Fantasy Game Notes for Friday: American League
Game Story: We start off with the pitching matchup of the day. If you're a Bedard owner who is afraid of starting him against the Red Sox's fourth-ranked offense (5.17 runs per game), which has a .285 batting average and .808 OPS against left-handers, fret not. The left-hander beat the Red Sox in Boston on July 31, tossing six innings of two-run, two-hit baseball. He also has a 2.15 ERA and 1.15 WHIP in 10 starts at home this season, Cy Young-caliber rates. Of course, Dice-K has been about as effective as any pitcher in baseball since June 1, with a 2.64 ERA, 1.23 WHIP and .223 BAA in 12 starts during that span. It'll be the Orioles' first crack at Matsuzaka, so don't get creative with hitters on their side, and if you're looking at Red Sox hitters, know that Wily Mo Pena (5-for-9, .556) is the only one with a particularly interesting history against Bedard, and he might not even get to play.
Game Story: Hughes pitched terribly in his first start back from the DL, but then it was probably asking a lot of him to succeed coming off such a lengthy absence. Expect a small step forward in performance, but against a team as potent as the Indians (5.09 runs per gam, 6th in baseball), it's better to sit the right-hander and use this outing for evaluation purposes. Expect the Indians to be at their best against the Yankees, who could be their primary competition in the wild card it they fall out of the AL Central division race, with red-hot hitters Ryan Garko (.363 AVG, 1.072 OPS since the All-Star break) and Franklin Gutierrez (.292/.827) worth considering. Carmona, despite facing the game's hottest offense since the All-Star break (7.64 R/G), should be kept active, too. He has a 1.22 ERA and .195 batting average against in five starts since the break, including an eight-inning no-run effort at home against the Red Sox. Keep your red-hot Yankees -- like Bobby Abreu, Melky Cabrera and Robinson Cano -- active, but don't expect huge efforts on their side.
Notable Injuries: Mark Kotsay, OF (back, day-to-day)
Game Story: These Tigers might be slumping, but the fact remains that they've averaged 4.78 runs per game since the All-Star break, 12th in baseball, and they racked up 16 in the first three games of their home series against the Devil Rays. They got to Blanton in Oakland on July 30 (6 2/3 IP, 9 H, 5 ER), and Curtis Granderson (7-for-14, .500), Carlos Guillen (4-for-10, .400), Craig Monroe (7-for-11, .636) and Placido Polanco (9-for-13, .692) have tremendous track records against the right-hander. Tata, meanwhile, defeated Blanton in that July 30 contest (7 IP, 6 H, 2 ER), and with the Athletics strugglin on offense (23rd ranked in baseball), it's not a bad time to exploit the rookie in AL-only formats. Jack Cust (.268/.943 against righties) is your strongest bet on Oakland's side.
Notable Injuries: None
Game Story: Marcum is your perfect matchups type, normally winning the games he should and being only ordinary in the games against stronger lineups, so with the Royals only a below-average offense (16th, 4.65 R/G), it's a fine time to use the Blue Jays right-hander. That doesn't mean you should assume the win for Marcum, though. With Meche taking the mound for Kansas City, this could be a lower-scoring affair -- especially since the Blue Jays lean so heavily towards the right-handed side. Reed Johnson (4-for-8, .500) and Alex Rios (5-for-6, .833) absolutely own Meche. Among Royals, go for David DeJesus (.288/.795) and Joey Gathright (.365/.855), who hit right-handers well.
Notable Injuries: None
Game Story: What a season Vazquez has had. He has eight quality starts in his past nine tries, with a 6-1 record, 2.70 ERA and 1.01 WHIP during that span. In fact, one could blame some of the Tigers' recent hitting problems on Vazquez, who has beaten them twice in the past two-and-a-half weeks. Homer-friendly U.S. Cellular Field doesn't seem to bother him -- he has a 3.25 ERA and 0.96 WHIP in 10 starts there this year -- so keep him in there, even against a top-10 offense like the Mariners (9th, 4.90 R/G). Adrian Beltre (13-for-28, .464, 1 HR) and Jose Guillen (7-for-19, .368, 1 HR) do have good histories against him, though. Stick with Batista in AL-only and perhaps deep-mixed formats, too. He's 4-2 with a 2.84 ERA in his past eight starts, and the White Sox are baseball's 25th-ranked offense (4.31 R/G). Darin Erstad (7-for-10, .700, 1 HR) has a good handle on him.
Notable Injuries: Jerry Hairston Jr., OF (back, DL)
Game Story: Maybe Sonnanstine throws too many strikes; 66.7 percent of his pitches since the All-Star break have been strikes. During that span, he's 0-4 with a 7.28 ERA and .317 BAA. The Rangers' offense might not be what it was last year or even earlier this season, but it still boasts enough punch to make the rookie a pitcher to avoid. Ian Kinsler has hit well since his return from the DL, with .341/.790 rates, and Marlon Byrd (.314/.844) hits right-handers effectively. As for McCarthy, keep in mind he has a 3.31 ERA and 1.27 WHIP in his past six starts, and 3.75/1.33 rates in two quality starts against the Devil Rays this season. As always against a right-hander, use Carlos Pena (.289/1.010), and stick with the red-hot Delmon Young (.340/.804 since the break).
