Way-Rod faces hot Marlins
Rain hasn't been much of a concern for quite some time -- it's summer, after all -- but it threatens to rear its ugly head again Thursday with up to seven games possibly affected. We'll have more on that down below, but fortunately, one of the games that are sure to finish is the Marlins-Astros affair, which will thankfully be played in a weatherproof park. With two of the National League's best pitchers scheduled to square off -- and two of our top seven pitchers on Thursday's rankings -- in Josh Johnson and Wandy Rodriguez, there's only one downside: One is likely to go home a tough-luck loser. The rest of our rankings -- and the day's disruptive forecast -- await, so let's get crackin'.
Starting pitcher rankings for August 20, 2009
Selected notes: Wandy Rodriguez owners were no doubt surprised when he allowed 10 runs in four innings to the Brewers in his most recent start, especially when he allowed just four runs in his previous seven starts. With such a recent sterling track record, you just kind of shrug your shoulders and chalk it up to variance. However, a tough, but not impossible, matchup with the Marlins should tell more. He might not be running into the Fish at the best of times, as they possess the league's top OPS since the All-Star break, but they're still susceptible to left-handers, striking out more often than any other team against southpaws. It's telling that while Aaron Harang has allowed 13 home runs in his past 10 starts, his start against the Giants was one of just two starts in which he didn't allow a home run. Those Giants rank second-to-last in home runs hit this season, and the last-place team -- the Mets -- is the other team that Harang didn't allow a home run against. It makes it much easier to like Harang when his biggest Achilles' heel is diminished, and he should put in a valuable performance as a result. The futility of those Mets is what makes Kenshin Kawakami such an appealing spot start. With David Wright now out, the lineup features just two hitters with an OBP better than .330, making it ripe for the picking. Unfortunately, Kawakami is matching up against Johan Santana, so a win will be hard to come by, but a quality start seems probable. A matchup versus the Royals did the trick and set Jarrod Washburn back on course, as he pitched eight shutout innings while allowing just three hits in his first quality start for the Tigers. Offensively, the Mariners are almost exactly as futile as the Royals -- Seattle's OPS is just one point higher on the month and four points higher on the year -- so you have to expect him to do well against his former team. It wasn't pretty, but Derek Holland did limit the Red Sox to two runs in 6 2/3 innings, picking up his third win in four starts. He faces another tough test against the Twins, catching Joe Mauer right in the midst of another unbelievable month. We'd like Holland's chances a lot more if Justin Morneau and his .941 OPS ended up missing the contest -- he's day-to-day with an ear infection -- but the most recent time Holland faced the Twins, he lasted only four innings, allowing five hits, four walks and three earned runs, so you might want to leave him on your bench regardless. Before Tom Gorzelanny was called up in the beginning of August, manager Lou Piniella said the team planned to give him three starts and revisit his stay in the rotation from there. Although Gorzelanny followed through with a 5.27 ERA, two of his three starts have been superb with two runs allowed in 12 1/3 innings versus the Reds and Pirates. The one poor start -- a 1 1/3 inning, six-run blowup against the Rockies -- is excusable when you consider how tough the Rockies are at Coors Field. Overall his strikeout potential (he's whiffed 15 batters in 13 2/3 innings since joining the Cubs) should have him on your radar. He should be avoided in all leagues in a tough matchup against the Dodgers, but it's worth watching him to see if he can consolidate some of his gains and not totally embarrass himself this time around against a very good offense.
• Carlos Guillen, 1B/3B/OF, Tigers: Guillen must be pretty healthy for the Tigers to acquire Aubrey Huff, who pushes Guillen back into playing the field. He's yet to get into a hitting groove, but one could be coming as he has reached base in six consecutive games, hitting .333 with two homers, a double and even a stolen base attempt (he was thrown out). His multi-positional eligibility makes him a great utility option who is available in nearly 50 percent of leagues.
• Josh Willingham, OF, Nationals: It seems kind of easy to keep mentioning Willingham, but that's never stopped us before! He's 6-for-13 in his past four games with three extra-base hits, including a dinger, and went 2-for-3 with a home run in a matchup earlier this season against Jason Hammel, Thursday's opponent.
• Jason Varitek, C, Red Sox: For what it's worth, Varitek is 2-for-2 with two homers against Brett Cecil this year. Is that enough to stop Varitek's brutal slide in recent weeks? Maybe or maybe not, but it's a gamble worth taking.
• Cody Ross, OF, Marlins: The streaky Ross is in the midst of his best month, and another matchup versus a southpaw -- he's up to eight home runs in 112 at-bats against them -- means more rewards should be on the way for his owners.
• Brandon Phillips, 2B, Reds: With only two hits in 14 at-bats, compared to five strikeouts, Phillips can join the company of those who haven't been very successful versus Matt Cain. To Phillips' credit, the hits have been valuable -- a double and a home run -- but a .143 average implies that future hits will be few and far in-between.
• Asdrubal Cabrera, 2B/SS, Indians: Cabrera might be in the midst of a 12-game hitting streak, but John Lackey is on a roll too and has held Cabrera to a single in 12 at-bats, striking him out four times.
• Aaron Hill, 2B, Blue Jays: In 14 at-bats against Jon Lester, Hill is still hitless, although he has reached base twice via walk. Even though Hill normally hits left-handers hard, he's struck out six times against Lester, suggesting he's just baffled.
