Fantasy Game Notes for Sunday: American League
Game Story: Bonderman has allowed only one earned run in two starts since his return from the DL, but he hasn't faced this Indians team that is punishing right-handers this season (.813 OPS, 1st in majors). Nevertheless, the big bats of Victor Martinez, Travis Hafner and Grady Sizemore all have career averages of less than .300 against him. Casey Blake has more career strikeouts than anyone else against Bonderman (16). Omar Infante should play third base with Inge sidelined, and might be able to snag a base like he did Friday. A reminder from Saturday's notes, Craig Monroe cranks left-handers. Overall, the Tigers are only behind the Mets for OPS against lefties (.854), so Sowers shouldn't be considered for a spot-start.
Notable Injuries: Darin Erstad, OF (ankle, DL)
Game Story: Marcum makes a fine spot-start here. His ERA since joining the rotation is a terrific 2.16 and he has struck out at least six in three of four starts. Also note that no White Sox have a single career at-bat against him. With Erstad out, Jerry Owens was brought up to spark the offense and went 2-for-4 with two runs and a steal on Friday while hitting leadoff. Danks' last outing (6 ER) made us all forget about his three-game win streak mid-May; but the Blue Jays are not friendly to left-handers (.817 OPS). Lyle Overbay's .254 average becomes .345 against lefties and he remains available in almost 70 percent of ESPN leagues.
Notable Injuries: none
Game Story: Howell returns to the majors to face his original team. He has shown some flashes of brilliance sandwiched between some stinkers over the last two seasons. He has struck out more than a batter per inning in Triple-A this year. Ignore him in most leagues, but those in super-deep AL-only desperately needing some stats well Howell is probably available and he has upside. The Royals struggle against left-handers, but five of John Buck's eight home runs have come versus lefties. Elarton and his ballooning ERA should not be started, but one thing Elarton does very well is limit the running game. He allowed only four stolen bases in over 114 innings last season; meaning the normally speedy Devil Rays won't do much on the base paths. Don't forget that Akinori Iwamura is back and batting .500 in three games since coming off the DL.
Notable Injuries: Bartolo Colon, SP (triceps, out)
Game Story: It's hard to argue with Guthrie's 1.78 ERA in the month of May. He has the minor league track record to back up his stats, so there is no reason to shy away from starting him just because it's June now. Everyone knows the rule on Santana by now; start him at home. He is 4-1 with a 2.12 ERA at Angel Stadium. Kevin Millar has two career home runs in 14 at-bats against Santana, so expect him to be in the lineup. While, Jay Payton is 3-for-20 lifetime versus Ervin and should be left on your bench. Casey Kotchman is batting .450 over the last week and should be counted on in the 95 percent of ESPN leagues where he is available.
Notable Injuries: Adrian Beltre, 3B (wrist, day-to-day)
Game Story: Jose Vidro is listed at third base on the depth chart, but it's hard to envision him filling in for Beltre should the wrist injury be serious. Willie Bloomquist likely earns some extra at-bats, which should translate to diddly-squat, fantasy-wise. Tejeda's starts have been getting worse and there is no convincing evidence why this one should be any different. His 8.57 ERA in May screams "stay away!" Feierabend is a stopgap and should not be started anywhere. Just in case anyone in a shallow league has him wallowing on the bench. Richie Sexson has heated up with the weather, batting .391 over the last seven days. Ramon Vazquez will likely start over Matt Kata at third base with a left-hander on the mound, and anyone needing to pull up their average in H2H leagues could start him and his .342 average.
Notable Injuries: Mark Ellis, 2B (knee, day-to-day)
Game Story: 4.23, 4.05, 2.76. Santana's career ERA in April, May and June. Now is when he starts to really heat up. But it's Gaudin who has the Santana-eqsue numbers at this point. Gaudin hasn't allowed an earned run in his last two starts and the only warning sign would be his 4.22 ERA in two afternoon starts (1.95 ERA at night). Michael Cuddyer has a hot streak going, batting .524 over the last week and Mike Redmond (.389 average in last week) continues to hit for average while filling in for Joe Mauer. For the A's, Jason Kendall is 0-for-10 lifetime against Santana and Eric Chavez has struck out in 13 of 29 career at-bats versus Johan.
