Fantasy Game Notes for Saturday: American League
Game Story: Take Garza away from the Metrodome, and he has a 1.65 ERA on the season. He should do just fine. In fact, Garza shut out the White Sox with a five-hitter over six innings back in July. Available in 90 percent of ESPN leagues, he will be a great spot start. Actually, with the White Sox and Twins ranking 28th and 29th in OPS over the previous week, Contreras should be useful in deep leagues. Despite walking six, Contreras shut out the Indians over six-plus innings in his most recent outing, and the two most dangerous Twins -- Justin Morneau and Torii Hunter -- are a combined 5-for-38 (.132) in their careers against Contreras.
Game Story: Actually, Matsuzaka has been Dice-Not-OK lately, allowing five or more earned runs in three of his past four starts. Sure, he can play the Yankees excuse card for one of those games, but the other two were against Toronto and Tampa Bay, two teams that are weak against right-handers. Is Matsuzaka getting a bit tired? He has thrown the eighth-most pitches in the majors. His splits show a downward spiral in ERA since June. However, the brightest spot on his August schedule was a seven-inning, one-run game against the Orioles. Dice-K will be OK for this game, but scrutinize his starts from here on out. Leicester hasn't started a game since 2005. Do you think a matchup with the Red Sox really is the place to test the waters? If Patterson sits, Tike Redman should be good for a stolen base off your waiver wire.
Notable Injuries: Richie Sexson, 1B (hamstring, questionable)
Game Story: It was Detroit that put up the first crooked number on Weaver when he was hot in late June/early July, and after looking at some of the career numbers for the Tigers, it makes sense. Marcus Thames, Curtis Granderson, Brandon Inge and Magglio Ordonez all have a career OPS better than .900 against Weaver. Placido Polanco hits better than .400 against Weaver and Sean Casey better than .300. The Tigers just might be the bane of the Weavers (incidentally, brother Jered has a 14.14 ERA against Detroit this season), so give Jeff the night off. Seattle ranks eighth in OPS versus left-handers, so Robertson isn't worth rising here in anything shallower than AL-only.
Notable Injuries: Ross Gload, OF (knee, questionable)
Game Story: Pettitte had been pumping out quality start after quality start until he ran into a hot Tampa team that just happens to feast on southpaws. You can't say the same about the hitting in Kansas City, so start Pettitte with confidence. Bannister is a complete maniac and has become a must-start in every format, but he hasn't been tested against the Yankees yet. If you don't desperately need the start, consider benching Bannister for this one game only. New York has maintained an .849 OPS against righties this season.
Notable Injuries: none
Game Story: There is no reason to question Burnett, despite the Devil Rays ranking first in OPS for the previous week. Burnett churns out quality starts like they are nothing and has controlled this Tampa team already this season (13 2/3 IP, 2.63 ERA, 23 K's). The Blue Jays haven't been too far behind Tampa Bay in hitting (fourth in OPS) over the past week, but that might not be bad news for Hammel. Toronto does most of its damage versus lefties and has been fairly average as a team against the Devil Rays (.251 BA, .738 OPS). Hammel shutdown the Yankees in his most recent outing and should get a look in AL-only leagues.
Notable Injuries: none
Game Story: Gaudin has been far too unpredictable, and with the Triple-A cast of characters behind him, should be avoided. The recently returned Hank Blalock is 3-for-4 in his career against Gaudin, and Michael Young bats almost .600 against him. Gaudin's first two outings against the Rangers were fine, but they torched him for five and seven earned runs in his most recent games against them. If Gabbard can get by Mark Ellis, he will be OK in this game. Ellis is 4-for-4 against Gabbard and did all the damage for Oakland in an Aug. 7 meeting. Despite the lack of familiar names on Oakland's roster, they have put up a fight and have an .812 OPS for the previous week. I'm on the fence about Gabbard but will endorse him for deep or AL-only leagues, mostly because Ellis was quite literally the only Athletic who got to him in August.
Game Story: Despite all his troubles this season, Santana still holds down a 3.46 ERA at home. But here is another split: Santana has a 7.15 ERA against Cleveland. The bottom line is that Sabathia will be sharing the mound with Santana, so it's hard to expect an Angels victory, especially with Vladdy dinged up. That leaves no upside at all to starting Santana. He's not worth the risk. And Jhonny Peralta can sit this one out; he is 0-for-6 against Santana. Sabathia is going for his 11th straight quality start. There is no reason to worry about him.
Fantasy Game Notes for Saturday: National League
Notable Injuries: Carlos Delgado, 1B (hip, out)
Game Story: Delgado has smoked Williams to the tune of a 1.438 OPS, so the Astros pitcher has dodged a bullet. Unfortunately, David Wright, Shawn Green and Moises Alou also have hit very well against Williams. Williams has a 7.50 ERA in Shea Stadium over the past three years. With no real strikeout potential from Williams, he's a high-risk/low-reward option, not something to take pride in for fantasy baseball. Glavine has pitched tremendously, with his two most recent outings being tough road starts in Philly and Atlanta. He also has a quality start logged against these soft-hitting Astros this season. Glavine should be just fine for a spot start.
