- AJ Mass, Fantasy
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Fantasy owners, you need to take advantage of Mat Latos while you can. The San Diego Padres pitcher is a good bet to get his 10th win of the season Thursday against the Washington Nationals. There's still a chance the 22-year-old might make the National League All-Star team after all the injury replacements and "this guy can't pitch Tuesday because he went on Sunday" swap-outs. Regardless, this may be the last time you see Latos on the mound for quite some time. After this outing, Bud Black has said he's moving his young arm to the end of the rotation in order to limit his inning count for the season, meaning it will be 12 days before he gets the call again. But for now, he is getting the call and Latos leads our rankings for Thursday. The complete list follows:
Starting pitcher rankings for July 8
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.
• At the summit: Following closely behind Latos are Chris Carpenter and Ubaldo Jimenez, who will square off in Denver in a battle of aces. Carpenter has never lost to the Colorado Rockies (3-0, 0.75 ERA) so we'll give him a slight edge in this one, especially given Jimenez's recent struggles.
• Roy Oswalt's has a career ERA of 2.62 against the Pittsburgh Pirates, and has a victory and a 2.57 ERA against them so far in 2010. ... Andy Pettitte has 10 wins this season, and 10 for his career against the Seattle Mariners, though he's also lost 11 times and has a 4.51 ERA.
• Scott Baker may be 0-3 with a 5.10 ERA against the Toronto Blue Jays, but Brett Cecil has not won a game since June 10. That certainly boosts Baker's potential to win this matchup. ... Ervin Santana's ERA has ballooned a bit over the past few weeks, but he did beat the Chicago White Sox on May 20 without allowing an earned run over seven innings.
• Rounding out the top: Anibal Sanchez has a 2.35 ERA lifetime against the Arizona Diamondbacks. ... While it is true Randy Wells has never defeated the Los Angeles Dodgers, it's hardly his fault, as the 1.32 ERA has been quite impressive.
• Streamers on alert: Johnny Cueto has a career ERA of 8.02 facing the Philadelphia Phillies, but he did hold them to one run over eight innings in a victory just 10 days ago. Jake Westbrook is 6-2 when going up against the Tampa Bay Rays lineup with a 3.66 ERA. Feeling lucky? Jeremy Guthrie is a perfect 3-0 against the Texas Rangers, and held them to just one earned run in a six-inning no-decision in mid-May.
• Stay away: Barry Zito's 1-3 record and 6.19 ERA against the Milwaukee Brewers is cause for concern, but not nearly as much as Ross Ohlendorf's line when facing the Houston Astros -- 0-5 with a 7.57 ERA. ... Rodrigo Lopez has allowed six earned runs in only two-thirds of an inning against the Florida Marlins, which translates to an ERA of 81.00.
Hitter matchup ratings for July 8
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.
Michael Young, 3B, Texas Rangers: Young took a day off to recharge the batteries after a 3-for-20 start to July. Luckily, his jumper cables are attached to Jeremy Guthrie, who has been a source of three extra-base hits and a .400 batting average in 15 at-bats for the third baseman.
Jorge Cantu, 1B, Florida Marlins: In 14 at-bats against Rodrigo Lopez, Cantu has seven hits and four RBIs. The only bad news is that Lopez might not last long enough to serve up Cantu more than once or twice.
Josh Willingham, OF, Washington Nationals: Willingham is hitting just .184 against the current Padres staff, including an 0-for-4 line against Mat Latos.
Starlin Castro, SS, Chicago Cubs: In spite of a recent run where he hit safely in 10-of-11 games, Castro's batting average hasn't budged since June 17. Not only that, he's 0-for-12 against the Dodgers this season.
Rafael Furcal, SS, Los Angeles Dodgers: No question, Furcal has been hot, raising his batting average over 30 points since June 26. However, he's just .206 against the Cubs' current staff, including 1-for-6 against Randy Wells.
Melvin Mora, 3B, Colorado Rockies: With the Rockies having a lot of bumps and bruises over the past two weeks, he's been starting a bit more, but with a .143 batting average against Chris Carpenter, including five strikeouts in 14 at-bats? No thanks.
Erick Aybar, SS, Los Angeles Angels: Yes, he's hit .381 so far in July, but John Danks pretty much owns him, as a .188 lifetime batting average versus the White Sox pitcher is nothing to write home about.
Baseball Challenge Pick of the Day
Lance Berkman, 1B, Houston Astros: It's probably an understatement to say Berkman is very comfortable at the plate with Ross Ohlendorf on the hill. He's batting .462 against him for his career with a slugging percentage of .923.
Injury list: Out
Kevin Millwood, P, Baltimore Orioles (15-day DL, forearm strain)
Aaron Harang, P, Cincinnati Reds (15-day DL, back spasms)
Yovani Gallardo, P, Milwaukee Brewers (15-day DL, right oblique)
Geoff Blum, 1B, Houston Astros (15-day DL, right elbow)
Manny Ramirez, OF, Los Angeles Dodgers (15-day DL, strained right hamstring)
Will Venable, OF, San Diego Padres (15-day DL, lower back strain)
Injury list: Day-to-day
David Eckstein, 2B, San Diego Padres (right calf)
Jake Peavy, P, Chicago White Sox (strained lat)
Matt LaPorta, 1B, Cleveland Indians (head injury)
Brad Hawpe, OF, Colorado Rockies (ribs)
Weatherproof games: Pirates at Astros, Giants at Brewers, Twins at Blue Jays, Indians at Rays, Yankees at Mariners and Marlins at Diamondbacks. They say it never rains in Southern California, and for Thursday at least, it's true. Los Angeles is the only dome-less home city without the threat of thunderstorms in the forecast. Washington and Philadelphia especially should find the wet weather a welcome respite from triple-digit temperatures.
4hBy Ian O'Connor