Commentary

Beckett seeks 12th victory

Updated: July 20, 2009, 9:25 PM ET
By Adam Madison | ESPN.com

Daily Notes

After a nine-day hiatus, Josh Beckett will take the mound for the first time since the All-Star break, looking for his AL-leading 12th win. The Red Sox decided to give Beckett a couple of extra days' rest following the break, but a nice side effect is that he gets to face the Rangers' fourth starter, Tommy Hunter. The disparity in talent between the two enhances Beckett's chance at picking up that 12th win and catapults him near the top of the rankings. Let's see the other pitchers who join him:

For starters

Selected notes: It's been 17 1/3 innings since Wandy Rodriguez last allowed a run, and he's now allowed one run or less in 12 of his 19 starts. He's well positioned to sustain his scoreless streak when he faces the Cardinals, whose .665 OPS against left-handers ranks second to last in the majors. The Cards hit only .225 as a team against Rodriguez, with even the great Albert Pujols going 3-for-20 (.150) against him, so he should cruise, with a strong shot at his fourth consecutive win. … Rich Harden put together a gem in his last outing, going six strong innings while striking out seven, walking none and allowing just three hits against the Nationals. We've yet to see him dominate a strong offense, however, and the Phillies have the second-best OPS against right-handers in the majors. It's tough to sit Harden, even with his mediocre numbers, because he's nearly untouchable when he's on, but he needs to show signs of consistency before you trot him out against the league's best offense. … The Marlins strike out more than any other team in baseball, so if nothing else, the strikeout potential of Chad Gaudin is tantalizing. Gaudin has allowed two runs or fewer and struck out at least seven in four of his past five starts, and the Marlins are one of the lesser offensive teams. As far as spot starts go, Gaudin is a great option. … No team comes within 15 points of OBP (.305) or 45 points of slugging (.335) of the Padres' woeful home marks, so even though Chris Volstad has allowed 20 home runs in 113 1/3 innings -- and three in his last start -- it's hard to see any way he doesn't have a strong start. … Before allowing six runs to the Angels, Dallas Braden had allowed two runs or fewer in eight consecutive starts. Overall, he's notched quality starts in all but five of his 19 starts, yet is owned in fewer than 10 percent of leagues. Expect him to put the Angels debacle in the rearview mirror and resume his underrated production versus the Twins. … Limiting the Athletics to three hits in eight innings counts as progress for Ervin Santana, but it's still disconcerting that one of those three hits left the park, the sixth home run he's allowed in his past four starts. Santana hasn't pitched back-to-back quality starts all season, and usually follows up one step forward with two steps backward, so take a wait-and-see approach when he faces the Royals.

Now batting

Hitters' count:

Russell Branyan, 1B/3B, Mariners: Considering Armando Galarraga's woes against left-handed hitting (.318 AVG/.401 OBP/.544 SLG), Branyan is a good bet to do damage, especially since his average against right-handers is 46 points higher and his slugging percentage is more than 100 points higher compared with southpaws.
Vernon Wells, OF, Blue Jays: He's 4-for-15 (.267) against Cliff Lee, but with three extra-base hits, including two homers. One such extra-base hit came earlier in the season, and Wells is currently swinging a hot bat, hitting .372 in July.
Mike Napoli, C, Angels: Although he has only 57 at-bats versus left-handers, he's made them count, hitting .439 with four home runs, 10 RBIs and two stolen bases. And with Vladimir Guerrero currently on the disabled list, Napoli is in the lineup every day since he is the team's best option at DH, freeing him from splitting time with Jeff Mathis behind the plate.
Pat Burrell, OF, Rays: Burrell has shown some signs of life, with six extra-base hits (one home run) and seven RBIs in his past six games. Right-handed batters are hitting .332 against Clayton Richard, so the pitching matchup, at least, is in Burrell's favor, and hitting behind Carlos Pena (.363 OBP) and Ben Zobrist (.420 OBP) offers many RBI opportunities.
Stephen Drew, SS, Diamondbacks: A lifetime .313 hitter against Aaron Cook in 32 at-bats, Drew has compiled three doubles and three triples, including a 2-for-4 mark with a double and a triple this season.
Brandon Inge, 3B, Tigers: Despite the .163 average this month, Inge is still displaying power (three homers), and against left-handers he always has a much easier time making contact (.276 average against lefties, .226 versus right-handers). And if he does make contact, watch out -- his .684 slugging percentage is nothing to sneeze at.

