Fantasy Game Notes for Interleague Games in AL Parks for: Saturday
Notable Injuries: Xavier Nady, OF (hamstring, day-to-day)
Game Story: The Yankees' weakness is left-handers -- their .766 OPS against southpaws is 50 points worse than their OPS against righties -- but Maholm has just two quality starts in 12 starts, so look elsewhere for a spot start. Clemens makes his season debut and while he won't offer much outside of six innings of work, he's still Roger Clemens, and the Pirates may also be out one of their hottest hitters in Nady.
Notable Injuries: none
Game Story: The White Sox have the worst OBP in the majors (.305) and now the worst OPS as well, so while it is worrisome Jennings, a ground ball pitcher, has allowed four home runs in his four starts, it shouldn't be a problem against the Sox. The Astros aren't much better. The major difference between the two offenses is the fact that the Astros have some of their best players hitting well while the White Sox don't. Garland's peripherals are still questionable, but you also have to give him some credit; he's only allowed one home run in his last six starts.
Notable Injuries: Damion Easley, 2B (knee, day-to-day)
Game Story: On the surface it looks like a great pitching duel -- both pitchers have pitched well all year -- but you also have to lend some credit to the two offenses at hand. The Tigers have the best offense in baseball and especially feast on left-handers, posting a major league-leading .882 OPS against them. Perez has allowed seven home runs in his last six starts, but has also lasted at least seven innings in his last five starts, so there is conflicting evidence whether to sit or start him. Against the Tigers, you can't go wrong with playing it safe. Bonderman should be fine, since the Mets are hurting a bit -- they have two regulars on the disabled list -- and they are much less imposing against right-handers than left-handers.
Notable Injuries: Brian Roberts, 2B (hamstring, day-to-day)
Game Story: This interesting matchup has Lopez, a mediocre career pitcher who has performed well so far, against the Orioles, a mediocre team that truly fits the definition of the word, not being extremely good (or bad) at anything. Lopez's current "run," if you can call it that -- he only has four starts due to a early-season DL stint -- is definitely not sustainable in general, but may be specifically sustainable against the Orioles, who are 21st in OPS against righties. Guthrie has just been on a roll, lasting seven or more innings in his last five starts, so for the purposes of Saturday's game, consider him a must start.
Notable Injuries: none
Game Story: Lieber's latest three-start stretch has been rough -- 29 hits and 14 earned runs in 11 2/3 innings -- but the Royals haven't exactly been setting the offensive world on fire, either. Only John Buck and Mark Teahen are hitting well on the team, with everyone else slumping or simply being their own mediocre selves. Don't be afraid to take another chance on Lieber; the circumstances nearly dictate it. Outside of Meche's two back-to-back blowups against Seattle and Colorado, he has been nearly perfect, but the Phillies have one of the best offenses in the majors. Just as I wouldn't be afraid to spot start Lieber again, I wouldn't mind making the gut check bench of Meche on Saturday.
Notable Injuries: Joe Mauer, C (quadriceps, probable)
Game Story: It's a wonder the Nationals keep starting Speigner. In each of his four starts, he has yet to last more than four innings, and has just been flat-out demolished. To add insult to injury, Johan is on the mound for the Twins, and they also get the return of Joe Mauer. This game doesn't need any overanalysis: Speigner will do poorly, Johan will dominate, and the Twins can notch another win in the win-loss column.
Notable Injuries: none
Game Story: After a rough April, the Rangers have been hitting pretty well, getting stronger-than-expected contributions from players like Sammy Sosa and Victor Diaz. They hit left-handers better than right-handers, but still have some useful players against righties. Kenny Lofton does virtually all his damage against right-handers, including all of his 16 stolen bases. Johnny Estrada is poor at throwing out runners, so that may come into play, otherwise Sheets will be too overpowering for the Rangers. McCarthy is a better pitcher than he has shown, but Ranger Ballpark has not been too kind to him; unfortunately, the game takes place there.
Fantasy Game Notes for Interleague Games in NL Parks for: Saturday
Notable Injuries: Milton Bradley, OF (calf, day-to-day)
Game Story: More than two months into the season and Haren has yet to slow down. In fact, his complete game, nine-strikeout outing against the Red Sox in his last start was his best yet. The only question is whether Zito will be able to match the zeroes Haren will put up. Zito can't go toe-to-toe against Haren -- the A's have too much pop in their lineup, and guys like Travis Buck, Bobby Crosby and Mark Kotsay hit left-handers well -- but, pitching in AT&T Park against his former team, will have a fine start of his own that shouldn't be overshadowed by Haren.
Game Story: Shields has been superb all season long, and with the Marlins struggling against right-handers since Mike Jacobs hit the disabled list, a matchup that would have looked scary a month earlier is now one not to worry about. Willis has been rebuilding his ERA slowly but surely, logging four quality starts in his last five outings, but the Devil Rays are eighth in OPS against left-handers. Virtually the entire lineup hits lefties better, including Ty Wigginton and Brendan Harris, so take note.
