Starting pitcher auditions Saturday
Although the recent injuries to Brad Penny and Kyle Lohse have much of St. Louis in a panic, things could easily be a whole lot worse for the NL Central leaders. After all, Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright (who starts Sunday) are both fine. Penny and Lohse were the only starters on the St. Louis Cardinals with losing records this season. It's only one start, but P.J. Walters filled in admirably with five shutout innings against the San Diego Padres. On Saturday, which is turning out to be "Audition Day" in the majors, Adam Ottavino gets his chance to step up and showcase his wares, as do call-ups Chris Tillman of the Baltimore Orioles and J.D. Martin of the Washington Nationals and reliever called into action Fernando Nieve of the New York Mets. The cup may well be half-empty for some of those rotations, but so far it looks to be half-full for the Redbirds. The complete rankings for the weekend are as follows:
For starters: Saturday
Starting pitcher rankings for May 29
• Top of the charts: The first team to score wins in the pitching matchup of the day in Florida. Roy Halladay beat the Marlins earlier this season, allowing only two runs in eight innings pitched, but the Philadelphia Phillies seemingly haven't scored since Mike Schmidt was in the lineup. Josh Johnson may well continue the Phillies' woes at the plate Saturday.
• Mat Latos is 3-0 with an 0.93 ERA in the past three weeks and the Nationals are hitting just .238 as a team on the road. Jered Weaver is 9-3 lifetime against the Seattle Mariners and held them to just two hits in 7 1/3 scoreless innings in a victory earlier in 2010.
• Colorado is never a safe place to start a visiting pitcher, and Hiroki Kuroda is 0-2 with a 6.94 ERA lifetime against the Rockies, with a 7.50 ERA at Coors Field. Although CC Sabathia has a 2.84 ERA against his former team, the Cleveland Indians, his ERA is hovering near 6.00 during the past 21 days. Be careful.
• Rounding out the top 10: John Danks is 5-1 lifetime against the Tampa Bay Rays, including a two-hit, eight-inning victory this season. Zack Greinke's career versus the Boston Red Sox yields expected results: a low ERA (3.18) but few wins (1-3). Kris Medlen is 1-0 with a 2.08 ERA against the Pittsburgh Pirates to slot into No. 10 on our list.
• Middle-of-the-road options: C.J. Wilson has a 2.35 ERA when facing the Minnesota Twins. Carlos Silva continues to win, though it's easier to do so when staked to a 4-0 lead before taking the mound. I'm still not sold on him, but my argument becomes weaker with each passing start. Wade Davis held the Chicago White Sox to two hits in six scoreless innings in a victory back in April.
• Streamers on alert: Aaron Harang beat the Houston Astros earlier this season, holding them to just two runs. Brett Cecil is 1-0 with a 1.74 ERA against the Orioles. Brett Anderson seems ready to return from the disabled list against the Detroit Tigers, but could be a little wild his first trip back to the mound. He's certainly worth the waiver-wire grab, even if you don't actually decide to start him Saturday.
• Thanks, but no thanks: Billy Buckner is 0-1 with a 7.62 ERA against the San Francisco Giants, which is actually a decent stat line for him. Ian Snell is similarly awful against the Los Angeles Angels: 0-2 with a 7.15 ERA.
• With Bud Norris sidelined with right biceps tendinitis, Brian Moehler is the likeliest candidate to step in for the Houston Astros out of the bullpen and into the rotation, at least for Saturday's start.
For starters: Sunday
Starting pitcher rankings for May 30
• Top of the charts: As we said at the top, the Cardinals are in decent shape with Adam Wainwright on the hill, and he's the leader in the clubhouse for Sunday's action. Jon Lester is right on his tail, with a 3-1 record and a 1.20 ERA against the Kansas City Royals. Clayton Kershaw hasn't allowed more than one earned run in any of his past four starts, including a 2-0 win against the Rockies.
• Mike Leake gets a second shot at the Astros, having already slain the dragon back in April, allowing only one run and five hits in seven innings. James Shields also has a win under his 2010 belt against the White Sox, so he rounds out our top five, ahead of Dallas Braden and his 6.63 career ERA against the Detroit Tigers.
• Rounding out the top 10: Ricky Romero has never beaten the Orioles and has a 5.47 ERA against them, so he rises no higher than ninth on our list. A.J. Burnett has a similar checkered past against the Indians, with a 1-4 record and a 6.69 ERA in the history books.
• Middle-of-the-road options: Felix Hernandez will win again someday, but the 4.63 ERA against the Angels isn't exactly regal. Jake Peavy also brings baggage into Sunday's start in the form of a 5.56 ERA against the Tampa Bay Rays, including a four-inning, seven-run loss earlier in 2010.
• Streamers on alert: Ian Kennedy held the Giants to one run and three hits in a victory a little more than a week ago. John Garland has a 3.86 career ERA against the Nationals, while Joe Saunders is 7-1 lifetime against the Mariners with a 3.06 ERA.
• Thanks, but no thanks: Todd Wellemeyer already lost to the Arizona Diamondbacks this season allowing five runs in five innings, and is 1-4 with a 5.61 ERA against them for his career. Winless Felipe Paulino is 1-4 with a 5.51 ERA against the Reds. Knuckleballer R.A. Dickey is all set for his second start for the Mets, but couldn't feel his (non-pitching) hand after getting hit with a Ryan Howard line drive in his latest outing. As such, it's hard for a fantasy owner to feel good about going with Dickey.
Hitter matchup ratings for May 29
Hitters' count: Saturday
• Alfonso Soriano, OF, Chicago Cubs: Soriano will be sorry to see May fade away after hitting .338 for the month. He's also getting an untested rookie pitcher at Wrigley Field, where he's hitting 43 points higher than on the road.
