Interleague play in September? Yes, it's true. Thursday provides us with a Chicago showdown, the result of a postponement way back on June 16. Quite frankly, not much has changed since then. Back when this game was originally supposed to go down, the Cubs were 30-30 and the White Sox were floundering at 30-34. Now, after both teams flirted with postseason relevancy for a couple of months, we find them in nearly the same place. The Cubs are 66-64, and the White Sox are 64-69 and selling off guys like Jim Thome and Jose Contreras. You know what else hasn't changed since June? Tim Lincecum is still pretty darn good, and he once again leads the list of scheduled starters for Thursday. Here's the full list:
Starting pitcher rankings for Thursday, Sept. 3
Rk.: The author's ranking of that pitcher for that day only. T: Pitcher throws left-handed or right-handed. W-L: Pitcher's win-loss record. ERA: Pitcher's earned run average. WHIP: Pitcher's average number of walks plus
Tim Lincecum is 2-0 with a 0.82 ERA in his past three starts against the Phillies, and although he's yet to square off against Chase Utley & Co. at "The Bank" this season, I still like his chances for success. David Wright is back for the Mets, but that isn't scaring us away from Jason Marquis, who has a 3.31 ERA at Coors Field for his career. Color me impressed with Tommy Hanson, who already beat the Marlins once this season and is 2-1 with a 3.60 ERA in his past three starts. Ricky Nolasco should keep the Marlins close, but he does have a 6.06 ERA against the Braves the past three times they've met. Ryan Dempster has pitched better since July ended, with a 3.69 ERA in August. Plus, the White Sox are hitting just .221 the past two weeks. Jon Garland's ERA on the road this season is 3.39, far better than his 5.35 ERA at home. Even though this is technically a home game, as he dons the Dodgers uniform for the first time, we're looking at it as a road game and ranking him accordingly. I still think Ricky Romero is doing it with mirrors, but with the injury to Sergio Mitre forcing Chad Gaudin to take the hill in what essentially amounts to a "pitch as long as you can, please" kind of outing, I think Romero will do enough to win at home, where he is 7-3. Manny Parra seems to have the Cardinals figured out, even if he's been shaky against almost everybody else, with a 2.29 ERA against the Cards in 2009. John Smoltz certainly has looked good in his first St. Louis outings, but I'm worried the other shoe will drop Thursday -- a bad Han Solo feeling. Another head-to-head matchup that could go either way is David Price versus Clay Buchholz. Price is 6-2 at home for his career, and Buchholz is a much better pitcher at home than on the road (1.29 WHIP at Fenway versus 1.79 everywhere else). Advantage to Price. Ian Snell has been a surprise of late, with a 3-0 record and a 2.16 ERA in his past three starts, plus he goes against Brett Tomko, getting an extra day off due to being a bit sore in the ribs. I want no part of the Fausto Carmona-Nate Robertson matchup, although if forced to choose, I'd go with Robertson at home, based on his recent string of decent outings -- 2.25 ERA in his past three, although he's 0-1 in those games. Billy Buckner gets the call to replace Jon Garland, but you want nothing to do with his 7.85 ERA as a starter, nor would you be wise to start Pat Misch of the Mets and his career 6.17 ERA at Coors.
• Curtis Granderson, OF, Tigers: With a .448 career batting average and a .793 slugging percentage against Fausto Carmona, expect plenty of offense from Granderson on Thursday.
• Jermaine Dye, OF, White Sox: He has hit .417 versus Ryan Dempster for his career and .333 overall against the Cubs this season.
• Jason Bay, OF, Red Sox: Bay is a Ray killer this season, with 10 RBIs against Tampa Bay, including a home run in Tuesday's Boston victory.
• Adrian Beltre, 3B, Mariners: Beltre is back from his bruise below the belt, and was hitting .390 in August before he got hurt and .356 since the All-Star break.
• Garrett Atkins, 3B, Rockies: Atkins hits the Mets well, generally speaking, with a .306 batting average against the current staff, but he hits a gaudy .571 against Pat Misch.
• David Wright, 3B, Mets: Some good news for the Mets, as Wright has recovered from his beaning and will bring his lifetime .370 batting average against Jason Marquis to their lineup Thursday.