Notable Injuries: Ryan Freel, Util (DTD, Concussion)
Game Story: Sowers wasn't as good as he seemed last season (3.57 ERA in 14 starts), but he hasn't been as bad as his numbers show this season, either. His true value is close to his pitching counterpart, Belisle: league average. We have to go with what he has shown us so far this season, though, which is absolutely nothing, so play all your Reds, especially Ryan Freel, who does well against lefties, if he's able to go. I am a fan of Belisle, but the Indians' offense is a terror right now. Note my biweekly PSA of Ryan Garko, who is now hitting .320 yet owned in less than a quarter of ESPN leagues.
Notable Injuries: none
Game Story: By now everyone knows about Santana's home/away splits, but if ever there was a time to start him on the road, Saturday would be hard to argue with. The Cardinals have been one of the majors' most pathetic offenses all season long, and while Santana hasn't been great, he's much better than what he has shown. Looper has met the law of averages in the past month. His ERA has risen, but to his credit he hasn't let it balloon. He's getting it done with a low home run rate and a bit of luck with balls in play, but his strikeout rate is too low to stay a sub-4.00 ERA pitcher; the Angels, with the likes of Casey Kotchman hitting well recently, should further correct Looper's ERA.
Notable Injuries: Chad Tracy, 3B (ribs, questionable)
Game Story: The Diamondbacks are hitting a bit better as of late -- Eric Byrnes is in the midst of a 14-game hitting streak and Conor Jackson had a big May -- and since Tavarez can't go much longer than five innings a start, pick a better spot. Owings is back after an early-season cup of coffee in which he more than held his own, but there are about three offenses in the majors you don't want to face right now, and the Red Sox are one of them. Virtually the entire Red Sox team is hitting well, so naming anyone borders on redundant; just make sure you bench Owings.
Notable Injuries: Brian Giles, OF (knee, questionable)
Game Story: This has the potential to be an explosive matchup from two normally docile teams. Weaver's numbers alone should be cause for concern -- once your ERA goes beyond 10.00 or your WHIP hits 1.75, it becomes a bit comical -- but the Mariners hit lefties hard, which makes one think a high-scoring game will result. Both pitchers could easily have a solid start -- they have their fair share of talent -- but the odds are against them. Start your hitters from both teams; Kevin Kouzmanoff, Terrmel Sledge and Jose Cruz Jr. should be solid for the Padres, while Jose Guillen, Adrian Beltre and Jose Lopez work for the Mariners.
Dodger Stadium (outdoor) 10:10 p.m. ET (sunny, high of 66 degrees)
Shaun Marcum, RHP (2-2, 4.06 ERA, 1.15 WHIP) versus
Derek Lowe, RHP (6-5, 3.44 ERA, 1.26 WHIP)
Notable Injuries: none
Game Story: Marcum has a bit of a gopher ball problem -- he has allowed nine home runs in 44 1/3 innings -- but his walk and strikeout rates are promising. The Dodgers have lacked power all season long, and looking through their lineup, it's difficult to see where it is going to come from. Sounds like a spot start made in heaven for Marcum. Lowe has been on a roll in the past month, and the Blue Jays are considerably less potent against right-handed pitching than lefties; Lyle Overbay was one of the few regulars who had favorable platoon splits against righties. As a result, expect another successful outing from Lowe.
Fantasy Game Notes for Saturday: National League
Notable Injuries: Aramis Ramirez, 3B (knee, doubtful)
Game Story: The Braves offense isn't as scary without Chipper Jones around, though Matt Diaz (.333 average) has helped, coming from nowhere to contribute. But as Marquis' stellar early-season stats quickly unravel, the Braves too should be more than he can handle. The Cubs are in a similar predicament, hobbling through a severely weakened lineup without one of their best hitters, and while under normal circumstances they should be able to get by, facing the Braves' ace isn't going to help matters.
Waiver Wire Pickups
Jason Jennings, SP, HOU @ Chicago White Sox
Jeremy Guthrie, SP, BAL versus Colorado Rockies
Jon Lieber, SP, PHI @ Kansas City Royals
Gil Meche, SP, KC versus Philadelphia Phillies
Kenny Lofton, OF, TEX versus Milwaukee Brewers
Travis Buck, OF, OAK @ San Francisco Giants
Bobby Crosby, SS, OAK @ San Francisco Giants
Ty Wigginton, 3B, TB @ Florida Marlins
Ryan Garko, 1B, CLE @ Cincinnati Reds
Ervin Santana, SP, LAA @ St. Louis Cardinals
Casey Kotchman, 1B, LAA @ St. Louis Cardinals
Conor Jackson, 1B, ARI versus Boston Red Sox
Kevin Kouzmanoff, 3B, SD versus Seattle Mariners
Jose Guillen, OF, SEA @ San Diego Padres
Shawn Marcum, SP, TOR @ Los Angeles Dodgers
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.
Adam Madison is a fantasy baseball analyst for ESPN.com and TalentedMrRoto.com. He can be reached at Adam@TalentedMrRoto.com