Notable Injuries: Brian Buscher, 3B (leg, DL)
Game Story: The Scott Baker of 2007 has looked a lot like the Scott Baker of 2005 lately, with a 3.09 ERA, 0.92 WHIP and .215 BAA in his past eight starts. During that time he has beaten some pretty decent offenses -- including the Tigers and Indians. Those numbers mean it's safe enough to use the right-hander in AL-only and deep-mixed formats despite this matchup the seventh-ranked Angels (5.08 R/G). Of course, a win might be tough for him to nab; he is facing Escobar and his Twins have by far the game's weakest offense since the All-Star break (3.32 R/G). Escobar, by comparison, is a must-start in all formats, and he should drastically limit your hitting choices among Twins. Among Angels, stick with the hotter bats, including Garret Anderson (.284/.823 since the All-Star break), Chone Figgins (.432/1.039) and Casey Kotchman (.342/.848).
Fantasy Game Notes for Friday: National League
Citizens Bank Park (outdoor) 7:05 p.m. ET (20 percent chance of rain, low of 69 degrees, winds of 11 mph)
Chuck James, LHP (9-8, 3.84 ERA, 1.44 WHIP) versus
Cole Hamels, LHP (12-5, 3.57 ERA, 1.15 WHIP)
Notable Injuries: None
Game Story: It's an interesting matchup of up-and-coming lefties. James, however, is a fly-ball pitcher and could be a risky play at the bandbox that is Citizens Bank Park. The red-hot Pat Burrell (.410/1.256 since the All-Star break) hits him well (5-for-12, .417, 2 HR) and so do Jimmy Rollins (7-for-13, .538) and Aaron Rowand (3-for-7, .429, 1 HR). Citizens Bank certainly doesn't seem to bother Hamels; he's 11-5 with a 3.68 ERA and 1.12 WHIP in 20 career starts there. Neither does facing the Braves. Andruw Jones (4-for-10, .400, 1 HR) and Chipper Jones (2-for-6, .333, 2 HR) have the best track records against the lefty. Also, keep using Matt Diaz against lefties.
Game Story: Following the David Wells' departure, Ledezma gets the spot start for the Padres, which is more because Clay Hensley was ineligible for the promotion than the left-hander having proven deserving. Ledezma, a former Tiger, was once a deep sleeper as a starter, but he lost a lot of that luster after pitching so poorly in relief this season. These Padres sure can pick pitching gems, but in a spot start at hitter-friendly Great American Ball Park, Ledezma isn't worth your time, even against a Reds team that is extremly weak against southpaws (.242/.697 team rates). Left-handed hitters (.296/.784 career rates) actually hit him as well as right-handers (.277/.798), so load up on Reds. Consider Belisle in NL-only formats, as well, against a Padres offense averaging 4.15 runs per game since the All-Star break (second-worst in baseball). If Bradley sneaks in there, though, keep him active, noting his .353/1.104 rates since the break.
Shea Stadium (outdoor) 7:10 p.m. ET (50 percent chance of rain, low of 65 degrees, winds up to 13 mph)
Daniel Barone, RHP (1st career MLB start) or
Gaby Hernandez, RHP (1st career MLB start) versus
Brian Lawrence, RHP (1-0, 5.40 ERA, 1.60 WHIP)
Notable Injuries: Josh Willingham, OF (kidney stones, day-
Game Story: The Marlins pushed Scott Olsen back to Saturday in order to split up the vacated Byung-Hyun Kim's and rookie Rick Vanden Hurk's rotation spots, with the thinking that Olsen can eat up innings in between and preserve the bullpen. Barone, 7-0 with a 4.09 ERA in 10 starts for Triple-A Albuquerque, is a pitch-to-contact type (4.52 K/9, 2.04 BB/9 ratios), and one a bit susceptible to left-handed hitters. Hernandez, more of a long shot for the start, is 7-9 with a 3.65 ERA in 23 starts for Double-A Carolina, and a bit too walk-prone (3.37 BB/9) to be trusted. Load up on Mets, particularly left-handed ones like Carlos Delgado and Shawn Green and red-hot hitters like Lastings Milledge (.314/.855 since the break). Don't include Lawrence in that mix, though. The right-hander is himself a pitch-to-contact type, so he won't take advantage of a Marlins team that strikes out more than any other (928 times!). Besides your usual Marlins, take a shot on red-hot hitters Jeremy Hermida (.325/.930 since the break) and Josh Willingham (.304/.997).
Notable Injuries: Tony Graffanino, 2B (knee, day-to-day)
Game Story: Bush has been rather home run prone since the All-Star break -- eight in 23 1/3 innings -- so be cautious with him; the Astros have hit the fifth-most homers during that span (33). He's NL-only worthy and that's about it. Lance Berkman (9-for-20, .450) has hit him well over the years, while Mike Lamb (.293/.886) and Luke Scott (.372/1.248) have been hot enough since the break to warrant looks. Jennings, meanwhile, should be avoided based on his 11.10 ERA and .369 BAA in six games (five starts) after the break. The Brewers, despite their recent struggles (4.37 R/G since the break), can hit. Craig Counsell (12-for-31, .387, 2 HR) and Geoff Jenkins (3-for-7, .429) are especially attractive options based on their histories against Jennings.
