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Will this be Oswalt's final Astros start?

7/23/2010

Roy Oswalt should hold up his end of the bargain this weekend. He faces the Cincinnati Reds on Saturday, a team against which he has a 23-2 lifetime record and a 2.62 ERA, though he did lose to them earlier this season, albeit by a 3-2 score. It's likely to be his final outing for the Houston Astros, and while he has several suitors seeking his services, by the time Sunday is over, it might be the Philadelphia Phillies that make the biggest pitch for him. With their rotation in disarray -- the Phillies have now lost Jamie Moyer to injury -- Kyle Kendrick, who the team had just sent to Triple-A on Tuesday, returns to take the mound on Saturday. J.A. Happ, who has not pitched in the majors since April, goes on Sunday. A pair of rocky outings against Colorado may well seal the deal for Oswalt. Enjoy your weekend, as well as the complete starting pitcher rankings submitted for your approval below:

For starters: Saturday

Starting pitcher rankings for July 24

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: Apart from Oswalt, Saturday's top five is populated exclusively by double-digit winners. Jon Lester takes his turn against the worst-hitting team in the American League to take top honors for the day. David Price did not allow an earned run in six innings against the Cleveland Indians back on May 18. Ubaldo Jimenez has struggled in the past against the Phillies, with an 8.10 career ERA.

Kris Medlen got himself a no-decision for his efforts against the Florida Marlins a few weeks back, allowing just one run in six-plus innings. He's ranked higher than his opponent on the day, Anibal Sanchez, who is 4-6 lifetime against the Atlanta Braves with a 4.65 ERA.

Rounding out the top 10: Ervin Santana's gaudy 6.06 career ERA against the Texas Rangers holds him down a bit, though he is coming off back-to-back one-run, three-hit performances. Scott Baker has been shaky lately, but he's never lost to the Baltimore Orioles -- 4-0 lifetime with a 2.52 ERA. Johnny Cueto, on the other hand, has never defeated the Houston Astros. He's 0-4 with a 5.22 ERA against them.

Middle of the road options: Will Mike Pelfrey get any run support? He'll need it, even if he rights the ship and ends his horrific July -- 17 earned runs in 10 innings in three starts, all losses. Freddy Garcia is a so-so pitcher against the Oakland Athletics, with a 6-6 career record and a 4.98 ERA. Ian Kennedy has faced the San Francisco Giants twice this season, and is 1-0 with a 1.93 ERA. To the Giants, Kennedy is what Roy Oswalt is to the Reds, it seems.

Streamers on alert: Carlos Monasterios replaces an ineffective James McDonald in the Los Angeles Dodgers' rotation against a New York Mets team that's hitting just .189 in the second half this season. Tom Gorzelanny hasn't lost since rejoining the Chicago Cubs' rotation in late June and has a respectable 3.82 career ERA against the St. Louis Cardinals. Vin Mazzaro's first career start saw him earn a victory over the Chicago White Sox, allowing only three hits in 6 1/3 innings last June.

Thanks, but no thanks: Manny Parra has a 6.85 ERA against the Washington Nationals. Jeff Karstens faced the San Diego Padres twice last season, and racked up a 19.29 ERA against them. Bouncing back and forth from the bullpen to the rotation all season, Sergio Mitre will be lucky to go five innings.

For starters: Sunday

Starting pitcher rankings for July 25

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: Chris Carpenter is 10-3 against the Cubs, including a 7-1 victory against them earlier this season. Tim Lincecum is 5-1 lifetime when facing the Arizona Diamondbacks, with a 2.36 ERA, though he did allow five runs in five innings against them in May. Give him a mulligan on that one. Clayton Kershaw, who has yet to taste defeat at the hands of Mets, rounds out the top three.

Ryan Dempster is 5-2 in the past two months, but has the misfortune to be going up against Carpenter, so he can crack the "medal stand." Phil Hughes may be able to rediscover himself Sunday against the Royals, but keep his 9.35 career ERA against them in mind.

Flip a coin: Mike Leake, in two starts against the Astros in 2010 and has an ERA of 0.69, so he gets the slight nod over his opponent, Wandy Rodriguez, the soon-to-be Houston ace. Another hard-to-go-wrong matchup is in Seattle as Dice-K (2-1, 3.99 ERA against the Mariners) squares off with Doug Fister, who owns a 2.97 career ERA at home.

Middle of the road options: Jair Jurrjens is 3-1 lifetime against the Marlins and is 3-0 since returning from the disabled list. Tommy Hunter is 7-0 this season, but has never fared well against the Angels – he's a career 0-2 with a 9.82 ERA.

Streamers on alert: Wade Davis defeated the Tribe, 5-2, just two weeks ago. Dave Bush's ERA against the Nationals is 3.03, far better than his season-to-date numbers. Armando Galarraga is 2-0 with a 2.30 ERA against the Toronto Blue Jays.

Thanks, but no thanks: With Sean O'Sullivan off to Kansas City -- and quite possibly stepping in for Anthony Lerew should he not be able to go after taking a liner off the chest in his latest start -- Trevor Bell gets thrown to the wolves in Texas. Aaron Laffey says he is not injured, but nevertheless, he still reportedly got an MRI on Thursday. Maybe Justin Masterson goes in his stead, but it's probably best to avoid the situation entirely.

Now batting

Hitter matchup ratings for July 24

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

Starlin Castro, SS, Cubs: He's hitting 14-for-30 (.467) so far in the second half, all at home, where the Cubs will be hosting the Cardinals this weekend.

