Commentary

Lester should notch 10th

Updated: July 29, 2009, 1:05 PM ET
By AJ Mass | ESPN.com

Daily Notes
Forget about the trade deadline and all those rumored deals. They'll work themselves out. Besides, we've got plenty of action scheduled this last Thursday in July, providing the weather cooperates. Jon Lester and Yovani Gallardo are both going for their 10th win of the 2009 season at home, while five other eight-game winners are likely to take to the mound, as well. So while it's not a day for the elite hurlers, there are plenty of decent options for your fantasy rotations. Let's spell it all out for you, with our complete rankings below.

For starters

Selected notes: Our love-fest for Javier Vazquez continues, as he returns to the top of our rankings yet again. He's 3-0 with a 2.57 ERA in his past three starts and those strikeouts just keep on coming. … As we said in the intro, two pitchers are shooting for win No. 10 and we think they both get it. Jon Lester is 2-1 with a 2.01 ERA in his past three and gets the anemic A's offense. Meanwhile, in Milwaukee, Yo-Ga goes up against the Washington Nationals who may have already unloaded Josh Willingham, Nick Johnson, Adam Dunn -- or perhaps all three -- by the time this game starts. … While the Mets seem to finally be scoring some runs with regularity, Jorge De La Rosa is 2-0 with a 2.93 ERA in his past three outings. If anyone can put the fire out at Citi Field, it's Jorge. … Luke Hochevar has had two great starts, with 22 K's and no bases on balls. Despite his lack of success in the past against Baltimore (6.61 ERA) we're going to ride this hot streak and newly found control as long as we can. … Yes, we know. Johnny Cueto has been abysmal of late, with an 0-2 record and a 5.82 ERA in his past three starts. Still, he faces the Padres. He can beat the Padres, right? Right? We'll put Cueto just ahead of Andy Pettitte, who has been struggling just as badly, as the Yankees starter faces a tougher White Sox lineup. … Gavin Floyd would probably be ranked higher if we knew for sure he was starting. Bartolo Colon was supposed to pitch on Wednesday, but was scrapped in favor of Jose Contreras, the original scheduled starter for Thursday. That means today's White Sox pitcher could be Colon, if he's able to pitch (which is questionable) or Floyd (Friday's scheduled starter) or Clayton Richard (who will likely go on Friday, since pitching on Thursday would mean short rest for him). Still in Ozzie-land, nothing is ever set in stone. Proceed with caution. … We do like Brad Bergesen at Camden Yards, where he is 6-1 with a 2.82 ERA, but not so much Rick VandenHurk whose 4.19 career ERA against the Braves raises red flags for us. … Tim Stauffer has pitched well, but he's a Padre, so the run support just isn't there for him. Still, with a 2.57 career ERA against the Reds, he might be worth a roll of the dice. … Kyle Lohse isn't pitching well. No way to sugarcoat that 0-2 record and 5.63 ERA in his past three. … Rodrigo Lopez may not have lost yet this season, but he doesn't strike out too many hitters, and his history against the Giants isn't exactly anything to write home about, with a 6.75 ERA. … Finally, there's Gio Gonzalez. We did see the terrific outing against the Yankees, but we simply have no faith that there's back-to-back gems in his bag of tricks. We expect something closer to his previous start, in which he allowed 11 earned runs in just shy of three innings to Minnesota.

Now batting

Hitters' count

Luis Castillo, 2B, Mets: Not only is Castillo hitting .403 for the month of July, but he has a .700 OBP against Jorge De La Rosa.
Adam Jones, OF, Orioles: Dig Dug has three home runs and seven RBIs so far in the second half of the season, and a 1.100 OPS facing Luke Hochevar.
Orlando Cabrera, SS, Athletics: A lifetime .462 batting average against Jon Lester is certainly reason enough for us to keep O-Cab in the lineup, even if he wasn't working on a nine-game hitting streak.
Ryan Theriot, 2B, Cubs: Theriot has a .571 OBP against Russ Ortiz to go along with his .320 batting average for July.
Ichiro Suzuki, OF, Mariners: He's hitting .500 since July 23 and .500 in his career against Derek Holland.
Manny Ramirez, OF, Dodgers: With two home runs and a .417 batting average against Kyle Lohse, Manny should be Manny on Thursday.
Matt Holliday, OF, Cardinals: Holliday has hit .529 since returning to the National League and has a career .455 average against Hiroki Kuroda.

