Commentary

Lester, Verlander should remain hot

Updated: June 4, 2010, 6:04 PM ET
By AJ Mass | ESPN.com

Daily Notes

What have they got to lose? The Arizona Diamondbacks have lost 10 straight games entering play Friday. They have a team ERA of 5.64, which is far and away last in the majors. Brandon Webb is still nowhere close to a return to the mound. So why not bring in Dontrelle Willis? After all, he's got to be better than the 0-3 record and 11.08 ERA that Billy Buckner gave them this season, right? Besides, he's got eight career home runs. An extra bat at the plate could be just what the doctor ordered for a lineup that just lost two straight 1-0 extra-inning affairs. Having said all that, nearly any other pitcher would be a better play this weekend for fantasy purposes, especially since pitcher hitting doesn't count in most leagues. Here's the way it all shakes out:

For starters: Saturday

Selected notes:

Top of the charts: How much does Jon Lester love to face the Baltimore Orioles? How does a perfect 10-0 with a 2.22 ERA strike you? He tops our Saturday table, just ahead of Justin Verlander who is 9-2 against the Kansas City Royals with a 2.58 ERA.

Roy Oswalt has deserved better this season, but one of his wins did come when facing the Chicago Cubs, a five-hitter in seven innings of scoreless ball. He rounds out our top trio of arms for Saturday, ahead of James Shields and his 4.82 ERA against the Texas Rangers.

Ervin Santana already has one loss to the Seattle Mariners this season, but was 6-3 lifetime against them in prior years. Expect a bounce-back from a pitcher who has won his past four decisions. Chad Billingsley is also undefeated in the past three weeks, and could well improve on his 3.65 ERA against the Atlanta Braves.

Rounding out the top 10: Some concern for Francisco Liriano in the form of a 1-2 record and a 5.08 ERA versus the Oakland Athletics keeps him from being any higher than ninth on the day. Meanwhile, Doug Fister's recent rockiness may smooth out some, as he's 1-0 with a 2.51 ERA against the Los Angeles Angels.

Middle-of-the-road options: Ricky Romero has been terrific in 2010 but owns a 5.94 ERA against the New York Yankees. Jhoulys Chacin's 6.14 ERA in his past four decisions is scary, but he did beat the "can't score" Diamondbacks earlier this year. Carlos Silva is facing the Houston Astros, and kept them off the scoreboard in seven innings in a victory back in April. OK. Uncle!

Streamers on alert: You might want to pass on Jon Garland, given his 0-3 lifetime mark with an 8.02 ERA against the Philadelphia Phillies on the road, but the drop-off in our rankings after his name is pretty steep. Chris Narveson has a 2.25 ERA against the St. Louis Cardinals, and two of Nate Robertson's four victories this season have come at the expense of the New York Mets

Thanks, but no thanks: … who are offering up Jonathon Niese and his 5.63 ERA against the Florida Marlins in two losses this season. Luis Atilano may keep winning, but at what cost to your team's ERA and WHIP? As for Tommy Hunter of the Rangers, perhaps it is best to reassess after he makes his first start of the season, as he's coming off a left oblique injury suffered in the spring.

For starters: Sunday

Selected notes:

Top of the Charts: Call it in the air. This is totally splitting hairs, but Tim Lincecum is my No. 1 pick for the day, based on the 2.86 ERA lifetime against the Pirates. However, there's practically nothing separating him from the brilliant Ubaldo Jimenez, who has already held the Diamondbacks scoreless for 14 innings in 2010. It's not like you're benching either guy.

Ryan Dempster is one case where the numbers seem to be screaming to stay away, most notably, the 4-10 lifetime mark and the 4.27 ERA against the Houston Astros. And yet, he only allowed one run in 7 2/3 innings against them in an April no-decision. I confess it feels wrong to have him so high, but sometimes you just close your eyes and trust the math.

Is the real Matt Garza going to show up against the Rangers? I think so, but both John Ely and Tim Hudson, who is 5-2 with a 3.90 ERA lifetime against the Los Angeles Dodgers, are right there on his tail.

Rounding out the top 10: Ricky Nolasco beat the Mets earlier this year and although Hisanori Takahashi has a 6.23 ERA against the Marlins, those were all relief outings. With this game at Citi Field, it's a toss-up.

Middle of the road options: Gio Gonzalez would be a lot higher if not for his disastrous pair of 2009 outings against the Twins -- 18 runs allowed and a 28.59 ERA. Jason Vargas should be a nice play Sunday, as he's 2-0 with a 2.20 ERA against the Angels. Brian Bannister has won his past four decisions and has a 2.12 career ERA facing the Tigers.

Mark Buehrle has a 1.76 ERA against the Cleveland Indians this season, and goes up against Jake Westbrook who has allowed 12 earned runs in 18 innings of work in two losses to the White Sox in 2010.

Streamers on alert: Brett Myers is 7-3 lifetime against the Chicago Cubs, with a 2.63 ERA. Bronson Arroyo is 3-1 with a 3.88 ERA against the Washington Nationals. Throw in John Lackey, 9-3 lifetime against the now Dave Trembley-free Orioles, and you've got a veteran trio to consider as the fantasy week comes to a close.

Thanks, but no thanks: I'm avoiding Nick Blackburn, as he has never defeated the Athletics and has a 6.37 ERA in games against the green and gold. Joe Blanton has a 5.73 career ERA against the San Diego Padres, which is actually worse than his overall 2010 ERA. Dave Bush was pulled from his scheduled start either because of a blister or, more likely, because he's been atrocious. Still, Manny Parra is not that big of an upgrade here.

Now batting

Hitters' count: Saturday

Carl Crawford, OF, Rays: Crawford hit .303 against the Rangers last season, and has scored five runs in his past five games.

