Chad Billingsley looks to stay hot
Timing appears to be everything for the volatile Chad Billingsley. Since allowing seven runs to the St. Louis Cardinals on July 16, Billingsley has four consecutive quality starts, including three outings in which he didn't allow a run. And now he draws the Philadelphia Phillies, who are without their two best hitters. What is there for Billingsley to worry about? (Famous last words.)
Starting pitcher rankings for August 11
• Right now, you could say each of the top 11 ranked pitchers are all aces. I rarely comment on these kind of pitchers because, really, what is there to say? Ninety percent of the time you start them without thinking about it. The only potential question marks look to be Shaun Marcum, who faces the Boston Red Sox, and Zack Greinke, who has been awful in recent weeks. Marcum is at home, where he has a 2.37 ERA, so no worries there. Greinke is more of a gut call, but suffice to say I'm just not that worried about him. In the long run he'll be fine, and I wouldn't sit him against the Los Angeles Angels.
• The bad: Jeff Francis, how are you going to stink against the Pittsburgh Pirates? You realize some people -- hey, a man can dream -- actually picked this guy up based on my word, right? The good: in the three starts preceding that misstep, Francis had a 2.00 ERA and 18 strikeouts in 18 innings, and he somewhat salvaged his performance against the Pirates by striking out five without walking a batter. Fantasy owners love strikeouts, and now that Francis is getting them, there's no resisting! Bite the bullet and throw him out there against the New York Mets.
• OK, let's try this again, Dallas Braden. Braden got a little roughed up in his last outing, allowing four runs in six innings. He only allowed five hits, but three of those went for extra bases, including two home runs. But even though he heads on the road for his matchup against the Seattle Mariners, it's against the worst offense in the major leagues in OPS. A quality start should be in the cards.
• It takes a little more guts to recommend Kevin Correia nowadays, as his home ERA is no longer so sparkling. In fact he looks a lot more like the mediocre pitcher he really is, and no, I'm not doing a good job of selling you on him. But I'm not really trying to sell you on Correia -- he's a known mediocrity -- but rather on his home matchup versus the Pittsburgh Pirates, where even an average starter can replicate a good one. Context is everything!
• Has Javier Vazquez earned your trust this season? Chances are that your answer to that question is a resounding "no!" Vazquez is a decent pitcher, at times even a great one, but he's allowed six home runs in his past four starts and heads into Arlington to face the Texas Rangers. Similarly poor matchups for Clay Buchholz (at Toronto) and Daniel Hudson (at Milwaukee) mean they aren't recommended plays either.
Hitter matchup ratings for August 11
Jonny Gomes, OF, Cincinnati Reds: I know, even I'm going to feel stupid if I put this man's name in this category time after time again and he keeps failing. But don't stop believin'! He's facing Adam Wainwright, so you might want to bench him anyway, but he has gone deep once in five at-bats against the Cardinals pitcher, even if that was his only hit.
Colby Rasmus, OF, St. Louis Cardinals: Rasmus has also been in a deep slump, but with Wednesday's matchup against Bronson Arroyo, he should bounce back soon. Rasmus is 5-for-16 (.313) off Arroyo, and all five of those hits have gone for extra-bases (four doubles and one homer).
Chipper Jones, 3B, Atlanta Braves: With extra-base hits in five of his past seven games -- including three home runs -- Jones is in the midst of a power surge, one that should continue versus Wandy Rodriguez. Chipper is only 4-of-15 (.267) against Rodriguez; but with two home runs and a double among his four hits, it's doubtful his owners will complain. And, since Rodriguez is left-handed, don't forget about Jones' teammate, Matt Diaz (a .357 hitter lifetime off Rodriguez).
Alex Gordon, 3B/OF, Kansas City Royals: Once upon a time, I was the biggest Gordon fan in the world. Three years later, and I'm clinging to hope, looking for a reason to believe. So far he's provided one, batting .292 with three home runs in August. He's 3-for-8 with a home run and three walks versus Jered Weaver, so give him a look if you're in need of a third baseman.
Cliff Pennington, SS, Oakland Athletics: There's value in a low-end shortstop who doesn't kill you with the bat and steal bases, and so far Pennington is up to 17 steals in 19 attempts. But we might even see a little pop on Wednesday, considering Pennington is 3-for-4 with a dinger off Seattle Mariners lefty Luke French.
Adam Lind, OF, Toronto Blue Jays: Lind is 6-for-18 (.333) with three extra-base hits in his past seven games, which coincidentally is almost exactly how he's done against Clay Buchholz. He is batting .333 through 18 at-bats, but has gone deep twice, adding a double for good measure.
Johnny Damon, OF, Detroit Tigers: It's surprising a guy with just seven home runs and as many steals is still so widely owned; Damon is floating off name-value alone at this point. He's just 2-for-19 (.105) against Matt Garza, so expect his rough start to August to continue.
Ben Zobrist, 2B/OF, Tampa Bay Rays: A pair of singles in 16 career at-bats versus Justin Verlander isn't getting it done, especially considering Verlander has struck him out five times. He hasn't reached base via the walk either, and the tag team of Gerald Laird and Alex Avila has been quite successful at throwing out runners, so there's no upside here.
Billy Butler, 1B, Kansas City Royals: Jered Weaver hasn't been mind-blowingly dominant, but he hasn't had trouble getting Butler out. Butler has four hits in 17 at-bats (.235), and with zero walks and one extra-base hit, a double, it's been quite the empty average.
Josh Willingham, OF, Washington Nationals: With a .200 AVG/.282 OBP/.253 SLG line in 75 post-All-Star break at-bats, Willingham is mired in one of his patented slumps. It will get worse before it gets better, as he's 1-for-9 (.111) in his career versus Chris Volstad.
David Ortiz, DH, Boston Red Sox: Sure, Ortiz sports a nice .400 on-base percentage against Marcum, but what does that matter in fantasy? It should, but it doesn't. Ortiz has been otherwise nearly worthless, with four singles in 19 at-bats, including six strikeouts.
Baseball Challenge Pick of the Day
Shin-Soo Choo, RF, Cleveland Indians: Lefties are hitting .354 against Orioles starter Brad Bergesen with a 1.038 OPS in 198 at-bats. The game is in Cleveland, where Choo is a .354 hitter with a 1.038 OPS in 191 at-bats. Coincidence? Absolutely, but when the numbers line up this pretty, who are you to argue?
Injury list: Out
Injury list: Day-to-day
Daric Barton, 1B, Oakland Athletics (shoulder)
Rafael Furcal, SS, Los Angeles Dodgers (back): "I cannot run 100 percent, I cannot swing the bat good," Furcal quipped. It looks like his Tuesday return is not happening. This is the Furcal curse: play exceedingly well, get injured.
Corey Hart, OF, Milwaukee Brewers (back)
Bobby Jenks, RP, Chicago White Sox (back)
Vernon Wells, OF, Toronto Blue Jays (toe)
Games between the Athletics-Mariners, Red Sox-Blue Jays and Diamondbacks-Brewers will be played in domes. Chicago is expected to see thunderstorms throughout the day, although most of it is expected to alleviate by game time. There's still a 40 percent chance of storms and undoubtedly a wet field to play on, however.
Adam Madison is a fantasy baseball analyst for ESPN.com.
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