Cliff Lee, Felix Hernandez top options

Thursday has quite the pitching matchup on the schedule as the New York Yankees look to put a stranglehold on the AL East title. CC Sabathia looks for win No. 21 against David Price of the Tampa Bay Rays. The two aces are the top two ranked pitchers in ESPN's Cy Young Predictor, which is an overview of the entire season's body of work. Remember though, for our purposes here, we're looking only at a single day's work, and with the two studs squaring off, each one's overall chances of victory go down a little bit. Here's how the whole list shakes out:

For starters

Starting pitcher rankings for Sept. 23

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.

Selected notes:

Cliff Lee is 5-2 lifetime against the Oakland Athletics, and has a 0.53 ERA against them this season. Felix Hernandez has allowed only two earned runs in his past four visits to AL East stadia. Mat Latos has a career 2.57 ERA facing the Los Angeles Dodgers. He rounds out our top trio.

Both Price and Sabathia are 1-1 against each other's teams this season, but CC gets the leg up thanks to a 1.84 ERA versus the Rays, as opposed to Price's 4.35 going up against the Bronx Bombers.

Both Ryan Dempster and Yovani Gallardo each allowed only one earned run in wins against their Thursday opponents this season. Anibal Sanchez hasn't yet faced the Milwaukee Brewers in 2010, but is 2-0 lifetime against the Brew Crew with a 2.86 ERA.

In his four games facing the Colorado Rockies, snakebitten Ian Kennedy has a decent 3.68 ERA, but somehow has a record of 0-1. Dallas Braden is similarly unfortunate, with a 2.86 ERA when the Texas Rangers come calling this season, but a record of 1-2 in those contests.

Hitter matchup ratings for Sept. 23

Hitter ratings account for the opposing starting pitcher's past history (three years' worth as well as past 21 days) as well as ballpark factors. "LHB" and "RHB" ratings account only for left- and right-handed batters, respectively.

Hitters' count:

Ichiro Suzuki, OF, Mariners: Ichiro is a career .419 hitter against the current Blue Jays staff and has had eight hits in his past four games.

Wilson Betemit, 3B, Royals: Betemit has blasted three of his 12 home runs this season against the Indians, including a pair at Progressive Field.

Stephen Drew, SS, Diamondbacks: Jeff Francis has been a good friend to Drew's fantasy value. In 20 at-bats, he's allowed the shortstop to hit .350 with a home run and four RBIs.

Matt LaPorta, 1B, Indians: He's struggled this month, but 10 of his 39 RBIs this season have come at the hands of the Royals, and he has homered off Sean O'Sullivan in the past.

Pitchers' count:

Andre Ethier, OF, Dodgers: This month's .208 batting average is anemic, and so is the career .100 versus Mat Latos of the Padres.

Lyle Overbay, 1B, Blue Jays: With only two hits in 14 at-bats against Felix Hernandez (.143), Overbay is clearly overmatched.

Cameron Maybin, OF, Marlins: Maybin is in a 2-for-16 slump and has gone 0-for-3 against today's scheduled starter, Yovani Gallardo.

Carlos Pena, 1B, Rays: With a lifetime average of .114 against CC Sabathia, including 19 strikeouts in 35 at-bats, pass on Pena Thursday.

Baseball Challenge Pick of the Day

Matt Holliday, LF, Cardinals: Holliday is going out with a bang. He's got a 12-game hitting streak going, with a .409 average for September, and he's gone 13-for-36 (.361) against the Pirates this season.


Injury list:

Geovany Soto, C, Cubs (out for season, shoulder surgery)
Tyler Colvin, OF, Cubs (out for season, punctured chest from broken bat)
Daric Barton, 1B, Athletics (day-to-day, thigh contusion)
Chris Dickerson, OF, Brewers (day-to-day, strained hamstring)
Jim Edmonds, OF, Reds (day-to-day, strained right leg)
J.J. Hardy, SS, Twins (day-to-day, migraines)
Hunter Pence, OF, Astros (day-to-day, right hip)

Weather concerns

Weatherproof games: Mariners at Blue Jays, Marlins at Brewers and Rockies at Diamondbacks. The Windy City lives up to its name with gusts of more than 20 mph expected to blow through Wrigley Field. Other than that, Thursday should be just fine for baseball.

AJ Mass is a fantasy baseball, football and college basketball analyst for ESPN.com. You can follow AJ on Twitter or e-mail him here.