Fantasy Game Notes for Saturday: American League
Game Story: Vazquez will continue one of his most consistent seasons with a strong outing here. This season, he has a 2.51 ERA in four starts against the Twins with 28 strikeouts in 28 2/3 innings. The Twins are one of the lightest-hitting teams in the league, but Justin Morneau has a great history against Vazquez (13-for-32, .406, 6 HR). Baker may have turned into a quality start machine, but the ChiSox have hit him hard. In two starts this season, Baker has logged just eight innings with a 14.63 ERA against them. However, Joe Crede and Alex Cintron account for a lot of the damage against Baker and he should be just fine for a start in AL-only leagues.
Game Story: In his most recent outing against New York, Marcum was tagged for eight earned runs and he couldn't get out of the fifth. He did have two quality starts earlier this season against the Yankees, but let's side with recent history and avoid Marcum. Hideki Matsui is 1-for-13 against Marcum and can be benched in favor of other options. Kennedy fooled the Blue Jays' lineup through and through in his most recent outing and makes a great waiver-wire start in shallow leagues. Among Blue Jays, only Frank Thomas managed to get a hit against Kennedy in seven innings on Sept. 13. Don't start any marginal Toronto hitters.
Notable Injuries: Gary Matthews Jr., OF (ankle, questionable)
Game Story: Escobar had a poor outing against Seattle in May, but he mowed the Mariners down in a late-July meeting. With no quality starts in September, Escobar has allowed five runs in three of four starts this month. His arm may be getting tired, and the Mariners are not the team to test him against. Sit him down unless you desperately need the win. Jose Vidro has a great record against Escobar (10-for-21, .476) and warrants a spot start. The Angels have collectively hit. 320 off Batista this year and he is 2-2 in four starts versus them, so flip a coin. Kendry Morales (4-for-6) and Reggie Willits (5-for-9) are two names to have in your lineup.
Notable Injuries: Nick Swisher, OF (suspension, eligible to return)
Game Story: Keep the walks down, and try to pitch deep into the game. That's what Byrd does and when he does it for a team like the Tribe, he will win games. He is in line to do exactly that against a weakened Oakland team. Use Byrd in AL-only formats. Haren has been a league-average pitcher away from home, and should be used as that in this matchup. The Indians have not been hitting the ball hard lately, and Haren could squeeze out a six-inning, three-earned run start, but not much more.
Notable Injuries: none
Game Story: Davies won't pitch six innings, therefore won't offer a quality start. I don't think he'll give up a lot of runs to the Tigers (he did have a quality start against them as a Brave in June), but he won't get deep enough or strike out enough guys to be worth your while. Sean Casey is 4-for-9 with a home run and Carlos Guillen is 2-for-2 with a home run versus Davies. The rest of the Tigers have combined to go 0-for-16 against Davies. When his mechanics have been on, Rogers has been rock solid. Considering that the Royals fair poorly against left-handers, use Rogers as a spot start if you need a win and decent ratios.
Notable Injuries: Manny Ramirez, OF (oblique, questionable); Coco Crisp, PF (back, questionable); Kevin Youkilis, 1B (wrist, questionable); David Ortiz, DH (knee, questionable); Hideki Okajima, RP (arm, questionable); Carl Crawford, OF (knee, doubtful); Brendan Harris, 2B (latissimus dorsi, questionable)
Game Story: As much as I'd like to recommend Sonnanstine while the entire Red Sox lineup is limping, I simply can't. Sonnanstine has surrendered 15 earned runs in 15 innings against Boston and the whole lineup does the damage. Jacoby Ellsbury has a home run already off Sonnanstine and he'll get into the lineup thanks to all the aches and pains. Tampa Bay is fifth in September OPS (.834), so by no means have the Rays thrown in any towel. The Red Sox swear up and down that Dice-K is not fatigued, so we'll trust them that something else has been up with him lately. At the end of the day, he is safer in Tropicana than he is in most stadiums. Matsuzaka has a 2.92 ERA in the dome and has struck out 14 Devil Rays in 12 1/3 innings there. Akinori Iwamura must have the book on his countryman; he is for 5-for-12 versus Dice-K.
Game Story: Texas is ninth in September OPS (.813), so this is not the place to test an unknown like Liz. He was a strikeout artist this season in Double-A, but his 13 walks in 14 major league innings indicate that his control isn't ready for the big leagues. Volquez has been quite decent since his September call-up, and makes a good AL-only start. The Orioles are a measly 28th in OPS this month (.704).
Fantasy Game Notes for Saturday: National League
Game Story: First things, first. When you see a closer marked as questionable this late in the year, you should roster the vulture right away. Aggregate stats likes saves make a big difference, and even if you don't need one, your competition does. Check on the availability of Bob Howry in your league. With two southpaws on the hill, we have to be wary of each team's splits. Pittsburgh hits lefties very well, 11th in team OPS (.785); while Chicago has some issues versus left-handers (26th in team OPS, .733). Sure enough, during a forgettable year from Duke, he has a quality start logged against the Cubs. Duke looks like an NL-only option in deep leagues. Hill has troubles against Pittsburgh, with a 5.54 ERA in two starts this season. Although I wouldn't start Hill, I'd leave Jason Bay and Jose Bautista on the bench. They are a combined 0-for-22 versus Hill.
