Fantasy Game Notes for Wednesday: American League
Notable Injuries: none
Game Story: "King Felix" has quietly but steadily improved recently, with a 4-2 record, 3.29 ERA and 1.25 WHIP in his last nine starts, and he's 2-0 with a 4.50 ERA in two career starts at Camden Yards. He's a fine start here, but then so are the Orioles who hit him well, including Nick Markakis (6-for-11, .545), Melvin Mora (6-for-10, .600), Corey Patterson (4-for-11, .364, 1 HR) and Brian Roberts (5-for-13, .385). Guthrie, meanwhile, should also get the nod, having beaten these Mariners in Seattle on July 17 (6 IP, 6 H, 2 ER). Kenji Johjima took him deep in that game, though, while Jose Vidro was 3-for-3. Expect a fairly close affair here, making Orioles closer Danys Baez appealing.
Game Story: Since June 15, Shields is 2-7 with a 6.75 ERA and 1.45 WHIP in 10 starts, and he has a 5.16 ERA on the road this season, so don't look at his May 30 complete-game victory over these Tigers and get too excited. Sure, the Tigers are in a bit of a funk, but they're nevertheless potent enough, especially at home, to limit Shields' appeal to AL-only and deep mixed formats. Curtis Granderson (.330 AVG, 1.010 OPS against righties) is a must-start, while red-hot Ryan Raburn (.333/.975 since the All-Star break) warrants a look in deep leagues. Of course, what keeps Shields useful in deeper formats is that Durbin is his opponent; Durbin had a 4.30 ERA and .290 BAA in his last four starts in the Tigers' rotation in June, and an ordinary 4.35 ERA in 12 appearances out of the bullpen. Keep using your Devil Rays, especially Carlos Pena (.292/1.020 against righties).
Notable Injuries: Jason Giambi, DH (foot, DL/could play)
Game Story: One might worry that Wang, a ground-ball specialist, might struggle on artificial turf, but he's 6-2 with a 4.05 ERA and 1.22 WHIP in nine career starts on turf, and he won his only career turn at Rogers Centre, on July 22, 2006 (6 IP, 10 H, 3 ER). That the Blue Jays are so right-handed heavy on offense plays to Wang's favor, though Aaron Hill (6-for-9, .667) has quite the history against him. Halladay, meanwhile, has a 3.01 ERA and 1.20 WHIP in 24 career games (22 starts) against the Yankees, so we could be talking a pitchers' duel. Giambi (16-for-50, .320, 3 HR) actually has the most favorable history against Halladay, though he might not play in this game. Beyond him, would you really sit any of your usual Yankees hitters? Of course not.
Kauffman Stadium (outdoor) 8:10 p.m. ET (20 percent chance of rain, low of 80 degrees, winds up to 15 mph)
Johan Santana, LHP (11-9, 2.98 ERA, 1.03 WHIP) versus
Odalis Perez, LHP (6-10, 5.79 ERA, 1.64 WHIP)
Notable Injuries: none
Game Story: Johan has been a bit "un-Johan-like" since the All-Star break, with a 3.82 ERA, 1.00 WHIP and .208 BAA in five starts. Not that those are bad numbers -- not at all! -- but over the past few years we've come to call the left-hander an automatic, can't-miss, Cy Young-caliber pitcher once mid-July passes. Here's the kind of matchup that could get him right back into that class, though, against a Royals team that hasn't beaten him since May 29, 2004. Esteban German (5-for-14, .357, 1 HR) and Ross Gload (2-for-3, .667, 1 HR) are the only Royals with notable histories against the southpaw. On the Twins' side, though, plenty can hit Perez. Jason Bartlett (6-for-11, .545), Michael Cuddyer (5-for-14, .357, 1 HR), Torii Hunter (4-for-12, .333, 2 HR), Joe Mauer (5-for-8, .625) and Mike Redmond (7-for-15, .467) have great numbers against the lefty.
Notable Injuries: Alex Cintron, IF (illness, day-to-day)
Game Story: Sabathia has been a consistent, safe, top-10 starter all year, and he has already beaten the White Sox twice this year, with a quality-start effort in each outing. Jermaine Dye (10-for-33, .303, 3 HR) is the only healthy White Sox hitter with a notable history against Sabathia, though look at Josh Fields (.317/.971 against lefties) in a home game. Garland, meanwhile, hasn't looked close to the pitcher he was before admitting to some shoulder problems in early July; he has a 10.01 ERA and 2.19 WHIP in his last six turns. He should be avoided against the Indians' fifth-ranked offense (5.13 R/G), which boasts quite a few hitters who love facing him, like Victor Martinez (16-for-32, .500, 1 HR), Trot Nixon (5-for-17, .294) and Travis Hafner (7-for-25, .280, 2 HR).
