After a rough couple of months in April and May in which offense in the American League was down, the AL has found its bats just in time for interleague play. Through 12 games, the AL is hitting .275/.342/.441, compared to just .257/.322/.395 in May. That's notable because while matchups for NL pitchers may look soft on the surface, they seem to be running into the AL teams at their peak, right in time for summer. So make sure to be a little more cautious and to factor in that extra degree of difficulty, especially when NL teams contend with the DH.
Matchups for Sunday
All times are ET.
Moises Alou, OF, Mets (calf)
Carl Crawford, OF, Rays (suspension)
J.J. Hardy, SS, Brewers (shoulder)
Matt Kemp, OF, Dodgers (suspension)
Victor Martinez, C, Indians (elbow)
J.J. Putz, RP, Mariners (elbow)
Kevin Correia, SP, Giants (oblique)
Michael Cuddyer, OF, Twins (hand)
Chipper Jones, 3B, Braves (eye)
Jim Thome, DH, White Sox (back)
Manny Ramirez, OF, Red Sox (knee)
Rafael Soriano, RP, Braves (elbow)
Jason Varitek, C, Red Sox (strep throat)
Start 'em, sit 'em
Hitters: It took Ryan Doumit only three games to pick up from where he left off before he hit the disabled list. He now has nine hits in his past four games, including four home runs. The only question now is whether he can handle a full load behind the plate. Troy Glaus' power has come back with a vengeance in June; he's slugging .674 with five homers on the month. Glaus still does most of his damage against lefties (five home runs, .936 OPS), but he is the type of hitter who can stay locked in for months at a time. Hitless in his past three games, there's nothing wrong with bailing on Randy Winn at the first sign that his hot streak might be over. When he's not facing a lefty, he's just a mediocre corner outfielder with no pop.
Pitchers: With 19 strikeouts in his first 20 innings, Clayton Kershaw's displaying electric stuff, but with 13 walks, including 12 in his past 14 innings, he's leaving himself with too little margin for error. All of those strikeouts and walks use up a lot of pitches, too, which is why Kershaw is averaging just five innings per start. Make sure to sit him against the Tigers. With 77 strikeouts in 79 innings to just 26 walks, Ted Lilly's raw stats (5.13 ERA, 1.35 WHIP) should drop as soon as he stops allowing so many homers (14). The Jays have been woefully inept against lefties this season, ranking 29th in OPS and last in homers, so Lilly's a strong play Sunday. John Maine has seen his ERA rise more than a quarter of a run the past three weeks, posting just two quality starts out of four tries compared to six in his first eight starts. The scorching-hot Rangers should only add to that, because their .840 OPS against right-handers leads the majors by nearly 30 points. Despite his impressive 3.21 ERA, Aaron Cook faces one of the best-hitting teams in the majors right now in the White Sox. Nick Swisher leads the rebound with a .302 average and four home runs this month. The Sox's team OPS is actually pushing .900, nearly halfway into June (.898). Their offense really has heated up, so be more cautious with marginal plays like Cook. Even though Jose Contreras was lit up for 13 hits and six runs in his most recent start, his worst of the season, solace can be found in that he allowed only two extra-base hits and zero homers. Give him another shot against an underperforming Rockies offense. Brett Myers has been atrocious on the road this season (7.32 ERA), and considering his inconsistency -- and four starts with five-plus runs allowed -- the smart play is to bench Myers against the Cards, even without Pujols. Regression to the mean is harsh and sudden: despite facing three of the weaker offenses in the NL, Micah Owings has allowed 16 runs -- 14 earned -- in his past 13 2/3 innings (three starts). Normally any pitcher facing the Royals is decent enough spot start bait, but Owings is occasionally prone to poor outings regardless of the competition. With 14 earned runs in his past three starts -- including eight to the Rays in his most recent outing -- Joe Saunders is no automatic start despite his still sterling 3.32 ERA. With five home runs allowed in those three starts along with a BABIP (.246) due for some regression, let the soft-tossing lefty prove he's still effective before risking your stats.
Hitters: Kelly Shoppach will be the Indians' regular catcher with Victor Martinez out, and he's already in the midst of a five-game hitting streak, with two home runs and a double in that span. V-Mart struggled with a .665 OPS on the season, so at the very least Shoppach can't hurt any worse as his fill-in for owners scrambling for a catcher. Speaking of catchers, Rod Barajas has quietly been one of the most solid catchers since May, hitting .329 with four home runs. He's slugging .500 and has had two previous 15-homer seasons. This season, you could do a lot worse at catcher. Russell Branyan is hot, hitting .333 with six homers in 42 at-bats against righties. A streaky hitter with a lot of power, he's the sort of player worth picking up just to ride out the hot streak with him. It seems Jason Kubel is beginning to awaken out of his season-long slump, with hits in six of his past eight games, including three home runs. Kubel is a much more talented hitter than his batting lines would suggest, so he's worth keeping an eye on. Jack Cust is in the midst of one of his prolonged hot streaks, with 10 homers and a .300 average. Available in almost 85 percent of leagues, that's a lot of freely available power out there for the taking. It's always a good idea to keep an eye on the talented but underperforming hitters, because when they do break out of their slumps, it is often a prolonged spree of production that follows. Elijah Dukes has 11 walks in his past 19 games with a .306 average in that span, and has six extra-base hits in June.
Pitchers: Nate Robertson gets to face a weakened Dodgers lineup -- Matt Kemp is the team's best hitter against lefties (.338 AVG, .965 OPS). With Jeff Kent's recent struggles and both Andre Ethier and James Loney being southpaws, there's not much pop in that lineup. Although Maddux has a 3.33 ERA and is available in nearly two-thirds of ESPN leagues, he's not the greatest spot start due to his road ERA (5.01). Hitting is once again an issue for the Diamondbacks. Since a quick start in April (.819 team OPS), the D-Backs ranked 19th in OPS in May and are slumping even further to 26th despite the summer heat that normally benefits offense. Gil Meche is coming off a strong start against the Rangers, a notable accomplishment, and his peripherals aren't too far off from last year's breakout season. He faces two National League teams and then the Orioles, so he's in a solid position to put together a good mini-stretch of starts.
The Rockies-White Sox game is the one contest with a fairly substantial chance of rain; thunderstorms are expected throughout the day in Chicago, and especially in the afternoon. Detroit also has about a 30 percent chance of rain. Six games are weather-proof: Cubs-Blue Jays, Marlins-Rays, Twins-Brewers, Yankees-Astros, Royals-Diamondbacks and Nationals-Mariners.
Adam Madison is a fantasy baseball analyst for ESPN.com