Commentary

Veterans Pedro, Smoltz try again

Updated: August 21, 2009, 6:55 PM ET
By Adam Madison | Special to ESPN.com

Daily Notes

After being swept last weekend, the Red Sox are looking for redemption in their weekend series versus the Yankees, hoping Fenway Park will bestow improved luck. The Sox will have to do what they could not do a week prior: score runs against the likes of the Yankees' $243.5 million investments, A.J. Burnett and CC Sabathia.

That's if rain doesn't spoil the events, as Boston, along with numerous other cities, may fall prey to Mother Nature. Assuming weather permits, we'll also see the debut of John Smoltz with his new team, the Cardinals, on Sunday; another future Hall of Famer on his last legs, Pedro Martinez, is also scheduled to start, and will face his former team, the Mets. Do these hurlers have any gas left to give, and more importantly, any fantasy value to provide? Check our rankings to decide:

For starters

Selected notes for Saturday: Jorge De La Rosa followed up an 11-strikeout performance versus the Cubs with nine more K's against the Marlins, and that kind of result is why you should gladly put up with his inconsistency. He's now allowed two runs or fewer in 13 of his 23 starts, and is a strong bet to make it 14 out of 24 when he faces the Giants. He pitched 7 1/3 strong innings against San Francisco in a prior start, and while the acquisitions of Ryan Garko and Freddy Sanchez should make it a little harder, the Giants still have a below-average offense. Against such teams, De La Rosa can pretend to look like an ace. … With another superb start, this time versus the Diamondbacks, Tommy Hanson is proving to be the real deal. Amassing seven strikeouts to zero walks, Hanson has now not allowed a walk in 15 innings, and his peripherals are now catching up with his impressive results. An encore performance versus the Marlins won't be easy, but on the bright side, the Fish also strike out a lot, so Hanson is a high-upside play. … While it wasn't dominating, Ervin Santana got the job done, earning a quality start -- and the win -- against the Orioles in his last outing. He'll get a stiffer test against the Blue Jays, and if he pitches well, he could easily get his fourth consecutive win, as the Angels' offense is firing on all cylinders, with a league-leading .845 OPS in August. … Zach Duke's strikeout rate in recent weeks is worrisome -- he has a total of seven K's his past 26 2/3 innings -- but do you really expect the Reds to be the team that punishes him for it? They are dead last in OPS since the All-Star break by nearly 50 full points; unsurprisingly, they're also last in OPS in August. The last time Duke faced the Reds, he went seven innings while allowing just one run, and a similar performance isn't out of the question. … It's great when your stuff is so nasty that you can walk six batters and still hold the opposition to one hit in 7 2/3 innings, as A.J. Burnett did against the Red Sox in his last start against them, but how about not walking that many batters in the first place. Burnett is on pace to set a career high in walks this season, allowing just over 4.4 walks per nine innings, and against the Red Sox, the most patient offense in the majors, Burnett has been tattooed to the tune of a 6.46 ERA. With 14 walks in 15 1/3 innings, along with three home runs allowed, he's lucky the results aren't worse, so his owners must stay away. … Over his past six starts, Chris Volstad has an awful 19-to-17 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 33 innings, which, if not improved, represents something of a ticking time bomb when it comes to his future ERA. That's a 4.63 walk rate, higher than Burnett's without nearly as many K's. It's not a good idea to risk throwing him out there when he faces the Braves on the road.

