Plenty of aces going on Mother's Day
Looks as if Major League Baseball has a special treat in store for Mother's Day, with many of the top names in the game taking the mound to square off against those special pink bats. When a pitcher like James Shields of the Tampa Bay Rays, who is 4-0 on the season and 4-1 in his career against the Oakland Athletics, can barely break into our top 10, you know the roster of arms is a loaded one. As for Saturday, we've got a pair of fresh faces leading the field, the St. Louis Cardinals' Jamie Garcia, third in the National League in ERA and fifth in WHIP, against the Pittsburgh Pirates, and the Seattle Mariners' Doug Fister, who leads the American League in both of those categories, facing the Los Angeles Angels. As for how the rest of the rankings sort themselves out, read on below:
For starters: Saturday
Starting pitcher rankings for May 8
• Top of the Charts: Third place is nothing to be ashamed of for Josh Johnson, as we fully expect victory from him today against the Washington Nationals. Johnson is 6-0 against them for his career. CC Sabathia has a checkered past when facing the Boston Red Sox, including an 8.44 ERA against them this season. He comes in fourth for the day as a result.
• Johan Santana is 2-0 with a 3.67 ERA against the San Francisco Giants and gets to square off with Todd Wellemeyer, who has never defeated the New York Mets and has posted a 6.67 ERA against them. Advantage: Johan. Wade Davis did beat the Oakland Athletics already this season, but gave up four runs in five innings in the process.
• Justin Verlander gets a weak Cleveland Indians lineup, which is next to last in the AL in slugging. However, they knocked him around for six earned runs in five innings pitched already in 2010. Jhoulys Chacin has only had one start so far this year, but one hit and seven strikeouts in seven innings certainly bodes well for future success.
• Rounding out the top 10: Rich Harden is 2-0 with a 1.42 ERA when facing the Kansas City Royals. He gets the slight nod over Jon Garland, who is 2-1 with a 3.66 ERA lifetime against the Houston Astros.
• Middle-of-the-road options: Scott Baker has had difficulties this season, but has a positive history against the Baltimore Orioles, 3-0 with a 2.93 ERA. Randy Wolf likes to see the Arizona Diamondbacks in the batter's box, as he's got an 8-3 record against them over the years. Jake Peavy is coming off a solid outing, but still needs to do it a few times in a row to gain my confidence, especially with an 11.12 ERA against the Toronto Blue Jays in 2010.
• Streamers on alert: Kris Medlen is a bit risky going into Philadelphia, but the reliever, stepping in for the injured Jair Jurrjens, may be able to keep the Phillies guessing for five innings before he gets the hook. Tom Gorzelanny shut out the Cincinnati Reds for 6 1/3 innings earlier this season. Lightning may strike twice here. Joe Saunders hasn't been effective at all in 2010, but does have a 7-1 career record with a 3.19 ERA against the Seattle Mariners.
• Thanks, but no thanks: Justin Masterson has a 7.04 ERA lifetime against the Detroit Tigers. Ben Sheets allowed eight runs in four innings against the Rays earlier this season. Gil "Ga" Meche has a 5.87 ERA against the Texas Rangers.
For starters: Sunday
Starting pitcher rankings for May 9
• Top of the Charts: With a combined record of 14-1 this season, it's hard to argue with any of our top trio, although Tim Lincecum, Adam Wainwright and Ubaldo Jimenez all happen to have career ERAs over 5.00 against their Sunday opponents.
• Given the fact that both the Reds and Astros rank at the bottom of the NL in on-base percentage, it shouldn't be that much of a surprise to see Ryan Dempster and Kevin Correia rounding out our top 5.
• Another Roy Oswalt doormat club, the San Diego Padres are just 2-10 against the Astros starter, who has posted a 2.68 ERA against them over the years. The undefeated A.J. Burnett is 5-2 lifetime against the Boston Red Sox.
