Friday should be business as usual for Francisco Liriano. The Minnesota Twins' starter is a perfect 4-0 on the year with a 1.50 ERA, and the last time he faced the Baltimore Orioles, he threw seven shutout innings and allowed only a single hit. Obviously, he'll be the top candidate on our list of Friday starters, right? Well, no. He's only No. 8. Therein lies the difficulty of balancing all the available information to come up with a one-day-only judgment of who has the best chance of helping your fantasy team. Often, we're splitting hairs, and with the day-to-day status of both Joe Mauer and J.J. Hardy -- no matter how well Wilson Ramos has performed with the bat -- that's enough to drop Liriano a few spots on today's top-heavy rankings list. The complete rankings are here for your review:
Starting pitcher rankings for May 7
Rk.: The author's ranking of that pitcher for that day only. T: Pitcher throws left-handed or right-handed. Opp: The pitcher's opponent for the day. Rating: The starting pitcher's matchup rating -- separate from the author's ranking -- which accounts for past history (three years' worth as well as past 21 days), opponent and ballpark. Ratings range from 1-10, with 10 representing the best possible matchup, statistically speaking, and 1 representing the worst. 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.
• At the top: Chris Carpenter is expected to continue his long-term mastery of the Pittsburgh Pirates. The St. Louis Cardinals' ace is a career 11-1 with a 2.27 ERA against them. David Price should handle the Oakland Athletics, who rank 11th in the American League in slugging percentage, and 12th in home runs. Hiroki Kuroda gets the bronze medal of the day, in part because of his past struggles against the Colorado Rockies (0-2, 7.00 ERA).
• Zack Greinke has a 2.68 ERA against the Texas Rangers, but since wins continue to make up 25 percent of a starting pitcher's value, his ceiling maxes out more quickly than other starters, especially on a day when the Royals are facing a solid pitcher in C.J. Wilson.
• Jered Weaver is 8-3 lifetime against the Seattle Mariners, who rank last in the American League in runs scored. He squeaks past Yovani Gallardo into the top five, although Yo-Ga makes a strong case, having never allowed an earned run to the Arizona Diamondbacks in 12 innings of work.
• Rounding out the top 10: Shaun Marcum is a perfect 3-0 with a 2.16 ERA against the Chicago White Sox, placing him ahead of Phil Hughes, who has never beaten the Boston Red Sox and whose career ERA against them is 7.62.
• Middle-of-the-road options: Felix Hernandez has been so-so against the Los Angeles Angels over the years, with a 4-5 record and 4.20 ERA, and as we've said, his offensive support this year has been weak at best. Both Mike Pelfrey (1.77 ERA versus the San Francisco Giants) and Jonathan Sanchez, who face off at Citi Field, are solid options, but as only one of the pair can possibly get a victory, it's a closer call than usual.
• Streamers on alert: Derek Lowe is 6-2 for his career with a 2.87 ERA against the Philadelphia Phillies, though they did rough him up a bit earlier this season. Chris Volstad is 2-1 against the Washington Nationals, but with a gaudy 4.56 ERA. Still, it's the Nationals, who counter with Craig Stammen. He's already faced the Marlins this year, allowing three earned runs in four innings. Jamie Moyer threw six shutout innings in a win against the Atlanta Braves earlier this season.
• Stay away: Kevin Millwood has never defeated the Minnesota Twins. He's 0-7 with a 5.90 ERA. Homer Bailey has a 5.62 career ERA versus the Chicago Cubs, who throw Carlos Silva. Silva has been suffering from some wrist issues, which is the reason for concern about starting him. Josh Beckett gets tons of run support when he beats the New York Yankees, and he needs every bit of it. Despite a 5.51 ERA against the pinstripes, he is 9-5 against them.
Hitter matchup ratings for May 7
Hitter ratings account for the opposing starting pitcher's past history (three years' worth as well as past 21 days) as well as ballpark factors. "LHB" and "RHB" ratings account only for left- and right-handed batters, respectively. "Steals" is a base-stealing matchup rating, which accounts for the opponent's catchers' ability to gun down opposing base stealers.
Mike Fontenot, 2B, Cubs: If not for the pinch-hit appearances, he'd have a 15-game hitting streak going. Add to that a .500 career average against Homer Bailey and there's not much to hate here.
Vernon Wells, OF, Toronto Blue Jays: Wells is still defying the experts with his batting average at a lofty .318. Mark Buehrle may not send that number any lower, as Wells is a whopping .486 career hitter against him in 35 at-bats.
Matt Kemp, OF, Los Angeles Dodgers: Kemp is batting .296 during the past week and has scored five runs in his past three games. He also had 14 RBIs against the Rockies in 18 games last season to go along with four stolen bases.
Joe Inglett, 2B, Milwaukee Brewers: Recommending a little-used utility man? Have we gone mad? Hey, sometimes these suggestions are for the hardcore. Inglett is 5-for-11 against Edwin Jackson in his career.
Josh Hamilton, OF, Rangers: A nice stretch from Hamilton, who has hit .357 in his past seven games. However, he's facing Zack Greinke today, and the career 0-for-13 makes us very, very leery.
Kevin Kouzmanoff, 3B, Athletics: He's raised his average all the way to .278 from .210 during the past two weeks, but is hitting only .222 against the Rays since moving over to the American League.
Troy Tulowitzki, SS, Rockies: Tulo hit only .182 against the Dodgers in 2009 and is in the middle of a 2-for-12 slump. Perhaps this is a day to explore your bench depth.
Dustin Pedroia, 2B, Red Sox: Phil Hughes seems to have the second baseman's number, as he's retired Pedroia in all eight at-bats in which they've squared off.
Baseball Challenge Pick of the Day
Matt Holliday, LF, Cardinals: Holliday is heating up, with seven hits in his past six games. He's also a career .462 hitter against Zach Duke of the Pirates, and is slugging .769 to boot. That's some starting advice that's not coming from out of left field.
Injury list: Out
Jair Jurrjens, P, Braves (15-day DL, strained left hamstring)
Mark Lowe, P, Mariners (15-day DL, herniated disc)
Brendan Donnelly, P, Pirates (15-day DL, left oblique)
Rick Ankiel, OF, Royals (15-day DL, right quad)
Tim Byrdak, P, Houston Astros (15-day DL, right hamstring)
Rafael Furcal, SS, Dodgers (15-day DL, left hamstring)
Sean Gallagher, P, San Diego Padres (15-day DL, sprained toe)
Yunel Escobar, SS, Braves (15-day DL, left groin strain)
Curtis Granderson, OF, Yankees (15-day DL, strained left groin)
Pat Neshek, P, Twins (15-day DL, finger inflammation)
Injury list: Day-to-day
Adam Jones, OF, Orioles (hip strain)
Johnny Damon, OF, Tigers (right calf)
Milton Bradley, OF, Mariners (personal issues)
Jack Wilson, SS, Mariners (tight hamstring)
Manny Ramirez, OF, Dodgers (15-day DL, calf): Scheduled to return Saturday.
Justin Duchscherer, P, Athletics (hip)
Juan Castro, SS, Phillies (hamstring sprain)
Jason Heyward, OF, Braves (sore left groin)
Joe Mauer, C, Twins (bruised heel)
J.J. Hardy, SS, Twins (sore left wrist)
Weatherproof games: Padres at Astros, Brewers at Diamondbacks and Angels at Mariners. Light rain is in the forecast for Minneapolis and Chicago, but not nearly as potentially dire as in Cleveland, Cincinnati and Pittsburgh. That trio of towns might face high winds to go along with thunderstorms that could linger into the early weekend.