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Rangers starters looking good

6/18/2010

When it comes to interleague play, the names at the very top of our rankings still trend toward the National League arms, but the fact is that once you get past the best of the bunch, it's the American League that comes out on top more often than not. Through games played Wednesday, AL pitching had a 4.33 ERA and a .253 batting average against (BAA), compared with a 4.62 ERA and .274 BAA from the Senior Circuit. The best staff at keeping the bats from the other league in check this season has been that of the Texas Rangers, with a .194 BAA -- a good reason why you'll see Colby Lewis and C.J. Wilson so high in our rankings. On the other end of the spectrum, the Arizona Diamondbacks' futility, in the form of a .315 BAA, is why neither Ian Kennedy nor Edwin Jackson get any love this weekend. Our complete lists are below:

For starters: Saturday

Starting pitcher rankings for June 19

Rk.: The author's ranking of that pitcher for that day only. T: Pitcher throws left-handed or right-handed. Opp: The pitcher's opponent for the day. Rating: The starting pitcher's matchup rating -- separate from the author's ranking -- which accounts for past history (three years' worth as well as past 21 days), opponent and ballpark. Ratings range from 1-10, with 10 representing the best possible matchup, statistically speaking, and 1 representing the worst. W-L: Pitcher's win-loss record. ERA: Pitcher's earned run average. WHIP: Pitcher's average number of walks plus hits surrendered per inning.

Selected notes:

• Top of the Charts: Adam Wainwright is one of three pitchers who are looking for win No. 10 of the season on Saturday. His chances are pretty good, considering he's going up against Ben Sheets and his 6-14 lifetime mark facing the St. Louis Cardinals. Phil Hughes squares off with Mike Pelfrey in a New York battle of 9-1 arms. Hughes, with 10 strikeouts in eight innings pitched against the Metropolitans, gets the nod at home, and simultaneously sends Pelfrey's daily ranking spiraling downward.

Matt Cain is a perfect 4-0 in his past four starts and has allowed more than three earned runs only once all season. Yovani Gallardo behind the likes of Jered Weaver? It's not that surprising, since Yo-Ga is No-Ga against the Colorado Rockies, compiling a lifetime 0-3 record with a 7.45 ERA, including a loss this season.

• Rounding out the top 10: It's getting harder and harder to stay behind Zack Greinke, and the Atlanta Braves -- hitting .284 at home -- certainly don't make for a more compelling argument here. Jeff Niemann's only 2010 loss was at the hands of the Florida Marlins in his latest start, allowing five earned runs in six innings.

• Middle of the road options: Ted Lilly's career ERA against the Los Angeles Angels is 3.45, better than his 4.19 overall career mark.

• Streamers on alert: Kevin Millwood is still looking for his first win of the season, but is 6-1 lifetime against the San Diego Padres with a 2.95 ERA. This is as good a time as any to take a shot with him. Chris Volstad topped the Tampa Bay Rays last week, allowing only one run in six innings. Throw out Jesse Litsch's first start back from Tommy John surgery. Begin the evaluation of the young Toronto Blue Jays pitcher against the San Francisco Giants, who are hitting just .244 with runners in scoring position.

• Thanks, but no thanks: Tim Wakefield brings a 6.64 ERA against the Los Angeles Dodgers into this weekend's tilt. Jeff Francis trumps the knuckleballer in the pitiful ERA department, with a 7.76 mark when facing the Milwaukee Brewers. Winless Brian Moehler is an above-average 6-5 in games versus the Texas Rangers, but that comes with an ERA of 5.05.

Vicente Padilla is scheduled to make a return from the disabled list, though be warned that his final rehab start for Triple-A Albuquerque resulted in six runs (four earned) on eight hits in only 5 2/3 innings. Jake Peavy's start was once again pushed back -- but don't be surprised to see somebody else on the mound this Saturday. Fool me once, shame on you …

For starters: Sunday

Starting pitcher rankings for June 20

Rk.: The author's ranking of that pitcher for that day only. T: Pitcher throws left-handed or right-handed. Opp: The pitcher's opponent for the day. Rating: The starting pitcher's matchup rating -- separate from the author's ranking -- which accounts for past history (three years' worth as well as past 21 days), opponent and ballpark. Ratings range from 1-10, with 10 representing the best possible matchup, statistically speaking, and 1 representing the worst. W-L: Pitcher's win-loss record. ERA: Pitcher's earned run average. WHIP: Pitcher's average number of walks plus hits surrendered per inning.

