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Notable Injuries: Marcus Thames, 1B/OF (hamstring, DL); Craig Monroe, OF (back, probable)
Game Story: Detroit's offense hasn't been quite as potent in the month of July, but they have started to pick up again lately and it's still tough to start a marginal pitcher against them. Bannister's numbers are a pleasant surprise for some deep AL-only leagues but the safe play is to bench him here; his strikeouts have dropped off in his last two outings. Robertson is a good spot start. The Royals have a .710 OPS versus lefties (26th in the majors) and Robertson is coming off his best outing of the year; seven innings of three-hit ball versus Minnesota. Billy Butler is your American League RBI leader for the past week (entering Saturday), and should be getting attention from medium-sized leagues now. He's better against righties, but is no slouch versus lefties and his .400 average during the past week should be enough to consider him here.
Notable Injuries: Melky Cabrera, OF (stomach, day-to-day)
Game Story: Shields is in a rut, with only two strikeouts in his last two starts. He was crushed by the Yankees on July 12 and is 0-3 with a 6.12 ERA versus the Bronx Bombers in his career. The problem is home runs as, in just four career starts versus New York, Bobby Abreu, Robinson Cano, Johnny Damon, Derek Jeter, Hideki Matsui and Alex Rodriguez have all hit a home run against him. Considering the strikeouts aren't there lately, I'm going to suggest a one-game benching for Shields. Pettitte has been hit pretty hard by Tampa Bay this season. In two starts he has a 4.66 ERA, a 1.66 WHIP and a 6-4 K-BB rate. Tampa Bay also has an .811 OPS versus lefties, making me think this game is going to be dominated by offense on both sides. Several D-Rays are red hot with B.J. Upton, Ty Wigginton and Carl Crawford hitting better than .400 during the past week, Carlos Pena pacing Billy Butler's AL-leading 11 RBIs and Delmon Young having had an 11-game hit streak snapped Friday. Young might be available for a spot start; his ESPN league ownership is at just 60 percent.
Notable Injuries: none
Game Story: The fact that Toronto has the third-highest OPS in the majors versus southpaws becomes moot when you consider Ramirez's ridiculous home/road split this season. He has started nine at home and nine away and has a 2.27 ERA in Seattle compared to a 13.21 ERA on the road! Bizarre and definitely a reason to stay away. Lyle Overbay's ownership plummeted with his injury and he is available in 85 percent of ESPN leagues. Overbay is a .500 hitter in 12 career at-bats against Ramirez and sports a .391 average during the past week. Aaron Hill has a better average versus lefties and is among the league's hotter hitters during the past week with a .407 average. He is available in 51 percent of ESPN leagues. Halladay settled down in his last start after a stretch of four pretty rough outings. He should be fine in this game. Chad Fairchild is the umpire and should help the Doc out here. Fairchild's 15.7 punch-outs per game are the most of any umpire.
Notable Injuries: J.D. Drew, OF (hamstring, day-to-day); David Ortiz, DH (shoulder, day-to-day)
Game Story: The White Sox have been hot in July (.819 OPS, seventh in majors), but Wakefield has shutdown their big bats over his career. Paul Konerko (5-for-20, .250), Jermaine Dye (6-for-37, .162) and Jim Thome (6-for-47, .128) have all struggled against the knuckleball. Wakefield has also had relatively good success when facing a team for the first time this season. The Rangers, Blue Jays and Yankees didn't torch Wakefield until their second time facing him this year. In short, I like him for a quality start and a win. Garland looks like an OK start as well as, in spite of his blowup against Minnesota, he has been a quality-start machine. The strikeouts, of course, won't be there for Garland so you may want to stick to deep leagues and AL-only formats when using him. Kevin Youkilis is in a nasty 3-for-23 slump and you may want to find a short-term replacement. Only Carl Crawford has more stolen bases in the AL than Jerry Owens during the past week and Wakefield is notoriously easy to steal on.
Notable Injuries: none
Game Story: You just can't bet against Garza here. He has silenced the Yankees, White Sox and Tigers (third, sixth and 11th in July OPS) in his first three starts, keeping all three opponents off the board. Considering that the Angels rank 30th in July OPS (.600), it's damn-near impossible to find a reason not to start him. Actually, I'll take both pitchers in this matchup as Saunders has been decent in five starts and the Twins are way down at 21st in OPS versus southpaws this season. However, if you need to salvage WHIP in a H2H league Saunders is a poor choice due to his elevated walk totals. The way the Angels have been hitting and Garza has been pitching, I'd almost stick to just Vladimir Guerrero and Chone Figgins on offense for the Halos. For the Twins look at Jason Kubel, who broke an 0-for-13 slump on Thursday and went 3-for-4, and followed that up Friday with a 3-for-3 game.