Notable Injuries: Scott Spiezio, OF (illness, day-to-day)
Game Story: That abdominal strain hasn't bothered Penny much; he is coming off back-to-back quality starts -- despite losing each. Since the All-Star break Penny has a respectable 3.62 ERA and 1.24 WHIP in five starts. Keep him active, but remember that a number of Cardinals hit him well, including Chris Duncan (4-for-5, .800, 1 HR), Albert Pujols (12-for-28, .429, 1 HR) and Scott Rolen (9-for-29, .310). Despite his disastrous 2 2/3-inning, eight-run, seven-hit outing at Los Angeles on May 15, expect Wainwright to keep this game close. The right-hander has a 4-1 record and 3.23 ERA in six starts since July 1, though it's worth playing those favorable Dodger hitters' histories against him: Andre Ethier (2-for-3, .667), Rafael Furcal (4-for-5, .800) and Russell Martin (2-for-2, 1.000).
Game Story: Marquis' only two career starts at Coors were victories and quality starts (Sept. 26, 2004, and May 30, 2005,), so the only owners who should really fear this matchup are those in mixed leagues with better alternatives. It's easy to steer clear of anyone at Coors after watching the Brewers' Yovani Gallardo get rocked there the other day, but don't call that disaster the norm for a visiting pitcher. Brad Hawpe (6-for-12, .500, 1 HR) and Yorvit Torrealba (3-for-5, .600) hit Marquis well, though. As far as Chicago is concerned,Cliff Floyd (4-for-8, .500, 1 HR) and Jacque Jones (2-for-6, .333, 1 HR) hit Cook, who should be avoided in this home game against a potent offense. The right-hander has a 5.50 ERA and 1.39 WHIP in 11 starts at Coors this season.
Notable Injuries: Dmitri Young, 1B (hamstring, day-to-day)
Game Story: This is actually Hernandez's third start against his former team since his trade to Arizona last August; he has a 2.38 ERA, 1.06 WHIP and .235 BAA in those outings. Current Nationals are a combined 59-for-174 (.339) against him, but roll the dice and play the matchup, at least in all but shallow-mixed formats. Among the Nationals Ronnie Belliard (10-for-33, .303), Austin Kearns (9-for-22, .409) and Felipe Lopez (9-for-22, .409) have been successful against Hernandez. Chico, meanwhile, isn't as bad an NL-only bet as you might think. The D-backs are baseball's worst offense against left-handers (.238/.690), with only Eric Byrnes (.271/.894) and Orlando Hudson (.292/.812) all that threatening. Rookie Justin Upton, however, warrants a look based on how prominent a role the D-backs are handing him, playing him regularly and hitting him in prime lineup spots.
Game Story: In only his second start for the Pirates, Morris heads right back to the park he called his home the first four months of the season. He had a 3.93 ERA and 1.47 WHIP in 11 starts at AT&T this year, and because the Giants have such a weak offense (26th, 4.29 R/G), it's not a bad NL-only matchup. The Giants' hitting woes actually override the fact that Morris has a 7.97 ERA in six starts since July 1. Still, Ray Durham (5-for-13, .385) and Ryan Klesko (9-for-25, .360, 1 HR) have track records against him worth exploiting. Ortiz gets the nod in a spot-start situation stepping in for Lowry, whose best-case scenario is that he pitches Monday. Sure, the Pirates rank as baseball's third-worst offense (4.24 R/G), but don't reach for the right-hander, who has been one of the most hittable pitchers of the past few seasons. Jason Bay (6-for-14, .429), Cesar Izturis (10-for-31, .323) and Jack Wilson (6-for-15, .400) hit Ortiz rather well.
Waiver Wire Pickups
Milton Bradley, OF, SD @ Cincinnati Reds
Craig Counsell, 2B, MIL @ Houston Astros
Jack Cust, DH/OF, OAK @ Detroit Tigers
David DeJesus, OF, KC versus Toronto Blue Jays
Matt Diaz, OF, ATL @ Philadelphia Phillies
Darin Erstad, OF, CHW versus Seattle Mariners
Ryan Garko, 1B, CLE versus New York Yankees
Jeremy Hermida, OF, FLA @ New York Mets
Livan Hernandez, SP, ARI versus Washington Nationals
Ian Kinsler, 2B, TEX versus Tampa Bay Devil Rays
Shaun Marcum, SP, TOR @ Kansas City Royals
Brandon McCarthy, SP, TEX versus Tampa Bay Devil Rays
Lastings Milledge, OF, NYM versus Florida Marlins
Craig Monroe, OF, DET versus Oakland Athletics
David Ross, C, CIN versus San Diego Padres
Yorvit Torrealba, C, COL versus Chicago Cubs
Justin Upton, OF, ARI versus Washington Nationals
Adam Wainwright, SP, STL versus 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.
Tristan H. Cockcroft covers fantasy sports for ESPN.com. You can e-mail him here.