Selected notes:

• Top of the Charts: Josh Johnson is likely to be the No. 1 pitcher until his ERA rises above 2.00, which could take quite some time, given that he's yet to allow more than one run in his past seven starts. Roy Halladay is 8-1 lifetime against the Minnesota Twins with a 2.90 ERA, giving him the No. 2 spot by the slimmest of margins over 10-game winner David Price.

Flip a coin in the duel between CC Sabathia and Johan Santana. The Mets' ace has a win against the Yankees this season, and Sabathia is 0-1 against the crosstown rivals, allowing five earned runs in five innings pitched. This time around, perhaps heads becomes tails and vice versa.

• Rounding out the top 10: Clay Buchholz has a chance to join the double-digit win club is and playing at home is what tips the scales in his favor against Hiroki Kuroda and the Dodgers.

• Middle of the road options: It's still a love-hate affair with Carlos Zambrano, who has proceeded to pitch deeper into the game in each of his three starts since being brought back into the Cubs' rotation. Jake Arrieta has looked good in his first two outings, and PETCO Park is a pitcher's paradise. John Garland is 7-3 lifetime against the Baltimore Orioles, which is why I like him just a bit more than Carl Pavano, who owns a 4.86 lifetime ERA against the Philadelphia Phillies.

• Streamers on alert: Aaron Harang may have a losing record against the Seattle Mariners, but you can't blame him for being 1-3, as his ERA is a mere 1.53. Aaron Cook is 6-3 for his career against the Milwaukee Brewers with a 3.32 ERA, though he did lose to them earlier this season, allowing four runs in 5 1/3 innings of work. Felipe Paulino did put together five straight quality starts before blowing up against the Kansas City Royals a few days ago. Feeling lucky?

• Thanks, but no thanks: Dave Duncan or not, Jeff Suppan currently lacks the endurance to pitch more than five innings, let alone pitch a quality five innings. Right-handers are batting .309 against Kyle Davies, and the Braves could well be starting eight of them this Sunday.

Now batting

Hitter matchup ratings for June 19

Hitter ratings account for the opposing starting pitcher's past history (three years' worth as well as past 21 days) as well as ballpark factors. "LHB" and "RHB" ratings account only for left- and right-handed batters, respectively.

Hitters' count: Saturday

Carlos Santana, C, Indians: Sure the batting average isn't all you might have envisioned, but four RBIs in six games is still not too bad a start for the young catcher who now gets to feast on the likes of Jeff Karstens.

Jose Tabata, OF, Pirates: Continuing our "when in doubt, go young" theme, Tabata has reached base safely in all seven of his starts this season. May the good time continue to roll.

Victor Martinez, C, Red Sox: No newcomer to the game, V-Mart is batting a stellar .420 this month, and gets to take his hacks against a fresh-off-the-disabled-list Vicente Padilla. Yum!

Ian Kinsler 2B, Rangers: Kinsler has scored 15 runs in his past 12 games and is hitting .444 for his career against the current pitching staff they've got down in Houston.

Prince Fielder, 1B, Brewers: His six home runs have resulted in only seven RBIs this month, but they all count. Fielder has two home runs in just eight career at-bats against Jeff Francis, so whether there are men on base or not, I think you'll take whatever Prince gives you.

Pitchers' count: Saturday

Scott Rolen, 3B, Reds: He's coming off a 1-for-10 series against the Dodgers, and is 9-for-41 (.220) since 2007 against the Mariners.

Jose Bautista, OF, Blue Jays: Where has the awesome gone to? Bautista is hitting only .130 in June and only .200 lifetime against Matt Cain.

Jason Bay, OF, Mets: Let's forget about his recent quad contusion for a moment; with the exception of a 4-for-4 day in a game started by Kevin Millwood, Bay is just 3-for-32 since June 4.

Troy Glaus, 1B, Braves: Glaus has managed only one hit in nine career at-bats against Zack Greinke with three strikeouts.

Hitter matchup ratings for June 20

Hitter ratings account for the opposing starting pitcher's past history (three years' worth as well as past 21 days) as well as ballpark factors. "LHB" and "RHB" ratings account only for left- and right-handed batters, respectively.

