Interleague play is baaaaaaaack ... and this time, it'll be with us for a while, 17 days to be exact. The fun kicks off Friday, with Joba Chamberlain's third career start coming in Houston, Justin Masterson's fourth coming in Cincinnati and a traditional rivalry that, for once, actually matters: Marlins-Rays (can you believe they're both contenders?). Also, Barry Zito faces his old team, who destroyed him in their meeting last year, while the struggling Zack Greinke returns to the site of his worst career start.
Matchups for Friday, June 13
All times are ET.
Moises Alou, OF, Mets (calf)
Josh Barfield, 2B, Indians (finger)
Ryan Church, OF, Mets (concussion)
Jerry Hairston Jr., SS/OF, Reds (thumb)
Victor Martinez, C/1B, Indians (elbow)
Albert Pujols, 1B, Cardinals (calf)
J.J. Putz, RP, Mariners (elbow)
Alfonso Soriano, OF, Cubs (hand)
Rickie Weeks, 2B, Brewers (knee)
Garret Anderson, OF, Angels (knee)
Aaron Boone, 1B/3B, Nationals (neck)
Chone Figgins, 3B, Angels (hamstring)
J.J. Hardy, SS, Brewers (shoulder)
Kevin Millar, 1B, Orioles (knee)
Troy Percival, RP, Rays (hamstring)
Jason Varitek, C, Red Sox (strep throat)
Start 'em, sit 'em
Hitters: Six American League teams -- the A's, Rangers, Red Sox, Royals, Twins and Yankees -- lose the designated hitter as a result of playing games in National League parks. Accounting for the matchups, here's who's likely to sit: Jack Cust (the A's face a left-hander), David Murphy (Milton Bradley should play in right field, Marlon Byrd in left), Coco Crisp (Manny Ramirez should play in left field, Jacoby Ellsbury in center) and Jason Kubel (didn't play in the field during the Twins' May interleague contests). The Yankees' outfield picture is a little tougher to forecast. Hideki Matsui is 2-for-3 lifetime against the Astros' Shawn Chacon, and Johnny Damon is on too much of a hot streak to sit. If Matsui plays left field and Damon center, with Melky Cabrera sitting, don't be shocked. ... Neither Miguel Cabrera (3-for-20, 1 HR) nor Ivan Rodriguez (5-for-22, 0 HR) has a particularly impressive career record against the Dodgers' Derek Lowe. It's tough for a Cabrera owner to sit him but Rodriguez owners absolutely should. ... Andre Ethier warrants a start against most right-handers, considering he's hitting .327 with an .873 OPS against that side for the season. He also has .294/.816 road rates, supporting his "start 'em" status. ... Scott Rolen has had a terrible time battling the Cubs' Carlos Zambrano over the years. He's a lifetime .182 hitter (8-for-44) with two homers against the right-hander. ... Mike Lowell is 5-for-8 lifetime against struggling Reds right-hander Aaron Harang, and he's a .429 hitter with two homers and a 1.316 OPS in nine career games at Cincinnati's Great American Ball Park. Also get J.D. Drew into your lineup. He's a .342 hitter with two homers and a .998 OPS in 12 career games at Great American. ... Jeremy Hermida hit safely in each of three games at Tampa Bay's Tropicana Field in 2007, including a 1-for-3, one-homer performance against the Rays' Andy Sonnanstine, his scheduled Friday opponent. ... The Yankees have squeezed Jason Giambi into their lineup at first base 42 times this season, and he's hitting .359 (33-for-92) with 10 homers and 21 RBIs in 28 games since May 8, ensuring his probable spot in their lineup despite the absence of the DH. ... Jose Guillen has been on a massive tear of late, batting .388 (52-for-134) with eight homers and 34 RBIs in 33 games since May 7, and he's a .333 hitter with a .999 OPS against left-handers this season. ... Ryan Ludwick has actually been doing much of his damage this season against right-handed pitching, batting .355 with a 1.153 OPS against that side. He does have a home run in four career at-bats against the Phillies' Kyle Kendrick, too. ... The Giants hit left-handed pitching better than you might realize -- take note, Greg Smith owners -- and two who do it as well as anyone are Aaron Rowand and Randy Winn. Against lefties this season, Rowand is a .448/1.335 hitter, Winn has .324/.924 rates, and digging even deeper, Ray Durham and Bengie Molina warrant starts.
