Expect anything before All-Star break
It's the last bit of action before the All-Star break, when anything is possible. Matt Garza, who pitches Saturday for the Tampa Bay Rays, picked up an unexpected save this week, and he might not end up being the only starting pitcher to give his fantasy owners a statistical surprise before the weekend is out. With those three "free days off" next week, rotations will be flipped and manipulated and all hands could well be on deck for a few innings of work. More than ever this weekend, be sure the pitchers on your active list are ones you truly want to be active.
For starters: Saturday
Starting pitcher rankings for July 10
• Top of the charts: Roy Halladay got hit around a bit the last time he saw the Cincinnati Reds. He allowed 13 hits over eight innings but also struck out 10, so there's no reason to be too concerned. Tim Hudson is 10-5 with a 3.77 ERA against the New York Mets, and he has only allowed more than three earned runs in one of his 17 games this season.
• Felix Hernandez just threw a two-hit shutout against the New York Yankees on June 30. Not much has changed since then. Mike Pelfrey is 2-0 with a 1.42 ERA against the Atlanta Braves in 2010, but he does have a 5.21 ERA against them for his career.
• Jonathan Sanchez has a 3.45 ERA against the Washington Nationals, which is a slightly better track record than either Matt Garza's 5.59 against the Cleveland Indians or Gavin Floyd's career mark of 2-7 with a 5.23 ERA facing the Kansas City Royals.
• Rounding out the top: John Lackey beat the Toronto Blue Jays back in May, but needed a lot of run support as he allowed six runs in six innings. ... Javier Vazquez did a better job last series against the Seattle Mariners (3 ER, 6 IP) but still took the loss.
• Middle-of-the-road options: Brandon Morrow is pitching at home, where he is 5-1, but keep in mind he didn't make it out of the second inning when he faced the Boston Red Sox in May. John Ely did well in a loss to the Chicago Cubs earlier this season, allowing only one run on four hits in seven-plus innings. Brett Myers has faced the St. Louis Cardinals a couple of times already in 2010, with a 2.08 ERA in those games.
• Streamers on alert: Scott Kazmir is 9-3 against the Oakland Athletics in his career with a 2.85 ERA. Travis Wood pitched fairly well against the New York Mets before running out of steam on short rest. It will be interesting to see how he does with full recovery time. Wade LeBlanc has a 3.65 ERA against the Colorado Rockies in 2010, with 12 strikeouts in 12 1/3 innings.
• Thanks, but no thanks: Brian Bannister is 1-2 with a 9.69 ERA against the Chicago White Sox so far this season. Jeff Suppan has a career ERA of 5.00 against the Houston Astros, whose bats are beginning to wake up a bit. Nick Blackburn may be 2-0 against the Detroit Tigers in 2010, but his ERA since June 1 is 9.28.
For starters: Sunday
Starting pitcher rankings for July 11
• Top of the charts: The way Mr. Sabathia is pitching lately, you can start calling him Cy Cy. His career ERA versus the Mariners, after last week's 4-2 win, is 2.82. Jered Weaver had an awful outing against the Athletics on June 8, allowing six runs on 12 hits, but his career ERA against them is still only 3.10.
• Is Zack Greinke finally back? He hasn't lost in more than a month. Even when he allowed six runs to the Chicago White Sox, his Royals actually gave him enough offense to earn a victory. Johan Santana, on the other hand, has to hit home runs himself to feel comfortable against the Atlanta Braves. Although his career ERA against them is only 2.25, his record is somehow 1-5.
• C.J. Wilson is not the same pitcher who ran up a 7.50 ERA against the Baltimore Orioles over the years, primarily as a reliever. Still, it has been since May 18 since he's been able to get through a start with fewer than two walks. Carl Pavano is 4-2 with a 2.88 ERA against the Tigers, and May 6 was the last time he walked more than two batters.
