Commentary

The final weekend

Updated: October 2, 2009, 3:57 PM ET
By AJ Mass | ESPN.com

Daily Notes

Here at last! We've finally reached the last weekend of the regular season, so throw caution to the wind and go for broke if you're behind in any categories, since you won't be getting any more opportunities to get any higher in your league standings. Certainly the Twins and Tigers may decide to alter their scheduled pitchers at the last minute should that final race end up over before Sunday's games come around, and there's always the chance that other postseason participants pull a last-minute switcheroo to set up their playoff rotation … so be forewarned. As for everyone else, there is no tomorrow, so even if you have a pitcher who isn't listed, there's always a chance he may see an inning or two, on a manager's whim, and who knows, your rotation's ace might even manage to post a rare final-day save if the right situation comes along. You never know!

For starters

Selected notes for Saturday:

Time for Zack Greinke to lock up the Cy Young. Not only is he 3-0 with a 0.50 ERA in his past three starts, but if the Twins are already eliminated, they'll barely put up a fight. … Josh Beckett is 2-0 with a 2.84 ERA in his last trio of appearances, and faces Aaron Laffey and his laughable 0-4 since Aug. 17. … Matt Cain is 1-0 with a 2.35 ERA against the Padres in 2009, and should make quick work of San Diego. Similarly, Jair Jurrjens, with a 1.25 ERA in September should breeze through the Nationals' lineup. … Jorge De La Rosa has reverted a bit to his early-season ways of late, but he's still won two of his past three and has a 2.20 ERA at Dodger Stadium, which gives him a leg up on Los Angeles pitcher Clayton Kershaw, who hasn't won at all in his past three despite a 2.25 ERA. … Anibal Sanchez is 1-4 with a 6.37 ERA in his career against the Phillies, so there may be some run support in the works for Cole Hamels, who hopes to end the season on a winning note and move to 11-10 for the year. … Andy Pettitte is 8-2 for his career at Tropicana Field, and Jeff Niemann's 8.16 ERA in his past three starts doesn't bode well for keeping the game close. But then again, if any Yankees are to be rested, it might actually help Niemann have a decent day as well. … Although he's lost three of four decisions to the Reds this season, we've got a good feeling with Duke today. Maybe it's just because we're down on Johnny Cueto, who has posted a 5.79 ERA in the second half of the season. … If the game matters to Minnesota, we do have high hopes for Nick Blackburn, based on his 2-0 record and 1.33 ERA in his past three starts, but otherwise, we're going to pass. The Royals have averaged five-plus runs in his starts against them this year. … The rest of the possible fliers: Rick Porcello is a possible pitcher, if the Tigers still need a victory, but otherwise, he might not go; barring any more rotation juggling, Scott Kazmir has always done pretty well against the A's, with a 7-3 career record and a 3.16 ERA; and Tommy Hunter, who has a 2.25 ERA against the Mariners this season.

Selected notes for Sunday:

If there's a playoff spot on the line, then there are few pitchers we'd like to have on the hill more than Justin Verlander. He may not go Sunday if Detroit has already clinched, but if he does go, the 2-0 record and 0.50 ERA against the White Sox this season speaks for itself. … Felix Hernandez would wear the crown at the top of the list if Verlander doesn't throw. Hernandez is 3-0 with a 2.19 ERA in his past three starts and has defeated the Rangers thrice this season already. But Scott Feldman is no slouch; he is 2-0 with a 2.25 against Seattle this year himself. … Josh Johnson has a 2.50 ERA against the Phillies this season, and although he goes against J.A. Happ, the chances that the Phillies use this game to give plenty of pitchers some playoff prep work limits the chances that Philadelphia will hold the Marlins down themselves. … Joel Pineiro is 2-0 with a 2.81 ERA against the Brewers in 2009. That's good, but not as good as Jason Marquis' 2-0 with a 1.65 ERA against the Dodgers this year, to go along with a 3-0 lifetime record at Dodger Stadium. … A.J. Burnett is going for a personal four-game sweep of the Rays, as he's 3-0 with a 2.00 ERA against Tampa Bay so far this year. … Ryan Dempster has finished up 2009 strong, with a 1.38 ERA and 1.08 WHIP in September, and Joe Saunders should have no problems picking up his fourth win of the year against the Athletics. They'll round out our final top 10. … Other possible plays include: Ricky Romero, primarily due to the failings of his opponent Jeremy Guthrie, 0-3 with a 5.03 ERA over his past three appearances; Clay Buchholz, who has been sensational in September, with a 4-1 record and 2.87 ERA; and Luke Hochevar, again simply because of the huge potential for the Twins' lineup to be completely deflated by the time Sunday rolls around. … Lastly, we also like the odds for Tim Hudson, who has always done well against Washington, with an 8-1 record and a 1.57 ERA, including 3-0 in his past three times to the hill against the not-so-nasty Nats.