Gaby Sanchez, 1B, Marlins: Sanchez is hot, with hits in nine of his past 10 games. Plus, he's 10-for-19 against the current Mets pitching staff.

Justin Morneau, 1B, Twins: Not only is Morneau batting .320 during the past week, but he is 3-for-5 with a home run against Trevor Cahill of the Athletics. Far more yes than no to be found here.

Henry Blanco, C, Mets: Rod Barajas is getting the glory, but Blanco is more than holding his own when he gets a start. Considering he's 3-for-5 with a home run off Nate Robertson, today might once again be his lucky day.

Craig Counsell, 2B/SS/3B, Brewers: Yes, he's pushing 40 and doesn't play on a regular basis anymore, but he went 3-for-6 against the Marlins and could easily see a spot start this weekend. If you hear he's starting, grab him off the waiver wire.

Pitchers' count: Saturday

Nick Markakis, OF, Orioles: His batting average is perilously close to dipping below .300 for the first time since May 19, and the .211 lifetime mark against Jon Lester, with 10 K's in 38 at-bats, may well do the trick.

Scott Podsednik, OF, Royals: Scotty Too Hotty, batting .346 in his past six games, may cool off mightily against Justin Verlander. He's just 5-for-27 (.185) lifetime against the Tigers starter.

Cristian Guzman, SS, Nationals: He proved this week he can't play the outfield, but so far in June, he hasn't hit, either. You need to do better than a .143 to make my lineup.

Jhonny Peralta, SS, Indians: In the midst of a 4-for-23 funk, Peralta now gets to continue his sad stretch against Jake Peavy, against whom he's only a .182 hitter for his career.

Bobby Abreu, OF, Angels: Despite hitting safely in 14 of 15 games, Abreu is 0-for-6 against Doug Fister. It may be a small sample size, but that doesn't make Abreu's futility facing Fister any less real.

Hitters' count: Sunday

Mark Ellis, 2B, Athletics: He's raised his batting average nearly 80 points in the past week and is a career 4-for-8 with two home runs against Nick Blackburn.

Pablo Sandoval, 3B, Giants: Hitting .359 against the Pirates since 2009 is one check in the plus column for the Panda. The nine hits in his past seven games is another.

Darnell McDonald, OF, Red Sox: He went 4-for-9 in the series against the Athletics, and it's looking like Mike Cameron isn't coming back anytime soon. Besides, who doesn't the Orioles' pitching staff make a thousand times better?

Jason Giambi, 1B, Rockies: Spot-start alert in full effect for Giambi. Not only is he hitting .314 against Rodrigo Lopez, but has four career home runs against him.

Jay Bruce, OF, Reds: Bruce likes the road, as he's hitting 33 points higher away from Cincinnati this season. Even though he's disappointed his owners so far in 2010, he has hit three home runs in his past seven games.

Pitchers' count: Sunday

Brian McCann, C, Braves: McCann is battling a 1-for-12 slump and is 2-for-23 since the start of 2009 against the Dodgers.

Andrew McCutchen, OF, Pirates: All Pirates take a dip in value against Tim Lincecum, but moreso a player who has a career 0-fer against him, like McCutchen does.

Conor Jackson, OF, Diamondbacks: Deuces are wild for Jackson, and not in a good way, as he's only 2-for-22 since May 25. It's unlikely to get better against Ubaldo Jimenez, against whom he has only two career hits in 11 at-bats.

Derek Jeter, SS, Yankees: Brandon Morrow has held Jeter to a .125 batting average. Sure, you're not benching a guy hitting .444 during the past week, but that doesn't guarantee Morrow won't have his number again.

Josh Hamilton, OF, Rangers: Strangely, Hamilton is 1-for-15 in the final game of his past four three-game series. Plus, he's only 2-for-12 with four strikeouts against Matt Garza.

Baseball Challenge Picks of the Weekend

Saturday: Paul Konerko, 1B, White Sox: Six RBIs in the Rangers series and now he goes up against the Indians, against whom he has nine homers and 30 RBIs in 154 at-bats against the current staff, including one round-tripper against Mitch Talbot.

Sunday: Matt Holliday, LF, Cardinals: Not only is Holliday hitting .520 since May 27, but he gets to face Manny Parra, against whom he's managed to reach base safely against in all but one of his five career plate appearances.

Triage

Injury list: Out

Jason Bartlett, SS, Rays (15-day DL, hamstring)

Michael Cuddyer, OF, Twins (bereavement list, death in family)

Derek Holland, P, Rangers (15-day DL, left rotator cuff)

Mark Teahen, 3B, White Sox (15-day DL, fractured finger)

Mike Lincoln, P, Reds (15-day DL, strained side)

Chris Sampson, P, Astros (15-day DL, tendinitis)

Alexi Casilla, 2B, Twins (15-day DL, bone spur)

Nelson Cruz, OF, Rangers (15-day DL, sprained left hamstring)

Kendry Morales, 1B, Angels (15-day DL, broken leg)

Injury list: Day-to-day

Takashi Saito, P, Braves (hamstring)

Casey Blake, 3B, Dodgers (back spasms)

Vladimir Guerrero, DH, Rangers (swollen eye)

Carlos Guillen, 2B, Tigers (toe contusion)

Ryan Sweeney, OF, Athletics (dizziness)

Mike Cameron, OF, Red Sox (abdominal soreness)

Luis Castillo, 2B, Mets (feet)

Chipper Jones, 3B, Braves (finger)

Weather concerns

Weatherproof games: Cubs at Astros, Yankees at Blue Jays, Rockies at Diamondbacks and Angels at Mariners. There may be some lingering showers on Saturday from a weather system in Chicago and Kansas City. After moving through St. Louis, the thunderstorms move east and could affect games in Pennsylvania, New York and the entire Beltway region.

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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