Commentary

Risk it with Pavano

Updated: August 12, 2009, 1:22 PM ET
By AJ Mass | ESPN.com

Only nine games are on the schedule Thursday, so we're unable to round up the usual suspects for the top 10 recommended starters. In fact, outside of the first four names on our list, not a single pitcher going today has an ERA better than 4.00, and only two are at least two games better than .500 for the season. That's what we in the business call "slim pickings" … so proceed with caution. To borrow from the movie "WarGames," perhaps the only winning move is not to play … and so, with global thermonuclear war averted, we give you our rankings for Thursday:

For starters

Selected notes: CC Sabathia gets the top spot today based not only on his 4-1 career record and 2.83 ERA at Safeco Field, but also the fact that his nemesis for the day, Ian Snell, has a lifetime 20.25 ERA in his new home. … Cliff Lee has lived up to the hype that accompanied his deal to the Phillies and then some. He'll grab the No. 2 spot thanks to a 2.45 ERA versus the Cubs. … Justin Verlander has the toughest matchup of the top three, and is only 1-2 with a 5.49 ERA against the Red Sox. … Jason Marquis has struggled of late, with a 4.74 ERA in his past three starts, but he's still the best remaining bet on the board. … Carl Pavano has an 8.64 ERA in three starts against the Royals this season but has been a streaky pitcher all season, and his past two starts have been solid (albeit both against the Tigers). All or nothing, but if you're a gambler, shoot for all. … Bronson Arroyo is 0-3 in his past four starts, and the Nationals are no longer the pushovers they were earlier this season. However, Arroyo's second-half ERA is actually only 3.86, far lower than the 5.38 first-half performance. Plus, he's going up against Collin Balester and his 7.94 ERA at the Great American Ballpark. … Ryan Dempster faces the always-explosive Phillies lineup, but is 1-0 with a 3.71 ERA in his past three starts. He might be able to keep the fuse from lighting, at least temporarily. … Jeremy Sowers is actually pitching very well lately, with a 2-0 record and a 1.80 ERA in his past three starts. As far as rolling the dice goes, he's far more likely to come up sevens than anyone else left to be ranked. … Scott Feldman's 2009 record is good, but that 8.53 career ERA at Progressive Field is not. Similarly, Paul Maholm has struggled to find success at Coors Field, with a 1-3 record and 5.87 ERA over the years. … Gil Meche, coming off a rehab stint in the minors, had an ERA of 6.00 in his three starts before the trip to the DL, so we'll play the wait-and-see game with him for now. … We'll avoid the rest of the bad apples in today's bunch, including Mike Hampton, nursing an injury and a 9.75 ERA in his past three. Manny Parra has won his past three decisions, but with a 5.59 ERA attached and facing a recently hot Padres' lineup, he should be avoided. Sean West's ERA continues to go the wrong direction; he's 0-2 with a 7.36 ERA in his past three outings.

Now batting

Hitters' count

Grady Sizemore, OF, Indians: Sizemore has a .571 OBP against Scott Feldman of the Rangers, and has had a hit in each game against Texas so far this season.
Ichiro Suzuki, OF, Mariners: He's hitting .349 for the month of August and has a .415 lifetime average versus CC Sabathia, including three home runs.
Magglio Ordonez, OF, Tigers: Riding a hot streak with a .389 average this month, Ordonez has hit .357 against the Indians so far in 2009.
Victor Martinez, 1B, Red Sox: V-Mart has a .755 OPS since joining the Red Sox, compared with a .530 OPS in his last month with the Indians, and has four career home runs and a .967 OPS against Justin Verlander.
David Ortiz, DH, Red Sox: Big Papi also has had success against Verlander, with a .556 OBP against the Tigers' ace, and has hits in every game against Detroit in 2009.
Joe Mauer, C, Twins: Just a .412 batting average for August … yawn! Expect more solid production from Mauer against Gil Meche -- himself fresh off the disabled list -- with that .991 lifetime OPS against the Royals' pitcher.
Joey Votto, 1B, Reds: Votto has posted a .333 average since 2006 against the Nationals, and has a .667 OBP against Collin Balester in six plate appearances, including a solo homer.

