Latos has nice matchup with Astros
Houston, we have a problem. We're of course talking about the Houston Astros, who are ranked last or next-to-last in the National League in nearly every offensive category imaginable: runs scored, batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, home runs, strikeouts, the list goes on. They played the San Diego Padres in a three-game series back in May and did not score a single run against the trio of starters they faced, including Mat Latos, who allowed only two hits over eight innings in a 7-0 victory. The Astros did finish June with a .500 record for the month, but we're thinking a visit to California at the end of a long road trip might yield a return to that May ineptitude at the plate. Here's our complete starting pitcher rankings for the first Friday in July:
Starting pitcher rankings for July 2
• At the top: Josh Johnson is still working with a 2010 ERA under 2.00, and his career 2.74 ERA against the Atlanta Braves isn't anything to sneeze at, either. ... Call off the panic police in regards to Tim Lincecum. He'll be fine. One bad outing against the Boston Red Sox shouldn't scare you away from him.
• The computer spits out a "Perfect 10" for Colby Lewis' matchup against the Chicago White Sox. I'm not so sure after seeing his lifetime 8.31 ERA against them, including a four-run, six-plus inning loss to them in early June. However, 23 strikeouts and only two walks in his past three starts keeps him in the top five, and just ahead of David Price and his 1.42 ERA when facing the Minnesota Twins.
• Roy Oswalt is 10-2 lifetime facing the Padres, but we've already discussed his team's offensive issues. ... Ryan Dempster has no such support problems as the Cubs have scored 4.7 runs per game against the Cincinnati Reds this season.
• Rounding out the top 10: Hiroki Kuroda is 1-0 with a 2.51 ERA in two starts against the Arizona Diamondbacks this season. ... Jaime Garcia is also 1-0 in two 2010 outings against the Milwaukee Brewers.
• Middle-of-the-road options: Jamie Moyer is never "lights out" but he seems to keep on winning regardless. He goes up against the Pittsburgh Pirates, who have scored just seven runs in their past five games. ... Jhoulys Chacin held the San Francisco Giants to just one hit over seven innings back on May 2. Doug Fister has a post-DL start under his belt, and did pitch well (7 IP, 2 ER) against Friday's opponent, the Detroit Tigers, before his injury.
• Edwin Jackson, with a 3.32 lifetime ERA against the Los Angeles Dodgers, and Bronson Arroyo, 3.06 ERA facing the Chicago Cubs, are two starters with track records against their Friday foes that are a tad better than their 2010 numbers.
• Streamers on alert: Max Scherzer defeated the Seattle Mariners earlier this season, allowing only two runs over six innings. ... Gio Gonzalez is 2-0 with a 1.62 ERA against the Cleveland Indians, including a five-hit, seven-inning appearance in 2010. ... Joe Saunders is a perfect 3-0 in his career against the Kansas City Royals.
• Brett Cecil's lifetime ERA against the New York Yankees is 6.18, but he held them to just one run and five hits in eight innings in a win back on June 4. ... Chris Narveson does have 19 strikeouts over 18 career innings pitched against the St. Louis Cardinals, but gave up four runs in six innings against them less than a month ago.
• Stay away: Tim Wakefield has allowed seven runs in only nine innings over two starts against the Baltimore Orioles this season. ... Luis Atilano has a 5.59 ERA against the New York Mets in 2010. ... A.J. Burnett allowed six earned runs in six innings pitched against the Toronto Blue Jays to kick off his recent 0-5 disastrous run. Until he rights the ship, no way I'm getting on board.
Hitter matchup ratings for July 2
Robinson Cano, 2B, New York Yankees: No need to worry just because his batting average has dropped 19 points over the past two weeks. Cano has a .556 OBP against Brett Cecil, and he has hit .303 against Blue Jays pitching since the start of last season.
Marlon Byrd, OF, Chicago Cubs: Byrd hit .333 for the month of June and looks to carry that success into July facing Bronson Arroyo, against whom he's hitting .375 for his career -- including three RBIs.
Daric Barton, 1B, Oakland Athletics: Owned in only 4 percent of ESPN leagues, Barton is hitting .407 against the current Cleveland crop of pitchers, which should make him a solid play all series long.
Albert Pujols, 1B, St. Louis Cardinals: Even for Pujols, the .700 OBP and 2.200 OPS against Chris Narveson leaps off the page. So what if it's only six at-bats. Are you going to sit him because the sample size is small? I didn't think so.
Torii Hunter, OF, Los Angeles Angels: Poor Kyle Davies. He just can't seem to get Hunter out. The veteran owns a .412 batting average to go along with six RBIs in 17 career battles with the Royals pitcher.
Martin Prado, 2B, Atlanta Braves: Prado can't get hits against everyone; after all, he is human. Josh Johnson has handled the second baseman well, as Prado's .133 batting average against him would seem to indicate.
Paul Konerko, 1B, Chicago White Sox: He has hit three home runs in the past week, but is batting just .222 since June 23. Additionally, he has just two singles in 13 at-bats against Colby Lewis.
Ian Stewart, 3B, Colorado Rockies: Stewart is in the middle of a 4-for-24 funk, and with 12 strikeouts in 22 lifetime at-bats against Tim Lincecum, it's doubtful Stewart will get the funk out this Friday.
Ryan Braun, OF, Milwaukee Brewers: Braun is just 1-for-7 against Jaime Garcia, which would not be as concerning if not for the fact he is batting just .194 since June 23.
Lance Berkman, 1B, Houston Astros: All his numbers have been down in 2010 and so far this season, Berkman is batting just .182 against the San Diego Padres. Away from home, he's hitting a mere .225. In a word, yuck!
Delmon Young, OF, Minnesota Twins: Young hit just .143 against the Tampa Bay Rays last season, and is hitless against David Price. Since reaching a batting average of .310 on June 22, Young has gone just 5-for-30.
Baseball Challenge Pick of the Day
Jimmy Rollins, SS, Philadelphia Phillies: With two home runs in five career at-bats against Ross Ohlendorf, expect some early fireworks from Rollins against the Pittsburgh Pirates. For 2010, the Phillies shortstop is hitting .313 on the road -- a good 50 points higher than at home.
Injury list: Out
Placido Polanco, 3B, Philadelphia Phillies (15-day DL, left elbow)
Chase Utley, 2B, Philadelphia Phillies (15-day DL, sprained thumb)
Joel Zumaya, P, Detroit Tigers (15-day DL, right elbow)
Jeff Fulchino, P, Houston Astros (15-day DL, right elbow)
John Grabow, P, Chicago Cubs (15-day DL, knee sprain)
Victor Martinez, C, Boston Red Sox (15-day DL, fractured thumb)
Jason Heyward, OF, Atlanta Braves (15-day DL, bruised thumb)
Mike Sweeney, DH, Seattle Mariners (15-day DL, back spasms)
Carlos Zambrano, P, Chicago Cubs (restricted list)
Injury list: Day-to-day
Luke Scott, DH, Baltimore Orioles (hamstring)
Nick Hundley, C, San Diego Padres (concussion-like symptoms)
B.J. Upton, OF, Tampa Bay Rays (right quad)
J.D. Drew, OF, Boston Red Sox (stiff neck)
Kevin Slowey, P, Minnesota Twins (ankle contusion)
Manny Ramirez, OF, Los Angeles Dodgers (right hamstring)
Will Venable, OF, San Diego Padres (stiff back)
Weatherproof games: Dodgers at Diamondbacks. Thunderstorms may flare up in Arlington and Denver on Friday, but other than that, there should be no weather worries to scare fans away or interfere with play.