Notable Injuries: Eric Chavez, 3B (back, questionable); Nick Swisher, OF (shoulder, day-to-day)
Game Story: Oakland could be some good medicine for Guthrie. Guthrie has walked three batters in each of his last three starts, after walking more than two only once this year prior to that (April 16). The A's July OPS is .616 (29th in majors), which should help right the ship for one of the nicest surprises this season in fantasy. Those in the deepest of deep leagues in search of strikeouts from the waiver wire should have a look at Braden. I don't expect a quality start out of him, but he has the ability to make batters miss. Both Nick Markakis and Corey Patterson are hitting better than .400 during the past week, but it's Patterson who hits .337 against lefties and is available in more than 80 percent of ESPN leagues.
Notable Injuries: Kenny Lofton, OF (foot, day-to-day)
Game Story: With the way the Rangers have been hitting, Byrd might be in for a decent game here. He already has a quality start logged against the Rangers this season and carries a 3.33 ERA in road games. He won't strike many out, but he won't walk any either. Use him in AL-only leagues for a spot-start win. Tejeda has had trouble getting out of the fourth inning lately and averages just a hair more than five innings per outing. His pitch-count disappears very quickly and I wouldn't dare use him against the Indians lineup. Ryan Garko spent another week hitting better than .500 and has been the leagues hottest hitter since the All-Star break (.560). He is still available in 96 percent of ESPN leagues and it's time to buy into his hotness. Franklin Gutierrez played Friday after dealing with a back problem. He is hitting better than .400 during the past week and has three swipes.
Notable Injuries: Alex Gonzalez, SS (bereavement list, questionable)
Game Story: Outside of Great American Ball Park, Arroyo is a useful fantasy asset. I'll take his 3.51 ERA on the road against the Marlins. Of the current Fish, only Miguel Olivo has seen Arroyo before, so he also has the element of surprise. The Marlins are third in July OPS, but I'll still start Arroyo here. I admit I have a soft-spot for Vanden Hurk. With a little more control I think he could be dominating. Right now though, his pitch-count goes up too quickly and the walks are troubling. Look at him as the National League equivalent of Braden for Sunday; a source of strikeouts in the deepest of leagues. The strike zone should be forgiving for both Arroyo and Vanden Hurk as Adam Dowdy will be calling the balls and strikes. Dowdy calls 15 strikeouts per game (fourth-most in the majors) and only 5.7 walks per game (fourth-fewest in the majors). Despite the somewhat decent pitching we can expect, don't bench any regulars in this game from your lineup.
Notable Injuries: Lance Berkman, 1B (hand, questionable)
Game Story: This looks like a real offense-friendly contest. With Berkman questionable, Morgan Ensberg and Mike Lamb might both get into the lineup, and should get consideration as they have each batted better than .400 while splitting duties during the past week. Freddy Sanchez -- available in 60 percent of ESPN leagues -- hasn't hit three home runs in a month since he hit four in September 2005. He has three in July and is batting .320 during the past week. In case you were curious, Van Benschoten hasn't pitched past the second inning in his past two starts and Woody Williams has an ERA consistently over 5.00 almost regardless of the split you look at. Stay away from both.
Notable Injuries: Dmitri Young, 1B (heel, day-to-day)
Game Story: I'd take Fogg in a deep NL-only league here. He is coming off two solid-starts, one that resulted in a win, he hasn't walked more than two batters since May, and there is lots of room in RFK to scatter all those ground balls he induces. I think he'll narrowly miss a quality start, but you'll get a win. Redding's numbers haven't been horrible in his three starts, but you're playing with fire if you consider him. Felipe Lopez might be getting the green light again. After swiping just three bags each in April, May and June he has five already in July; including one on Thursday and one on Friday. Available in more then 75 percent of ESPN leagues, we might be in for a speed outbreak for Lopez and only Byung-Hyun Kim has allowed more swipes than Fogg among Rockies' pitchers.
Notable Injuries: none
Game Story: Milwaukee punishes lefties (.829 OPS, second in majors), making Zito a poor choice in this game. If you need more convincing, his ERA versus the Brewers and on the road this season are both worse than 5.00. Several Giants have good career numbers against Vargas. Omar Vizquel is 6-for-13 (.462) lifetime against him, but the one that really stands out as a good play is Randy Winn. He is 7-for-16 (.438) versus Vargas and has three home runs against him. What's more, Winn is batting 12-for-25 (.480) during the past seven days. Barry Bonds is 3-for-7 versus Vargas but has never homered off him. Dave Roberts has Vargas' motions down. In 18 career at-bats he has swiped four bags against him and never been caught. And in case it isn't clear yet, I don't like Vargas here.