• Rounding out the top 10: The sample size is certainly small, but young Mike Leake already has a quality start against the Chicago Cubs under his belt. Dallas Braden on the other hand, just misses out, as he's not only facing James Shields, but also gave up six earned runs in four innings against the Rays earlier this season.
• Middle-of-the-road options: Cole Hamels is a regular Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and against the Atlanta Braves, he's also been up and down, with a 7-4 lifetime mark. Clayton Kershaw has been very shaky of late, and his 4.71 ERA against the Colorado Rockies certainly gives us pause. At least the game isn't at Coors Field. Jon Lester is 3-1 with a 4.19 career ERA against the New York Yankees.
• It's still hard to go all-in with Livan Hernandez, yet given the low rating the stats spit out, the fact he's as high as No. 18 is a testament to his performance so far this season. He's a better play than say, Mitch Talbot, who has already crashed and burned once this year against the Tigers.
• Thanks, but no thanks: Gavin Floyd is 0-4 lifetime against the Blue Jays, with a 7.23 ERA, which is just as unappealing as the erratic Oliver Perez and his 0-5 with a 7.07 ERA against the Giants. Nick Blackburn brings up the rear of our list, thanks to a) being Nick Blackburn and b) sporting an 8.38 ERA against the Orioles.
Hitter matchup ratings for May 8
Hitters' count: Saturday
Miguel Cabrera, 1B, Tigers: Let's see here, we've got a six-game hitting streak, including seven hits in a three-game set with the Minnesota Twins, two of which were home runs. Now add a 3-for-3 lifetime against Justin Masterson. Fantasy gold.
Jerry Hairston, OF, Padres: Hairston hits 85 points higher at home than on the road and is hitting .333 with a home run against Felipe Paulino.
Paul Konerko, 1B, White Sox: A day off to rest a sore neck may be just what the doctor ordered to get Konerko back in the groove in time to face the Blue Jays. He's 8-for-13 against the combo of Brett Cecil and Kevin Gregg for his career.
Seth Smith, OF, Rockies: He plays against most right-handed pitchers, and while his .296 batting average against the Dodgers in 2009 isn't something to make your jaw drop, it is much higher than his current .207.
Pitchers' count: Saturday
Bobby Abreu, OF, Angels: Abreu's current skid stands at 3-for-21, and he's among the many Angels who have yet to do anything against Doug Fister. This could be a long day in Anaheim.
Josh Willingham, OF, Nationals: He's been all but invisible at the plate lately, with a 3-for-22 stretch, and already took an 0-for-2 collar against Josh Johnson earlier this season.
Andre Ethier, OF, Dodgers: I know you're not going to sit a guy with five home runs since April 30. However, Ethier struck out more time against the Rockies last season than against any other team, and Jhoulys Chacin can bring it.
Eric Chavez, 3B, Athletics: Wade Davis retired Chavez both times they faced off earlier this season, and the third baseman is coming off a 1-for-10 series against the Texas Rangers.
Travis Snider, OF, Blue Jays: Snider is totally smoking the ball, in the midst of an 8-for-15 streak, but the last time the Blue Jays saw Jake Peavy, the outfielder was one of the few hitters who took an oh-fer.
Mark DeRosa, OF, Giants: He's in a 3-for-20 slide and is only 1-for-13 against Johan Santana in his career. Looks like a day to keep DeRosa on the sidelines.
Hitter matchup ratings for May 9
Hitters' count: Sunday
Jorge Cantu, 1B, Marlins: Although Cantu cooled off with an 0-for-12 against the tough Giants, just last week he hit .333 against the Nationals, and that was without the benefit of facing Livan Hernandez, against whom he's a career .300 hitter.
Ryan Howard, 1B, Phillies: He's 9-for-20 in the past five wins for Philadelphia, and 2-for-15 in their past four losses, so as Howard goes, so go the Phillies. We expect a victory against Kenshin Kawakami. You do the math.
