Clayton Richard can help Padres' hopes


The battle for the final playoff spot begins and ends in San Francisco this weekend. Up first, it's Clayton Richard for the San Diego Padres, who seeks his fourth win of the year against the San Francisco Giants, to go along with a 1.95 ERA. His competition is Barry Zito, who is 3-7 with a 4.23 ERA for his career against the Padres. Round 1 advantage goes to the visitors. As for the rest of the rankings for the day, read on:

For starters

Starting pitcher rankings for October 1

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 options: Jered Weaver already has three wins against the Texas Rangers in 2010, and has a 2.28 ERA since Aug. 29. ... Trevor Cahill seeks win No. 18, but keep in mind he's never defeated the Seattle Mariners. He's 0-3 lifetime against them, with a 3.80 ERA.

The past is good: James Shields is 5-1 when the Kansas City Royals oppose him. ... Kyle Kendrick is 4-1 with a 2.53 ERA versus the Atlanta Braves.

The recent past is bad: Carl Pavano has a 10.45 ERA against the Toronto Blue Jays this season, while Andy Pettitte has yet to reach 80 pitches in his return from injury.

Possible streams: Although his ERA is not great (5.70) against the St. Louis Cardinals, Jorge De La Rosa does have a 4-2 record when they swing the bats against him. ... Tony Pena has faced the Cleveland Indians five times this season, albeit all out of the 'pen, and is 2-0 with an 0.66 ERA.

Don't lose it now: Luke French is 0-2 with a 6.35 ERA versus the Oakland Athletics in 2010. ... Daisuke Matsuzaka has allowed nine runs in 12 2/3 innings against the New York Yankees this season.

Hitter matchup ratings for October 1

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:

Brandon Inge, 3B, Detroit Tigers: Inge has hit .417 against the Baltimore Orioles this season, so expect him to end the season on a bit of a high note.

Matt Diaz, OF, Atlanta Braves: True, his biggest hit recently was on a fan in Philadelphia, but with a .375 batting average against Kyle Kendrick, Diaz might play a big part in the Braves' playoff drive.

Carl Crawford, OF, Tampa Bay Rays: Crawford, who has two round-trippers since Sept. 22, has two home runs lifetime against Bruce Chen.

Steve Tolleson, SS, Oakland Athletics: Managers like to clear their benches at this time of the year, and with Tolleson hitting .455 against the Mariners this season, he may well take a few licks this weekend.

Chris Carter, OF, New York Mets: Carter scored twice against the Washington Nationals the last time these two teams got together. Will he do it again? The truth is out there.

Pitchers' count:

Casey McGehee, 3B, Milwaukee Brewers: With a recent run of 3-for-19 (.158) hitting, it looks like McGehee's offseason has already begun.

Esteban German, 2B, Texas Rangers: Don't expect another late-season successful spot start from German, who can't translate the pitching of Jered Weaver into hits: He's 0-for-6 lifetime against the Los Angeles Angels ace.

Justin Smoak, 1B, Seattle Mariners: The Smoak Monster hit three homers in three games against the team that traded him away. No extra motivation exists against the Oakland Athletics, and Smoak is hitless for his career against Trevor Cahill.

Yorvit Torrealba, C, Padres: With a .158 batting average against Barry Zito, Torrealba may not be able to help his team at the plate as much as he does behind it.

Baseball Challenge Pick of the Day

Starlin Castro, SS, Cubs: With eight hits in his past seven games, Castro is batting .300 for the season right now and he went 2-for-3 against Bud Norris in their earlier confrontation.


Injury list:

Carlos Quentin, OF, Chicago White Sox (sore ankle)

Carlos Beltran, OF, New York Mets (right knee)

Freddy Sanchez, 2B, San Francisco Giants (shoulder)

David Murphy, OF, Texas Rangers (strained left groin)

Brian Roberts, 2B, Baltimore Orioles (head)

Weather concerns

Weatherproof games: Cubs at Astros and Athletics at Mariners. Apart from some lingering storm clouds over New York and Boston, the baseball should proceed sans interruption on Friday.

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.