Fantasy Game Notes for Thursday: American League
Game Story: Leicester has shown good skills as a starter at the Triple-A level, but has never been able to translate his success to the majors. The results of Leicester's first start last week were not encouraging, and this duel with Angels ace Lackey is a pitching mismatch. You'll want to bench all of your Orioles against the consistently effective Lackey while loading the lineup with Angels hitters. Grab Garret Anderson, who's on fire thus far in September with four home runs and a .375/.475/.750 line.
Rogers Centre (indoor/retractable roof) 7:07 p.m. ET
Ian Kennedy, RHP (1-0, 2.25 ERA, 1.42 WHIP) versus
A.J. Burnett, RHP (8-7, 3.56 ERA, 1.14 WHIP)
Game Story: The Yankees abuse right-handed pitching, while Toronto is much stronger against lefties. Kennedy has been adequate in two starts, allowing three earned runs and 17 baserunners in 12 innings. He's not generally recommended, but can be used as a spot starter against Toronto. Burnett has been back in top form since returning from injury in August. He hasn't allowed more than three earned runs since June. Expect a low-scoring affair, and use only the essential hitters from both sides.
Notable Injuries: none
Game Story: Gaudin is continuing his free fall. After a stellar first two months he's been on a steady decline, and he's been torched for six earned runs in each of his September starts. Millwood has also been bruised up in one September outing (he left his other start after an inning due to a rain delay) but he managed a 3.86 ERA in July and a 2.95 ERA in August. Gaudin is completely off-limits right now, especially since Texas has been hitting the ball very well recently. Oakland has been hitting well too, but Millwood has shown enough progress that he's usable if you're desperate. Mark Ellis is the guy you want to pick up in this one. Not only is he on fire this week with a .650/.708/.950 line and hits in 13 of his last 20 at-bats, but he's also 9-for-23 in his career against Millwood.
Game Story: Hammel has put together two excellent starts in a row, but he's still not recommended unless you're very desperate. The up-and-down Weaver has had some outstanding stretches despite poor overall numbers, but he's down again right now. "The Weav" has surrendered 12 runs and 20 baserunners in eight September innings. He's not usable currently. Jose Guillen and Raul Ibanez are still hitting well and are worth a look for Seattle.
Fantasy Game Notes for Thursday: National League
Notable Injuries: Chris Duncan, OF, (hernia, out)
Game Story: Aaron Harang has been very solid this year, allowing no more than two runs in 16 of his starts this year. He ranks fourth in the National League in WHIP. Play only the star Cardinals hitters in this matchup. Adam Wainwright, however, has been even more sensational of late. He's surrendered more than three runs only once in his past 12 starts. Wainwright's ERA has improved each month (6.14, 5.00, 3.69, 3.09, 2.00) during the season's first five months, and he's off to a fine start in September. It's hard to believe that Wainwright still is owned in fewer than 50 percent of ESPN leagues. He's worth a pickup even though the Reds are far more productive against right-handers. Go get him, and play only the star Reds hitters as well.
NOTE: 1:13 PMAdam Wainwright was scratched from his start and will go Friday instead. He's still a good pickup for his matchup against the Cubs. Kip Wells took the mound in lieu of Wainwritght.
Game Story: Jeff Francis has been charged with three runs or fewer in five straight starts. As you'd expect, his ERA is quite a bit lower on the road. He's worth a pickup here even though his road home run rate is a little higher than you'd like to see from a guy about to pitch in Citizens Bank Park. Durbin had been serviceable since joining the rotation, but he's fallen apart in two September starts, both against the Marlins. The numbers in those two outings are ugly: 12 runs and 15 baserunners in 4.1 innings. He didn't even record an out in one of those turns! Needless to say, the struggling Durbin is to be avoided. Load your lineup with Rockies and grab Troy Tulowitzki for this game.
Minute Maid Park (indoor/retractable roof) 7:05 p.m. ET
Notable Injuries: Milton Bradley, OF, (oblique, day-to-day)
Game Story: This matchup features a pair of veterans with plenty of experience. Trachsel posted a nifty 2.37 August ERA with Baltimore, and until his last outing had gone seven consecutive starts without allowing more than three runs. Williams has been pretty solid lately, too. He's allowed three runs or fewer in six of his last seven turns. Both of these guys have a big downside in any given start, and are therefore not generally recommended, but there are certainly worse options out there if you're desperate. Since these two starters have been around so long, they have a larger historical sample size against opposing batters. Two catchers stand out as potential pickups. Brad Ausmus hasn't gotten a lot of starts lately, but has hit well this month when he has played, and he should get another start here. He's hit .476/.593/.810 against Trachsel in his career. Jason Kendall has been nearly as productive against Williams, posting a .474/.535/.605 line against the Astros' journeyman.
Notable Injuries: none
Game Story: Maddux continues to defy age. He's allowed three runs or fewer in 11 consecutive starts, and didn't walk even a single batter in 10 of those outings! Maddux posted a 2.37 ERA in August and thus far sports a 2.19 ERA in September. Go get him for this Dodger Stadium affair. Wells, however, is showing every one of his 44 years. His seven-inning performance last time out was the first time he'd pitched past the 6th since July 16th, a start he made on 9 days rest. The Dodgers may win this game, but it's not guarantede that Wells would earn the "W." He's not striking out many batters anymore and his WHILP is atrocious, so sit him, but start all your Padres.
Waiver Wire Pickups
Garret Anderson, OF, LAA @ Baltimore Orioles
Ian Kennedy, SP, NYY @ Toronto Blue Jays
Mark Ellis, 2B, OAK versus Texas Rangers
Jose Guillen, OF, SEA versus Tampa Bay Devil Rays
Raul Ibanez, OF, SEA versus Oakland Athletics
Adam Wainwright, SP, STL @ Cincinnati Reds
Troy Tulowitzki, SS, COL versus Philadelphia Phillies
Brad Ausmus, C, HOU versus Chicago Cubs
Jason Kendall, C, CHC @ Houston Astros
Greg Maddux, SP, SD @ Los Angeles Dodgers
Chad Billingsley, SP, LAD versus San Diego Padres
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.
Will Harris is a fantasy baseball analyst for ESPN.com. He can be reached at willharris@TalentedMrRoto.com