• Rounding out the top: Cole Hamels has never lost to the Reds. He's 5-0 with a 1.26 ERA. Derek Lowe, on the other hand, has had troubles with the Mets, with a 7.01 ERA against them. He did have a quality start against them, albeit in a loss, back in May.
• Middle of the road options: This will be Clayton Richard's fourth time facing the Rockies in 2010, and he's done fairly well, with a 1-1 record and a decent 3.79 ERA. Randy Wolf is a 8-2 with a 3.42 ERA against the Pittsburgh Pirates all time. Carlos Silva has never lost to the Los Angeles Dodgers, but his ERA is in need of a little less cheesecake at 4.08.
• Streamers on alert: Daisuke Matsuzaka is 5-1 facing the Blue Jays, including a seven-inning, one-run victory this season. He faces Jesse Litsch, who is 4-1 when going up against the Red Sox with a 3.82 ERA. This could be a low-scoring affair.
• Thanks, but no thanks: Wandy Rodriguez is 4-10 against the Cardinals in his career, and his ERA facing them in 2010 is a whopping 6.97. Andrew Oliver couldn't handle the Minnesota Twins in a 5-1 loss in late June when he had the element of the unknown working in his favor. This second time around could be far worse.
• X-Factors: Jake Peavy's injury could open the window for prospect Daniel Hudson, 11-4 at Triple-A, to get a chance to strut his stuff. Young Barry Enright may square off with another relative newcomer in Alex Sanabia, who should jump into demoted Chris Volstad's spot in the Marlins rotation.
Hitter matchup ratings for July 10
Hitters' count: Saturday
Lance Berkman, 1B, Houston Astros: Four games, five home runs and a date with Jeff Suppan on the horizon? In 40 at-bats against the right-hander, DJ Lance is hitting .375 with three round-trippers and 11 RBIs. Yo Gabba Gabba!
Miguel Cabrera, 1B, Detroit Tigers: In 22 at-bats, Miggy has 10 hits and eight RBIs against Nick Blackburn, good for a 1.115 OPS. Looks like the 16-game hitting streak may continue.
Ryan Braun, OF, Milwaukee Brewers: Since July 4, Braun is 0-for-15, and he hasn't hit a home run since June 28. Perhaps he'll find his stroke against Jeff Karstens, if you can trust the .364 career batting average.
Mark Reynolds, 3B, Arizona Diamondbacks: Reynolds hit .321 against the Marlins in 2009 with four home runs, so perhaps this is exactly what the doctor ordered to start the trek to get that batting average back into the realm of respectability.
Howie Kendrick, 2B, Los Angeles Angels: Coming off a successful 7-for-14 series against the White Sox, Kendrick now gets to swing his bat against the Athletics in a series with a scheduled trio of starters whom he's torched for a .389 average.
Pitchers' count: Saturday
David Wright, 3B, New York Mets: Tim Hudson is all wrong for the third baseman, as he's held the slugger to a paltry .227 batting average and just one extra-base hit in 44 at-bats.
Alex Rodriguez, 3B, New York Yankees: A-Rod is batting just .179 in his past seven games, though he certainly has been piling up the RBIs (13) over that same time. King Felix, however, has been a royal pain, retiring Rodriguez in 8-of-10 at-bats.
Marlon Byrd, OF, Chicago Cubs: Byrd has hit just .240 against the current Dodgers staff and went 0-for-3 against John Ely earlier this season.
Mark Ellis, SS, Oakland Athletics: Not only is Ellis batting just .215 at home, compared to .333 on the road, but he's only 5-for-28 (.179) lifetime against Scott Kazmir.
Hitter matchup ratings for July 11
Hitters' count: Sunday
Aubrey Huff, 1B, San Francisco Giants: Hitting .393 in July with five home runs is impressive enough. Now add to that a .923 slugging percentage against Livan Hernandez, and the balls should be "Livan" on a jet plane off his bat.