• Ryan Sweeney, OF, Oakland Athletics: Owned in slightly more than 10 percent of ESPN leagues, Sweeney is hitting .329 for the month and has an active six-game hitting streak. He's also 10-for-18 lifetime against the pair of starters the Tigers have scheduled this weekend.
• Pablo Sandoval, 3B, Giants: The Panda has hits in 10 of his past 12 games and is 5-for-7 lifetime against Billy Buckner. Overall, his batting average against the current Diamondbacks staff is a whopping .535.
• Vernon Wells, OF, Toronto Blue Jays: With 10 hits in his past nine games, Wells' batting average is just a hair below .300 for the year. Though he's had just one RBI in the past week, I have a feeling an explosion is lurking just beneath the surface.
• Juan Pierre, OF, White Sox: It has been win-win for Pierre owners this month. Early on he went on a base-stealing tear, and lately he's been racking up the doubles. He went 2-for-3 against Wade Davis earlier this season. Expect an encore.
Pitchers' count: Saturday
• Raul Ibanez, OF, Phillies: The Phillies aren't scoring, and Ibanez isn't likely to change that against Josh Johnson, as he's batting just .125 for his career against the Marlins' starter.
• Josh Willingham, OF, Nationals: The Padres seem to bring out the worst in Willingham, as he's batting a meager .155 against them since 2007, with 19 strikeouts in only 58 at-bats.
• David Ortiz, DH, Red Sox: Papi has been on fire, but Zack Greinke has the extinguisher. Ortiz is batting only .100 lifetime against the Royals' ace.
• Austin Kearns, OF, Indians: We find Kearns in the middle of a 6-for-29 slump (.207), and the .133 lifetime batting average against CC Sabathia doesn't offer much hope for relief this weekend.
• Jorge Cantu, 3B, Florida Marlins: He's had just one home run since May 8 and good things are not expected against Roy Halladay, whom Cantu has managed only three singles against in 17 career at-bats.
Hitter matchup ratings for May 30
Hitters' count: Sunday
• Robinson Cano, 2B, New York Yankees: Not only is he hitting .395 during a 10-game hitting streak, but he's 4-for-7 lifetime against Justin Masterson of the Indians. What could possibly go wrong here?
• Nick Markakis, OF, Orioles: Hitting .326 for May, he hopes to keep the good times rolling against Ricky Romero, thanks to an OPS of 1.000 in 13 career at-bats.
• Joey Votto, 1B, Cincinnati Reds: Assuming Votto has recovered from his stiff neck, things should be looking up for the first baseman against Felipe Paulino, against whom he's hit .313 for his career.
Pitchers' count: Sunday
• Troy Tulowitzki, SS, Colorado Rockies: Tulo has been terrific, with an 11-game hitting streak that has included five home runs. Obviously, you can't sit him, but do take note he's only 2-for-18 against Clayton Kershaw, with seven strikeouts.
• Blake DeWitt, 2B, Los Angeles Dodgers: He's hitting only .211 against the current Colorado conglomeration of arms, and is 0-for-3 against Jhoulys Chacin. I'll avoid the annual "Three's Company" joke at Blake's expense and simply recommend a sit.
• Carl Crawford, OF, Rays: Crawford hit only .207 against the White Sox in 2009, and though he did go off against them in April (6-for-13), he is only 1-for-6 against Jake Peavy with four strikeouts.
• Hideki Matsui, DH, Angels: Matsui is quite the subservient subject against King Felix, hitting only .188 for his career against Hernandez, with nary an extra-base hit in the mix.
Baseball Challenge Picks of the Weekend
Saturday: Ian Kinsler, 2B, Texas Rangers: His recent nine-game hitting streak came to an end, but Kinsler should get right back on that horse, as he's 5-for-6 lifetime against Carl Pavano with a pair of home runs and six RBIs to his name.
Sunday: Stephen Drew, SS, Diamondbacks: He has a .321 batting average for the month of May, and is in the midst of a seven-game hitting streak. Todd Wellemeyer is just gasoline to the fire, as Drew is 7-for-11 against him with two home runs.
Injury list: Out
Renyel Pinto, P, Marlins (15-day DL, hip soreness)
Jody Gerut, OF, Brewers (15-day DL, left heel)
Coco Crisp, OF, Athletics (15-day DL, right intercostal)
Edgar Renteria, SS, Giants (15-day DL, strained hamstring)
Kyle Lohse, P, Cardinals (15-day DL, arm surgery)
Alfredo Simon, P, Orioles (15-day DL, left hamstring)
George Sherrill, P, Dodgers (15-day DL, tight back)
Brandon Wood, 3B, Angels (15-day DL, hip flexor)
Brent Clevlen, OF, Braves (15-day DL, sprained right toe)
Tony Abreu, 2B, Diamondbacks (15-day DL, left wrist)
Steve Pearce, 1B, Pirates (15-day DL, sprained ankle)
Injury list: Day-to-day
Everth Cabrera, SS, Padres (hamstring)
Jeff Baker, 2B, Cubs (vision problem)
Victor Martinez, C, Red Sox (toe)
Nelson Cruz, OF, Rangers (hamstring)
Jacoby Ellsbury, OF, Red Sox (sore left side)
Weatherproof games: Orioles at Blue Jays, White Sox at Rays, and Mets at Brewers. Saturday showcases scattered showers and possible thunderstorms in New York and Boston. The entire 48 hours of the weekend may be jeopardized in Atlanta and Miami, with rain possible at any and all times.