Pitchers' count

Jimmy Rollins, SS, Phillies: We're just not wowed by Rollins' batting average against the current Chicago Cubs this season, a lowly .222, even after Tuesday's home run.
Milton Bradley, OF, Cubs: Bradley is in the middle of an upswing, with his impressive .400 average for August, but Cliff Lee has rarely had difficulty against him, retiring him 77 percent of the time.
Mark Teixeira, 1B, Yankees: For whatever the reason, Mark Teixeira has never had a hit against Ian Snell, and in fact, hit only .174 against the Pirates from 2006 to 2008.
Adrian Beltre, 3B, Mariners: Beltre has been phenomenal with a .371 batting average since his return from the DL, but is 0-for-10 lifetime against the Yankees' CC Sabathia.
Brad Hawpe, OF, Rockies: Hawpe has been helpless against Paul Maholm, with only one hit in 12 at-bats against the Pittsburgh lefty, and nine strikeouts. Yikes!
Ronnie Belliard, 2B, Nationals: Don't be fooled by the .444 batting average in August. Belliard is splitting time with Alberto Gonzalez, and is only a .125 hitter against Bronson Arroyo.
Prince Fielder, 1B, Brewers: Prince is not the king of San Diego, hitting only .200 against the Padres since 2006 before Tuesday night's lackluster 1-for-4.

If you're hard-core

Esteban German, 2B, Rangers: It will be hard for Ron Washington to ignore his 8-for-9 career mark against Jeremy Sowers.
Jake Fox, 3B, Cubs: With Aramis Ramirez out of action, Fox has a far greater chance at getting into the Cubs' lineup, and with three home runs since July 30, a chance is all he needs.
Cody Ross, OF, Marlins: Ross has hit five home runs already in August and Mike Hampton has allowed 11 round-trippers so far in 2009. Like adding gasoline to the fire …
Miguel Olivo, C, Royals: Olivo is hitting .385 in his past six starts and .476 against Minnesota so far this season.
Will Venable, OF, Padres: Venable is 1-for-3 with an RBI against Manny Parra and is hitting .357 for the month of August.
Andrew McCutchen, OF, Pirates: McCutchen has gone 2-for-5 against Jason Marquis, and is batting .361 so far this month. Why is he not yet owned in more than 50 percent of leagues?
Chris Dickerson, OF, Reds: Back from a bad shoulder, Dickerson is leading off for the Reds and should be able to provide those in need of speed with a boost.

Triage

Injury list: Out

Scott Schoeneweis, P, Diamondbacks (15-day DL, depression): It has been a rough time for Schoeneweis after the unexpected death of his wife in May.
Scott Rolen, 3B, Reds (15-day DL, post-concussion syndrome)
Todd Wellemeyer, P, Cardinals (15-day DL, right elbow)

Injury list: Day-to-day

Maicer Izturis, 2B, Angels (right elbow): David Price hit Izturis with a pitch in the fourth inning Tuesday, and Izturis then had to leave the game.
David Wright, 3B, Mets (flu): Manager Jerry Manuel was already planning on resting Wright on Tuesday, but that time off may be extended a few days due to the third baseman's illness.
Freddy Sanchez, 2B, Giants (shoulder): Sanchez couldn't start Tuesday against the Dodgers, but the team is pretty thin in the infield, so perhaps he'll give it a go sooner than he probably should.
Miguel Cabrera, 1B, Tigers (left hand): Cabrera got hit by a pitch in the first inning of Tuesday's game against the Red Sox, and he eventually left the game. X-rays came back negative.
Dexter Fowler, OF, Rockies (left knee): Fowler is waiting for MRI results, but he's clearly still suffering the effects of a face-first collision with the outfield wall Monday.
• Aramis Ramirez, 3B, Cubs (shoulder): He hopes to be back in the lineup Thursday after receiving a cortisone shot to lessen the inflammation in his shoulder. We'll see.

Weather concerns

• Thursday's weatherproof games: Padres at Brewers, Royals at Twins, and Yankees at Mariners.
• The rest of the limited schedule should go off without a hitch, save for possible light showers in Boston, and of course, the obligatory scattered thunderstorms that are always in the forecast for Florida.

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

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