The final series of the season between two American League powerhouses, the Red Sox and Rays, kicks off Monday, and with the day's best pitching matchup to boot: Daisuke Matsuzaka against Scott Kazmir. As other teams play out the string, however, some players recently added to September's expanded rosters take the mound, such as the Tigers' Dontrelle Willis making his first start in three months against the Rangers. The scoreboard-watching will continue as well, with seven of Monday's 10 games featuring playoff implications. The Cubs-Astros tilt has been moved to Milwaukee for Monday.
Matchups for Monday, September 15
All times are ET.
Adrian Beltre, 3B, Mariners (thumb)
Jeff Clement, C, Mariners (knee)
Joe Crede, 3B, White Sox (back)
Jesus Flores, C, Nationals (ankle)
Carlos Guillen, 1B/3B, Tigers (back)
Fred Lewis, OF, Giants (foot)
Ty Wigginton, 3B/OF, Astros (hamstring)
Michael Cuddyer, OF, Twins (foot)
Ronnie Belliard, 1B/2B/3B, Nationals (groin)
J.D. Drew, OF, Red Sox (back)
Andre Ethier, OF, Dodgers (personal)
Jody Gerut, OF, Padres (finger)
Conor Jackson, 1B, Diamondbacks (shoulder)
Evan Longoria, 3B, Rays (wrist)
Paul Konerko, 1B, White Sox (knee)
Kazuo Matsui, 2B, Astros (back)
Troy Percival, RP, Rays (back)
Freddy Sanchez, 2B, Pirates (vision)
Start 'em, sit 'em
Hitters: Alexei Ramirez is just 11-for-57 (.192) since the end of his 11-game hitting streak August 26. Ramirez has a measly 21-to-2 strikeout-to-walk ratio since August, so the low batting average may just be his impatience coming back to hurt him, which doesn't bode well for the near future. Lefties are slugging .470 off Buehrle this year, and both Bobby Abreu (seven hits in 11 career at-bats) and Jason Giambi (seven hits in 19 at-bats, including two home runs) seem to hit well against Buehrle, albeit in a limited sample size.
Pitchers: The Yankees are susceptible to left-handed pitching (.737 OPS against, 19th) and aren't currently hitting all that well, so Buehrle looks like a promising option. He's rebounded well since being shelled for seven runs in 4 2/3 innings against the Red Sox, with one run allowed in his past two starts (13 1/3 innings). Slowey has held his opponent to two earned runs or less in six of his past seven starts, and although his opponents Monday, the Indians, have hit better of late, they've still yet to demonstrate much power. Left-handed hitters hurt Slowey (.504 SLG), but the Indians have little power from that side, so he's a good bet to continue his recent success. Kazmir entered the year with a 2.67 career ERA against the Red Sox in 17 career starts, but it's been a different story this year as the Red Sox have knocked him around to the tune of 28 baserunners in 15 innings en route to a 5.40 ERA. A patient team such as the Red Sox exacerbates Kazmir's high walk rate, and he rarely pitches deep in games anyway, so keep him reserved. A matchup versus the Nationals is too juicy to pass up, no matter how volatile Pedro Martinez' starts have been this season. It also helps that, in the friendly confines of Shea Stadium, Pedro's allowed only four home runs in seven starts, and has an ERA almost a run and a half lower.
Hitters: With Dontrelle Willis making his first start since June 9, Marlon Byrd gets another tasty matchup against a left-hander. If you haven't noticed, Byrd hits behind Josh Hamilton and Milton Bradley in the loaded Rangers lineup, so there's a lot to like. Alex Gordon is hitting .278 with 13 home runs in 302 at-bats against right-handers, and the Mariners' Carlos Silva has been torched by everyone recently, with 43 hits allowed in his past five starts (23 innings). Gordon is 3-for-10 with a home run off Silva in his short career. Like most Padres, Brian Giles hits much better on the road than in Petco Park, and obviously it doesn't get much more favorable than hitting in Coors Field. Kevin Kouzmanoff has also benefited from his games in Coors, with a .321 average and three home runs in 53 career at-bats. Finally, Will Venable, the fill-in for the injured Jody Gerut, is doing well as the replacement, hitting .314 with an 8-to-6 strikeout-to-walk ratio, and three of his nine runs in his past four games.
Pitchers: Hiroki Kuroda's overall numbers (3.93 ERA, 1.24 WHIP) are strong, but the inconsistent manner in which he's accumulated those numbers make him somewhat of an enigma. After allowing 17 earned runs in a three-start stretch from July 18 to July 28, Kuroda allowed just one run in each of his next three starts, but now, in his past five starts, he's been fairly mediocre against a light schedule, making Monday's start against the Pirates tough to gauge. The risk-averse will want to avoid, but any decent pitcher against one of the league's weakest offenses has some spot-start value.
There are only a couple of minor concerns about rain Monday, with the White Sox-Yankees, Dodgers-Pirates and Twins-Indians all with identical chances of precipitation at 20 percent. Tampa Bay (Red Sox-Rays) and Arizona (Giants-Diamondbacks) are played in domes, as usual.
Adam Madison is a fantasy baseball analyst for ESPN.com