Game Story: It looks like both Melky Cabrera and Josh Phelps could see added value with Giambi shelved. Johnny Damon pulled DH duties to rest his legs while Cabrera manned center field and Phelps started at first base. Although Phelps will still split time with Doug Mientkiewicz, the platoon is starting to open up a bit more for Phelps. With Mientkiewicz hitting only 3-for-16 in his career against Beckett, it's advantage-Phelps again. Beckett limits the running game, but Melky has been running this week with two steals; and he might be trying to make an impression now that playing time has opened up. Pettitte is a tough call. He dominated the Red Sox on May 23, but had his only poor outing this year against them in April. With David Ortiz hitting over .300 in his career against Pettitte and Manny Ramirez batting over .400 against him, it's easy to talk yourself out of starting him. But Pettitte is a big-game pitcher who will step up to match what Beckett is doing for the other side and is worth trotting out for your fantasy team. Dustin Pedroia is batting .647 over the last week and is starting to make a case for ownership in mixed leagues.
Fantasy Game Notes for Sunday: National League
Game Story: Davis faces a Mets team that hits left-handers better than anyone else (.865 OPS). But, with no Wright or Beltran, combined with Carlos Delgado's career .125 batting average against Davis makes him a lucrative start. The Mets hesitated to activate Alou off the DL Friday, but they might make that move ahead of Sunday. Alou is 13-for-31 lifetime against Davis. It's not like you would ever sit him, but Jose Reyes has yet to get a hit against Davis in 11 at-bats. Mark Reynolds has been setting the world on fire, and burning the brightest so far are left-handed pitchers (.526 average). If you have been ignoring Reynolds through 16 games and a .414 average, now is the time to pay attention. Conor Jackson carries a .429 average over the last week into the game. Despite those numbers give the "real" Oliver Perez some credit and expect a quality start.
Notable Injuries: none
Game Story: Both pitchers are hot and there is nothing scary about either matchup, so expect a solid outing from both Penny and Gorzelanny. Ryan Doumit should get into the lineup over Ronny Paulino as he has a much better average against right-handers (.342 versus .179). Adam LaRoche is a career 1-for-10 versus Brad Penny and might also ride the pine. Jeff Kent is ice-cold (1-for-21 heading into Saturday), if you have any other options at second base. Stealing is relatively easy against the Pirates and Gorzelanny, so Juan Pierre might be able to snap out of a funk that has seen him nab one bag in nine games. Takashi Saito was on the mound Friday, but should a save opportunity crop up there is a good chance Jonathan Broxton would be up for it since Saito worked one-and-a-third on Friday.
Notable Injuries: Ryan Klesko, 1B (back, day-to-day)
Game Story: Brad Hennessey is first in line for a save chance should it be there, but if anything changes that on Saturday be ready to grab Kevin Correia or Vinnie Chulk. Lincecum is all he was cracked up to be in the preseason hype. The only worry has to be the pitch counts. He threw 113 pitches in his last outing, so logic would dictate that he doesn't go too far into this game. Garcia is doing exactly what he has always done; eat up innings and have a WHIP that's too high for fantasy purposes. If you can afford the WHIP ratio damage and need a win, he is not a bad start. Both Ray Durham and Randy Winn bat better than .300 against Garcia and Bengie Molina has two jacks against him.
Notable Injuries: Jose Cruz Jr., OF (back, questionable)
Game Story: The heart of the Nationals order (Dmitri Young, Ryan Zimmerman and Austin Kearns) all smoke lefties at a better than .300 clip, meaning Wells could be in for a tough game. Young especially has things going for him with a .588 average over the last week and a .455 career average against Boomer. That said, Wells' last three starts have been admirable and very few of these young Nats have faced off against the wily veteran. Josh Bard is appealing his suspension, and you want to start him while he is (.429 average over last seven days). Simontacchi's chances of having a quality start are better with Brian Giles out of the lineup (.556 average, two home runs versus Simontacchi) but it's still hard to trust any Nationals pitcher. Stay away. Kevin Kouzmanoff and Khalil Greene should both play as Russell Branyan (1-for-5) and Geoff Blum (0-for-9) don't hit Simontacchi well.
