Only seven games are set for Thursday, but seven of the sport's 10 weakest offensive teams will take the field, providing plenty of potential opportunities to pick up quality filler innings.
Matchups for Thursday, Sept. 4
All times are ET.
Carl Crawford, OF, Rays (hand)
Alex Gordon, 3B, Royals (quad)
Jerry Hairston Jr., SS/OF, Reds (hamstring)
Maicer Izturis, SS, Angels (thumb)
Howie Kendrick, 2B, Angels (hamstring)
Evan Longoria, 3B, Rays (wrist)
Mike Aviles, SS, Royals (finger)
Erick Aybar, SS, Angels (hamstring)
Mark Ellis, 2B, A's (shoulder)
Jody Gerut, OF, Padres (finger)
Carlos Guillen, 3B, Tigers (back)
Dioner Navarro, C, Rays (hamstring)
Jack Wilson, SS, Pirates (finger)
Start 'em, sit 'em
Hitters: A poor August (.704 OPS) has landed Torii Hunter on the bench in many mixed leagues, but the Angels outfielder is heating up with four multi-hit games in his last six, and boasts a .355 BA/.429 OBP/.710 SLG line in 31 at-bats versus Detroit left-hander Kenny Rogers to boot. ... Owners with lots of Yankees hitters should look elsewhere Tuesday, as Rays starter Scott Kazmir has dominated New York. Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, Jason Giambi and Hideki Matsui are a combined 12-for-82 with 25 strikeouts and just one extra-base hit off Kazmir. ... Streaky Royals outfielder Jose Guillen lost a lot of owners with a putrid .427 July OPS. He's only partially rebounded in August, but Guillen's robust .295/.361/.591 line versus lefties is enough to merit a start against Oakland's Dan Meyer. ... Reds first baseman Joey Votto hit .382 in August, raising his ownership in ESPN leagues to nearly 70 percent. Still, Votto's big month was spearheaded by a .426 average against right-handers. He's hitting .277 versus lefties on the year, but slugged just .318 against them in August. Owners with a decent option can consider benching him against Tom Gorzelanny and the Pirates. Teammate Edwin Encarnacion, however, thrives against left-handed pitching. The Reds' third baseman is hitting .310/.412/.548 against left-handers this year and belted a pair of home runs during the Reds-Giants series this week. ... Braves outfielder Jeff Francoeur is still owned in 30 percent of ESPN leagues, but he hasn't managed an average higher than .220 or an OPS higher than .571 since May. Francoeur is just 2-for-23 with seven strikeouts against Nationals starter Jason Bergmann. Second baseman Kelly Johnson has also had no luck against Bergmann (2-for-13), and has struggled lately, posting a weak .237/.268/.301 line in August.
Pitchers: Mixed leaguers are finally catching on to Kevin Slowey. The Twins starter, now owned in two-thirds of ESPN leagues, has allowed just seven earned runs in his past five starts. Slowey has recorded double-digit strikeout figures twice during that span, and fanned 37 batters in August while walking just two! ... Brewers veteran Jeff Suppan is the epitome of league average, and therefore is seldom used in mixed leagues. However, Suppan is one of the best options going on a Thursday with only seven games. The 33-year-old turned in a solid 3.00 ERA in six August starts, allowing more than three runs just once (and that time he only allowed four.) He's been more than a half-run better at home in Miller Park, and Thursday he faces the offensively challenged Padres, a team he bested Aug. 12 when he threw eight innings and allowed only two runs.
Hitters: Twins designated hitter Jason Kubel is hitting .289 with 15 home runs in 311 at-bats versus right-handers this year. He finished August at .326/.383/.523 and is hitting .302 indoors this year. ... Tampa's Willy Aybar has been solid at the hot corner since regular Rays third baseman Evan Longoria hit the disabled list in early August. The switch-hitting Aybar managed an .836 OPS in 98 at-bats last month, and is currently working on a six-game hitting streak. ... Many scouts see Billy Butler as a future batting champion, but the Royals' designated hitter is owned in just 11 percent of mixed leagues right now. That figure should increase by the end of the season; Butler hit .330 in August and has been much improved since a minor league demotion that lasted most of June. He's parked a .324/.393/.524 line on left-handers this year, which makes him an excellent option opposite struggling A's southpaw Dan Meyer. ... Oakland slugger Jack Cust is coming off his best month since May and is heating up with three home runs in his past seven games. Cust has hit 18 of his 25 home runs against right-handers like Royals starter Kyle Davies, who has allowed eight longballs in 49 innings since the beginning of July. ... Bill Hall's .175 average against right-handers earned him a much-publicized demotion to a platoon role earlier this year. There's nothing wrong with Hall's .321/.390/.567 line versus lefties, though, and he should certainly be in the lineup against Shawn Estes and the Padres.
Pitchers: Control artist Jesse Litsch has been on a roll since returning from minor league exile in mid-August. The Toronto right-hander started his second tour of duty with 13 scoreless innings in his first two starts and most recently allowed three runs over 6.2 innings against Tampa Bay. Litsch has been a run and a half better at home this year and can be used against a Minnesota team he beat back in May. ... Even owners desperate for starting pitching should not be tempted by Atlanta's Jo-Jo Reyes just because he faces the light-hitting Nationals. Reyes has allowed 29 runs in exactly 29 innings since the beginning of July. He's failed to complete the fifth inning in six of his past nine starts, and was hammered for 15 hits and ten runs in two recent starts against the Nationals.
Games in Tampa, Toronto and Milwaukee are always weatherproof. Rain could be a factor in games at both Kansas City and Detroit.
Will Harris is a fantasy baseball and college football analyst for ESPN.com