Lefties Lee, Wandy face off for 13th win
Two of the best left-handers in baseball, Cliff Lee and Wandy Rodriguez, meet on Friday in Houston, each in search of his 13th win. Lee is coming off his worst start with the Phillies, allowing six runs in five innings against the Braves. The aces are also competing for the lowest ERA among left-handers; right now Lee (2.83) is second and Rodriguez (2.93) is third. Lee's teammate, J.A. Happ (2.77) leads the way, while Clayton Kershaw (2.94) is right behind the two, and also pitches Friday.
Another lefty to watch is Barry Zito, who has experienced a midseason revival with a 1.92 ERA since the All-Star break. He's still available in more than 83 percent of ESPN leagues, so you probably want to know where he fares in the day's rankings:
Starting pitcher rankings for Sept. 4, 2009
Selected notes: Roy Halladay has been subject to a brutal schedule recently, facing an offense ranked at least sixth in OPS against right-handers in all six of his starts in August. As a result, his 4.71 ERA and 1.40 WHIP in the past month isn't ace-like, and things don't get any easier versus the Yankees. In three prior starts facing New York, however, Halladay has done well, with a 3.60 ERA and 1.08 WHIP in three starts, and is one of the few pitchers who can be trusted even against great offenses. Although Derek Lowe hasn't logged a quality start in three consecutive outings, he's coming off a pretty good performance against a tough Phillies offense, and faces what has been the worst offense in baseball (judging by team OPS) since the All-Star break. Lowe seems to have gotten over a brief hiccup against the Mets and could be in line for one of his best starts all season. Since a 7 1/3-inning, 11-strikeout performance versus the Rangers on Aug. 8, Jered Weaver has combined for 11 punchouts in his past four starts. With a 5.43 ERA since the All-Star break, Weaver is no longer a must-start, but he is coming off six shutout innings of the A's, a sign that, if nothing else, he still is probably worth keeping active against the weaker offenses in the league, and the Royals certainly fall in that camp. It was refreshing to see Clay Buchholz bounce back from an awful performance versus the White Sox, limiting the Blue Jays to one run over 8 1/3 innings while fanning nine. Now he gets to face those White Sox again, and Buchholz should pitch better this time around -- he has allowed just two runs or fewer in four of his past five starts. The White Sox's trade of Jim Thome (.897 OPS against right-handers) also substantially weakens an offense that already ranked 21st in OPS against righties, so it's worth showing some faith in Buchholz. The Cubs are blaming Carlos Zambrano's struggles since returning from the disabled list on poor mechanics, as he's allowed 18 hits in his past 7 2/3 innings. Whatever the reason, wait for Zambrano to prove his effectiveness before gambling on him in a rematch against the Mets, who slapped him around for 11 hits in 3 1/3 innings in his last start. Bronson Arroyo quietly finished with a sub-2.00 ERA in August, pitching at least seven innings while allowing three runs or fewer in all six of his starts. With quality starts in nine of his past 10 outings, Arroyo's worth a look against the Braves. Like Arroyo, Barry Zito is another former mediocrity now on an extended roll, with two or fewer runs allowed in eight of his past nine starts. That's left him with a 1.92 ERA with a respectable strikeout rate over seven per nine innings, and is backed by one of the best defenses in the National League. As long as he's pitching this well, you have to pick him up (or keep him active) against the Brewers. Joba Chamberlain lasted only three innings in his last start, and it was apparently intentional by the Yankees. Chamberlain rarely pitches deep into ballgames anyway (he's failed to pitch six innings in four of his past five starts), and the Yankees may get creative with his use in September, as they do have the playoffs to think about as well. He's been ineffective recently anyway, allowing four runs or more in four of his past five outings, so he's an unappealing play against the Blue Jays.
• Chris Coghlan, OF, Marlins: Boasting a 10-game hitting streak, Coghlan shows no signs of slowing down, and shouldn't have a problem getting on base versus Garrett Mock, as left-handed hitters are batting .355 against him.
• Adam Lind, OF, Blue Jays: With three home runs and five doubles over the past week, Lind is hitting the cover off the ball, and prior matchups with Joba Chamberlain have served him well: He's 5-for-10 with a double and a homer versus Joba in his career, including a 3-for-5 mark this season.
• Johnny Damon, OF, Yankees: In the midst of a nine-game hitting streak, Damon is a rare hitter who can say he's looking forward to facing Roy Halladay again: He's already taken him deep twice this season, going 5-for-10 overall. That brings his lifetime average to .356 in 90 at-bats, suggesting Damon's quite comfortable against the ace.
• Milton Bradley, OF, Cubs: Might Bradley have finally tapped into his power? He put up three home runs and seven doubles in August, and has six extra-base hits -- three home runs and three doubles -- in his past nine games. His opponent, Bobby Parnell, has been getting bombed recently too, with 22 earned runs and four home runs allowed in his past three starts (12 2/3 innings).
