Matchups for Sunday, April 19
Only two pitchers who could legitimately be called staff aces are scheduled to start Sunday. A lot of fourth and fifth starters trot out to the mound, just trying not to get pasted too badly. Randy Johnson makes his second start of the season against the division rival Padres, facing fellow southpaw Randy Wolf (1.42 ERA, 18 strikeouts), and may be the best on-paper pitching matchup. (Editor's note: Yovani Gallardo and Luke Hochevar have been announced as the starters in the previously "tbd" matchups. Gallardo faces the Reds in his first start off the DL, while Hochevar makes his season debut against the Athletics. Both are capable of winning and look to be in fine form. Also, note that the Blue Jays have released Frank Thomas.)
All times are ET. Statistics are from the 2007 regular season.
Coco Crisp, OF, Red Sox (leg)
Travis Hafner, DH, Indians (shoulder)
Gabe Kapler, OF, Brewers (shoulder)
Carlos Pena, 1B, Rays (hamstring)
Jorge Posada, C, Yankees (shoulder)
Jimmy Rollins, SS, Phillies (ankle)
Start 'em, sit 'em
Hitters: Lastings Milledge against Scott Olsen is a matchup you want; Milledge has a five-game hitting streak intact, and he hits lefties appreciably better. Yunel Escobar is picking up and improving from where he left off last year, hitting .328 with three home runs. With an 8-to-10 strikeout-to-walk rate, Escobar's start is promising, especially since he's in the midst of an 11-game hitting streak. There aren't many shortstops playing better right now. With Steve Trachsel on the mound, the entire Yankees lineup is enticing, including Melky Cabrera and Jason Giambi, who make particularly strong starts. There's a strong possibility Trachsel, who already has allowed two home runs and nine walks compared to just four strikeouts in 14 1/3 innings, will be bombed. Chris Duncan against a lefty (.203 average career), means you better make sure he's benched.
Pitchers: The Brewers' powerful bats in Great American Ballpark is a little worrisome, but the Brewers are susceptible to strikeouts and struggle against righties as the lineup leans heavily to the right. Aaron Harang should rebound from his most recent start (five runs in six innings) and is in a position to have his best start of the young season. The Braves have been hitting the tar out of the ball, with a .276/.349/.508 team line against right-handers this month, so make sure to reserve Hiroki Kuroda. The Orioles three best hitters (Brian Roberts, Nick Markakis and Luke Scott) all perform significantly better against righties in their career, which bodes well for Andy Pettitte's success; as previously mentioned, the run support should be there for a win. Ryan Dempster already dominated the Pirates once (seven shutout innings on April 9), and outside of Nate McLouth and his 16-game hitting streak, the Pirates aren't hitting much. It's playing with fire, but may as well consider Dempster a viable spot start.
Hitters: Aaron Hill mashed lefties last season (.317 average, seven home runs in 145 at-bats) and he faces Nate Robertson, a non-descript lefty who's allowed at least four runs in each of his three starts. Look for Milton Bradley to break out soon, as he's in the midst of a 13-game hitting streak, has 11 walks to nine strikeouts and seven doubles. The home runs should come, as he hit 11 in 144 at-bats with the Padres last season. The left-handed John Danks on the mound means Jonny Gomes should start at DH. Gomes kills lefties (19 home runs in 330 at-bats with a .291 average for his career) and has two doubles in his past two games.
Pitchers: Paul Byrd was roughed up in his first two starts (nine earned runs in 7 1/3 innings), but shut out the Red Sox in his most recent start, and more importantly goes up against the lowly Twins on Sunday. Against a similarly unimpressive Twins lineup last season, Byrd had a 3.47 ERA and 1.07 WHIP in four starts. Braden Looper is the daily "play whoever's facing the Giants" option. Dana Eveland's been a decent surprise so far, and with a favorable matchup against the Royals -- at home -- he's worth a spot start. Randy Wolf had a soft schedule so far, but does have 18 strikeouts in 19 innings nonetheless. But the D-backs have been hot, with Conor Jackson, Justin Upton and Chris Young hammering lefties, and Chase Field is a notorious hitters park, so play it safe with Wolf.
Baltimore is expected to see thunderstorms beginning in the late morning and continuing throughout the entire day, so consider Yankees-Orioles to be threatened. Mets-Phillies could be wet, as some showers are expected at night, but shouldn't be too serious.
Adam Madison is a fantasy baseball analyst for ESPN.com.