Hitters' count: Sunday

Magglio Ordonez, OF, Tigers: Ordonez is 8-for-13 since returning from a six-game "vacation" due to a sore oblique, and is hitting .479 against the Diamondbacks' cast of characters on the hill.

Marlon Byrd, OF, Cubs: Byrd has two home runs and five RBIs off of Joe Saunders in his career, so expect the .696 slugging percentage for June to be on the climb.

Jason Giambi, 1B, Rockies: So what if he's hitting .071 this month, including an 0-for-Minnesota. Randy Wolf is pitching for the Brew Crew, and Giambi's got two round-trippers in four at-bats against him.

Chone Figgins, 3B, Mariners: For most hitters, a .291 month at the plate is no big deal. For Figgins, it's cause for champagne! Additionally, he's hit .385 against the Reds since 2007.

Adam LaRoche, 1B, Diamondbacks: With eight hits in his past six games, including two solo shots, LaRoche's bat is starting to come around. Plus, he is 2-for-4 with a home run when facing Max Scherzer.

Pitchers' count: Sunday

Joe Mauer, C, Twins: He's managed only four hits in his past 19 at-bats and has been getting all sorts of beat up behind the plate. A day off with Roy Halladay on the mound is in order, especially with Mauer's .143 career batting average against him.

Torii Hunter, OF, Angels: By the time this series is over, the Angels will have played 17 of 20 on the road and after 13 seasons in the bigs, that kind of travel is simply bound to take its toll on Hunter.

Chase Headley, 3B, Padres: Some players don't get to keep their jobs after a 2-for-26 slump. For now, Chase is safe … but for how long? Get your head in the game, Headley.

Aaron Rowand, OF, Giants: Rowand's .207 month of June is actually an improvement over May's .194 batting average. Ugh! He's also 0-for-3 against Shaun Marcum, so there's not even a sliver of a silver lining.

Ben Zobrist, OF, Rays: Call this a one-day layoff for Zobrist owners, as the Rays' right fielder has never managed a hit off of Josh Johnson.

Baseball Challenge Picks of the Weekend

Saturday: Paul Konerko, 1B, White Sox: Is this really career .278 hitter Paul Konerko posting a .404 batting average for the month of June? It sure is, and with six extra-base hits and 14 RBIs as well, it's not like he's legging out singles to pad his stats.

Sunday: Albert Pujols, 1B, Cardinals: The Machine is in need of an oil change, as he's hitting just .280 in June, down from .291 in May. But with seven hits in his past 14 at-bats, perhaps the tune up is complete.

Triage

Injury list: Out

Rafael Furcal, SS, Dodgers (bereavement list)

Antonio Bastardo, P, Phillies (15-day DL, left elbow)

Clay Hensley, P, Marlins (15-day DL, neck strain)

Matt Daley, P, Rockies (15-day DL, right shoulder)

Luke Hochevar, P, Royals (15-day DL, elbow)

Chris Resop, P, Braves (15-day DL, left oblique)

Maicer Izturis, 3B, Angels (15-day DL, left forearm)

Chad Billingsley, P, Dodgers (15-day DL, groin strain)

Sergio Mitre, P, Yankees (15-day DL, oblique strain)

Marcus Thames, OF, Yankees (15-day DL, strained right hamstring)

Jason Bulger, P, Angels (15-day DL, strained shoulder)

Daisuke Matsuzaka, P, Red Sox (15-day DL, right forearm)

Injury list: Day-to-day

Omar Infante, 3B, Braves (foot)

Troy Tulowitzki, SS, Rockies (wrist)

Trevor Crowe, OF, Indians (bruised knee)

Erick Aybar, SS, Angels (hyperextended knee)

Jason Bay, OF, Mets (left quad)

Weather concerns

Weatherproof games: Giants at Blue Jays, Rangers at Astros, Reds at Mariners. Those thunderstorms will continue to be a bit of a nuisance all weekend long in both steamy St. Louis and Florida. On Saturday, fans in Detroit and Pittsburgh may join the umbrella brigade, but by Sunday, the skies should be clear. The reverse is true for both Atlanta and Chicago. Both cities should start the weekend dry, but may end up all wet by the time all is said and done on Sunday.

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.