In Minneapolis, it's Gavin Floyd versus Kevin Slowey as the American League Central race between the White Sox and the Twins heads for the wire. In Toronto, Roy Halladay seeks his 20th win against the deflated Yankees. National League East-leading Philadelphia is idle Thursday, but the rival Mets are in action at home against Rich Harden and the Cubs.
Matchups for Thursday, Sept. 25
All times are ET.
Rick Ankiel, OF, Cardinals (abdomen)
Ronnie Belliard, 1B, Nationals (wrist)
Adrian Beltre, 3B, Mariners (thumb)
J.D. Drew, OF, Red Sox (back)
Yunel Escobar, SS, Braves (hamstring)
Carlos Guillen, 3B, Tigers (back)
Fred Lewis, OF, Giants (foot)
Melvin Mora, 3B, Orioles (hamstring)
Brandon Phillips, 2B, Reds (finger)
Carlos Quentin, OF, White Sox (wrist)
Gary Sheffield, OF, Tigers (suspension)
Miguel Cabrera, 1B, Tigers (back)
Jody Gerut, OF, Padres (finger)
Derek Jeter, SS, Yankees (hand)
Chipper Jones, 3B, Braves (shoulder)
Adam LaRoche, 1B, Pirates (hamstring)
Mike Lowell, OF, Red Sox (hip)
Yadier Molina, C, Cardinals (thigh)
Jack Wilson, SS, Pirates (finger)
Start 'em, sit 'em
Hitters: Detroit center fielder Curtis Granderson is sporting a very pedestrian .264 BA/.316 OBP/.438 SLG line against lefties. He is hitting .214 in September and should be benched versus Rays ace Scott Kazmir. Xavier Nady is having a career year, but the Yankees outfielder is wearing down as the season wraps up. Nady has hit just .210/.256/.358 in September. Bench him against Toronto ace Roy Halladay, who is vying for his 20th win. Seattle outfielder Raul Ibanez is in a 3-for-33 slump; bench him in favor of a warmer option. Angels second baseman Howie Kendrick has returned from a hamstring injury and went 2-for-3 in his first full game back. He'll return to the Angels' lineup this week as the team tries to get him in game shape for the playoffs. Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina has missed more than a week with a thigh injury and is just 1-for-13 against Arizona left-hander Doug Davis. Marlins outfielder Jeremy Hermida is still owned in 55 percent of ESPN leagues despite a miserable performance down the stretch. Hermida hit .192 in August and is batting just .182 in September. With a .217 September average, Ryan Church hasn't been very effective since rejoining the Mets' lineup after suffering from the lingering effects of a concussion for much of the summer. Church is unlikely to break through against nearly unhittable Cubs ace Rich Harden. At age 36, Pedro Martinez certainly is no longer in his prime, but it's worth noting that Cubs star Alfonso Soriano is just 7-for-43 lifetime against the future Hall of Famer, with no home runs and 15 strikeouts. Soriano also is in a 3-for-22 mini-slump. Brewers shortstop J.J. Hardy is a must-start Thursday. Hardy is on a 15-for-30 tear and is 10-for-17 with four home runs against Pirates left-hander Zach Duke. Reds third baseman Edwin Encarnacion is back in the Cincinnati lineup, but he still is battling a sore wrist and is just 2-for-16 against the red-hot Roy Oswalt.
Pitchers: Detroit right-hander Armando Galarraga is tiring down the stretch with a 7.13 September ERA. Be wary of his final start against the Rays. Jon Lester struggled in Toronto in his last outing, but he has allowed one run or fewer in five of his past six starts. Lester's 2.54 ERA at home in Fenway says he should be used against Cleveland despite the rocky start last time out. Reds rookie Johnny Cueto has allowed two runs or fewer in five of his past six starts, including an encouraging walk-free outing against the Brewers on Saturday. Cueto posted a 2.77 ERA in August and does not appear to be fading down the stretch under the strain of a heavier workload. He's safe to use against the Astros.
Hitters: Cleveland first baseman Ryan Garko is a lefty-bashing specialist, with a .913 OPS versus southpaws in 2007 and a solid .313/.393/.452 line this season. Garko easily is having his best month of the year, with an impressive September line of .377/.459/.566. He went 2-for-4 with a double in his only meeting with Boston left-hander Jon Lester. Minnesota's Jason Kubel has slammed three home runs in his past four games. Grab him against Chicago right-hander Gavin Floyd, against whom Kubel is 5-for-16 with two homers. San Diego outfielder Brian Giles hit .340/.418/.567 in August and has followed that up with a solid .312/.404/.468 line in September. Giles is batting .368/.455/.579 in 38 at-bats against Dodgers starter Greg Maddux. Giles is owned in just 12 percent of ESPN leagues despite his .304 batting average and strong finish.
Pitchers: Second-year Minnesota hurler Kevin Slowey was hit hard last time out but had allowed just 14 earned runs in his eight previous starts. Slowey has been a run and a half better at home this year and fired a shutout in his last meeting with the White Sox. Greg Maddux is just 1-4 since coming to Los Angeles, and he was roughed up by the Giants in his last start. He's still a decent bet against the light-hitting Padres in his last start of the year. It will be the third time Maddux has faced his former team since joining the Dodgers. Rockies left-hander Jorge De La Rosa has been inconsistent this year but is starting to settle in a bit. He posted a 2.22 August ERA and a 3.47 ERA so far in September. De La Rosa hasn't allowed more than four runs since July. He's not for the risk-averse but could be worth a look against the punchless Giants.
Games in Toronto, Minnesota, Seattle, Milwaukee and Houston are always weatherproof. A belt of rain along the eastern seaboard might affect games in Washington and New York.
Will Harris is a fantasy baseball and college football analyst for ESPN.com.