- AJ Mass, Fantasy
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Few pitchers have been better over the past month than Wandy Rodriguez, who has undergone quite the season-altering swing. Since allowing 14 runs in eight innings combined on June 12 and June 18, Rodriguez has a 1.73 ERA in four starts. With an ERA as high as 6.09 on June 18, it's even likely that many of Rodriguez's original owners gave up on the lefty. Yet we hold no hard feelings; Rodriguez is back near the top of Monday's pitching rankings, although he falls just outside of the top five:
Starting pitcher rankings for July 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.
• He's never going to be Mr. Consistency with the amount of walks he allows, but Daisuke Matsuzaka has shown owners something recently. Matsuzaka navigated a treacherous trio of offenses in his past four starts, facing the Colorado Rockies in Coors Field, the Tampa Bay Rays twice and the Toronto Blue Jays on the road as well, yet came out of it with a decent 4.50 ERA. At the very least that's enough to again trust him against the weaker offenses like that of the Oakland Athletics, whose .705 team OPS is the second-worst mark in the league.
• Sure, allowing six runs in 1 1/3 innings qualifies as a little more than just a bump in the road, but Carlos Silva was so good in his previous 10 starts (throwing a quality start in nine out of 10 outings) that it's fair to give him a mulligan. Even better that his next turn comes against the Houston Astros, a team that cratered right out of the starting blocks and is still dead last in team OPS.
• I'm rolling with Scott Baker versus the Cleveland Indians even though he was tattooed by them back in April. The offense has only weakened since then, and Baker comes in wheeling and dealing, sporting a 37-1 strikeout-walk ratio in his past five starts. As long as he can keep the ball in the park (17 home runs allowed this season), he should be one of the day's best.
• Ben Sheets seems to walk two steps back for every step forward, but versus a depleted Red Sox offense, he's definitely worth a look. Meanwhile, Brett Cecil has been solid most of the season and draws a tasty matchup against the Kansas City Royals; both make solid spot starters in shallow leagues. Anibal Sanchez, however, not so much; leave him on your bench while he works out his recent issues, as the Rockies' offense is solid.
• Welcome back to fantasy relevance, Wandy Rodriguez! In his past four starts -- after all his original owners dropped him, of course -- the southpaw has allowed just five runs in 26 innings, striking out 25 along the way. It's safe to gamble that he's back, but there's no denying that his matchup against the Chicago Cubs is surprisingly tough. The Cubbies actually put a hurtin' on left-handed pitching, sporting a league-leading .441 slugging percentage. The gut call is to start him but don't get too discouraged by an uneven outing, either.
• It seems Mike Pelfrey has crashed into the wall that his peripherals suggested was soon ahead. He's failed to reach the sixth inning in three consecutive starts, allowing a whopping 41 base runners en route to 15 earned runs. And he may yet bounce back from this turn in fortune, for he continues to induce ground balls with the best of them. But balls tend to fly farther than usual in Chase Field, where he'll face the Arizona Diamondbacks, who have a robust .814 OPS at home. As a result, Pelfrey should not be left active.
Hitter matchup ratings for July 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.
Raul Ibanez, OF, Philadelphia Phillies: Gradually looking less like a corpse, Ibanez is hitting .298 in July, albeit an empty .298. But you'll want him in your lineup against Blake Hawksworth, a pitcher against whom he's 2-for-3 with two dingers, including one this season.
Carlos Pena, 1B, Tampa Bay Rays: Pena looks like a good bet to go deep against Chris Tillman, who has struggled immensely this season. It's a small sample size, but lefties are killing Tillman for a .389 average; meanwhile Pena, for all his struggles, has still slugged 13 home runs in 209 at-bats against right-handers.
Derrek Lee, 1B, Chicago Cubs: Though Lee's been dormant for most of the season, Wandy Rodriguez could help him get back on track. Lee is a .438 hitter off Rodriguez in 32 career at-bats, including three home runs. Toss in seven walks and three doubles and he's owned the southpaw, so expect to see Lee's best Monday.
Adam LaRoche, 1B, Arizona Diamondbacks: It seems like we've been waiting forever for his summer hot streak, and who knows, maybe a contest versus Mike Pelfrey could be the start. Nearly perfect against Pelfrey, LaRoche has reached base eight times in nine opportunities, six via a hit. And LaRoche is still slugging a perfectly acceptable .475 at his Chase Field-boosted home games.
J.D. Drew, OF, Boston Red Sox: Oh do Drew's eyes light up when he sees Ben Sheets on the mound! He's hitting an unspectacular .294 against Sheets lifetime, but with tremendous power, going deep four times to go along with a triple and a double in just 34 at-bats. Drew has struck out nine times as well, but his owners will take that trade.
Corey Hart, OF, Milwaukee Brewers: The great Jeff Karstens has mowed Hart down, holding him to two hits (one double) in 16 at-bats. Karstens isn't a great pitcher, but history doesn't lie, especially between division foes. On the season Karstens has limited right-handers to a .290 on-base percentage, so it's not exactly a fluke.
Mike Stanton, OF, Florida Marlins: While the rookie has reached base in nine straight games, he's been dry on hits recently, going 0-for-6 in his past three games. Ubaldo Jimenez has held right-handed hitters below the Mendoza Line, so it makes sense to sit the precocious slugger.
Alfonso Soriano, OF, Chicago Cubs: A laughable 1-for-20 (.050) versus Wandy Rodriguez, Soriano has struck out eight times to boot. He has earned three walks, but it's still not enough to get his on-base percentage above .200.
Scott Podsednik, OF, Kansas City Royals: Since Podsednik has only six steals against lefties, you may want to find another option when he faces the southpaw Brett Cecil, who has owned lefties to the tune of a .149 average this season.
Baseball Challenge Pick of the Day
Lyle Overbay, 1B, Toronto Blue Jays: Virtually worthless most of the season, Overbay has come alive in July, batting .333 with three long balls in just 45 at-bats. That should be enough to get him into your lineup considering he's facing Kyle Davies on Monday, a pitcher he's 5-for-8 with two doubles and a home run against.
Injury list: Out
Chris Coghlan, OF, Florida Marlins (back): Marlins manager Edwin Rodriguez said the team would hold him out at least three games beginning Sunday against Washington, with a stint on the disabled list possible.
Injury list: Day-to-day
Daric Barton, 1B, Oakland Athletics (leg)
Manny Ramirez, OF, Los Angeles Dodgers (calf)
Jose Reyes, SS, New York Mets (oblique): Reyes is expected back Monday, but we've heard that before. He took batting practice over the weekend and was pain free, however, so maybe he'll be good to go.
Only two games, Mets-Diamondbacks and White Sox-Mariners, will have the luxury of being weatherproof. Cincinnati (Nationals-Reds), Miami (Rockies-Marlins) and St. Louis (Phillies-Cardinals) all have between a 40 and 50 percent chance of thunderstorms. The rain isn't forecast to be too severe but it could cause a delay or two.
Adam Madison is a fantasy baseball analyst for ESPN.com.
1hMarc Stein and Tim MacMahon
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