Selected notes for Sunday: Funny enough, David Ortiz is the only member of the Red Sox who's had much success against CC Sabathia; Ortiz, who is 2-for-5 with a home run versus Sabathia this season, is the only Red Sox player with a career OPS over .718 against the Yankees' ace. Although Sabathia shut the Sox down for seven innings recently, allowing just two hits, it's highly unlikely he'll be able to perform that well at Fenway Park; still, there's a good chance the Yankees will get their money's worth. … Derek Lowe's awful start against the Mets was a long time coming. With an underwhelming 18-to-12 strikeout-to-walk ratio in his preceding six starts, yet with a 3.15 ERA in that span, it seemed like just a matter of time before a team went to town on Lowe. While it may be surprising that it was the Mets that took it to him, don't be fooled twice -- the Marlins have had some success against Lowe in the past, and considering that their offense is performing better than it has all year, they may be one of the last teams Lowe wants to face. … A soft stretch of the schedule has given Rick Porcello value again, as he has a 1.88 ERA in his past three starts if you throw out the start against the Red Sox in which he got himself tossed in the second inning. Porcello even struck out eight batters in his last start, so maybe the suspension did his arm some good. With another favorable matchup on Sunday against the A's, it looks like Porcello may have a second wind, after all. … You can make the case an emotional player like Pedro Martinez will be fired up to face his former team, the Mets, but you can also point to their Quadruple-A lineup at this point. The 40-year-old Gary Sheffield is currently the Mets' best hitter, so how can you resist trotting Martinez out there? And since poor offenses so often beat themselves, Martinez, who tends to pound the strike zone at this stage in his career, stands a good shot at pitching at least six innings, which would dramatically increase his chances at picking up a win. … While we're on the subject of ancient hurlers, John Smoltz will make his debut for the Cardinals, who seem determined to see for themselves whether Smoltz is done or not. The debate rages on; while his peripherals -- mainly his 33-to-9 strikeout-to-walk ratio -- don't look so bad, Smoltz has allowed a ton of extra-base hits, which are normally an indictment of a pitcher's own skill, or lack thereof. No matter what, the NL Central will be a tremendous reprieve from the AL East, and on that move alone, Smoltz could carve out some value. Indeed, a cake matchup against the Padres awaits, and since the Padres cannot plate many runs in Petco Park, Smoltz is an intriguing option.

Now batting (Saturday)

Hitters' count:

Mark Reynolds, 3B, Diamondbacks: Reynolds went 2-for-3 with a double and a home run in a contest earlier this year against Brian Moehler, and while Reynolds has put a hurtin' on pitchers for the majority of the year, a matchup with Moehler is particularly favorable since righties are hitting .348 against him.
Luke Scott, OF, Orioles: Although he's hitting only .181 since the break, Scott is showing a few signs of life, with five extra-base hits -- three doubles and two homers -- since August 10 and a 12-to-10 strikeout-to-walk ratio this month. Since he's hit left-handers hard this season -- a .280 average and eight homers in 100 at-bats -- and did take John Danks deep earlier in the season, he could put a nice game together.
Andrew McCutchen, OF, Pirates: A .361 hitter against lefties at Triple-A, McCutchen has carried that prowess over to the majors and is hitting .313 against major league lefties in 64 at-bats, adding two home runs, three steals and a 9-to-9 strikeout-to-walk ratio. So far through August, he's increased his power output, with four homers and doubles apiece, so Justin Lehr could be in some trouble.
Jason Kubel, OF, Twins: Kubel went 0-for-5 with three K's in his return from a minor knee injury, but should get his mojo back against Kyle Davies. A .339 hitter versus right-handers, Kubel is 6-for-14 (.429) against Davies, with two doubles and four walks to two strikeouts.
Curtis Granderson, OF, Tigers: Maybe all Granderson needs to kick his slump is a couple of days off ... or a matchup with Trevor Cahill. Nineteen of the 26 home runs Cahill has allowed have been blasted by lefties; meanwhile, 21 of Granderson's 23 home runs have come against righties, along with 18 of his 20 steals.

Pitchers' count:

Andre Ethier, OF, Dodgers: Ethier has finally upped his batting average past the Mendoza Line versus left-handed pitching, batting .203 in 123 at-bats this season, but should still be benched against quality southpaws. He's 0-for-8 against Ted Lilly, which looks about right, as Lilly holds lefties to a .236 average and a .261 OBP.
Kevin Youkilis, 1B/3B, Red Sox: Although Youkilis is 2-for-4 against A.J. Burnett this season, he's still looking for his first extra-base hit off Burnett. • Adam Jones, OF, Orioles: Jones is just 1-for-10 against John Danks, fanning three times, and he's only hitting .256 against southpaws this season.
Brandon Phillips, 2B, Reds: Continuing his inability to hit Zach Duke, Phillips is 0-for-3 versus the southpaw this season, leaving him with just one hit, a single, in 14 career at-bats. Duke has only struck him out once, but has not allowed any walks, leaving Phillips with an unproductive .143 OPS.
Russell Branyan, 1B, Mariners: Aaron Laffey has done a great job limiting left-handers, holding them to a paltry .221 average in 95 at-bats. As a result Branyan, a .224 hitter versus lefties himself, should be left inactive.
Michael Young, 3B/SS, Rangers: He is 2-for-13 (.154) versus Matt Garza, with a pair of doubles as his most productive at-bats. Young will also be playing on the road, where he has seen his average decline by more than 70 points this season.
Justin Morneau, 1B, Twins: Somehow, Kyle Davies has owned Morneau, with only one hit allowed in 16 at-bats. Davies has also struck Morneau out four times and prevented any extra-base hits, suggesting a decisive advantage over the slugger.