Pitchers' count

Kevin Kouzmanoff, 3B, Padres: Kouz has hit the Reds pretty well this year, with a .450 average, but none of those hits came off Johnny Cueto, against whom Kouz has never reached base.
Nyjer Morgan, OF, Nationals: Yes, he's hitting .542 since July 22, but the .091 career mark against Yovani Gallardo makes us skeptical of his keeping that pace up.
Carlos Quentin, OF, White Sox: Not only is he in the middle of an 0-for-19 stretch, but he's only a .190 hitter against the current Yankees staff.
Jimmy Rollins, SS, Phillies: J-Roll is not on a roll against Jonathan Sanchez, going 0-for-6 against the Giants starter.
Jack Cust, DH, Athletics: Seven strikeouts in 11 at-bats against Jon Lester with only one hit (albeit a home run) makes us wary about starting Cust in our lineup on Thursday.
Matt Kemp, OF, Dodgers: If you're looking for a reason to start another outfielder over Kemp, how about his career 0-for-7 with four strikeouts against Kyle Lohse?
Prince Fielder, 1B, Brewers: Prince has gone hitless six times in his past 11 games, and is hitting only .222 against the Nationals in 2009.

If you're hardcore

Laynce Nix, OF, Reds: He's had four extra-base hits against the Padres already this season, why can't he get a few more against Tim Stauffer?
Ross Gload, 1B, Marlins: In 25 career at-bats, Gload is hitting .400 against Javier Vazquez with four RBIs.
Juan Uribe, 3B, Giants: Uribe is 3-for-8 lifetime against Rodrigo Lopez with a home run and five RBIs to his name.
Felix Pie, OF, Orioles: Could tonight be time for Pie? Maybe not, but in his only previous at-bat against Luke Hochevar he did smash an RBI triple. Are you hard-core enough to start Felix?
Koyie Hill, C, Cubs: He is no Geovany Soto, but he is hitting .571 for his career against Houston's Russ Ortiz.
Jeff Francoeur, OF, Mets: Frenchy is still available in nearly two out of every three leagues, and has a .364 batting average against Colorado so far in 2009.
• Michael Saunders, OF, Mariners: The recent call up is getting more comfortable at the plate, hitting .273 since an 0-for-4 debut. Worth a gamble.

Triage

Injury list: Out

Roy Oswalt, P, Astros (lower back strain): Oswalt will likely miss his next start after leaving Tuesday's start after only 1 2/3 innings.
Chien-Ming Wang, P, Yankees (season-ending shoulder surgery)
Randy Johnson, P, Giants (60-day DL, torn rotator cuff)
Nate Schierholtz, OF, Giants (15-day DL, strained hip)
Daric Barton, 1B, Athletics (15-day DL, right hamstring)
LaTroy Hawkins, P, Astros (15-day DL, illness)

Injury list: Day-to-day

Ian Kinsler, 2B, Rangers (hamstring): His condition was downgraded from a leg cramp to a mild strain, so he'll probably miss a day or so as a precaution.
Jim Thome, DH, White Sox (back): Ozzie Guillen told reporters he doesn't think Thome will return to action on Thursday against the Yankees.
Jeff Suppan, P, Brewers (left side): An MRI revealed a strained oblique muscle, and he may be forced to miss his next start, currently scheduled for Saturday.
Rick Ankiel, OF, Cardinals (groin strain): As hot as Ankiel has been, he's not going to want to let this injury keep him out of action too long. He'll probably miss only a day or two.

Weather concerns

• Only one weatherproof game on Thursday, that being the Nationals-Brewers game in Milwaukee. It's umbrella time for most everywhere else, with varying degrees of rain in the forecast for New York, Baltimore, Boston, St. Louis, Texas and Chicago.

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

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