A number of intriguing pitching matchups litter the landscape, from Cole Hamels hoping to reassert his dominance versus Chris Young and the Padres, to Justin Verlander and Felix Hernandez toeing the mound in a duel in Seattle. In between, Gil Meche heads to Arlington, Texas, to take on the intimidating Rangers lineup, Brad Penny gets his first AL East test in a home start versus Jeremy Guthrie and the Orioles, and Bartolo Colon faces a stiff test in Tampa Bay against the Rays.
Starting pitcher rankings for Wednesday, April 8 (* all stats listed are from 2008)
Rk.: The author's ranking of that pitcher for that day only. T: pitcher throws left-handed or right-handed. Record: pitcher's win-loss record. ERA: pitcher's earned run average. WHIP: pitcher's average number of walks plus hits surrendered per inning. K/9: pitcher's average number of strikeouts per nine innings. OPSA: pitcher's on-base plus slugging percentage surrendered to opponents. OPS: pitcher's opponent's composite team on-base plus slugging percentage. CT%: pitcher's opponent's success rate putting the ball in play (versus striking out).
Selected notes:P.J. Walters will make his major league debut against the Cubs, whose lineup just saw the return of Aramis Ramirez and Milton Bradley. While Walters averaged 8.8 strikeouts per nine innings in the minors, he will have to get by with his command in the majors because he doesn't throw any harder than 90 miles per hour. So far the Blue Jays have been scorching with the bats (.902 OPS, second in the majors), and it's unlikely Josh Outman is going to be the fire extinguisher. Not only should David Purcey get plenty of run support, the A's are an uninspiring offense, making Purcey a nice spot start. Jeremy Guthrie hasn't been half bad against the Red Sox, with a 3.43 ERA in seven starts since 2006. By the numbers, Gil Meche has turned into a strong No. 2 starter, often times no matter the opponent, but the Rangers at home are a beast, and one he hasn't conquered too well (8.10 ERA, 1.85 WHIP). It may be tempting to start Randy Wolf at home versus the Rockies, but fewer teams pounded lefties harder than the Rockies last season (.803 OPS, fifth in the majors). Wolf has a 2-to-1 ratio of fly balls to ground balls, and the Rockies have enough power to send a few of those misplaced fly balls out of the stadium. For some reason, Jonathan Sanchez has been utterly dominated by the Diamondbacks throughout his career, with a 7.98 ERA and 1.98 WHIP in 29 1/3 innings. It's unfortunate because he would otherwise be an intriguing spot start, facing a weak offense in the comfort of his home stadium.
• Skip Schumaker, OF, Cardinals: It's hard to believe, but Schumaker owns Carlos Zambrano, hitting 7-of-19 with two doubles, a triple, a home run and a walk against him.
• Adam LaRoche, 1B, Pirates: Maybe he's figured out how to overcome his slow April starts (three home runs and a double in seven games) and he has an .878 career OPS at PNC Park.
• Adrian Gonzalez, 1B, Padres: You would think that, as a lefty, he would have trouble against Cole Hamels, but he's never had much trouble, with five hits (one home run) in 12 at-bats.
• David Ortiz, DH, Red Sox: Has crushed Jeremy Guthrie when he's put the bat on the ball, with four of his five hits (in 15 at-bats) against him going for doubles, which may be what he needs to kick start his season.
• Hank Blalock, 3B, Rangers: Has crushed Gil Meche to the tune of 13 hits -- three of which were home runs -- in 34 at-bats, with seven extra base-hits overall.
• Jack Wilson, SS, Pirates: Roy Oswalt has never mastered Wilson, for some reason, as the shortstop is hitting .364 (24-for-66) with six extra base-hits and three walks against the Astros ace.
• Casey Blake, 3B, Dodgers: Blake has hit Jorge De La Rosa hard, going 5-for-16 with all but one of those hits going for extra bases, and two going over the fence. He's slugging .813 against the southpaw.
• Conor Jackson, 1B/OF, Diamondbacks: As one-sided a split with a pitcher as you'll ever see, with nine hits in 12 at-bats -- two going for home runs -- against Giants southpaw Jonathan Sanchez.