• Mark Reynolds, 3B, Diamondbacks: Given the fact that the Diamondbacks probably have a pretty good scouting report on Jon Garland, we're going to wager that their best slugger manages to send one deep off his former teammate.
• Travis Hafner, DH, Indians: He might not play, given his shoulder woes, but if he does, don't expect a lot against Nate Robertson, a pitcher against whom he's managed only 4-for-30.
• Ryan Howard, 1B, Phillies: Not that it isn't possible for Howard to go deep off Tim Lincecum, but with more strikeouts than hits and a .231 average against the Giants' best pitcher, we'll take the under.
• Evan Longoria, 3B, Rays: Longoria hasn't figured out Clay Buchholz yet, with a 60 percent strikeout rate against him and no hits. Plus, Longoria is a far weaker hitter at home (.255 BA) than on the road (.284).
• Prince Fielder, 1B, Brewers: He's 0-for-his-past-10 and a .125 hitter against a seemingly revitalized John Smoltz. Not exactly numbers to write home about.
• Brian Schneider, C, Mets: Jason Marquis hasn't retired Schneider every time he's gone up against the Rockies pitcher just 20 out of 21 times.
• Marco Scutaro, 2B/SS/3B, Blue Jays: Scutaro might not have received a concussion from a baseball to the head last week, but he's clearly not right, going only 2-for-16 since then.
• Russell Martin, C, Dodgers: Martin is hitting only .176 against the D-backs this season and is a career 0-for-5 against emergency starter Billy Buckner.
If you're hardcore
• Andy Marte, 1B, Indians: He has hits in 11 of his past 12 games, and he's seen Nate Robertson before and done well, with a .800 slugging percentage against him.
• Brendan Ryan, SS, Cardinals: Ryan, despite being owned in only 2 percent of ESPN standard leagues, did hit .333 in August and has a .583 OBP against Manny Parra.
• Matt Diaz, OF, Braves: Diaz is hitting .550 since Aug. 22. Don't expect any letdown against Ricky Nolasco, against whom he's a .545 batter for his career.
• Wilkin Ramirez, OF, Tigers: One of the many September call-ups who might be able to provide some late-season pop on the cheap, Ramirez had 17 home runs and 33 stolen bases in Triple-A.
• John Bowker, OF, Giants: He's a .533 career hitter against the Phillies and tore up the Pacific Coast League with a league-high batting average of .342.
• Mike Carp, 1B, Mariners: With Russell Branyan hurt, Carp, who hit .375 in a brief stint with Seattle earlier this season, should get plenty of at-bats.
• Brett Hayes, C, Marlins: You can't get more hardcore than a third-string catcher called up on roster expansion day, now can you?
• Michael Brantley, OF, Indians: The Tribe has nothing much to play for, and Brantley had 46 steals at Triple-A this year. He will get some starts in 2009 and might do well enough to get major consideration for 2010.
Injury list: Out
Injury list: Day-to-day
• Cristian Guzman, SS, Nationals (foot): Bunions are keeping Guzman out of the lineup, which I suppose will resolve itself quicker than if the culprit were Funyuns.
• Hanley Ramirez, SS, Marlins (hamstring): It's become a recurring theme in 2009. Every so often, Han-Ram pulls himself from a game with some minor ailment and misses a few games as a result.
• Ken Griffey, OF, Mariners (knee): He might be ready to return to action Thursday after an MRI revealed only minor inflammation in his knee, but make sure before activating him.
• Adam Jones, OF, Orioles (ankle): X-rays were negative on Jones' severely sprained ankle, but he might end up being sidelined for a good portion of September as a result of his latest injury.
• Michael Young, 3B, Rangers (hamstring): An MRI looms, but early reports out of Texas have Young possibly missing a week or two as a result of the injury suffered running hard to first base.
• Thursday's two weatherproof games: Red Sox at Rays and Yankees at Blue Jays.
• Other than the rain that falls seemingly every day of the year -- at least for a few minutes -- in Florida, there is nothing but sunny skies and warm temperatures in the forecast throughout the limited slate of games. In other words, weather is a non-factor Thursday.