Liriano faces tough matchup
Francisco Liriano has a 3.25 ERA and 52 strikeouts in 52 2/3 innings this season, but he still has a couple of starters ranked ahead of him Wednesday who are owned in 4 percent of leagues or less. In other words, we play the matchups here, and Liriano, who draws the Yankees, gets the short end of the stick. So stream to your heart's content and we'll tell you who the day's best bets are. Read on to find out who Wednesday's mystery spot-starters will be:
Starting pitcher rankings for May 26
• With a 1.80 ERA and 20 strikeouts in 20 innings this month, Jeremy Bonderman is picking up steam, and a soft matchup against the Mariners could be his breaking-out party. It makes sense that he would start slow given all the injuries and setbacks he's experienced recently, but he's still just 28 and may have some upside yet untapped. Step 1 will be shutting down a Mariners offense with the worst OPS in the league; anything less than a start similar to his last one (six innings pitched, one earned run, eight strikeouts and seven baserunners allowed against the Athletics) will be a disappointment.
• I have been waiting a few weeks to hype up Tom Gorzelanny, so don't disappoint me now! The high-upside left-hander is finally putting it together and has an absurd 11.5 K/9 in May. The walks are still a little too high and likely forever will be, but a hard-throwing lefty who can pile up strikeouts with a strong offense behind him is prime spot-start material, and against the depleted Dodgers -- a team that is already poor versus left-handed pitching (.645 OPS, 26th in the majors) -- how can you resist?
• A young, highly touted prospect (now officially a former prospect) gets called up from Triple-A, strings together a number of solid starts and now the fantasy world should go gaga for him, right? Well, not exactly. Aside from getting torched in his first start versus the Blue Jays -- a totally reasonable result, by the way -- Trevor Cahill hasn't looked bad at all, but I'm still cautiously optimistic. He's still given up five home runs in fewer than 30 innings, which was his bugaboo last year, and it's not as if he's striking out a ton of batters to make up for it (4.3 K/9). But the Orioles aren't hitting the cover off the ball -- their .314 OBP ranks near the bottom of the majors -- and Cahill has the talent, home park and now the opportunity, thanks to Justin Duchscherer's recurring hip injuries, to make an impact, so sure, since there's not much to lose, throw him out there Tuesday.
• You know, even Liriano performed about as well as you could possibly expect against the Yankees two starts ago (nine hits allowed in six innings, three runs and seven strikeouts). By the numbers (4.50 ERA, 1.50 WHIP), it still wasn't one very beneficial to fantasy teams. And now that the Yankees have a good look at him, can he better his performance, this time at home? I love me some Liriano but it's hard to definitively say yes to that question, not when he has to face a team slugging .478 and getting on base 37 percent of the time against left-handers. I'm risk-averse when it comes to starting pitchers against elite options so I'd sit him, but he's pitched well enough to merit consideration; your mileage may vary.
• Andy Pettitte just shut out the Twins for six-plus innings two starts ago, so what could possibly go wrong? Well, that pounding he received by the Rays (six earned runs allowed in five innings) could be the start of a trend, as Pettitte really hasn't pitched as well as his ERA suggests. As a result, I would avoid him against the better offenses in the league, which the Twins certainly are, even against left-handed pitching (.792 team OPS, third in the AL).
• The Indians are hitting .289 off Mark Buehrle in 246 combined at-bats, which is a red flag if I've ever seen one. If Buehrle isn't even a safe start against the Indians, who is he a safe start against? Hittable lefties with middling strikeout rates are a dime a dozen; it looks nigh time to look elsewhere in fantasy leagues.
• But Buehrle's got nothing on John Lackey. The Rays, as a team, have a robust .316 AVG/.369 OBP/.539 SLG line in 206 at-bats, not exactly a minuscule sample size. In his past two starts against the Rays, one of which came earlier this year, Lackey has allowed 20 hits and 18 runs (16 earned) in 8 1/3 innings. Stay far, far away.
• Is this what they meant when they talked about how hard it would be for Joel Pineiro to repeat his success in the AL this season? Because, blowup against his former team aside, Pineiro has faced five of the AL's top six offenses, in terms of OPS, this season. And his matchup versus the Blue Jays will (drumroll, please) make it six out of six! In other words, no, you definitely don't want to start Pineiro versus the Jays Tuesday, but you definitely want to be the guy pitching a buy-low offer to his undoubtedly frustrated owner Wednesday morning.
Hitter matchup ratings for May 26
• David DeJesus, OF, Kansas City Royals: A hot-hitting April has fallen by the wayside and turned into a mediocre May, but at least DeJesus swats Scott Feldman around. It's definitely one-sided: In 16 plate appearances DeJesus has picked up six hits (one home run) and six walks, which could result in some stolen base opportunities against Rangers catcher Matt Treanor (5-for-22 in throwing out runners).
