Jordan Zimmermann set to return

With Stephen Strasburg going on the disabled list, the Washington Nationals may be experiencing a small sense of déjà vu. Last season, after 16 starts, rookie Jordan Zimmermann had to undergo the dreaded Tommy John surgery, and his season came to an abrupt end. Well, with the need to replace Strasburg on Thursday, it looks like the team may turn to Zimmermann to get back on the proverbial horse. It's a huge step in the recovery process, and though fantasy owners should proceed with caution, you could be witnessing the start of a dangerous one-two punch for the Nationals for many years to come. You'd best pay attention.

For starters

Starting pitcher rankings for August 26

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.

Selected notes:

• Top options: Chris Carpenter takes his 6-1 lifetime record against the Nationals to the mound. He's the No. 1 option for the day, just ahead of Cliff Lee, who is 8-3 against the Minnesota Twins, including an eight-inning, one-run no decision in June when he was with the Seattle Mariners.

Yovani Gallardo has an 0-2 record and a gaudy 12.19 ERA against the Los Angeles Dodgers, but with Chad Billingsley's start pushed back to Saturday with a right calf injury, there's a far better chance of the Brew Crew putting up some runs.

• A bunch of left-handers rank from five to eight on today's list, but not a single one of them has a winning record against his scheduled Thursday opponent. ... Kevin Correia, at No. 9, is 2-1 against the Arizona Diamondbacks this season with a 3.57 ERA, but was 2-5 against them entering the 2010 campaign.

Ian Kennedy has a 2.70 ERA in two no decisions against the San Diego Padres this year, making him a candidate for streaming, along with Edwin Jackson, 4-1 lifetime against the Baltimore Orioles, including a one-run, six-inning outing this season.

Justin Masterson and the Cleveland Indians lost to the Oakland Athletics 11-0 on April 25, with seven of those runs tagged to the right-hander. ... Kyle Kendrick is also a worrisome start, especially since the Philadelphia Phillies' bullpen may be a little overtaxed by the team's latest extra-innings affair. He might get hung out to dry.

Now batting

Hitter matchup ratings for August 26

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.

Hitters' count:

Michael Bourn, OF, Houston Astros: Three steals and three runs in three games -- that's a trend that you certainly hope Bourn continues against Kyle Kendrick, against whom he's a .571 hitter.

Shin-Soo Choo, OF, Cleveland Indians: Choo has driven in 13 runs this month and has a .382 batting average against the current Athletics pitching staff.

Nick Markakis, OF, Baltimore Orioles: A .400 hitter when facing Edwin Jackson, Markakis also has six hits in his past six games.

Gabe Gross, OF, Oakland Athletics: Looking to take a single-day flier? Gross has been manning right field for the last few games for Oakland and is 4-for-9 lifetime against Justin Masterson.

Pitchers' count:

Adam Dunn, OF, Washington Nationals: In the midst of a 2-for-23 slide, Dunn goes up against Chris Carpenter, against whom he's 4-for-24 (.167) with 10 strikeouts.

Delmon Young, OF, Minnesota Twins: After a .136 week at the plate, a .125 career average against Cliff Lee seems right at home for Young.

Jose Reyes, SS, New York Mets: The Florida Marlins come to town, and Reyes' bat runs and hides. He's managed only a .143 average against them in 2010 and only .158 for his career against Anibal Sanchez.

Ryan Theriot, 2B, Los Angeles Dodgers: Despite a five-game hitting streak, he's hitting just .231 since Aug. 17. I'm just not feeling the riot today. Sometimes, it's just a gut call.

Baseball Challenge Pick of the Day

Albert Pujols, 1B, St. Louis Cardinals: The Machine is hitting .436 for August and has a 10-game hitting streak going. Add to that a perfect 3-for-3 against Jordan Zimmermann and you've got a mortal lock for success.


Injury list: Out

Jim Edmonds, OF, Cincinnati Reds (15-day DL, right oblique)

Stephen Strasburg, P, Washington Nationals (15-day DL, right forearm)

Jeff Clement, 1B, Pittsburgh Pirates (15-day DL, sore left knee)

Scott Feldman, P, Texas Rangers (15-day DL, right knee)

Guillermo Mota, P, San Francisco Giants (15-day DL, left leg)

Travis Schlichting, P, Los Angeles Dodgers (15-day DL, right shoulder)

Maicer Izturis, P, Los Angeles Angels (15-day DL, right shoulder)

Ron Mahay, P, Minnesota Twins (15-day DL, right shoulder)

Kevin Slowey, P, Minnesota Twins (15-day DL, right triceps)

Ross Gload, OF, Philadelphia Phillies (15-day DL, right groin)

Alex Rodriguez, 3B, New York Yankees (15-day DL, strained left calf)

Injury list: Day-to-day

Adam Jones, OF, Baltimore Orioles (shoulder)

J.J. Putz, P, Chicago White Sox (left knee)

Nick Swisher, OF, New York Yankees (sore knee)

Corey Hart, OF, Milwaukee Brewers (hamstring)

Weather concerns

Weatherproof games: Dodgers at Brewers and Tigers at Blue Jays. Could we actually have a summer day without rain? That seems to be what meteorologists around the nation would have us believe for this final Thursday in August.

AJ Mass is a fantasy baseball, football and college basketball analyst for ESPN.com. You can follow AJ on Twitter or e-mail him here.