• Adam Lind, OF, Blue Jays: While Lind at least has a couple of hits to his name versus Lester, he's fanned more often, with eight K's in his 14 at-bats. Overall, Lind is hitting .143 with one extra-base hit, a double.
• Adam LaRoche, 1B, Braves: LaRoche has never been a very good hitter against left-handers, and it's a lot to ask of any hitter to perform well against Johan Santana. His 1-for-7 mark (5 K's) against Santana is understandable in that sense, and should be only a temporary setback in his recent hot hitting.
• Casey Blake, 1B/3B, Dodgers: Even if he wasn't slumping, we wouldn't expect Blake to do well versus Rich Harden, who has held him hitless in eight at-bats, striking him out five times.
If you're hard-core
• Ryan Garko, 1B, Giants: Garko is already 2-for-4 with a homer against Aaron Harang this season, and right-handers do slug .508 against Harang. Only five pitchers have allowed more than Harang's 24 home runs, so who better to take a chance against?
• Marcus Thames, OF, Tigers: It's doubtful the newly acquired Aubrey Huff is going to start over Thames against left-handers since Huff is hitting only .237 against them, versus Thames' .896 OPS. Thames has struggled recently but is always a threat to take one out of the park against a southpaw.
• Franklin Gutierrez, OF, Mariners: Gutierrez has been better against left-handers, with a robust .330 average along with six home runs in 109 at-bats compared to a .279 average and eight homers in 283 at-bats against right-handers. That makes him a must-start against Jarrod Washburn.
• Erick Aybar, SS, Angels: After batting .414 in July, Aybar has barely missed a beat in August, hitting .313 with two homers and three steals. He's 10-for-26 (.384) in his past six games and should keep up the pace versus Justin Masterson, who has a lot of trouble against hitters from the left side (.336 average against).
• Carlos Gonzalez, OF, Rockies: With five home runs in his past seven games -- not to mention eight stolen bases in just 156 at-bats prior to such a power breakout -- the lid has burst on Gonzalez' potential. Manager Jim Tracy even hit him leadoff Tuesday, and with his plus defense, he could play every day against right-handers, considering that Seth Smith is really a nice fourth outfielder masquerading as a starter. Since a rough June (.210 average, 21-5 strikeout-to-walk rate), Gonzalez is 31-for-94 (.329) with a more respectable 18-9 strikeout-to-walk rate, and playing in Coors Field is just icing on the cake. The league is hitting .333 against Garrett Mock, so expect Gonzalez to continue his hot streak.
• Pat Burrell, OF, Rays: Burrell has yet to hit for average all season, but he does have two homers in his past three games and four in August, tying a season high. We've been waiting for him to get hot, and he'll have a great opportunity to keep hitting against rookie Brian Matusz, who has been pounded for three home runs and a 1.183 OPS against in his first 55 at-bats against right-handed hitters.
• Matt Diaz, OF, Braves: He just loves hitting against Johan Santana: Diaz has gone 3-for-5 against Santana this season to up his career numbers to 11-for-20 (.550), with a double and a home run. Diaz even has four home runs in August, matching his combined total from the previous four months, so maybe he's ready to take Santana out of the park for the second time.
Injury list: Out
• Hiroki Kuroda, SP, Dodgers (concussion): Kuroda looks probable to land on the disabled list Wednesday due to aftereffects suffered from being hit by a line drive Saturday. While Jeff Weaver will take his turn Thursday, it's doubtful Kuroda will miss more than the minimum.
• Nate McLouth, OF, Braves (15-day DL, hamstring)
• Jarrod Saltalamacchia, C, Rangers (15-day DL, arm): Saltalamacchia was diagnosed with thoracic outlet syndrome. Surgery would end his season, and possibly much of next season as well.
• David Wright, 3B, Mets (15-day DL, concussion)
Injury list: Day-to-day
• Nelson Cruz, OF, Rangers (15-day DL, ankle): After two rehab games at Triple-A, Cruz could be activated from the disabled list and return for Wednesday's contest.
• Nick Johnson, 1B, Marlins (hamstring)
• Matt Kemp, OF, Dodgers (flu)
• Jason Kubel, OF, Twins (knee)
• Justin Morneau, 1B, Twins (ear infection)
• Dustin Pedroia, 2B, Red Sox (personal)
• Martin Prado, 1B/2B/3B, Braves (fatigue): The Braves announced Prado was pulled from Tuesday's game due to "sudden onset headache," and returned to Atlanta for tests. He might land on the disabled list soon.
• Freddy Sanchez, 2B, Giants (shoulder)
• Willy Taveras, OF, Reds (quadriceps)
• Weatherproof games include Red Sox-Blue Jays, Orioles-Rays and Marlins-Astros.
• There is a ton of rain to take note of, beginning in the Midwest, where Cincinnati, Detroit and Cleveland all have thunderstorms to dodge. With each city dealing with a 60 percent chance of storms, delays and rainouts seem likely. Down South, Arlington, Texas, has both scorching heat up to 99 degrees and a 30 percent chance of showers.
• There are few signs of rain letting up in the Northeast, where we have Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., and Flushing, N.Y., all with a 50 to 60 percent chance of thunderstorms. Overall, more than half of the day's games could be interrupted by showers.
Adam Madison is a fantasy baseball analyst for ESPN.com.
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