• Juan Rivera, OF, Angels: He's 6-for-13 (.462) versus Gil Meche in his career, picking up a double and a home run along the way. Rivera is also 5-for-16 in his past four games, with four runs scored and a home run, so he may be heating up again, too, and there are always plenty of Angels to drive in.
• Jason Kubel, OF, Twins: Kubel is known to have trouble against southpaws, and, not surprisingly, is 0-for-8 versus Jeremy Sowers, striking out three times.
• Derek Jeter, SS, Yankees: Roy Halladay has owned Jeter for a long time, as the captain is hitting a paltry .230 with just four extra-base hits in 87 career at-bats versus Halladay. He has more strikeouts (24) than hits (20), a trend that has continued this year, as he's gone 1-for-8 with three K's against him.
• Brandon Phillips, 2B, Reds: He may be off to a quick start in September (5-for-8 with a home run and a double), but don't forget that Phillips is just a .259 hitter versus right-handers. He's 0-for-3 against Derek Lowe this season, bringing him to 0-for-9 in his career, so it may be for the best to leave him inactive.
• Ben Zobrist, 2B/SS/OF, Rays: With an average that drops 53 points versus right-handers, you may want to think twice about playing Zobrist versus Justin Verlander. Righties are hitting .221 and slugging .338 against the Tigers' ace, and Zobrist is just 1-for-9 against him.
• Adrian Gonzalez, 1B, Padres: Keep Gonzalez far away from Clayton Kershaw, who mows down left-handed hitters, who are batting .182 off him with just one home run in 121 at-bats. Gonzalez himself is only 2-for-13 lifetime versus Kershaw, striking out a whopping six times, so don't expect much from the slugger when they meet again on Friday.
If you're hardcore
• Andy Marte, 1B/3B, Indians: Don't look now, but the former top prospect is hitting .340 since Aug. 20 and even has four home runs in his past eight games. Carl Pavano has been a sieve when facing right-handers, allowing them to hit .312 and slug .517, so Marte is probably looking forward to facing his former teammate.
• Colby Rasmus, OF, Cardinals: The streaky Rasmus appears to be heating up, with three multihit performances in his past four contests. He's remained solid against right-handers (.293 average, 12 home runs in 294 at-bats) and he'll step into the batters' box against Kevin Hart, who has allowed southpaws to hit .333 against him.
• Felix Pie, OF, Orioles: With Adam Jones potentially out for the season, Pie looks like a great pickup after he hit .333 with five home runs in August. On the season, he's hitting .287 with seven home runs in 167 at-bats versus right-handers, and deserves a look against Kevin Millwood.
• Ryan Church, OF, Braves: Lefties tend to kill Bronson Arroyo (.479 slugging percentage allowed) and Church is already 3-for-7 with two doubles against him. Church is hitting nearly .300 against right-handers this season, so he doesn't make a bad utility play.
• Seth Smith, OF, Rockies: A .348 hitter in the confines of Coors Field, Smith is a must-play at home, where he also has five home runs in 115 at-bats. He's 14-for-37 (.378) with eight extra-base hits (three home runs) in his past 13 home games, and with Dexter Fowler out, Smith is getting extra at-bats too.
Injury list: Out
• Adam Jones, OF, Orioles (ankle): Jones sprained his left ankle is out for at least two weeks, and possibly the rest of the season.
• Chad Qualls, RP, Diamondbacks (60-day disabled list; knee)
• Huston Street, RP, Rockies (biceps): Street likely will miss the rest of the week and is scheduled to play toss this weekend. He could return soon after that.
• Michael Young, 3B/SS, Rangers (hamstring; out for two weeks)
Injury list: Day-to-day
• Ken Griffey Jr., OF, Mariners (knee)
• Jose Guillen, OF, Royals (hamstring)
• Cristian Guzman, SS, Nationals (foot; available to pinch hit)
• Josh Hamilton, OF, Rangers (back): Hamilton will attempt to return on Friday.
• Bengie Molina, C, Giants (quadriceps; available to pinch hit)
• Hanley Ramirez, SS, Marlins (hamstring)
• Gary Sheffield, OF, Mets (back; available to pinch hit)
• Friday will feature four weatherproof games: Yankees-Blue Jays, Tigers-Rays, Phillies-Astros and Giants-Brewers.
• Only the Angels-Royals has even a minor threat of rain, with a 30 percent chance of storms in Kansas City.
Adam Madison is a fantasy baseball analyst for ESPN.com.
FANTASY TOP HEADLINES
- 2014 fantasy football sleepers, busts, breakouts
- McCormick: Top bounce-back candidates
- Harris: Super-deep sleepers to watch
- Cockcroft: Updated top 250 rankings