Notable Injuries: Dave Roberts, OF (quadriceps, questionable)
Game Story: The Giants couldn't hit a southpaw tossing grapefruits, so only consider Barry Bonds and Ray Durham, both of whom have positive histories against Boomer. Wells should be useful in NL-only leagues or deep mixed leagues. Zito has been hot lately, but Luis Gonzalez, Jeff Kent and Rafael Furcal all have an OPS better than 1.000 versus the Giants lefty. You can expand that list to include Russell Martin, Nomar Garciaparra and Matt Kemp if the cut-off is an OPS of .800. Zito could be in for a short day.
Game Story: As intriguing as his strikeout potential is, VandenHurk is going up against a team that rakes right-handers. He is not worth the risk. And stay the heck away from Eaton. Josh Willingham is a perfect 2-for-2 against him, Miguel Cabrera is a career 12-for-15 (.800) with three home runs and Cody Ross is 2-for-3 (.667) with two home runs.
PNC Park (outdoor) 7:05 p.m. ET (mostly cloudy, 60 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms, low of 63 degrees)
Carlos Zambrano, RHP (14-12, 4.35 ERA, 1.37 WHIP) versus
Ian Snell, RHP (9-11, 4.01 ERA, 1.33 WHIP)
Notable Injuries: Xavier Nady, OF (head, questionable)
Game Story: Zambrano is no sure start anymore. July was the last time he had a win or quality start. I'd skip him until we see Dr. Jekyll return. Jason Bay is a career 12-for-33 (.364) with five home runs against Big Z, and if Nady plays, he bats .412 against him. After a rough July, Snell actually pitched well in August against every team not based out of Cincinnati. His last start was a five-hit shutout over seven innings. The Cubs have not been particularly hot lately, nor do they hit particularly well against right-handers. Snell is good for a quality start here. Watch out for a rainout, though.
Game Story: If Renteria returns, the Braves will have five batters who hit better than .300 against lefties. Chico has not been pitching deep enough into games with enough regularity to expect fantasy-relevant stats every night, so it's easy to avoid him here. Chipper Jones is 4-for-8 with a home run versus Chico, while Andruw Jones is just 1-for-7 against him (but that hit was a homer, too). James looked decent enough in a return from the DL on Sept. 1. He has a 3.31 ERA in more than 16 innings versus the Nationals this season. The Nats are 24th in OPS versus southpaws, so James is good for a quality start here.
Game Story: Suppan already had one brutal outing this season at Great American (5 IP, 10 H, 5 ER), and the Reds continue to swing the bat well. I'd avoid Suppan here, noting Ken Griffey Jr.'s 1.696 career OPS and five home runs in 25 at-bats against the Brewers pitcher. Adam Dunn, Scott Hatteberg and Brandon Phillips also possess a career OPS better than 1.000 versus Suppan. Joey Votto should play against the right-hander. Harang has struck out 18 Brewers in 16-plus innings this season and has a 3.78 ERA against Milwaukee. Harang's 3.35 ERA at home further solidifies the fact that he is a safe start. Ryan Braun (.429, 2 HRs versus Harang) and Bill Hall (.417, 3 HRs versus Harang) are safe to plug into your lineup. Keep an eye on the weather there.
Notable Injuries: Scott Hairston, OF (oblique, DL/may return)
Game Story: Maddux has been quite hot lately and has a decent 4.15 ERA in two starts at Coors this season. Matt Holliday and Garrett Atkins both have an OPS north of 1.000 against Maddux, but the rest of the Rockies are average against him. Look for a strong start from the veteran, even in the thin air. The Padres have been a thorn in Francis' side this season. The Canadian has been torched for an 11.15 ERA in three starts against San Diego. Keep Francis benched for this one. Milton Bradley, Morgan Ensberg, Kevin Kouzmanoff and Khalil Greene all have an OPS better than 1.000 versus Francis and have combined for eight career home runs against him. Adrian Gonzalez is only 4-for-17 (.235) versus Francis, but I wouldn't go far out of my way to avoid him.
Notable Injuries: Orlando Hudson, 2B (thumb, questionable)
Game Story: Looper has two straight seven-inning shutouts and is working on five straight quality starts. You might not get many strikeouts from him, but Looper makes a fine spot start for ratios and a win. The Diamondbacks squad is a career 7-for-42 (.167) versus Looper. Owings has been rather consistent, despite his most recent performance against San Diego (3 IP, 5 ER). I still wouldn't use Owings against this team and Rick Ankiel. The Cards are sixth in OPS over the past week, thanks mostly to Ankiel and his four home runs so far in September. Owings should be avoided.
Waiver Wire Pickups
Matt Garza, SP, MIN @ Chicago White Sox
Jose Contreras, SP, CHW versus Minnesota Twins
Tike Redman, OF, BAL versus Boston Red Sox
Brandon Inge, 3B, DET versus Seattle Mariners
Jason Hammel, SP, TB versus Toronto Blue Jays
Mark Ellis, 2B, OAK @ Texas Rangers
Tom Glavine, SP, NYM versus Houston Astros
Cody Ross, OF, FLA @ Philadelphia Phillies
Chuck James, SP, ATL versus Washington Nationals
Joey Votto, 1B, CIN versus Milwaukee Brewers
Greg Maddux, SP, SD @ Colorado Rockies
Braden Looper, SP, STL @ Arizona Diamondbacks
Rick Ankiel, OF, STL @ Arizona Diamondbacks
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