Niese, Santana strong options
What's left on the New York Mets pitching staff? It seems everything is "left" these days. After the incident involving closer Francisco Rodriguez, the team has turned to Hisanori Takahashi and Pedro Feliciano, both southpaws, as the primary options out of the bullpen. That could mean that manager Jerry Manuel might be inclined to leave his left-handed starters in games a bit longer, as matchups won't enter into his decision-making process as much in late-inning situations. That's a big reason both Jonathon Niese and Johan Santana are each rated in the top 10 of their respective starting days this weekend. As for the complete set of Saturday and Sunday rankings, read on!
For starters: Saturday
Starting pitcher rankings for Aug. 21
Top of the charts: The entire top five is solid today, with Ubaldo Jimenez already having defeated the Arizona Diamondbacks three times in 2010, and Tim Lincecum sporting a 5-0 lifetime mark with a 1.54 ERA against the St. Louis Cardinals. It's splitting hairs, and if you wanted to juggle the order, there'd be little anyone could argue with.
Chad Billingsley is 3-2 with a 3.21 ERA against the Cincinnati Reds but he should beat Johnny Cueto. Although Cueto has won a lot of games this season, he's never managed a victory against the Los Angeles Dodgers. Wandy Rodriguez, with an ERA below 1.00 for the past three weeks, also owns a 3-1 record and a 2.76 ERA versus the Florida Marlins.
Good, but playing with fire: There's plenty to like with Max Scherzer, especially when it comes to the K's, but keep in mind that he's 0-2 facing the Cleveland Indians this season with an 8.10 ERA. Ricky Romero has had trouble with the Boston Red Sox -- 1-4, 8.51 ERA for his career, including a 10.80 ERA in 2010.
Streamers on alert: Kevin Slowey may not keep the Los Angeles Angels hitless, but he is 3-1 against them for his career. Jason Vargas held the New York Yankees to one earned run in seven innings pitched earlier this season. Daisuke Matsuzaka has allowed six home runs in his past seven starts, but is 2-0 against the Toronto Blue Jays this season. He might be worth a roll of the Dice-K.
Thanks, but no thanks: Kyle Kendrick and his 6.93 ERA against the Washington Nationals is a deal-breaker. With 22 career decisions facing the Kansas City Royals under his belt, Freddy Garcia and his 5.91 ERA has a proven track record of non-success.
For starters: Sunday
Starting pitcher rankings for Aug. 22
Top of the charts: CC Sabathia has feasted on the Seattle Mariners this season, with two wins and a 1.20 ERA. He edges out Clayton Kershaw, who bested the Reds 6-2 in mid-June. John Danks squeezes into the top five with his 2-0 lifetime record and 2.70 ERA facing the Royals, just ahead of his mound foe Zack Greinke, 6-10 for his career against the Chicago White Sox.
Jered Weaver is 4-1 when facing the Twins, including an Opening Day victory this season. Ricky Nolasco has a 3-1 record against the Houston Astros and the same mark during the past three weeks of play.
On the rise: Clay Buchholz is 2-0 with an 0.56 ERA against the Blue Jays in 2010. Daniel Hudson has four straight quality starts since his trade to the Diamondbacks and 19 strikeouts in his past two games.
Islands in the stream: Jon Garland is 2-0 lifetime against the Brewers with a 1.88 ERA, including seven shutout innings in May. Randy Wells is 2-0 with a 1.42 ERA when facing the Atlanta Braves. Jeanmar Gomez didn't allow an earned run versus the Tigers in his major league debut.
Thanks, but no thanks: Manny Parra's ERA against the San Diego Padres looks more like the time he gave the hotel for a wake-up call: 7.36. Scott Olsen faces the Phillies, who average 5.37 runs per nine innings against him, and quite frankly, nobody expects him to last that long.
Hitter matchup ratings for Aug. 21
Hitters' count: Saturday
Ryan Zimmerman, 3B, Nationals: Not only is he batting .359 this month, with six home runs and 14 RBIs, but Zimmerman is batting a whopping .538 lifetime against Kyle Kendrick.
Alex Gordon, OF, Royals: In his limited action against Freddy Garcia, Gordon has a home run in three at-bats and has been far better at the plate of late, with an .806 OPS this month.
Ryan Theriot, 2B, Dodgers: Theriot has hit just shy of .300 since joining the Dodgers, but should have a solid outing against Johnny Cueto, against whom he's a lifetime .385 hitter in 26 at-bats.