• Chris Duncan, OF, Cardinals: Despite Zambrano's occasional problems against lefties, Duncan hasn't presented much of a problem, hitting just 3-of-14 against him, with all three hits singles.
• Brian McCann, C, Braves: Is a noticeably worse hitter against lefties, and unfortunately Paul Maholm renders lefty batters useless (.218 AVG/.287 OBP/.308 SLG).
• Ryan Zimmerman, 3B, Nationals: Has six strikeouts and only three in 17 at-bats versus Ricky Nolasco.
• Mike Lowell, 3B, Red Sox: Has hit a homer off Guthrie, but has otherwise been quiet, with just two other hits in 16 at-bats.
• Carlos Pena, 1B, Rays: Has a ridiculous 14 strikeouts in 26 at-bats versus Bartolo Colon.
• Adrian Beltre, 3B, Mariners: Aside from a single home run, Beltre has had little success to speak of versus Justin Verlander, with more strikeouts (six) than hits (four) in 21 at-bats.
• Magglio Ordonez, OF, White Sox: Has a .286 average versus Felix Hernandez, but unfortunately has a. 286 OBP and SLG as well, with six strikeouts in 14 at-bats.
• Randy Winn, OF, Giants: Facing Dan Haren has been a hopeless matchup for Winn, hitting below the Mendoza Line (.171) with more strikeouts (nine) than hits and walks combined (eight).
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• Matt Diaz, OF, Braves: He's never had a problem hitting lefties (.327 in his career), and he's 3-for-6 with a home run against Paul Maholm.
• Scott Hairston, OF, Padres: A great platoon candidate against all lefties, including Cole Hamels, who he's 2-for-7 with a double and a home run against.
• Aaron Hill, 2B, Blue Jays: A second baseman with pop is always useful, Hill is off to a scorching, if unsustainable, start (.356 average with three home runs), and for his career he's always hit lefties (.302 average, .820 OPS).
• Ryan Freel, OF, Orioles: May get the start because he's a whopping 8-for-19 with two doubles, a triple, and four walks against Brad Penny.
• Ryan Church, OF, Mets: Has cooled down a bit, but is still hitting better than .400 in the young season, and against Dave Bush specifically, he's 2-for-7 with a home run.
• Franklin Gutierrez, OF, Mariners: His numbers don't look that great so far, but four of his six hits have been of the extra-base variety, and he has a positive strikeout-to-walk ratio as well (three K's, four walks). He's 5-for-17 against Verlander, including two doubles, a home run and a walk.
Injury list: Out
• Jed Lowrie, SS, Red Sox (wrist, 15-day DL)
• Joe Mauer, C, Twins (back): Is expected to begin a minor league rehab assignment next week
• Melvin Mora, 3B, Orioles (hamstring, 15-day DL)
• Xavier Nady, OF, Yankees (elbow, 15-day DL; may be out for the season)
Injury list: Day-to-day
• Wladimir Balentien, OF, Mariners (wrist)
• Ronnie Belliard, 2B, Nationals (back)
• Milton Bradley, OF, Cubs (groin)
• Eric Chavez, 3B, Athletics (shoulder)
• Nomar Garciaparra, SS, Athletics (calf): Hopes to return Friday.
• Cristian Guzman, SS, Nationals (hamstring)
• J.J. Hardy, SS, Brewers (back)
• Brad Hawpe, OF, Rockies (hamstring): Is availale to pinch-hit
• Kenji Johjima, C, Mariners (hamstring)
• Chipper Jones, 3B, Braves (thumb): May play Friday.
• Evan Longoria, 3B, Rays (personal): Longoria is expected back Friday.
• Kazuo Matsui, 2B, Astros (back)
• The A's-Blue Jays, White Sox-Rays, Reds-Astros, Angels-Twins and Tigers-Mariners are all weatherproof.
• The only game that Mother Nature may interfere with is the Royals-Rangers tilt, which will see scattered showers at night. Fortunately, sunshine is expected for the rest of the day's games.
Adam Madison is a fantasy baseball analyst for ESPN.com.