Notable Injuries: Cliff Floyd, OF (neck, questionable); Derrek Lee, 1B (suspension, out); Daryle Ward, 1B (calf, DL)
Game Story: With Ward hitting the DL, Scott Moore is up to cover for the suspended Lee. He has some pop, but will be gone again come Monday when Lee's suspension is up. The way Aramis Ramirez is hitting -- 12-for-25, .480 during the past week -- is almost reason enough to bench Petit. His five home runs surrendered in four starts don't bode well either. Arizona is dead last in OPS versus southpaws (.648), so Marshall should be safe, if not a good spot start. With Floyd possibly out, Angel Pagan might be a shot-in-the-dark start. He is 7-for-his-last-16 (.438) and has a home run and a stolen base in that span.
Notable Injuries: none
Game Story: Philadelphia is making up ground on Detroit for team OPS this season, now at .804, and they are the hottest offense in July with an OPS of .913. But they are up against Peavy in Petco. Even though Peavy, strangely, has a much worse ERA in the pitcher-friendly park, it still plays to his advantage against a powerful team like Philly. Peavy has dominated Chase Utley, Ryan Howard and Jimmy Rollins; they are a combined 1-for-21 in their careers against him. I think Peavy will be just fine despite the tough matchup. One look at Durbin's numbers and you have to smile for the Padres. They could use the kick start that he will provide for the offense and I'd start just about every Padre regular in this one. I'll note Milton Bradley, who is hitting .313 as a Padre with a home run and two stolen bases. He is out there in 99 percent of ESPN leagues and is a great power/speed threat if he stays happy and healthy.
Notable Injuries: Jose Valentin, 2B (leg, out)
Game Story: Hendrickson came out of the bullpen on Thursday for two innings and Eric Stults may get the call instead of him. You don't want a piece of either guy as the Mets rank decently against lefties (.784 OPS, tenth in majors). Hernandez is coming off a brilliant start, but has been roughed up once by the Dodgers this year (4 ER in 5 2/3 innings on June 11). The Dodgers have the second highest OPS in the majors in July (.858), so they won't be any more forgiving this time. I'd bench El Duque for this one. Start all your Mets and Dodgers regulars, and try to squeeze in Matt Kemp. He's 11-for-23 (.478) during the past week and is hitting .371 versus right-handers on the season.
Notable Injuries: Scott Rolen, 3B (shoulder, doubtful)
Game Story: I want to recommend Jo-Jo just because of his name, but I can't do it in good conscience; especially noting that St. Louis is fourth in the majors for July OPS (.832). Atlanta has been dangerous of late too, with both Edgar Renteria and Chipper Jones batting better than .400 for the past week and Andruw Jones leading the NL in RBIs over that same span, with ten. Basically, avoid both pitchers and start your regular offensive players. I'll highlight Adam Kennedy who is 6-for-17 (.353) with an uncharacteristic two home runs during the past week.
Nate Robertson, SP, DET versus Kansas City Royals
Billy Butler, OF, KC @ Detroit Tigers
Delmon Young, OF, TB @ New York Yankees
Lyle Overbay, 1B, TOR versus Seattle Mariners
Aaron Hill, 2B/SS, TOR versus Seattle Mariners
Tim Wakefield, SP, BOS versus Chicago White Sox
Jerry Owens, OF, CHW @ Boston Red Sox
Matt Garza, SP, MIN versus Los Angeles Angels
Jason Kubel, OF MIN versus Los Angeles Angels
Dallas Braden, SP, OAK versus Baltimore Orioles
Corey Patterson, OF, BAL @ Oakland Athletics
Ryan Garko, 1B, CLE @ Texas Rangers
Paul Byrd, SP, CLE @ Texas Rangers
Franklin Gutierrez, OF, CLE @ Texas Rangers
Bronson Arroyo, SP, CIN @ Florida Marlins
Freddy Sanchez, 3B/2B/SS, PIT versus Houston Astros
Felipe Lopez, 2B/SS, WAS versus Colorado Rockies
Josh Fogg, SP, COL @ Washington Nationals
Randy Winn, OF, SF @ Milwaukee Brewers
Dave Roberts, OF, SF @ Milwaukee Brewers
Sean Marshall, SP, CHC versus Arizona Diamondbacks
Angel Pagan, OF, CHC versus Arizona Diamondbacks
Milton Bradley, OF, SD versus Philadelphia Phillies
Matt Kemp, OF, LAD versus New York Mets
Adam Kennedy, 2B, STL @ Atlanta Braves
Please Note that the notable injuries are not meant to be a comprehensive report of each team's disabled list. For brevity, we include only day-to-day injuries or new DL additions for players you might otherwise consider using in these games. Long-term DL or day-to-day injuries to starting pitchers who were not scheduled to appear are omitted.
Sean Allen is a fantasy baseball analyst for ESPN.com and TalentedMrRoto.com. He can be reached at alla_rino@TalentedMrRoto.com