Fantasy Game Notes for Monday: American League
Notable Injuries: Richie Sexson, 1B (hamstring, doubtful); Roger Clemens (blisters, day-to-day)
Game Story: Although both teams' offenses finished among the league's best in OPS this past month -- the Yankees second, the Mariners third -- both also experienced a precipitous slump to end the month. Unfortunately, Hernandez has been one of the most inconsistent pitchers this season, only once stringing together even three quality starts in a row. A lot of it is bad luck -- his .347 BABIP is one point from being the worst in the majors -- but the Yankees crush righties and could come alive any time. The Mariners were briefly masquerading as an elite offense in August, but they basically have an average offense that is currently struggling, so Clemens should do quite well if he starts. If he is unable to start, look for Mike Mussina to try to reclaim his rotation spot.
Notable Injuries: Joe Mauer, C (hamstring and ankle, day-to-day)
Game Story: This very same matchup occurred a week ago, with Sabathia pitching much better than Santana and getting the win. Santana's home run problems seemed as though they were going away, but with five home runs allowed in his past two starts -- his 29 allowed this season is already a career high -- they're once again a worry. Santana has a 4.06 ERA against the Indians in five starts this season, and the seven home runs allowed are a major reason why. Franklin Gutierrez is a particularly big threat, with his four home runs in 80 at-bats against lefties. You could argue that Sabathia, who hasn't allowed more than two runs in eight straight starts, should be the favorite in the presumed pitchers' duel.
Game Story: Litsch has logged four quality starts in a row, albeit mostly against the weaker teams in the AL (the Royals, Orioles and Athletics made up three of those starts). Facing Red Sox likely to be without Ramirez (or with a limited one, as his August numbers suggested) is a stroke of good luck, but even without Ramirez, the Red Sox are still fairly above average. The Sox are also significantly better at home, and with just 33 strikeouts in 79 1/3 innings for Litsch, it's an uncomfortable matchup at best. It doesn't help that he's going against Matsuzaka, who shouldn't have any problem against a Jays team that, outside of Matt Stairs, has few serious threats against quality right-handers.
Notable Injuries: none
Game Story: Birkins is the rotational fill-in since the Orioles traded Steve Trachsel. It's his first start of the season, and with his being a career minor leaguer, expect the worse, especially against a Devil Rays team that hits well against lefties, particularly Jonny Gomes (four home runs, .325 average in 83 at-bats). Shields faced the Orioles in his last start, allowing four runs in eight innings -- essentially the equivalent of a quality start -- and he has a 3.60 ERA and 1.20 WHIP in four starts against them this season. The Orioles' offense is decent, with the main standout being Aubrey Huff, who had a monstrous August (eight home runs, .363 average).
Notable Injuries: Frank Catalanotto, OF (groin, day-to-day)
Game Story: Greinke has had two successful starts in his return to the rotation, not allowing any runs in his first seven innings. On a pitch count to get his stamina back, he went from 48 pitches in his first start to 71 in his second; given another 15 or 20 pitches for this start, Greinke suddenly becomes an option against a weak Rangers offense. Outside of Jarrod Saltalamacchia, no one has lived up to hitting expectations. Loe has shown a tendency to be decent against weaker offenses, albeit with a tendency to blow up. The Royals -- and this might be a broken record for the next couple of years -- have little outside of Alex Gordon and Billy Butler, and even though Kansas City posted six runs on Loe the last time they faced off, Loe is still worth a shot.
Notable Injuries: Chone Figgins, 3B (wrist, questionable)
Game Story: Gaudin has allowed two or fewer runs in three of his past four starts, a performance just good enough to make you think he's not totally unusable in light of his 6.44 ERA in July. The Angels have been on fire the past week, though (.323/.368/.509 line), and from July 12 to Aug. 7, Gaudin didn't have a start in which he allowed fewer than four runs; suffice to say this won't be one of those positive outings. Most of that offense is coming from Garret Anderson, who has four home runs in his past six games. Also, Howie Kendrick is hitting .434 since returning from the disabled list. Santana has allowed at least four runs in seven of his past eight starts; the few A's bats worth starting (Jack Cust, Mark Ellis) should capitalize.
Fantasy Game Notes for Monday: National League
Notable Injuries: Josh Willingham, OF (back, day-to-day)
Game Story: VandenHurk has 72 strikeouts in 72 1/3 innings, which is surprising, but otherwise has pretty much earned his ERA, and any prospective shot at being a spot starter is eliminated when you see he can't last deep into games; he hasn't made it past the sixth inning for seven straight starts. Although he has held the Cardinals and Braves to one run each in his past two starts and faces a mediocre Nationals offense, it's normally best to totally avoid pitchers who barely do enough to keep a roster spot regardless whom they face. Bergmann started off the season well but has been atrocious recently. The Marlins have about half of a great lineup, and red-hot Willingham likely will play, too, so avoid Bergmann.
Notable Injuries: Yunel Escobar, SS (elbow, day-to-day)
Game Story: Since acquiring Mark Teixeira, the Braves, as expected, have had one of the best offenses in baseball. It also helps that Teixeira helped solved their previous problems against left-handers; toss in Matt Diaz against lefties, as well (nine home runs, .370 average), and there aren't any weak spots in the lineup. Moyer turned in a quality start against the Braves three starts ago, but it would be an upset if he could repeat that performance. Cormier has been decent in his past three starts, logging quality starts in two of them and holding his own against the Reds, but the Phillies are just too tough. The return of Chase Utley has paid immediate dividends; in the past week, the team has a 1.012 OPS. Jayson Werth, the fill-in for Shane Victorino, hit .414 in August, as well.
