Thursday's schedule has only nine games, and not a lot of "winners" are to be found on the mound. The most intriguing pitcher is Tampa Bay rookie Wade Davis, who had one solid outing against the Tigers in his debut and one lousy appearance the second time around versus the Red Sox. This start is on the road, just like the last one, so we're leaning toward sitting him -- unless you need strikeouts. He should get plenty of those, if he faces enough hitters and you can deal with the inflated ERA and WHIP. Now on to our complete starting pitcher rankings:
Starting pitcher rankings for Thursday, Sept. 17
Rk.: The author's ranking of that pitcher for that day only. T: Pitcher throws left-handed or right-handed. W-L: Pitcher's win-loss record. ERA: Pitcher's earned run average. WHIP: Pitcher's average number of walks plus hits surrendered per inning. K/9: Pitcher's average number of strikeouts per nine innings. OPSA: Pitcher's on-base plus slugging percentage surrendered to opponents. OPS: Pitcher's opponent's composite team on-base plus slugging percentage. CT%: Pitcher's opponent's success rate putting the ball in play (versus striking out).
Zack Greinke tops our list for Thursday. With a 0.38 ERA in his past three starts and a 1.16 ERA and two victories over the Tigers already this season, it's hard not to like him. His opponent, Edwin Jackson, is 8-1 at home and is also a good pick, but given the recent choke job the Tigers have done against Kansas City, we're a bit hesitant to predict a victory, especially against the likes of Greinke. We always expect Josh Beckett to step it up a bit at Boston, where he is eight games over .500 this season. Plus, he goes against Ervin Santana, who is 0-2 with a 7.53 ERA in his career in the shadow of the Green Monster. Jair Jurrjens has already defeated the Mets twice this season, with a 1.83 ERA, and is going up against a very erratic Nelson Figueroa, who has an embarrassingly high .326 batting average against. John Danks has pitched well of late, with a 2.84 ERA in his past three starts, though he has been unable to get a win in that stretch of games. Brandon Morrow and his 5.63 ERA oppose Danks, so perhaps he'll get the runs he needs to earn win No. 13. Hamels has had some problems against the Nationals this season, with a 5.23 ERA, but he certainly appears to be in a groove now, with a 2-1 record and nifty 2.08 ERA over his past three starts. Randy Wells has done a spectacular job of keeping his ERA down (3.14) at hitters' park Wrigley Field, and we expect him to perform better than Dave Bush, who is 0-3 with a 4.62 ERA in the "Friendly Confines" for his career. Mystery man Johnny Cueto can certainly be frustrating; you never know what you're going to get from him. But he has lost only once in five outings and faces Anibal Sanchez, who has lost two of his past four times on the mound. Elsewhere, we'll side with Justin Masterson over Clayton Mortensen thanks to his 3.23 ERA since the All-Star break. Mortensen isn't going to be fanning too many Indians' hitters; he has had just one K in his past 13 innings pitched. Mark Hendrickson isn't an appealing option, with his 6.75 ERA against the Rays in 2009, but at least his 6-2 record at Camden Yards keeps him out of our bottom five for the day.
• Jose Lopez, 2B, Mariners: Lopez is hitting .538 against John Danks in his career, making the Mariners second baseman a good bet to have a solid game Thursday.
• Evan Longoria, 3B, Rays: Longoria is slugging .736 in September and has two home runs off Mark Hendrickson in 10 career at-bats.
• Torii Hunter, OF, Angels: Hunter's 11-game hitting streak should continue against Josh Beckett, at least according to his .455 career batting average against Beckett.
• David Ortiz, DH, Red Sox: Big Papi is 9-for-17 in the past week, and a .418 lifetime hitter against Ervin Santana.
• Ryan Braun, OF, Brewers: Braun is a .329 career hitter at Wrigley Field, and he just got a nice recharge-the-batteries day off Monday.
• David Wright, 3B, Mets: Wright has a .786 slugging percentage against Jair Jurrjens and has 11 RBIs so far this month.
• Travis Hafner, DH, Indians: Hafner has a .381 OBP for September, and his batting average of .297 is 50 points higher than he managed in August.
• Curtis Granderson, OF, Tigers: September has been a brutal month (.170 average) for Granderson, and he's only a .176 hitter against Zack Greinke for his career. Ouch!
• Derrek Lee, 1B, Cubs: Lee has been hotter than hot with a .415 average this month, but Dave Bush has played the role of fireman for him, as he has held Lee to a .148 average in 27 career at-bats.
• Yuniesky Betancourt, SS, Royals: Betancourt has just two hits in his past 11 at-bats against Edwin Jackson and is only a .200 career hitter against him. No thanks.
• Mark Kotsay, 1B, White Sox: Neither Kotsay nor teammates Jermaine Dye and Carlos Quentin have gotten hits off Brandon Morrow. Might not be a lot of RBIs from the middle of the order Thursday. Just saying.
• Ichiro Suzuki, OF, Mariners: John Danks has been able to keep Ichiro in check, with only a .200 career average and no extra-base hits.
• Adam Dunn, OF, Nationals: He's only 1-for-12 against Cole Hamels with seven strikeouts. Not the greatest résumé we've ever seen.
If you're hardcore
• Gerald Laird, C, Tigers: Laird is batting .353 in his career against Zack Greinke, which is impressive by any measuring stick, quite frankly.
• Michael Aubrey, 1B, Orioles: Aubrey has had a hit in every game he has played against the Rays since his call-up in August.
• Joey Gathright, OF, Red Sox: Odds of his playing: not great, we admit. Odds of his getting a hit if he does: pretty solid, with a .600 average in limited at-bats versus Ervin Santana.
• Martin Prado, 2B, Braves: Prado has two of his nine home runs against the Mets and is 2-for-4 against Nelson Figueroa.
• Cameron Maybin, OF, Marlins: He's hitting .282 since his call-up, which seems to indicate that he learned plenty in the minors, since he went down there with a .202 big league average.
• Justin Maxwell, OF, Nationals: Maxwell's September has been a good one, with a .310 average to his credit. Plus, he has had success against Cole Hamels before, with two hits in five previous at-bats.
Injury list: Out
Injury list: Day-to-day
• Michael Young, 3B, Rangers (hamstring): Young returned to action as the DH on Tuesday but pulled himself after not feeling right. He might need a few days before he returns to action again.
• Jorge Posada, C, Yankees (disciplinary action): Posada is sure to face a suspension after his involvement in a bench-clearing brawl Tuesday against the Blue Jays.
• Edgar Renteria, SS, Giants (shoulder): He's planning to play through the pain in his non-throwing shoulder, but it's not clear whether he'll be able to be in the lineup on consecutive days.
• Jarrod Washburn, P, Tigers (knee): After his knee swelled up and he left Tuesday's game after only one inning, Washburn might be out for a while.
• Chipper Jones, 3B, Braves (groin): He might be back in time for Friday's battle with the Phillies; then again, he might not. That's just the way it is with Larry Jones.
• Victor Martinez, 1B, Red Sox (personal): Martinez returned home to Cleveland to handle a personal matter with his family, and no timetable is set for his return.
• Lance Berkman, 1B, Astros (back/hip): Berkman's back locked up on him Monday, and he might not return to the Astros' lineup until Friday at the earliest.
• Sam Fuld, OF, Cubs (thumb): Fuld hurt his hand making a sliding catch Monday, and while X-rays and an MRI showed no significant damage, he's probably going to miss a week.
• Thursday's lone weatherproof game is the White Sox at the Mariners. The only games on the short schedule that are threatened by potential showers are in Atlanta, Philadelphia and Baltimore.