Fantasy Game Notes for Saturday: American League
Notable Injuries: Darin Erstad, OF (ankle, DL)
Game Story: Contreras hasn't allowed a home run since April 27 and the Blue Jays are mediocre against right-handers (.734 OPS, 17th in the majors), so despite Contreras' latest blow-up against the Twins, he seems to be a solid spot starter. Watch out for Lyle Overbay, though, who crushed opponents (six home runs, .880 OPS) in May. McGowan came through with a great start against the Yankees, though he did toss 117 pitches; studies suggest that starters tend to perform below their average after a 110-plus pitch outing. You still couldn't be blamed if you started McGowan against one of the worst offenses in baseball.
Notable Injuries: Jason Giambi, 1B (heel, DL)
Game Story: Mussina has not looked sharp all year, and in his last outing against the Red Sox, he allowed seven runs in 6 2/3 innings. Most of the Sox' lineup is hitting well -- Jason Varitek had a .956 OPS in May and Dustin Pedroia is in the midst of a 10-game hitting streak -- so this is not a good rebound start. Schilling just shut down an even better offense in the Indians in his last start, and the Yankees' offense is weakened without Giambi. It will be interesting to see who gets more of Giambi's playing time between Josh Phelps and Melky Cabrera.
Game Story: The Indians are turning into one of the league's most consistent offenses, near the top in most offensive categories, and they were especially hot in the month of May (.842 OPS). Now is not the time to try your luck with Durbin, who has a 2.98 ERA in his last six outings despite an 18-to-13 walk-to-strikeout ratio. Casey Blake and Ryan Garko should help the Indians correct that ERA. Lee gets a break, seeing the Tigers as two of their best hitters against lefties are hurt, but with the way the Tigers have been hitting, it is still too much of a risk to play Lee. Ignore Craig Monroe's .239 average overall and note his .326 average and 1.021 OPS against left-handers.
Notable Injuries: none
Game Story: Perez has the potential to be a solid spot starter, with his above-average home run and walk rate -- his May was better than you think once you adjust for quality of opponents -- but the Devil Rays are tough on lefties, with Brendan Harris, Ty Wigginton and Elijah Dukes, among others, at their best against southpaws. The Royals' offense has been ice-cold recently, with only John Buck and Mark Teahen worth starting every day, and Jackson did show his potential brilliance in his last start versus the Tigers. I'm not saying you should start a pitcher with a 7.12 ERA, but he's worth watching; that was quite a start against the hottest offense in baseball.
Notable Injuries: Bartolo Colon, SP (triceps, out)
Game Story: Trachsel has more walks than strikeouts in each of his last four starts, a combined 14-to-4 walk-to-strikeout ratio in that span. No matter how low his ERA gets, it is impossible to recommend a pitcher like that. The Angels are starting to heat up -- Casey Kotchman and Mike Napoli have started hitting like they are supposed to -- so Trachsel's luck should finally run out. Saunders is filling-in for Colon for what is expected to be just one start. He's not a bad option against the lefty-heavy lineup of the Orioles.
Game Story: The Athletics had a .793 OPS in May, fourth in the majors. With Milton Bradley just off the disabled list and Dan Johnson, Bobby Crosby and Travis Buck hitting well to go along with Nick Swisher, the offense is starting to become imposing. You might want to try your luck with Silva another time. Blanton uncharacteristically allowed three home runs against the Orioles in his last start, but should bounce back on Saturday. Blanton always has performed much better in McAfee Coliseum than on the road, and has a 2.64 ERA and 0.91 WHIP at home so far this year, too.
Notable Injuries: none
Game Story: Under normal circumstances, Loe -- a groundball pitcher in a pitchers' park against a usually poor offense -- might be worthy of a spot start. But the Mariners have been hitting quite well recently, getting balanced contributions from their lineup. It seems every Mariner is pulling his weight now, including Yuniesky Betancourt, who is in the midst of an 11-game hitting streak, and Raul Ibanez, hitting .308 in May. Ibanez claims to be nearly healthy after playing the beginning of a season with a banged-up shoulder, so we hope his power returns soon. The Rangers have been the opposite, in a team-wide hitting slump, so there are worse spot starts than Batista.
Fantasy Game Notes for Saturday: National League
Notable Injuries: none
Game Story: The Cubs don't do well against lefties on paper, but one should hesitate to start James. James is homer-prone and doesn't get too deep into games, and much of the Cubs' lineup hits left-handers quite well for their career. It also doesn't help that his counterpart is Hill, who has been lights-out for most of the season. Seven of Hill's 10 home runs allowed have come in his past four starts, though. Good news for Andruw Jones, who is in the midst of snapping out of his hitting slump, and Matt Diaz, who is hitting .347 against left-handers.
Game Story: Hernandez can just get by the weaker-hitting teams, but one would think that, when that 36-to-34 strikeout-to-walk ratio comes on the mound against the elite hitting teams, he would get knocked around. He shut down the Mets for seven innings, allowing just one earned run. The Mets are above-average, but not great, against righties, and might be missing two regulars in the lineup. While I wouldn't risk starting Hernandez, I wouldn't be surprised no matter the result. The D-Backs are hitting much better recently -- Conor Jackson hit .316 in May and Chris B. Young hit .325 -- but with Sosa at home, you have to roll with him.