Notable Injuries: none
Game Story: Pedro gets about the toughest debut start possible, facing a Reds offense that finished with the best OPS in baseball in August (.874) and that is particularly fearsome against righties. Alex Gonzalez (.404 average, three home runs), Josh Hamilton (four home runs) and Edwin Encarnacion (.350 average, four homers) give much-needed balance to the lineup. You also have to imagine that Pedro, who averaged fewer than six innings per start last season, might be on a pitch count. Despite allowing nine home runs in August, Harang still had a 3.35 ERA, largely because he walked just four batters. The Mets are a tough test, though -- Carlos Delgado is officially hot, and Moises Alou hit .330 with seven homers in August -- so the gopher balls might bite him.
Notable Injuries: none
Game Story: The Brewers' offense has really declined since the All-Star break; sixth in OPS before the break, Milwaukee ranks just 17th since. Rickie Weeks (.327 average, two home runs, five stolen bases in August) has shown some life recently, but otherwise most of the lineup has been on a downward trend. Oswalt has been superb recently, with a 1.01 ERA in his past seven starts, so one really can't expect much from the Brewers on Monday. Sheets had a successful return from the disabled list against the Cubs last week, and a healthy Sheets is always one of the league's best pitchers. As a result, you end up with a pitchers' duel.
Game Story: Maholm has been quite respectable recently -- lasting at least seven innings in each of his past four starts, and allowing two or fewer runs in three of them -- and has a 3.69 ERA since June. The Cardinals have officially lost Encarnacion and Scott Rolen for the rest of the season, and Chris Duncan hit .191 in August and hits only .221 against lefties, so Maholm is a nice spot start for Monday. Many of the Pirates' hot bats have cooled off to end August, although Freddy Sanchez and LaRoche are still hitting. It's Kip Wells, though; his ERA hasn't been horrible in recent weeks because he hasn't allowed many home runs, but any pitcher with a WHIP that high is perpetually in the danger zone.
Notable Injuries: none
Game Story: After a rough July (6.58 ERA, 1.81 WHIP), Cain turned in a brilliant August (2.18 ERA, 0.97 WHIP) and has allowed three or fewer runs in his past seven starts. In his last start, he struck out eight and allowed one run in seven innings against Colorado. But facing the Rockies in AT&T Park and facing the Rockies in Coors Field are entirely different propositions; their OPS is 129 points higher in Coors. Unfortunately for Cain, that's where this game takes place, so it wouldn't be surprising to see that quality start streak come to an end. Of course, the same park effects apply to the Giants, but the difference is the San Francisco squad can't hit anywhere, so Francis, if not in line for another complete game shutout, should have another good start, at least.
Notable Injuries: none
Game Story: Loaiza got to face an offense that can't put up much of a fight against right-handers two times in a row in the Blue Jays, and the Cubs, save one Alfonso Soriano returned from the disabled list, aren't much different. Jacque Jones showed his first signs of life in August, hitting .349 with three home runs, but otherwise the Cubs have struggled to find offense from anyone other than their big three, so Loaiza's a fine option. Zambrano has an 8.21 ERA in his past four starts, inexplicably getting pasted by the Astros and Giants, two of baseball's worst offenses. If he can't recover against the Dodgers -- they finished 29th in OPS in August -- it definitely will be panic-worthy.
Notable Injuries: Conor Jackson, 1B (wrist, day-to-day)
Game Story: In another repeat matchup, this one from five days ago, Maddux and Owings face off again, just in a different park. That helps the Padres more than the D-backs because the San Diego offense so often is handicapped by its home park. On the road, the Padres are much better (.770 OPS, 10th) and had their best month in August (816 OPS, seventh). Owings is pitching legitimately well, though, with a 3.03 ERA and 0.93 WHIP in August, and it's always difficult to bench a hot starter. The point is it's a riskier matchup for Owings than it seems on the surface. For Maddux, not so much; for one, he has a 2.45 ERA in his past nine starts, and more importantly, the D-backs have been consistent in their offensive woes.
Waiver Wire Pickups
Franklin Gutierrez, OF, CLE @ Minnesota Twins
Jonny Gomes, OF, TB vs. Baltimore Orioles
Aubrey Huff, 1B, BAL @ Tampa Bay Devil Rays
Zack Grienke, SP, KC @ Texas Rangers
Kameron Loe, SP, TEX vs. Kansas City Royals
Alex Gordon, 3B, KC @ Texas Rangers
Billy Butler, 1B, KC @ Texas Rangers
Garret Anderson, OF, LAA vs. Oakland Athletics
Howie Kendrick, 2B, LAA vs. Oakland Athletics
Jack Cust, OF, OAK @ Los Angeles Angels
Mark Ellis, 2B, OAK @ Los Angeles Angels
Matt Diaz, OF, ATL vs. Philadelphia Phillies
Jayson Werth, OF, PHI @ Atlanta Braves
Alex Gonzalez, SS, CIN vs. New York Mets
Josh Hamilton, OF, CIN vs. New York Mets
Edwin Encarnacion, 3B, CIN vs. New York Mets
Moises Alou, OF, NYM @ Cincinnati Reds
Paul Maholm, SP, PIT @ St. Louis Cardinals
Adam LaRoche, 1B, PIT @ St. Louis Cardinals
Jeff Francis, SP, COL vs. San Francisco Giants
Esteban Loaiza, SP, LAD @ Chicago Cubs
Greg Maddux, SP, SD @ Arizona Diamondbacks
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 stints 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.