Seth Smith, OF, Rockies: Brad Hawpe is still struggling with his ribs and super-sub Smith had two multi-hit games in the series against the Marlins. Now he'll likely play against Kendrick, a pitcher he is 6-for-7 against with three extra-base hits.

Denard Span, OF, Twins: Span has scored runs in three of his past four games and is 3-for-6 against Brian Matusz with five RBIs.

Vernon Wells, OF, Blue Jays: Wells is working on a seven-game hitting streak and Jeremy Bonderman may assist him in extending it, as the outfielder is a .318 lifetime hitter against him.

Aaron Miles, 2B, Cardinals: Miles only has 21 at-bats this month, but he's getting plenty of mileage out of the limited playing time, hitting .381. A career 7-for-15 against Tom Gorzelanny should get him a few more swings on Saturday.

Pitchers' count: Saturday

Jose Lopez, 3B, Mariners: He's in a 1-for-15 funk and it only gets more funky against Jon Lester, against whom he's a .100 career hitter.

Carlos Ruiz, C, Phillies: Ruiz is hitting a meager .190 in the past seven games and has never managed a hit off of Ubaldo Jimenez.

Mark Reynolds, 3B, Diamondbacks: In 106 at-bats against the current Giants staff, Reynolds has fanned 46 times, including 10 out of 21 plate appearances so far in 2010.

Jayson Nix, 2B, Indians: What is there to actually like here? Yes, his batting average has risen 42 points this month, but that's only up to .221 and he's 0-for-6 lifetime against David Price.

Pedro Alvarez, 3B, Pirates: It just seems to me that the four home runs he hit in two games against the Brewers was the end of the fireworks display for some time. I'll sit him against the Padres and Mat Latos.

Hitter matchup ratings for July 25

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

Prince Fielder, 1B, Brewers: By hitting four home runs in the past six games, it appears Fielder is making darn sure someone out there will trade for him and get him into a pennant race, perhaps before this weekend is over.

Nick Markakis, OF, Orioles: It was hard to watch Markakis go 0-for-6 while the Orioles were beating the Rays, 11-10, earlier this week, but he has hit safely in both games since then and is 2-for-5 with a home run against Kevin Slowey.

Josh Willingham, OF, Nationals: He is 3-for-5 against Dave Bush, and has managed to score three runs in the past week despite getting only three hits. He's making every time on base count, it seems.

Alex Rodriguez, 3B, Yankees: Since missing out on any actual All-Star action, A-Rod has gone 9-for-22 (.409) and is one home run away from No. 600. If he somehow misses the milestone on Saturday, expect him to get it before the Yankees hit the road for a week.

Will Venable, OF, Padres: Back from the disabled list, and now with a few at-bats under his belt, he gets to take hacks against the Pirates and their team ERA of 5.02.

Pitchers' count: Sunday

Adrian Beltre, 3B, Red Sox: Remember why everyone was so down on Beltre when he was still playing in Seattle? He probably does, too, and revisiting that .252 batting average at Safeco Field from 2007-09 is not exactly making me do cartwheels.

Jorge Cantu, 3B, Marlins: Jair Jurrjens remains a mystery to Cantu, who has just two hits in 17 career at-bats against the right-hander.

Jason Bay, OF, Mets: Bay went 0-for-Arizona and is hitting just 169 for July. It's best to avoid this summer's biggest disaster film.

Jay Bruce, OF, Reds: Take away the Washington series and Bruce is hitting just .130 for July. Add to that a 1-for-17 (.059) against Wandy Rodriguez, and you'll see why his name is listed here.

A.J. Pierzynski, C, White Sox: Slumping Pierzynski -- a great fantasy team name, incidentally -- is in the midst of a 2-for-22 stretch and has hit just .219 against the current A's staff in his career.

Baseball Challenge Picks of the Weekend

Saturday: Jason Kendall, C, Royals: The catcher is hitting .333 since July 18, and is hitting .353 against the current pitching staff of the Yankees, including 4-for-8 against Sergio Mitre.

Sunday: Elvis Andrus, SS, Rangers: Andrus has eight hits in his past five games and has hit .429 against the Angels this season. He also has two doubles in three career at-bats against recent call-up, Trevor Bell.

Triage

Injury list: Out

Luis Atilano, P, Nationals (15-day DL, elbow)
David DeJesus, OF, Royals (15-day DL, sprained thumb)
Ryan Doumit, C, Pirates (15-day DL, concussion)
Jamie Moyer, P, Phillies (15-day DL, elbow)
David Eckstein, 2B, Padres (15-day DL, calf strain)
Manny Ramirez, OF, Dodgers (15-day DL, calf strain)
Dustin Nippert, P, Rangers (15-day DL, head injury)
Brandon Inge, 3B, Tigers (15-day DL, left hand fracture)
Andy Pettitte, P, Yankees (15-day DL, left groin strain)
Scott Kazmir, P, Angels (15-day DL, strained left shoulder)

Injury list: Day-to-day

Andrew McCutchen, OF, Pirates (shoulder)
Eric Hinske, OF, Braves (left foot)
Fred Lewis, OF, Blue Jays (ankle)
Dexter Fowler, OF, Rockies (sore wrist)
Scott Rolen, 3B, Reds (hamstring)

Weather concerns

Weatherproof games: Reds at Astros, Nationals at Brewers, Giants at Diamondbacks and Red Sox at Mariners. Saturday brings with it the likelihood of thunderstorms in Chicago, Detroit and Miami, along with triple-digit heat in Baltimore. The rain moves out of the Great Lakes area on Sunday, moving on to encompass the majority of the East coast.

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.