Pitchers' count:

Freddy Sanchez, 2B, Pirates: Limited to just three singles in 15 at-bats in his career, Sanchez isn't a great option against Braden Looper, who is pretty tough against right-handers anyway (.248 average against).
Adam Lind, OF, Blue Jays: Although he's hitting .295 against left-handed pitching, it's an empty average, with only four home runs and 13 RBIs in 112 at-bats. His OPS is more than 200 points worse when Lind doesn't have the platoon advantage, so it should be no surprise that Cliff Lee has limited him to one single in nine at-bats. The Indians ace has held southpaws to a sub-.300 on-base and slugging percentage this season to boot.
Michael Young, SS/3B, Rangers: He's 1-for-12 versus Josh Beckett with zero extra-base hits or walks, instead striking out three times. That gives him a paltry triple-slash line of .083 across the board, resulting in an OPS (.167) lower than most batting averages.
Rick Ankiel, OF, Cardinals: Ankiel has been in a funk all season, contributing very little, but is still owned in more than 50 percent of ESPN leagues. But now that he's losing playing time -- he's started once in his past six games -- it looks as though it's time to let him go permanently. Things don't look any better versus Wandy Rodriguez, as he's never had a hit against him in nine at-bats.
Dan Uggla, 2B, Marlins: Uggla has compiled 13 of his 16 homers at home, so it's doubtful a trip to Petco Park will help him. The opposing pitcher, Chad Gaudin, has also been death on right-handers, limiting them to a .209 batting average in 172 at-bats.
Jason Kubel, OF, Twins: It's unlikely Kubel will even get the start against Dallas Braden, since Braden is holding left-handed batters to a .171 average, while Kubel himself is hitting only .194 against lefties.

If you're hardcore

Josh Willingham, OF, Nationals: With three career home runs in 24 at-bats versus Oliver Perez, Willingham is rocking an impressive .708 slugging percentage against the inconsistent southpaw.
Nick Johnson, 1B, Nationals: Although Perez normally mows down left-handers, there's no such thing as a platoon advantage against Johnson, who has a career batting average 26 points higher against lefties. Perez doesn't appear to be an exception either, with Johnson going 2-for-6 with two walks and a home run in their previous meetings.
Jeff Francoeur, OF, Mets: Soft-tossing lefty John Lannan has yet to figure out Francouer, who has rapped hits in exactly half of his 12 at-bats, including one long ball. That makes the outfielder playable, for one night at least.
Marcus Thames, OF, Tigers: Now hitting cleanup behind Miguel Cabrera, Thames has delivered this month, hitting .319 with five home runs in just 47 at-bats. He's at his best against left-handers, his average 40 points higher this season, and Thames should be licking his chops for a shot against Garrett Olson (12 home runs allowed in 59 2/3 innings).
Jonny Gomes, OF, Reds: All but one of Randy Wolf's 16 home runs allowed have been hit by right-handed hitters; overall they are slugging .471 against the southpaw. Gomes slugs .516 against left-handers lifetime, and is hitting a robust .327 off them this season, making him an ideal platoon player against lefties.
Garrett Jones, OF, Pirates: A matchup against Braden Looper is one of the best Jones could ask for, as the homer-prone Looper (23 long balls in 107 1/3 innings) is particularly susceptible to left-handers (.918 OPS against).

Triage

Injury list: Out

Ramon Hernandez, C/1B, Reds (15-day DL, knee): Hernandez will undergo surgery on his knee Tuesday and is out for 4-6 weeks.
Carlos Quentin, OF, White Sox (15-day DL, foot): It looks as though Quentin is not, in fact, ready to return from the disabled list and may need another week of rehab in the minor leagues before he's activated.

Injury list: Day-to-day

Lance Berkman, 1B, Astros (calf; available to pinch-hit)
Joe Crede, 3B, Twins (shoulder)
Nelson Cruz, OF, Rangers (finger): Initially injured on Saturday after diving into first base, Cruz was found to have a small fracture in his right ring finger. He is day-to-day and could even pinch hit depending on his pain tolerance.
Johnny Damon, OF, Yankees (back)
Cristian Guzman, SS, Nationals (foot): Guzman walked in a pinch-hit appearance on Sunday, but did not play the field afterward. His return is still questionable.
Orlando Hudson, 2B, Dodgers (wrist)
Kazuo Matsui, 2B, Astros (hamstring)
Juan Rivera, OF, Angels (leg)
Gary Sheffield, OF, Mets (hamstring; available to pinch hit)
• Vernon Wells, OF, Blue Jays (flu): The Blue Jays hope Wells can suit up after Monday's off day as he tries to avoid missing three consecutive games.

Weather concerns

• Toronto (Indians-Blue Jays) and Houston (Cardinals-Astros) are the only two cities with the benefit of a dome on Tuesday.
• Thunderstorms are a serious problem in the Northeast, with New York, Philadelphia and Washington dealing with a 60 percent chance of showers; Pittsburgh also has storms of its own to worry about (50 percent chance). Further west, Arlington (Red Sox-Rangers) and Detroit (Mariners-Tigers) have an identical chance of rain (40 percent), while Denver could have isolated thunderstorms to handle (30 percent).

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

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