If you're hardcore

Lyle Overbay, 1B, Blue Jays: Ervin Santana has allowed lefties to hit a ridiculous .341 against him, making Overbay, who himself has a .934 OPS against righties, look like a great play.
Ryan Church, OF, Braves: Church is 6-for-17 with four doubles and 5 RBIs in his past four games, and the opposing pitcher Saturday, Chris Volstad, does allow a .495 slugging percentage to left-handers.
Jonny Gomes, OF, Reds: If you can live with his mediocre average, Gomes' power output has been extremely impressive, as he already has 15 home runs in just 177 at-bats. Fortunately, if his ever-faltering average is too much to bear, you can just platoon him against lefties. In his career, he's added about 50 points of average when facing southpaws, and so far this year he's hitting well over .300 against them, making him a useful part-time player. The Pirates' Zach Duke is scheduled to be the next victim.
Matt LaPorta, OF, Indians: With Trevor Crowe on the disabled list, LaPorta should become the everyday left fielder for the Indians, and went 1-for-3 with a double on Thursday in his first start since being recalled. He hit .326 against right-handers at Triple-A (and only .210 against southpaws, odd considering LaPorta bats from the right side) and is an obvious must-grab in any remotely deep league, and worth a stash in all others. Let's see if he can get hot right out of the gate.
• Ryan Garko, 1B, Giants: His only use is against lefties, but he is batting .333 with four homers in 87 at-bats against them, so he does have value. He's 3-for-11 with a home run against Jorge De La Rosa in his career.
Adam Kennedy, 2B/3B, Athletics: Left-handed hitters are batting an impressive .310 AVG/.401 OBP/.531 SLG versus Armando Galarraga, and Kennedy has already taken advantage of Galarraga, going 1-for-2 with a dinger earlier in the season. Kennedy has been cold recently, but the matchup makes him worth a stab in the dark.
Billy Butler, 1B, Royals: Not only is Butler hitting .342 this month, but 13 of his 25 hits have gone for extra bases. He's obviously scorching hot and gets to feast on another left-hander this Saturday, this time Brian Duensing.

Now batting (Sunday)

Hitters' count:

Grady Sizemore, OF, Indians: He hasn't been in this space nearly as much as he should be thanks to his bum elbow limiting his impact this season, but against Felix Hernandez, at least, he's been his old self. Sizemore is 2-for-4 with a double and a triple versus King Felix this season, improving to 7-for-14 overall in his career against the ace. Although he's yet to take Hernandez deep, four of his seven hits have been extra-base hits, so he's been hitting him hard as well as often.
Jayson Werth, OF, Phillies: Werth has always been a monster against left-handed pitching, and has an insane .306/.434/.636 line against them this season, with 11 homers in 121 at-bats. Oliver Perez is going to have his hands full, especially considering that Werth is 5-for-16 (.313) with a double and a home run, and maybe the only reason that line isn't more impressive is because Perez has also walked Werth seven times.
Chipper Jones, 3B, Braves: Sure, Chipper's always a great option (when he's not hurt, anyway), but he's so good against Ricky Nolasco that it would be a crime not to mention his track record -- 10-for-19 with four homers and three doubles. Maybe Nolasco should just give Chipper the Barry Bonds treatment: intentional walks in every plate appearance.
Jorge Cantu, 1B/3B, Marlins: Only once in nine plate appearances against Derek Lowe has Cantu not reached base, and five times he's picked up an extra base or two, including a home run.
Miguel Tejada, SS, Astros: Tejada has abused the hittable Jon Garland, smashing 11 hits in 26 at-bats, including two home runs. He's yet to take a walk, which is a good thing in this case -- it just makes the .423 batting average that much sweeter.
Alex Rios, OF, White Sox: Rios is 3-for-5 versus Jason Berken, and all three of Rios' hits against Berken have been of the extra-base variety. It's not like that's too out of the ordinary for Berken, against whom righties have a .957 OPS.
Chris Iannetta, C, Rockies: Despite a .200 average against right-handers this season, Iannetta has defied the odds and is 6-for-9 versus Tim Lincecum. With two doubles and a home run, not to mention a whopping six walks, it seems Iannetta has figured out one of baseball's toughest pitchers.