Game Story: Wells has allowed at least four earned runs in seven of his last eight starts, so even though the Astros aren't that great, there's no way you can play him. Despite Sampson's strikeout deficiency -- he had just eight of them in 29 2/3 innings in May -- he has to be considered a must-start against the Cardinals, especially since Duncan, the Cardinals' second-best hitter, is out for the series.
Notable Injuries: Rickie Weeks, 2B (wrist, disabled list)
Game Story: The Brewers haven't been much better than middle-of-the-road hitters in recent weeks. The loss of Weeks exacerbates that and puts more pressure on rookie Ryan Braun to perform at third base. Of course, middle-of-the-road is still well beyond Kim's level of performance. The loss of Weeks may mean more of an opportunity for Corey Hart, who has hit leadoff in the two games of Weeks' absence. The Marlins destroy lefties (.845 OPS), with even Miguel Olivo (.366 average) getting in on the act, so definitely bench Capuano.
Notable Injuries: none
Game Story: Kuo is expected to stay in the rotation until Jason Schmidt returns. He had a 3.60 ERA and 28 strikeouts in 20 innings in Triple-A, and has potential as a strikeout pitcher who doesn't allow many home runs, though he definitely has control problems. Against the Pirates, he's worth a start. The Pirates' Xavier Nady destroys lefties (.412 average this year) and he's hitting .391 in his past 11 games, so make sure he's in your lineup, too. Snell's success appears quite real on paper and, against a poor Dodgers lineup, he shouldn't have any trouble maintaining his effectiveness.
Notable Injuries: none
Game Story: The stat lines of the two starting pitchers pretty much tell the story of this game. Germano, of course, is having quite a bit of good luck, and there's not much better luck than getting to face the Nationals, who are still comfortably last in OPS (.667). Speigner has been bombed in all three of his starts, failing to last more than four innings in any of them, so just play your Padres, like Jose Cruz Jr., Marcus Giles, Terrmel Sledge and Kevin Kouzmanoff without hesitation.
Game Story: Both teams hit poorly against left-handers, with the Giants 21st in OPS (.722) and the Phillies 22nd (.706), respectively. Even though the Phillies don't hit lefties well, tread carefully with Lowry. Despite his 3.08 ERA, he has walked 31 batters, and with just 37 strikeouts, doesn't erase enough hitters to make up for it. He has got away with it by allowing just two home runs, but on the road he has been considerably worse (3.58 ERA, 1.55 WHIP) and Citizens Bank Park is quite the hitters' park. Hamels hopes Durham doesn't play (.975 OPS versus southpaws), but Randy Winn hits lefties well, too (1.031 OPS).
Notable Injuries: Willy Taveras, OF (fingernail, day-to-day)
Game Story: With a 6.40 ERA and a 1.64 WHIP in May, Lohse's month went sour, fast. Although he pitched a complete-game shutout against the Pirates in his last start, he lasted just 4 2/3 innings against the Nationals on May 23, so even against a suspect offense like the Rockies', it's too risky to consider him a spot start. Brad Hawpe is white-hot for the Rockies, with seven home runs since May 16. Francis has been on a roll with six outings lasting seven innings or more, and allowing no more than two runs in five of them. Outside of Ken Griffey Jr. and Brandon Phillips, the Reds are vulnerable against left-handers.
Waiver Wire Pick Ups
Lyle Overbay, 1B, TOR versus Chicago White Sox
Dustin McGowan, SP, TOR versus Chicago White Sox
Ryan Garko, 1B, CLE versus Detroit Tigers
Craig Monroe, OF, DET @ Cleveland Indians
Ty Wigginton, 3B, TB versus Kansas City Royals
Casey Kotchman, 1B, LAA versus Baltimore Orioles
Travis Buck, OF, OAK versus Minnesota Twins
Miguel Batista, SP, SEA versus Texas Rangers
Matt Diaz, OF, ATL @ Chicago Cubs
Conor Jackson, 1B, ARI @ New York Mets
Jorge Sosa, SP, NYM versus Arizona Diamondbacks
Chris Sampson, SP, HOU versus St. Louis Cardinals
Miguel Olivo, C, FLA @ Milwaukee Brewers
Hong-Chih Kuo, SP, LAD @ Pittsburgh Pirates
Xavier Nady, OF, PIT versus Los Angeles Dodgers
Justin Germano, SP, SD @ Washington Nationals
Kevin Kouzmanoff, 3B, SD @ Washington Nationals
Randy Winn, OF, SF @ Philadelphia Phillies
Brad Hawpe, OF, COL versus Cincinnati Reds
Please Note that the notable injuries are not meant to be a comprehensive report of each team's disabled list. For brevity, we include only day-to-day injuries or new DL additions for players you might otherwise consider using in these games. Long-term DL or day-to-day injuries to starting pitchers who were not scheduled to appear are omitted.
Adam Madison is a fantasy baseball analyst for ESPN.com and TalentedMrRoto.com. He can be reached at Adam@TalentedMrRoto.com