Notable Injuries: none
Game Story: Millwood generally isn't much of a fantasy option at home, as he has a 5.50 ERA and 1.52 WHIP in 26 career starts at Rangers Ballpark. Still, that he's facing an Athletics offense ranked 25th (4.31 R/G) bodes well for him, at least in AL-only formats. Nick Swisher (7-for-16, .438, 2 HR) does hit the right-hander well, while among the less obvious A's choices, Shannon Stewart (8-for-21, .381) does, too. Jack Cust (.267/.944 against righties) should sneak into the Athletics' lineup, and he should into yours as well. As for DiNardo, don't count on another seven-shutout-inning effort like the one he tossed against these Rangers at home on July 18. He's AL-only worthy against a Rangers team averaging only 4.17 runs per game since the All-Star break, though keep Rangers hitters Ian Kinsler (.333/1.019 against lefties) and Nelson Cruz active, too.
Notable Injuries: Eric Hinske, OF (bereavement, day-to-day)
Game Story: Lester has pitched fine in his first three starts of the season, each of them on the road, but an assignment at L.A. against the sixth-ranked Angels (5.03 R/G) is a matchup to avoid. These Angels can hit, especially at home and against left-handers, with Orlando Cabrera (.330/.890), Chone Figgins (.333/.855), Vladimir Guerrero (.302/.960) and Reggie Willits (.360/.836) the strongest against that side. Of course, the Red Sox should be able to rack up some runs of their own against Moseley, a solid yet unspectacular rotation stand-in. There are few Red Sox you wouldn't call must-starts regardless of opponent, but among the lesser names, stick with red-hot Julio Lugo (.320/.792 since the All-Star break) and Dustin Pedroia (.326/.777).
Fantasy Game Notes for Wednesday: National League
Notable Injuries: none
Game Story: The Brewers might be planning to cap Gallardo's innings, but that's hardly a worry here. Coors could be a bit threatening to the rookie's owners, knowing he's a fly-ball pitcher (0.88:1 ground ball-to-fly ball ratio), but it's tough to sit a pitcher this hot, especially knowing Coors isn't the hitters' heaven it once was. Gallardo is 3-0 with a 2.22 ERA in four starts since replacing the injured Ben Sheets in the rotation, and that he's lights-out against left-handers (.170/.497) bodes rather well here. Rockies hitters are generally must-starts at Coors, but be forewarned they're riskier in this game based upon the opponent. Francis normally would be a solid start despite the Coors factor, as he's 11-2 with a 3.40 ERA in 18 starts since May 1, but the Brewers hit lefties at .279/.831 team rates, and they touched him up for six runs on seven hits, three of them home runs, in five innings on July 13. Stick with your lefty-killing Brewers: Ryan Braun, J.J. Hardy, Corey Hart et al.
Game Story: Willis won at Citizens Bank back on April 28, but he didn't pitch that great a game (6 1/3 IP, 9 H, 4 ER), and in his career he has a 5.91 ERA and 1.44 WHIP in six starts there. Still, the Phillies don't boast that many lefty killers, with Aaron Rowand (.349/.987) the best against that side. Tadahito Iguchi, 13-for-36 (.361) in his first nine games as a Phillie, should be kept in there, especially at home. Stick to NL-only formats with Willis, and do the same for Lohse, a fly-ball pitcher in a bandbox ballpark. The Marlins' core hitters have great histories against the right-hander, and red-hot Jeremy Hermida (.338/.964 since the All-Star break) warrants a look, too.
Notable Injuries: Andruw Jones, OF (elbow, day-to-day)
Game Story: Smoltz has a great track record against the Mets, with a 2.68 ERA and 1.26 WHIP in 12 starts since his return to the rotation in 2005. Plus, with his Braves still within range of the division lead, he'll bring his best to a game at Shea. Of course, Smoltz and the Braves have their work cut out for them against Hernandez, who has a 2.45 ERA and 1.03 WHIP in 18 career starts at Shea. Look for a pitchers' duel here, limiting your choices among hitters to mainly your usuals. The Braves' Kelly Johnson (1-for-2, .500, 1 HR) had a nice game against "El Duque" on April 8 and warrants your attention, while the Mets' Shawn Green (13-for-26, .500, 1 HR) hits Smoltz rather well.
Game Story: Harang is expected to make his return from back spasms in this game, and with his talent, he's well worth using in all but the shallowest leagues. Remember, his early exit from his July 28 start actually snapped a string of five quality starts, and since July 1, he has a 2.79 ERA and 1.22 WHIP in six turns. Hitter-friendly Great American Ball Park has never bothered the right-hander, though Dodgers hitters like Rafael Furcal (4-for-9, .444), Nomar Garciaparra (6-for-15, .400, 1 HR) and Kent (6-for-16, .375, 2 HR) clearly do. Keep Billingsley, he of the 3.66 ERA, 1.26 WHIP and .217 BAA in nine starts this year, active despite the road assignment in a hitters' park. These Reds are strikeout prone, though contact hitter Scott Hatteberg (.319/.908 against right-handers) isn't a bad option in NL-only or larger mixed formats.