Craig Counsell, 2B, Brewers: Very quietly, a nine-game hitting streak has raised his average all the way to .340 on the year.
Austin Kearns, OF, Indians: It's still hard to wrap my brain around the .343 batting average, but given his five multiple-hit games already in 2010, we're calling his name today against wild Max Scherzer.
Stephen Drew, SS, Diamondbacks: Drew has nine hits in his last seven games, and hit .308 against the Brewers in 2009.
Ryan Garko, 1B, Rangers: Are we insane? Garko is 0-for-12 in his last three starts, and those don't come every day. Still, he's a .400 hitter against Luke Hochevar with a home run, so maybe today's the day Garko wakes up.
Pitchers' count: Sunday
Jeff Francoeur, OF, Mets: Really, we could have picked several different Mets for today's game against Tim Lincecum, but settled on Francoeur, who is but 2-for-13 lifetime against the Cy Young winner.
Ryan Doumit, C, Pirates: After a 1-for-19 stretch, the last person Doumit wants to see is Adam Wainwright, against whom he's got only a .211 career OBP.
Casey Blake, 3B, Dodgers: Blake recently went 0-for-11 against the Pirates and did only marginally better (2-for-11) against the Brewers. Expect bad things against Ubaldo Jimenez, who has retired Blake nine of 11 times.
Mike Fontenot, 2B, Cubs: In addition to his 0-for-3 against Mike Leake earlier in 2010, he's now splitting time at second base with Jeff Baker. Despite the .296 batting average, he's not the greatest fantasy asset right now.
Torii Hunter, OF, Angels: It's not like I want to pick on the Angels' veterans, but Hunter is three for his last 19 and has seen his slugging percentage drop 60 points in the last week.
Scott Rolen, 3B, Reds: Even though he does have a seven-game hitting streak working, he's only.227 in 27 career at-bats against Ryan Dempster. I think I'll be rolling the dice with someone other than Rolen.
Baseball Challenge Picks of the Weekend
Saturday: Hanley Ramirez, SS, Marlins: Ramirez has a .367 lifetime batting average against the Nationals, who are forced to use a fill-in starter today because of the injury to John Lannan. Ramirez has hit twice as many homers off Washington pitching than any other team in the league.
Sunday: Garrett Atkins, 3B, Orioles: To be honest, it's hard to have too much faith in this selection, especially since Rhyne Hughes is always looming to take his spot in the lineup, but Atkins is 7-for-14 in his past four games. If he plays, he should do well against the struggling Nick Blackburn.
Injury list: Out
Edgar Renteria, SS, Giants (groin): Likely headed to disabled list after reinjuring groin in first game back after five days off.
Jair Jurrjens, P, Braves (15-day DL, strained left hamstring)
Mark Lowe, P, Mariners (15-day DL, herniated disc)
Brendan Donnelly, P, Pirates (15-day DL, left oblique)
Rick Ankiel, OF, Royals (15-day DL, right quad)
Tim Byrdak, P, Astros (15-day DL, right hamstring)
Rafael Furcal, SS, Dodgers (15-day DL, left hamstring)
Sean Gallagher, P, Padres (15-day DL, sprained toe)
Yunel Escobar, SS, Braves (15-day DL, left groin strain)
Injury list: Day-to-day
Milton Bradley, OF, Mariners (restricted list, personal issues)
Jack Wilson, SS, Mariners (tight hamstring)
Carlos Gomez, OF, Brewers (shoulder)
J.J. Hardy, SS, Twins (sore left wrist)
Weatherproof games: Padres at Astros, Brewers at Diamondbacks and Angels at Mariners. Saturday should be a wet one for many a ballpark. Light showers are on tap for Cleveland and Pittsburgh, with heavier precipitation in the forecast for New York, Boston, Philadelphia and Washington. Although some winds may linger in some of those cities on Sunday, no rain is expected. However, umbrellas may be of use in Oakland and Texas on Mother's Day.