Pitchers: A.J. Burnett has a 2.97 ERA and 1.29 WHIP in five interleague starts for his Blue Jays career, and the Cubs are a more ordinary offense in road games. He's well worth AL-only or deep-mixed consideration, despite his shaky home record. ... Aaron Harang is in a bit of a funk, losing four consecutive starts with a 9.15 ERA and 2.08 WHIP, and he's getting little run support (2.78, third-least among qualified starters). That makes him a weak option battling the Red Sox, one of the game's strongest offenses. If you can afford the luxury, consider benching Harang for this one. ... The Rays expect Troy Percival back from the DL on Friday, and should toss him right back into the closer's role. ... The Yankees plan a pitch count of about 90-95 for Joba Chamberlain in his third career big-league start, and first in a National League park, where he'll get to bat. Note the "get to" instead of "have to," as Joba boasts being pretty good hitter. Not that his hitting stats count, but hey, perhaps he'll help provide his own run support? That'd be nice, as Joba's pitch count should be barely enough to get through five frames and qualify for the win this time, though a win is no guarantee for a five-, maybe six-inning pitcher. Call this his first "useful" start, but it's no standout, keeping him a weak shallow-mixed option. ... Gavin Floyd has four consecutive quality home starts, and a 20:1 strikeout-to-walk ratio in his past three turns overall. With him only showing such signs of improvement, he's a standout start against the Rockies, whose road OPS is a pathetic .673. ... The only time in his career Zack Greinke pitched at Arizona's Chase Field, he was obliterated for 11 runs on 15 hits, three of them home runs, in 4 1/3 innings on June 10, 2005. Granted, he was a far weaker pitcher then than he is today, but he's also 0-3 with a 7.88 ERA and 1.63 WHIP in his past four turns. With the Diamondbacks one of baseball's best home offenses (.833 team OPS), Greinke's Friday results might not be all that much better than his awful returns that fateful day in 2005.
Hitters: Both Adam Jones (.317 AVG, .768 OPS against left-handers) and Melvin Mora (.314/1.056) should be in your lineup against the Pirates' Phil Dumatrait, a pitcher pretty susceptible to platoon splits (.250/.720 against righties, .182/.573 against lefties). ... Eric Hinske continues to show good power against right-handed pitchers, hitting 10 of his 11 home runs against that side this year with .268/.903 rates, and averaging one homer per 26.4 at-bats for his career against that side. He's worth using against inexperienced Marlins righty Ryan Tucker. ... Russell Branyan has started each of the Brewers' past 12 games against a right-hander, and he's a .343/1.392 hitter against that side for the season. The Twins' Kevin Slowey is a strike-throwing specialist susceptible to the home run, an excellent matchup for Branyan. ... The White Sox tend to spot Pablo Ozuna into their lineup against select left-handers, and I'd say the Rockies' Jeff Francis might qualify as that. He's 3-for-3 lifetime against Francis, so count on him slotting in at the expense of either Alexei Ramirez (second base) or Joe Crede (third base). ... Get Skip Schumaker into your lineup facing the Phillies' Kyle Kendrick, against whom he's 3-for-5 lifetime. He's also a .346 hitter with a .910 OPS against right-handers this season. ... Miguel Olivo is a .288 hitter (32-for-111) with five homers and 17 RBIs in his past 29 games, and a .283/.970 hitter against left-handers this season. He'll probably catch ahead of John Buck on Friday. ... Chad Tracy was one of those Diamondbacks hitters who helped hammer the Royals' Zack Greinke in their only meeting in 2005. He was 2-for-3 with two doubles against the right-hander. Tracy is a .307/.878 hitter against right-handers for his career, well worth spot starting for this one. ... Among the handful of Braves who have actually faced the Angels' Jon Garland, Greg Norton is 4-for-9 with two home runs lifetime against the right-hander. He's also 5-for-15 with three doubles in four games at Angel Stadium in 2007-08 alone. ... Don't be surprised if the Braves squeak Omar Infante into their lineup, either, perhaps in center field. He's 16-for-38 (.421 AVG) with four doubles and a triple in his career against Garland, enough a track record to warrant a possible spot start. Check the early lineup first, of course!
Remember that with interleague contests, teams tend to do everything in their power to sneak them in, weather concerns or not. In the worst-case scenario, most will be postponed and rescheduled as doubleheaders either on Saturday or Sunday. Six Friday games are weatherproof: Cubs-Blue Jays, Marlins-Rays, Twins-Brewers, Yankees-Astros, Royals-Diamondbacks and Nationals-Mariners. Beyond that, weather seems to be of most concern in Cincinnati, Cleveland and Detroit. There's better than a 50 percent chance of rain in each of those cities (60 in Detroit), and it's scheduled to fall for most of the day. Other cities of mild concern: Chicago (30) and St. Louis (50).
Tristan H. Cockcroft covers fantasy sports for ESPN.com. You can e-mail him here.