Now batting (Saturday)

Hitters' count:

Miguel Cabrera, 1B, Tigers: Miggy closes out the season with a game against Freddy Garcia, against whom he has two homers in eight at-bats and a .667 OBP.
Derek Jeter, SS, Yankees: The Yankees' captain is batting a whopping .800 off Jeff Niemann in his career.
Ryan Braun, OF, Brewers: Closing out the season strong with a .355 September, Braun now gets Kyle Lohse, against whom he has a .417 lifetime mark.
Chase Utley, 2B, Phillies: Utley tunes up for the postseason with a game versus Anibal Sanchez. With a .750 career slugging percentage against the Marlins, expect some extra-base knocks.
Martin Prado, 2B, Braves: Prado has feasted on Washington pitching this season, with a .419 batting average facing the Nationals.
Ichiro Suzuki, OF, Mariners: Ichiro should lose too many points in batting average against Tommy Hunter. He's got three hits in three games against him this season.
Brad Hawpe, OF, Rockies: Hawpe is 4-for-9 with two round-trippers against Clayton Kershaw. With the Rockies still in pursuit of the NL West crown, Hawpe could come through big …
Matt Kemp, OF, Dodgers:… unless Kemp and his .529 average against Jorge De La Rosa one-ups him and seals the deal for Los Angeles.

Pitchers' count:

Reed Johnson, OF, Cubs: At only 3-for-16 lifetime against Daniel Cabrera, Johnson is not the guy to look for to pull out a clutch victory.
Ian Desmond, SS, Nationals: Just 1-for-15 against the Braves, we'll leave this shortstop of the future out of our present.
Vernon Wells, OF, Blue Jays: Let's put Vernon out of his misery once and for all by not starting him against Mark Hendrickson. He's only 6-for-33 against him lifetime.
Jamey Carroll, 2B, Indians: Carroll is in the midst of a 2-for-22 stretch which doesn't exactly make us want to throw him into our mix.
Vladimir Guerrero, DH, Angels: Dana Eveland has frequently had the last laugh against Vlad, retiring him all but one time they've squared off.
Kevin Kouzmanoff, 3B, Padres: He's 4-for-24 against Matt Cain, with but one extra-base hit. Not the greatest résumé.
Pat Burrell, DH, Rays: With six strikeouts in 18 at-bats facing Andy Pettitte, and only four hits, we'll sit Pat the Bat this Saturday.

If you're hardcore

Brendan Ryan, SS, Cardinals: Ryan is .500 against Dave Bush with a .625 OBP. Worth a risk on the final weekend of the season, we think.
Craig Counsell, 2B, Brewers: His .421 batting average against Kyle Lohse caught our eye and may help you catch the team you're pursuing in your standings.
Chris Coghlan, SS, Marlins: He hit .382 in September and sports a .571 average against Cole Hamels of the Phillies .
Casey Kotchman, 1B, Red Sox: Rocking a perfect 5-for-5 against Aaron Laffey makes Casey an easy recommendation for those who like to play the odds.
Garrett Jones, OF, Pirates: Jones is 4-for-5 against Johnny Cueto, who hasn't exactly had his finest outings against the Pirates this season.
Drew Stubbs, OF, Reds: Against Zach Duke, Stubbs is hitting .400 with a solo home run in 10 career at-bats.
Jack Cust, OF, Athletics: If Scott Kazmir does get the call for the Angels, look to Cust to reach base frequently. He's got a .571 OBP against him lifetime.

