There's no questioning that Cliff Lee is a talented pitcher and you cannot argue with his stellar K-BB ratio of 13-1. However, since his trade to the Texas Rangers, his record stands at 2-5 with an ERA of 4.50. That's a far cry from the 8-3 pitcher with a 2.34 ERA who arrived from the Seattle Mariners. Yet, as long as he continues to maintain that elite control, you still have to like his chances of regaining that early-season mastery. He ranks third among Tuesday's options. Where do the rest fall into place? Read on:
Starting pitcher rankings for Aug. 31
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.
" Top options: Chris Carpenter has a career ERA of 2.82 against the Houston Astros, which is more impressive than Felix Hernandez's 4-7 record and 4.34 ERA against the Los Angeles Angels. The St. Louis Cardinals' ace gets the nod, especially since his opponent, Wandy Rodriguez, is 1-2 this season with a 6.06 ERA against the men from Missouri.
" Brian Duensing continues to impress and the Minnesota Twins keep winning for him. He has a 2.28 lifetime ERA against the Detroit Tigers. ... Dan Haren's 3.01 ERA when going up against the Seattle Mariners is good enough for us to keep him in our top 5, just ahead of Ryan Dempster, who has already lost twice this season to the Pittsburgh Pirates.
" Rounding out the top: Phil Hughes dominates the Oakland Athletics, with a 0.77 ERA. Anibal Sanchez is 4-0 against the Washington Nationals with a 2.66 ERA. Both of those pitchers seem more reliable today than Yovani Gallardo, who has had troubles over the past few weeks.
" Break out the streamers: Ian Kennedy has a 1.59 ERA against the San Diego Padres in 2010. ... Edwin Jackson is 5-1 over the years, with a 2.56 ERA when taking the mound versus the Cleveland Indians. ... Brian Matusz has held his own against the Boston Red Sox, with a 2.41 ERA facing them this season.
" Not with an 11-foot pole: Madison Bumgarner has gone 0-2 this season with a 5.73 ERA against the Colorado Rockies. ... Kyle Kendrick's career 8.14 ERA versus the Los Angeles Dodgers is scary bad. ... Kevin Correia already has made four appearances this season against the Arizona Diamondbacks, and has a 6.86 ERA to show for it.
Hitter matchup ratings for Aug. 31
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.
Carlos Lee, 1B, Houston Astros: With 11 strikeouts in 40 career at-bats against Chris Carpenter, and only a .175 batting average, Lee is in for a uphill climb today.
Ryan Raburn, OF, Detroit Tigers: He's had 12 hits in seven games and nobody's complaining about that, but Raburn is hitless in seven career at-bats against Brian Duensing.
Garrett Jones, 1B, Pittsburgh Pirates: Even though he has hit five homers, that .125 batting average this month is quite the albatross. The 2-for-12 against Ryan Dempster shouldn't lighten the burden much.
Franklin Gutierrez, OF, Seattle Mariners: He's batting just 3-for-23 since Aug. 23; there's little wonder Gutierrez's ownership has fallen to 51.5 percent of ESPN leagues.
Baseball Challenge Pick of the Day
Injury list: Out
Jerry Hairston Jr., SS, San Diego Padres (15-day DL, elbow sprain)
Frank Francisco, P, Texas Rangers (15-day DL, strained lat muscle)
Danys Baez, P, Philadelphia Phillies (15-day DL, back spasms)
Manny Corpas, P, Colorado Rockies (15-day DL, elbow soreness)
Ross Ohlendorf, P, Pittsburgh Pirates (strained shoulder)
Matt Thornton, P, Chicago White Sox (sore forearm)
Jim Edmonds, OF, Cincinnati Reds (15-day DL, right oblique)
Stephen Strasburg, P, Washington Nationals (15-day DL, right forearm)
Injury list: Day-to-day
Michael Saunders, OF, Seattle Mariners (shoulder)
Michael Bourn, OF, Houston Astros (hamstring)
Jose Reyes, SS, New York Mets (oblique)
Troy Tulowitzki, SS, Colorado Rockies (tight groin)
Evan Meek, P, Pittsburgh Pirates (bruised hand)
Weatherproof games: Blue Jays at Rays, Cardinals at Astros, Padres at Diamondbacks and Angels at Mariners. Tuesday thunderstorms may torment those in attendance in Kansas City, Minneapolis and, as usual, Miami. Other than that, expect sunny skies and temperatures in the mid-90s for all but the California coast.