Pitchers' count:

Ryan Howard, 1B, Phillies: Even when Oliver Perez is wild, he's something vicious on left-handers; they're hitting .205 against Perez this season, which, if it holds, will be the first time in the past four years that lefties have hit above the Mendoza Line against him. For Howard, the Mendoza Line would be an improvement, as he's 3-for-24 (.125) with 14 K's, although at least Howard has a home run to hang his hat on.
Raul Ibanez, OF, Phillies: Of course, that means the lefty-batting Ibanez should sit, too, even though Ibanez is 2-for-4 with a home run against Perez this season. Still, for his career, Ibanez has been worse against southpaws, and now that regression is catching up to him (.218 average in August), he's no longer impervious to quality pitching.
Cody Ross, OF, Marlins: Ross' slugging percentage drops 131 points against right-handers, and he's struggled to do much against Derek Lowe, going 0-for-6 for his career. It's tough to lift the ball against Lowe, anyway, as he's only allowed eight home runs in 153 2/3 innings this season.
• Adam Jones, OF, Orioles: Jones is also hitless in five at-bats against Mark Buehrle, striking out twice and earning a walk. He's only hitting .230 in August, anyway, so it looks like a good time to get him out of your lineup for the weekend.
• Jason Kubel, OF, Twins: Despite Kubel's propensity to mash on right-handers, Brian Bannister hasn't had a problem against him, holding him to four singles in 20 at-bats, sending him down on strikes four times, as well.
Dustin Pedroia, 2B, Red Sox: Pedroia is one of the many Red Sox that haven't done well against CC Sabathia; he's 0-for-9 with three K's. J.D. Drew (2-for-10, five strikeouts), Mike Lowell (2-for-13) and Jason Varitek (1-for-13) have also had struggles of their own.

If you're hardcore

Delwyn Young, 2B/OF, Pirates: Young has been on quite a roll, going 18-for-46 (.391) over his past 12 games. There's little power or speed to go along with that, but now that he qualifies at second base, those in deep leagues sure don't mind. Freddy who?
Marlon Byrd, OF, Rangers: Byrd went yard twice on Thursday, and had five extra-base hits -- four doubles and a triple -- in the preceding six games, as well, so he's certainly swinging a hot bat. Righties slug .471 against David Price, so Byrd has a good chance to keep it up.
Kosuke Fukudome, OF, Cubs: In 11 of his past 12 games Fukudome has reached base safely, piling up nine runs, four doubles and three home runs in that span. Normally the leadoff hitter, Fukudome has been moved down to fifth, putting him in position to trade some runs for RBIs now that he's found his power stroke. He has a double and a home run in eight at-bats versus Chad Billingsley, so he could easily stay hot.

Triage

Injury list: Out

Francisco Liriano, SP, Twins (15-day DL, left arm fatigue): Who knows if Liriano's arm is actually tired; the Twins just may have tired of his poor performance and stashed him. For now, Brian Duensing will take his spot in the rotation.
Willy Taveras, OF, Reds (15-day DL, quadriceps)

Injury list: Day-to-day

Garret Anderson, OF, Braves (back)
• Jorge Cantu, 1B/3B, Marlins (neck): The Marlins expect Cantu back on Friday.
Edwin Encarnacion, 3B, Blue Jays (knee)
Nick Johnson, 1B, Marlins (hamstring): According to manager Fredi Gonzalez, Nick Johnson isn't likely to return Friday, and "maybe not even Saturday. And if we get to Sunday with him, why not go ahead and give him Sunday off because you have Monday off." It wouldn't be surprising if Johnson ended up on the disabled list soon.
• Justin Morneau, 1B, Twins (ear)
• Brandon Phillips, 2B, Reds (wrist)
Martin Prado, 1B/2B/3B, Braves (illness)
• Freddy Sanchez, 2B, Giants (shoulder): Sanchez expects to return Friday.
• Jason Varitek, C, Red Sox (neck)

Weather concerns

• Only games in Toronto (Angels-Blue Jays), Houston (Diamondbacks-Astros) and Tampa Bay (Rangers-Rays) have the benefit of being played in weatherproof domes.
• Rain will heavily affect the weekend slate, too, beginning in Boston, which must deal with showers all weekend. It's worse in Flushing, New York, where thunderstorms are nearly a certainty on Saturday (70 percent chance); things look slightly better on Sunday.
• Storms will also strike the nation's capital, with delays or a rainout looking very possible on Saturday, although things improve substantially on Sunday. A few isolated storms (30 percent) could also head Pittsburgh's way, threatening games on both days.
• Cleveland may also have to deal with a few showers, and the 1 p.m. start time on Sunday doesn't help matters any.

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

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