Now batting (Sunday)

Hitters' count:

Joey Votto, 1B, Reds: With a.556 average facing Kevin Hart, including three doubles, we love Votto to finish up 2009 strong.
Lyle Overbay, OF, Blue Jays: Overbay plays over his head versus Jeremy Guthrie, with a .348 lifetime batting average against the Orioles' starter.
Brian Roberts, 2B, Orioles: A .600 OBP against Ricky Romero should spell plenty of scoring chances for Roberts to close out the year.
Ryan Theriot, SS, Cubs: Doug Davis won't think it is a laugh riot when Theriot continues his .417 mastery against him.
Nelson Cruz, OF, Rangers: If his sprained ankle doesn't sideline him, Cruz could have a solid day against King Felix, whom he's had more career hits off than any other pitcher he's faced.
Juan Pierre, OF, Dodgers: If Pierre's 2009 average of .421 against the Rockies doesn't merit a final-day start …
Andre Ethier, OF, Dodgers: …then perhaps Andre Ethier's five homers and 17 RBIs versus the division rivals will take center stage.

Pitchers' count:

Curtis Granderson, OF, Tigers: Against John Danks, no thanks! Curtis is hitting only .063 against him for his career.
Josh Willingham, OF, Nationals: Better than Granderson, but not by much, as Willingham's .067 against Tim Hudson lifetime is far from impressive.
Jose Lopez, 2B, Mariners: We're not sold on his. 278 OBP against the Rangers' Scott Feldman. You shouldn't be either.
Emilio Bonifacio, SS, Marlins: Our Week 1 MVP ends the year with a whimper, 0-for-6 in September and unlikely to do much else for 2009.
Jayson Werth, OF, Phillies: Werth, if he does play this weekend, hasn't fared so well against the Marlins, with only a .154 average against their current staff.
J.J. Hardy, SS, Brewers: Hardy is hardly worth a look, with a .214 lifetime average against playoff-bound Joel Pineiro.
Todd Helton, 1B, Rockies: Helton has been off all season against the Dodgers. Even if this game has some meaning, his .178 batting average in 2009 is not likely to help the Colorado cause.

If you're hardcore

Andrew McCutchen, OF, Pirates: Homer Bailey hasn't allowed a homer to McCutchen yet, but Andrew does have a .545 OBP against the Reds pitcher.
Augie Ojeda, SS, Diamondbacks: He's a .400 hitter against Ryan Dempster and is hitting .500 since Sept. 23.
Jesus Guzman, 1B, Giants: Will one at-bat make a difference to you winning or losing? If so, maybe Guzman will give you that one at-bat. He's 2-for-3 in his past three games.
Henry Blanco, C, Padres: Two times up against Jonathan Sanchez. Two balls out of the park. Not too shabby.
Chris Coste, C, Astros: Coste lights up when the Mets are on the field, with a .400 batting average in 20 at-bats against the New Yorkers this season.
Dusty Brown, C, Red Sox. He's hitless on the year, but the Red Sox can give the kid a chance on the final day of the season to rectify that, can't they?
Luis Castillo, 2B, Mets: He's hitting .309 for the year, and .583 against Houston pitching. Whomever they trot to the mound to close out the season, Castillo should succeed.

Triage

Injury list: Out

Kenji Johjima, C, Mariners (elbow): After getting hit by a pitch on Wednesday, Johjima is questionable to play before this weekend, and may be severely limited if he does get back in the lineup.
Corey Hart, OF, Brewers (fractured hand): He's wearing a cast on his injured right hand, so you can pretty much stick a fork in him for 2009. Go ahead -- he won't feel it.
Ronny Cedeno, SS, Pirates (hamstring): The Pittsburgh Gazette reports he still can't run, so odds are his season is finished.

Injury list: Day-to-day

• At this point of the season, there are no more days, so even if a player were to qualify here, he's still "out" for the rest of the season. See the injury list above.

< h3>Weather concerns

• The final weekend's weatherproof games: Royals at Twins, Yankees at Rays, and Rangers at Mariners.
• Saturday's forecast is for light showers in Detroit and Chicago, and scattered thunderstorms further east in Philadelphia, Boston and New York. Expect the teams to sit out any delays to avoid a double-dip on the last day of the season, which should be clear from coast to coast, save for a few lingering showers at Fenway Park.

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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