will be on tap for both Florida and Texas all weekend long .
• Some light showers may pop up Saturday in New York, Cleveland, Washington, Cincinnati and Pittsburgh, but all those cities should be rain-free Sunday, except for Cleveland, which may see the wet weather carry over.
AJ Mass is a fantasy baseball, football and college basketball analyst for ESPN.com. You can e-mail him here.