Game Story: What a matchup of ace right-handers, and the obvious strategy here is to limit your hitting choices on either side as a result. Consider that Zambrano is 9-2 with a 1.43 ERA, 0.94 WHIP and .141 BAA in his last 12 starts, while Oswalt has won three straight starts with 0.95/0.84/.197 numbers during that span. Soriano's absence really makes the Cubs' offense less threatening; Eric Patterson and Matt Murton will platoon in left field in his place. With Oswalt a right-hander, this should be a Patterson game, not that he's a trusted option here even if he's a quality NL-only pickup overall. Instead, stick mainly to Cubs who hit Oswalt well, like Cliff Floyd (8-for-21, .381, 2 HR), and Astros who hit Zambrano well, like Carlos Lee (13-for-38, .342, 4 HR) and Luke Scott (4-for-9, .444).
Game Story: Maddux has three consecutive quality-start efforts and a 3.95 ERA in five turns since the All-Star break, though he's winless during that time, mainly due to the Padres' mediocre offense not supporting him. The Cardinals, surprisingly, are actually the higher-ranked offense for the season, placing 23rd (4.39 R/G) to the Padres' 26th (4.30). Maddux should pitch well enough to be NL-only worthy, but don't be shocked by an upset by the Cardinals, especially accounting for the fact that Juan Encarnacion (13-for-37, .351, 1 HR), Albert Pujols (11-for-33, .333, 3 HR) and Scott Rolen (22-for-67, .328, 2 HR) all hit the right-hander well. That should make Wells NL-only worthy in his own right, as he does have a 3.16 ERA in his last four starts. Mike Cameron (4-for-10, .400) and Khalil Greene (2-for-7, .286, 1 HR) have the best track records against Wells.
Notable Injuries: Xavier Nady, OF (hamstring, day-to-day)
Game Story: The Diamondbacks are baseball's worst team against left-handed pitchers, with .238/.686 team rates, and Maholm really hasn't pitched all that poorly this season, showing enough improvement against right-handed hitters and in his walk rate to put him into matchups-consideration territory. Well, this is a fine matchup for Maholm, who has four consecutive quality-start efforts, so go ahead and use him in NL-only or larger mixed formats. Eric Byrnes (5-for-7, .714) and Conor Jackson (5-for-8, .625) have the most threatening track records against the lefty, though the D-backs should really consider getting Jeff Cirillo (2-for-5, .400) in there, too. In Kim's first start for the D-backs since being nabbed off waivers from the Marlins, he's not a bad NL-only play. The Pirates are MLB's 28th-ranked offense (4.19 R/G), and only Freddy Sanchez (4-for-7, .571) and Jack Wilson (5-for-12, .417) are all that successful against Kim historically.
Notable Injuries: Felipe Lopez, SS (knee, day-to-day)
Game Story: One has to think Cain can get a win against the game's weakest offense (3.94 R/G), right? Right?! It's incredible to think that the right-hander has a paltry three wins despite a respectable 3.93 ERA, which was once a stellar 3.15 on June 16. Considering Cain has back-to-back quality starts, this should be another solid outing for him, and perhaps his fourth victory of 2007. Limit your Nationals choices to your usuals. Redding, incidentally, shouldn't get the call except from NL-only owners. Sure, he's pitched well recently, with five consecutive quality-start efforts, but his track record shows how incredibly inconsistent he can be, and how frequently he can implode at a moment's notice. What if Barry Bonds hits his record-setting 756th career homer against him? Redding could certainly unravel in that event, so be cautious with him.
Waiver Wire Pickups
Jason Bartlett, SS, MIN @ Kansas City Royals
Chad Billingsley, SP, LAD @ Cincinnati Reds
Jack Cust, DH, OAK @ Texas Rangers
Juan Encarnacion, OF, STL versus San Diego Padres
Josh Fields, 3B, CHW versus Cleveland Indians
Nomar Garciaparra, 3B, LAD @ Cincinnati Reds
Esteban German, 2B/3B, KC versus Minnesota Twins
Shawn Green, OF, NYM versus Atlanta Braves
Scott Hatteberg, 1B, CIN versus Los Angeles Dodgers
Jeremy Hermida, OF, FLA @ Philadelphia Phillies
Orlando Hernandez, SP, NYM versus Atlanta Braves
Tadahito Iguchi, 2B, PHI versus Florida Marlins
Paul Maholm, SP, PIT @ Arizona Diamondbacks
Jose Vidro, DH, SEA @ Baltimore Orioles
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.
Tristan H. Cockcroft covers fantasy sports for ESPN.com. You can e-mail him here.