Notable Injuries: Rickie Weeks, 2B (wrist, DL)
Game Story: It's not the prettiest 7-3 record in baseball, but Willis is finding a way to win. With the slide the Brewers have been on, and the way Sheets has pitched, that shouldn't change. The only Brewer to ever hit a home run on Willis is Kevin Mench, which means he is likely starting over Geoff Jenkins (especially noting Jenkins .154 average against lefty's). If your taking notes, Craig Counsell hits left-handers better and will play second over Tony Graffanino. Johnny Estrada comes in cold, but is also 2-for-11 lifetime against the D-Train. Sheets is just getting over a blister problem and gave up 11-hits in his last outing. Considering the lack of strikeouts he has offered so far this year, and the woeful Brewers play of late, you have to at least toy with the idea of sitting him. Sheets might be exactly what Josh Willingham needs to pull out of a slump. Willingham is 4-for-5 career against Sheets with a home run to boot. There is no need to panic about Armando Benitez returning to Florida. Kevin Gregg has a solid hold on the closers gig and will have to do something significant to lose it.
Game Story: Jennings makes a good start with three Cardinals regulars on the sidelines. Jennings threw five shutout innings in his return to the rotation on May 29 and has a 2.12 ERA through three starts. "The Man-Who-Defied-Coors" can be started until we see signs of trouble. Juan Encarnacion gets to face Jennings (whom he is 5-for-15 lifetime against) after hitting his first home run of the season Friday. Keep an eye on old Juan. Jim Edmonds has a career .100 average against Jennings. Mark Loretta and his .345 average against right-handers may start over Morgan Ensberg at third base. Looper has one win against the Astros this season, but his 24 walks make it hard to use him confidently. As an aside, one has to wonder if Brad Lidge might slide back into his old role based on recent performances by Chad Qualls and Dan Wheeler.
Game Story: Smoltz opted out of the contest, leaving Cormier to come off the DL for the start. If nothing else Cormier has the advantage over Marshall because it's unlikely that Brian McCann will decide to go to fisticuffs over a passed ball ... Seriously though, the Cubs will have their heads in the wrong place for the next few days and you have to like any pitchers chances against them. Cormier really only has to look out for Alfonso Soriano who is a .500 hitter against him over his career. Just last September Cormier pitched a seven-inning, 10-strikeout gem against the Cubbies. Marshall's first two starts this season were not as good as the numbers would have you think and the Braves are swinging hot sticks. Those factors should be enough to make an owner think twice about starting him. Matt Diaz should start in left against the lefty Marshall, over Willie Harris. If the Cubs suspend Barrett right away, Koyie Hill will have to start as Henry Blanco is on the DL.
Notable Injuries: Matt Holliday, OF (head, day-to-day)
Game Story: Yes, Belisle has some pretty darn good starts this season. Mixed in there, however, are a bunch of five-inning outings with double-digit (or close to it) hits. Is it really worth hoping he has a gem against a red-hot Rockies team at the risk of destroying your WHIP? No, it's not. Granted, Holliday will be out of the lineup, but that still isn't enough to gamble on Belisle. Lopez, on the other hand, has a little trouble with the home run ball but otherwise has shown some quality, with a 15:2 K:BB ratio and a 2.35 ERA in four starts. However, with Edwin Encarnacion, Norris Hopper, Scott Hatteberg and Alex Gonzalez all swinging hot bats over the last week, it's hard to trust him either. There are better spot-start pitchers out there. Ryan Spilborghs will get to showcase his stuff with Holliday out, and he has the ability to nab a few bases here and there. Though the running matchup with Belisle isn't good. If you are gambling on Yorvit Torrealba or Chris Iannetta in an NL-only league, go with Ianetta. They both hit right-handers OK, but Torrealba has gone 1-for-14 over the last week.
Waiver Wire Pickups
Shaun Marcum, SP, TOR versus Chicago White Sox
Lyle Overbay, 1B, TOR versus Chicago White Sox
J.P. Howell, SP, TB versus Kansas City Royals
Akinori Iwamura, 3B, TB versus Kansas City Royals
Kevin Millar, OF/1B, BAL @ Los Angeles Angels
Casey Kotchman, 1B, LAA versus Baltimore Orioles
Mark Redmond, C, MIN @ Oakland Athletics
Dustin Pedroia, 2B, BOS versus New York Yankees
Brad Hennessey, RP, SF @ Philadelphia Phillies
Kevin Kouzmanoff, 3B, SD @ Washington Nationals
Kevin Mench, OF, MIL versus Florida Marlins
Mark Loretta, 2B, HOU versus St. Louis Cardinals
Jason Jennings, SP, HOU versus St. Louis Cardinals
Lance Cormier, SP, ATL @ Chicago Cubs
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.
Sean Allen is a fantasy baseball analyst for ESPN.com and TalentedMrRoto.com. He can be reached at alla_rino@TalentedMrRoto.com