Elvis Andrus, SS, Rangers: What's this? A nine-game hitting streak from Andrus? It's true! Ride the lightning while you can, friends.
Pitchers' count: Saturday
Aramis Ramirez, 3B, Cubs: Only a .174 batting average against the current Braves staff makes a huge surge from his .200 the past week unlikely.
Pedro Feliz, 3B, Cardinals: The Cards got Feliz for the glove, not the bat, so don't expect much pop against Tim Lincecum. The newest Cardinals player is just 4-for-18 lifetime against him.
B.J. Upton, OF, Rays: All good things come to an end. With a 10-game hitting streak working, this anti-recommendation is simply based on the matchup, as Upton has yet to record a hit against Brett Anderson.
Hitter matchup ratings for Aug. 22
Hitters' count: Sunday
Adrian Gonzalez, 1B, Padres: Gonzalez is hitting .368 since Aug. 11 and gets to swing the bat against Manny Parra, against whom he's 5-for-8 with four RBIs for his career.
Hanley Ramirez, SS, Marlins: Ramirez seems to respond to days off -- he had one on Thursday -- and he certainly responds to Astros pitching, with a .343 batting average against this staff.
Ryan Raburn, OF, Tigers: Batting .300 during the past week, Raburn qualifies at second base, where there still are a lot of injured regulars needing to be swapped out.
Pitchers' count: Sunday
Drew Stubbs, OF, Reds: Not as bad as the .213 July, not as good as the .344 August so far, Stubbs has a career oh-fer against Clayton Kershaw that keeps us away Sunday.
Dexter Fowler, OF, Rockies: He is getting on base (.404 OBP in August) but not stealing bases -- only one attempt all month. The .053 batting average against current Diamondbacks pitching is a bit scary.
Jack Cust, DH, Athletics: Cust hasn't hit a home run since July 24 -- that's 70 plate appearances. With five strikeouts in eight at-bats facing Matt Garza, we may not see any blasts on this Sunday, either.
Paul Konerko, 1B, White Sox: As well as he's been swinging the bat lately, the 8-for-55 career numbers versus Zack Greinke are a bit sad, no matter how you look at them.
Baseball Challenge Picks of the Weekend
Saturday: Joe Mauer, C, Twins: Already with two "10 hits in four games" stretches this month, Mauer is batting an inhuman .473 in August. That dwarfs even his .373 lifetime batting average against the current Angels staff.
Sunday: Jayson Werth, RF, Phillies: Not only is Werth hitting .339 this month, but the track record against Scott Olsen is stellar. He's 10-for-20 against Olsen, with five extra-base hits, including three home runs and seven RBIs.
Injury list: Out
Jarrod Saltalamacchia, C, Red Sox (15-day DL, leg infection)
Sean West, P, Marlins (15-day DL, right knee)
Vicente Padilla, P, Dodgers (15-day DL, neck)
Jeff Keppinger, 2B, Astros (15-day DL, fractured toe)
Josh Willingham, OF, Nationals (15-day DL, knee surgery)
Troy Glaus, 1B, Braves (15-day DL, left knee)
Francisco Rodriguez, P, Mets (restricted list)
Taylor Buchholz, P, Rockies (15-day DL, lower back stiffness)
Brian Bannister, P, Royals (15-day DL, rotator cuff)
David Purcey, P, Blue Jays (15-day DL, strained ligaments in foot)
Jason Berken, P, Orioles (15-day DL, right shoulder)
Gabe Kapler, OF, Rays (15-day DL, sprained right ankle)
Nelson Cruz, OF, Rangers (15-day DL, left hamstring)
Rich Harden, P, Rangers (15-day DL, shoulder tendinitis)
Injury list: Day-to-day
Alex Rodriguez, 3B, Yankees (calf strain)
J.J. Putz, P, White Sox (inflamed knee)
Mitch Maier, OF, Royals (sore neck)
Nick Punto, 3B, Twins (left hamstring strain)
Gerald Laird, C, Tigers (bruised elbow)
Alcides Escobar, SS, Brewers (leg cramps)
Ronny Cedeno, SS, Pirates (shoulder)
Weatherproof games: Padres at Brewers and Rockies at Diamondbacks. Naturally, no weekend forecast is complete without the Marlins encountering the possibility of brief thunderstorms. Other than that, a storm system promises to dump some showers on St. Louis, Chicago and Detroit on Saturday, then moves on to fluster fans in Philadelphia, New York and Baltimore on Sunday.