Alberto Callaspo, 3B, Kansas City Royals: He's hitting .303 against the White Sox over the past two years and seems to have recovered from the sore hand that kept him sidelined for a handful of games this past week.
Carlos Pena, 1B, Tampa Bay Rays: True, a home run every 13 games or so is not what we want from Pena, but in only nine at-bats against Justin Masterson, he has two homers. Those odds we like a lot better.
Casey Blake, 3B, Los Angeles Dodgers: Your eyes do not deceive you. This is the same Casey Blake mired in a 2-for-26 slump. However, Carlos Silva is quite the healing elixir for Blake, who is hitting .341 against the Cubs pitcher in 44 career at-bats.
Chris Coghlan, OF, Florida Marlins: This long road trip has been a disaster for Coghlan, hitting just .148 so far. But I have to believe he's too good a hitter to extend his current 0-for-15 slide much longer.
Pitchers' count: Sunday
Omar Infante, 3B, Atlanta Braves: An All-Star, huh? Not against Johan Santana, apparently, if the 3-for-28 (.107) career statistics are to be believed.
Nyjer Morgan, OF, Washington Nationals: With only a .281 OBP this month and a 1-for-10 so far in 2010 against the Giants, it's hard to trust Morgan.
Travis Hafner, DH, Cleveland Indians: So far in July, he's hitting just .208 (5-for-24), but what's sadder to see is that Hafner's ownership has "pronked" all the way down to a lowly 1.1 percent.
Jose Lopez, 3B, Seattle Mariners: Lopez's only positive fantasy value is his batting average, and at .194 for July to go along with a career 2-for-18 versus CC Sabathia, there's nothing to be seen here.
Miguel Tejada, 3B, Baltimore Orioles: July has been rough for Tejada, as he's hitting .206 with a single RBI. The .180 career average against the current Rangers staff doesn't help to inspire confidence either.
Baseball Challenge Picks of the Weekend
Saturday: Jim Thome, DH, Minnesota Twins: While Thome doesn't play everyday anymore, he's been quite effective lately when he has gotten in the game, hitting .353 so far in July. With a .348 career batting average and four homers against Jeremy Bonderman, today's a day for Thome to play.
Sunday: Ryan Howard, 1B, Philadelphia Phillies: Howard has seven RBIs in his last six games, and before an 0-for-5 in the series opener against the Reds, he was hitting .333 against them in 2010 and .319 for the season at home.
Injury list: Out
Dan Runzler, P, San Francisco Giants (15-day DL, left knee)
Todd Helton, 1B, Colorado Rockies (15-day DL, back)
Ronald Belisario, P, Los Angeles Dodgers (restricted list, personal issue)
Adam Ottavino, P, St. Louis Cardinals (15-day DL, right shoulder)
Brian Schlitter, P, Chicago Cubs (15-day DL, right shoulder)
Jake Peavy, P, Chicago White Sox (15-day DL, detached lat)
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)
Clay Buchholz, P, Boston Red Sox (15-day DL, strained left hamstring)
Conor Jackson, OF, Oakland Athletics (15-day DL, strained right hamstring)
Fernando Tatis, 1B, New York Mets (15-day DL, shoulder strain)
Geoff Blum, 1B, Houston Astros (15-day DL, right elbow)
Shin-Soo Choo, OF, Cleveland Indians (15-day DL, sprained thumb)
Injury list: Day-to-day
Justin Morneau, 1B, Minnesota Twins (head injury)
Ramon Hernandez, C, Cincinnati Reds (knee)
Matt LaPorta, 1B, Cleveland Indians (head injury)
Weatherproof games: Red Sox at Blue Jays, Indians at Rays, Cardinals at Astros, Pirates at Brewers, Marlins at Diamondbacks and Yankees at Mariners. Thunderstorms are on tap for Saturday's games in New York, Philadelphia, Chicago, Washington and Texas; however, the Sunday slate is sunny and dry from coast to coast.