• Troy Glaus, 1B/3B, Atlanta Braves: Right-handed power is Nate Robertson's weakness, with 40 of the 52 home runs he's allowed during the past three years coming off the bat of righties. It makes sense, then, that Glaus is a solid 5-for-17 (.294) versus Robertson, taking him out of the park twice. He's struck out six times, too, but hey, it comes with the territory.
• Jason Bartlett, SS, Tampa Bay Rays: Although a big fat bust to this point, Bartlett does have a modest five-start hitting streak. Fortunately, he's been quite successful against John Lackey, going 7-for-16 (.438) with three triples and a double.
• Michael Cuddyer, 1B/OF, Minnesota Twins: Cuddyer has retained his usefulness versus lefties, batting .294 with a pair of home runs in 51 at-bats, and is 5-for-15 (.333) with two extra-base hits (one home run) against Andy Pettitte lifetime.
• Corey Hart, OF, Milwaukee Brewers: It's kind of surprising to see someone as good as Roy Oswalt get totally owned by Hart, but the numbers don't lie. Hart is 8-for-16 with a pair of walks, and better yet, five of those hits have gone for extra bases: five doubles and one long ball.
• Juan Pierre, OF, Chicago White Sox: You can't steal bases if you can't get on base, and that's been a big problem for Pierre when he's stepped into the batter's box against Jake Westbrook. Pierre is a woeful 0-for-10 lifetime with one strikeout.
• Billy Butler, 1B, Royals: Batting title, schmatting title. Scott Feldman turns Butler back into a minor leaguer. In 13 at-bats, Butler has only a pair of singles to his name, including an 0-for-2 mark this season.
• Rajai Davis, OF, Oakland Athletics: The pitcher matchup isn't exactly where the problem lies; although Brian Matusz is a good left-hander, Davis actually has an OBP above .300 (the Mendoza Line for on-base percentage, essentially) against southpaws. No, it's Matt Wieters' cannon of an arm he must be aware of, as only Miguel Olivo (.556 caught stealing percentage) has a higher success rate than Wieters' .423.
• Cody Ross, OF, Florida Marlins: Ross is definitely heating up, but unfortunately runs into a tough matchup against Tommy Hanson. Righties are hitting a mediocre .229 off Hanson, while Ross personally is 0-for-3 with three K's against Hanson.
• David Ortiz, DH, Boston Red Sox: Two home runs in 22 at-bats isn't bad, but that's virtually all Ortiz has done against Matt Garza, and last season Ortiz was an awful 1-for-12 with four K's against him. Ortiz has struck out nine times overall, so it's not a surprise his lifetime average against Garza stands at a lowly .136.
• Garrett Jones, 1B/OF, Pittsburgh Pirates: Jones has actually hit .300 with seven doubles in May, but the fact he has gone deep just once has been disappointing. With one hit in eight at-bats, including three strikeouts, he won't be any better off against Bronson Arroyo, either, so leave him reserved.
Baseball Challenge Pick of the Day
Hank Blalock, DH, Rays: Blalock simply has John Lackey's number, as recently as last year accumulating four hits off him in nine at-bats, including a double. In their 70 at-bat history, Blalock has won by unanimous decision, batting .343 with a pair of homers and seven doubles.
Injury list: Out
Ivan Rodriguez, C, Washington Nationals (15-day DL, back)
Alfredo Simon, RP, Baltimore Orioles (15-day DL, hamstring): With Simon landing on the disabled list, lefty Will Ohman may be the favorite for saves after all. Or, worse, the Orioles could opt to mix-and-match whatever save opportunities they scrounge up before Mike Gonzalez (shoulder) returns in June.
Injury list: Day-to-day
Mike Cameron, OF, Red Sox (abdominal strain): I missed this the other day but Cameron was activated from the disabled list Tuesday, shifting over to left field. Cameron had his return date pushed back many times, so let's cross our fingers and hope he is, and can stay, healthy.
Luis Castillo, 2B, New York Mets (foot): Castillo has a bone bruise in his left foot and may require a trip to the disabled list. "It's killing me," Castillo said Sunday night.
Rafael Furcal, SS, Los Angeles Dodgers (15-day DL, hamstring; probable)
Carlos Gonzalez, OF, Colorado Rockies (wrist)
Jason Heyward, OF, Atlanta Braves (thumb)
Victor Martinez, 1B/C, Red Sox (foot)
Aramis Ramirez, 3B, Chicago Cubs (thumb; doubtful)
Marcus Thames, OF, New York Yankees (ankle): It'd be nice if Thames were healthy enough to start considering he's 5-for-11 with three home runs off Francisco Liriano.
Koji Uehara, RP, Orioles (forearm)
Weatherproof: Tigers-Mariners, Red Sox-Rays and Astros-Brewers. There is little rain in Wednesday's forecast, with Kansas City (Rangers-Royals) the only slight threat, with a 40 percent chance of storms.
Adam Madison is a fantasy baseball analyst for ESPN.com.
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