Notable Injuries: none
Game Story: Milwaukee trails only Colorado in September OPS (.863), and furthermore, Smoltz was chased after 3 1/3 innings, surrendering eight runs, in his only start against the Brew Crew this season. Considering you have to go back to Aug. 3 to find a nonquality start by Smoltz and back to June 27 to find two, I think he'll be just fine. Gallardo is avoidable here. He has a 4.88 ERA on the road and has never faced Atlanta. There are some other spot starts to consider.
Notable Injuries: Shawn Green, 1B (personal, questionable); Carlos Delgado, 1B (hip, questionable); Luis Castillo, 2B (knee, questionable); Billy Wagner, RP (back, questionable); Armando Benitez, RP (back, doubtful)
Game Story: Look for Pedro Feliciano on the waiver wire while Wagner is nursing a sore back. Those extra saves are ever so important. The Marlins are pounding the ball in September, with the league's third-best OPS of .838 this month. Perez has had a bit of trouble with the Fish this season, and he should be left on the bench unless you really need every last strikeout. Cody Ross victimizes left-handers and that includes Perez (4-for-11, .364 versus Ollie). Moises Alou is just one of several Mets who pound the ball off Kim. Don't approach Kim with a 10-foot pole. Note the chance of showers, though, and don't bank too much on this game.
Notable Injuries: Dmitri Young, 1B (neck/head, doubtful)
Game Story: Some of the pitchers that Washington is able to squeeze decent ERA numbers out of astound me. Yet I am no closer to recommending Redding for a fantasy spot start. It's been a month since he pitched more than five innings in a game. Feel free to experiment with some Phillies hitters like Jayson Werth (1-for-3 with a home run versus Redding) and Wes Helms (.316 with two home runs versus Redding). Kendrick gives the Phillies close to a quality start every time he is out there, which is usually good for a win.
Game Story: No Pujols, no Edmonds, no Scott Rolen, no Chris Duncan, no Juan Encarnacion, no Adam Kennedy and no Preston Wilson. Not exactly the Cardinals team we thought we were getting at the start of the season. The knock on Albers may be that he looks like a Triple-A pitcher, well, this is a Triple-A lineup he's facing. Albers is 2-0 with a 0.63 ERA in two starts against St. Louis and he makes a great add for this game. Thompson hasn't thrown more than 55 pitches in an outing since July. He doesn't deserve any attention here. Lance Berkman is 3-for-4 with two home runs versus Thompson.
AT&T Park (outdoor) 9:05 p.m. ET (partly cloudy, low of 55 degrees with a slight chance of showers)
Bronson Arroyo, RHP (9-14, 4.37 ERA, 1.41 WHIP) versus
Kevin Correia, RHP (4-6, 3.45 ERA, 1.35 WHIP)
Game Story: Correia finally got into triple-digit pitches in his most recent start, so he should be useful here as he has a better chance to pitch six innings. With most of the dangerous bats shut down by the Reds, he should make some NL-only owners happy. Arroyo has been pitching quite well of late, and he is a great start here. He gets the league's worst offense without its best hitter. That is a formula for success. For their whole careers, the Giants' lineup hits a combined .205 against Arroyo. Get him in your lineup.
Notable Injuries: Rafael Furcal, SS (back, questionable)
Game Story: Wells actually gets a free pass for his one poor start in Dodger Blue, as he was in Coors Field. He is definitely an option for a spot start against the Diamondbacks, who rank 29th in the league for OPS versus southpaws (.714). Have a look at Stephen Drew though, as he is 3-for-8 with a 1.125 OPS against Boomer. Webb does some of his best pitching against the Dodgers, so feel free to bench most of your L.A. hitters. Webb is 3-0 this season with a 0.39 ERA versus the Dodgers.
Game Story: The Padres lineup has a strong history of hitting Redman. I wouldn't mess around by starting him. For that matter, Cassel may have had a great outing against the Pirates, but Colorado is first in September OPS (.862) and will give him a much harder time. His numbers in Triple-A weren't spectacular anyway (3.91 ERA, .315 BAA). Start your borderline hitters in this game. There should be a lot of runs, especially for a game in Petco.
Waiver Wire Pickups
Ian Kennedy, SP, NYY versus Toronto Blue Jays
Jose Vidro, 2B, SEA @ Los Angeles Angels
Kendry Morales, 1B, LAA versus Seattle Mariners
Paul Byrd, SP, CLE versus Oakland Athletics
Kenny Rogers, SP, DET versus Kansas City Royals
Jacoby Ellsbury, OF, BOS @ Tampa Bay Devil Rays
Akinori Iwamura, 3B, TB versus Boston Red Sox
Edinson Volquez, SP, TEX versus Baltimore Orioles
Bob Howry, RP, CHC versus Pittsburgh Pirates
Pedro Feliciano, RP, NYM @ Florida Marlins
Cody Ross, OF, FLA versus New York Mets
Moises Alou, OF, NYM @ Florida Marlins
Jayson Werth, OF, PHI @ Washington Nationals
Wes Helms, 3B, PHI @ Washington Nationals
Kyle Kendrick, SP, PHI Washington Nationals
Matt Albers, SP, HOU @ St. Louis Cardinals
David Wells, SP, LAD @Arizona Diamondbacks
Stephen Drew, SS, ARI 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.
Sean Allen is a fantasy baseball analyst for ESPN.com. He can be reached at alla_rino@TalentedMrRoto.com