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Friday, April 12, 2013
Friday's five things you need to know

By Eric Karabell

Struggling starting pitchers will certainly be on display this weekend as teams -- both real and fantasy -- wonder if their aces will deliver. Of course, it's not even Tax Day yet, so in general it's wise to be patient. By the way, don't forget to pay your taxes on time!

Cy of relief? The defending Cy Young Award winners each come off brutal outings and both feature ERAs around 9. But who's really worried about Tampa Bay Rays lefty David Price and Toronto Blue Jays knuckleballer R.A. Dickey hurling Saturday? Each permitted eight runs their last time out, but they won a combined 40 games last year. Price has performed well at Fenway Park, going 4-1 with a 2.22 ERA over seven starts. Don't worry about him. With Dickey, it's tough to control the knuckleball at times. His career numbers at Kansas City (5.28 ERA) are irrelevant because he was ineffective while with the Texas Rangers, but don't be surprised when he needs more time to find his 2012 form.

In a Halladaze: Of far greater concern is a two-time Cy Young winner in Philly. Do not assume work-in-progress former ace Roy Halladay will suddenly dominate the terrible Miami Marlins on Sunday. Even struggling offenses have their day. The Houston Astros scored 24 runs Tuesday and Wednesday. Halladay can't locate his pitches, his cutter has been ineffective and while the Phillies claim all is well physically, you should know better than to listen to what a team says. If John Buck and Evan Gattis are taking Halladay deep, what do you think Giancarlo Stanton will do? Fantasy owners should bench Halladay, while the Phillies have no choice but to send the $20 million man out there. This might again be painful to watch. The game to check out in this weekend series is Saturday, when exciting rook Jose Fernandez takes on Cole Hamels.

The real NL East battle: Early division bragging rights are on the line as the Braves visit the Nationals. Fifth starters Julio Teheran and Ross Detwiler open the series Friday, but then the Braves have to face Stephen Strasburg and Gio Gonzalez. Maybe Tim Hudson and Paul Maholm can match up with them this weekend, but Washington's top starting pitching is a differentiator in this top-notch race. Meanwhile, MVP candidates Justin Upton and Bryce Harper are always worth watching.

O for offense: Runs were at a premium when the Baltimore Orioles and New York Yankees met in the playoffs last season. Baltimore hit .187 in the series, the Yankees .211. Big money ultimately trumped overachieving bullpen, and neither team has distinguished itself in the early going as a team to beat. Sunday night’s ESPN game features underrated lefties Wei-Yin Chen and Andy Pettitte. Chen was Baltimore's top starter a year ago, and figures to deliver a similar performance, while the 40-year-old Pettitte has won both of his starts, giving up only one run in each. Who has the better season? I'll go with Pettitte for 15 wins, and take the minority opinion he avoids the disabled list as well.

A for effort: The Detroit Tigers outlasted the Oakland Athletics in the other ALDS last October, with Justin Verlander allowing one run in his two victories. Oakland's nominal ace, the oft-injured Brett Anderson, didn't allow any runs in his Game 4 win, either. On Saturday afternoon these fellows are scheduled to meet, assuming Anderson's left (pitching) thumb contusion allows him to work. Anderson's upside isn't to the level of Verlander, but his presence in Oakland's rotation is as critical as teammate Jarrod Parker's, who doesn't look like the same guy he was in 2012. As always with Anderson, it's not about performance, but health.

Enjoy your weekend!