A tough Thursday to sort out, with five double-digit winners and three others looking to join that group with a victory. John Lackey (9-5) is the most likely to guess the secret password and gain entry. This is his fourth try to get that elusive 10th win, but his team has given him plenty of run support all season (5.21 runs per game) and is facing Ryan Rowland-Smith, himself primed and ready to join the exclusive 10-loss club. But wins are not everything, and even against the worst-hitting team in the American League, lackluster Lackey ranks only as high as No. 12 this Thursday. The rest of the list is as follows:
• Top options: Adam Wainwright looks to continue the Philadelphia Phillies' woes and go to 10 games over .500. He's been effective against them in the past, with a career 2.68 ERA, including one run eight-plus innings earlier this year. ... Josh Johnson has been equally as masterful, with a 2-0 record and 1.04 ERA lifetime against the Colorado Rockies.
• CC Sabathia looks for win No. 13 this season, and win No. 16 in his career against the Kansas City Royals. He's a better bet than Cliff Lee, who despite a 6-3 lifetime mark and 3.18 ERA against the Los Angeles Angels, may once again fall prey to the "Arlington Effect" at his new home.
• Tim Hudson is 4-0 against the San Diego Padres, including a win back on April 15. ... Yovani Gallardo returns from a left oblique strain to meet the Pittsburgh Pirates, a team he's beaten twice already this season, without allowing any earned runs.
• Jered Weaver faces the Texas Rangers for the third time this season, and though he's 1-0, the 5.40 ERA is a tad high. ... Justin Verlander has never beaten the Toronto Blue Jays and has a hideously high 11.40 ERA against the Canadian club.
• More good than bad: Matt Cain threw a one-hit shutout against the Arizona Diamondbacks back in ... May. Edinson Volquez is making only his second start after Tommy John surgery, but you can't argue with how good he looked the first time.
• More bad than good: Hiroki Kuroda is 0-3 against the New York Mets, with a 7.71 ERA, including a 4-0 loss in April. ... Jorge De La Rosa has a 6.57 career ERA against the Florida Marlins, and the last time he took the mound, he retired only one more hitter than he allowed to reach base. ... Clayton Richard owns a 10.57 ERA against the Atlanta Braves. Back in early April, he lost to the Braves 6-1.
• All bad, no good: Rodrigo Lopez projects to allow over eight runs a game each time he faces the San Francisco Giants. ... Kevin Millwood is perfect against the Minnesota Twins -- perfectly awful: 0-8, with a 5.71 career ERA. ... Bruce Chen is 1-3 with a 6.75 ERA lifetime against the New York Yankees.
Starting pitcher rankings for July 22
Rk.: The author's ranking of that pitcher for that day only. T: Pitcher throws left-handed or right-handed. Opp: The pitcher's opponent for the day. Rating: The starting pitcher's matchup rating -- separate from the author's ranking -- which accounts for past history (three years' worth as well as past 21 days), opponent and ballpark. Ratings range from 1-10, with 10 representing the best possible matchup, statistically speaking, and 1 representing the worst. W-L: Pitcher's win-loss record. ERA: Pitcher's earned run average. WHIP: Pitcher's average number of walks plus hits surrendered per inning.
Pablo Sandoval, 3B, San Francisco Giants: The Panda has five doubles and six RBIs in his past six games, and three extra-base hits and five RBIs lifetime against Rodrigo Lopez.
Hanley Ramirez, SS, Florida Marlins: Jorge De La Rosa must enjoy Han-Ram's company, because he's allowed the shortstop to hang around on the basepaths, with a .529 career OBP.
Mark Teixeira, 1B, New York Yankees: The offense is finally emerging from Teixeira, hitting .377 in July, and should overflow against Bruce Chen. In 11 career at-bats, Tex is hitting .636 with six home runs against the Royals starter.
Carlos Beltran, OF, New York Mets: Since 2007, Beltran has five home runs and 12 RBIs in 71 at-bats against the Los Angeles Dodgers, giving fantasy owners optimism that he'll soon notch his first tallies in those categories.
Ian Stewart, 3B, Colorado Rockies: Stewart is 2-for-17 since July 11, and a career 0-for-6 with five strikeouts against Josh Johnson.
Ryan Howard, 1B, Philadelphia Phillies: Flirting with .300, the Phillies slugger has hit only .182 against Adam Wainwright, so that pursuit will likely need to wait for another day.
Jose Guillen, DH, Kansas City Royals: Nine strikeouts in 20 career at-bats against CC Sabathia leads one to believe there'll be more misses than hits today for Guillen.
John Buck, C, Toronto Blue Jays: Buck is 7-for-14 in his last three games, but he's just about the only hitter on his team that Justin Verlander has held to a batting average under .300 (.269 in 26 at-bats.)
Andre Ethier, OF, Los Angeles Dodgers: An uncharacteristic 1-for-13 has slowed Ethier some of late, and he is hitting only .192 against current Mets pitching.
Baseball Challenge Pick of the Day
Brandon Phillips, 2B, Cincinnati Reds: Dusty Baker recognized he was out of gas after a 1-for-13 stretch and gave him a day off to reboot. Livan Hernandez provides an energy boost in the form of Phillips' .400 batting average against him.
Injury list: Out
Jamie Moyer, P, Philadelphia Phillies (probable trip to 15-day DL, elbow)
David Eckstein, 2B, San Diego Padres (probable trip to 15-day DL, calf strain)
Manny Ramirez, OF, Los Angeles Dodgers (15-day DL, calf strain)
Dustin Nippert, P, Texas Rangers (15-day DL, head injury)
Andy Pettitte, P, New York Yankees (15-day DL, left groin strain)
Scott Kazmir, P, Los Angeles Angels (15-day DL, strained left shoulder)
Damaso Marte, P, New York Yankees (15-day DL, sore left shoulder)
Injury list: Day-to-day
Yunel Escobar, SS, Toronto Blue Jays (bruised hand)
Anthony Lerew, P, Kansas City Royals (bruised ribs)
Jon Rauch, P, Minnesota Twins (ankle)
Michael Brantley, OF, Cleveland Indians (shoulder)
Austin Kearns, OF, Cleveland Indians (knee)
Weatherproof games: Giants at Diamondbacks and Red Sox at Mariners. The sun will be shining and the temperature on the rise for most of the country, with possible thunderstorms on the horizon for Cincinnati, Detroit and St. Louis.