Friday offers the standard full slate with all 15 contests under the lights. Max Scherzer's return for the Nationals tops the card, and Luke Weaver of the Cardinals looks to continue his late-season surge. There's also a strong set of spot starters, as well as a deep inventory of bats to pick up, as the fantasy baseball season winds down.
Good luck to those in head-to-head playoffs. Here's some potential help.
Pitchers to stream
Collin McHugh (R), 42 percent ownership in ESPN leagues, Houston Astros at Oakland Athletics: ESPN Research associate Kyle Soppe sums up McHugh's case nicely with the following: "McHugh hasn't allowed a home run in four straight starts, while Oakland is hitting .244 as a team (third lowest). If the homers aren't there, they've got an issue. In addition, Oakland owns fourth-highest K% versus right-handers this season at 24 percent." OK, Kyle, you sold me.
Jose Urena (R), 40 percent, Miami Marlins at Atlanta Braves: While more strikeouts would be nice, there's nothing wrong with a 3.71 ERA and 1.23 WHIP in this age of elevated run scoring. Heading into next season, Urena will still be just a streaming option in standard ESPN leagues, but he'll be a popular sleeper in deeper formats. Urena is in a good spot to keep his ratios low with a matchup against a Braves club in the bottom third with respect to production versus right-handers.
Lucas Giolito (R), 40 percent, Chicago White Sox vs. San Francisco Giants: What a difference a year makes. Last season, as a 20-year old, Giolito threw 21 1/3 innings for the Nationals, recording a 6.75 ERA and 1.78 WHIP with only 11 whiffs. In 20 innings with the White Sox, Giolito sits at 2.25 and .80, fanning 18 along the way. Giolito's in a great spot for another strong outing, facing one of the worst offenses in the league. Even using a designated hitter won't rescue the Giants' sticks.
Mike Clevinger (R), 36 percent, Cleveland Indians vs. Baltimore Orioles: In three of Clevinger's past five starts, he held the opposition scoreless. The other two he scuffled, but that's why he's not more widely owned -- inconsistency. The Orioles are mid-pack versus right-handed pitching so there's risk, but the Tribe are on a roll, so at minimum, Clevinger is in play for a win.
Trevor Williams (R), 10 percent, Pittsburgh Pirates at St. Louis Cardinals: With no quality pitchers to avoid, here's a bonus streamer. Williams has pitched well since the All-Star break, save for a visit to Coors Field and a beating inflicted by Friday's opponent, the Cardinals. That said, the current Redbirds unit mostly swings from the right side, while Williams has been quite effective in that scenario. The Bucs will have a tough time scoring against Luke Weaver, but Williams should do his part to keep the game close.
As expected, Aroldis Chapman appears to be returning to ninth-inning duties, likely this weekend. In the 4 2/3 frames since being relieved of the closer role, Chapman has whiffed six with one walk, allowing just one run.
Projected game scores
GS is the projected game score for the pitcher. A "*" means that the pitcher lacks requisite career major league data to produce an accurate rating; these are the author's ratings.
Miguel Montero (L), less than 1 percent, Toronto Blue Jays vs. Detroit Tigers (RHP Buck Farmer): Despite allowing eight runs over his past two starts, covering just 8 2/3 innings, Farmer gets another chance to show he can be part of the Tigers' future. Farmer pitched better in Triple-A, so there's a chance he can figure it out, but my money is still on more struggles. Either Montero or fellow lefty-swinging backstop Raffy Lopez will enjoy the platoon edge over the weak righty, along with Ezequiel Carrera and Ryan Goins. Don't sleep on Teoscar Hernandez, who doesn't have the platoon bump, though the toolsy outfielder is getting a hard look down the stretch.
Adrian Gonzalez (L), 10 percent, Los Angeles Dodgers vs. Colorado Rockies (RHP German Marquez): For the past month, the Dodgers have been one of the worst squads in the league when a right-hander is on the hill. Perhaps that explains why several left-handed Dodgers bats are below the 50 percent threshold used to identify picks here. Gonzalez isn't playing every day, but if he's sitting, that probably means Joc Pederson or Alex Verdugo are in the lineup, with Cody Bellinger grabbing his first baseman's mitt.
Brandon Phillips (R), 49 percent, Los Angeles Angels at Seattle Mariners (RHP Mike Leake): Playing in the same division, Phillips faced Leake numerous times over the years. Prior to the trade deadline, neither thought they'd share a division again, let alone be it the American League West. Leake pitched well last time against the Athletics, but since he generally doesn't miss many bats, he's always a risky start. Phillips, like most of his new teammates, puts the ball in play. Hitting leadoff, it should be a good night for the veteran, joined by Kole Calhoun, enjoying the platoon edge from the productive five-hole.
Matt Davidson (R), 5 percent, Chicago White Sox vs. San Francisco Giants (LHP Matt Moore): Davidson is fanning at a bloated 38 percent clip. However, between trips back to the dugout, he's circled the bases 24 times. Coincidentally, Moore has allowed 24 homers this season. The southpaw is suffering a huge park hit, giving Davidson, along with Kevan Smith and Tim Anderson, a significant edge.
Ketel Marte (B), 2 percent, Arizona Diamondbacks vs. San Diego Padres (RHP Jordan Lyles): Injuries paved the way for Marte to play full time, and he's taken advantage, sporting a nifty .781 OPS in 52 games. On Friday, being a switch-hitter should come in handy, as the Padres likely will have to deploy a mediocre bullpen, since not only is Lyles not good, he's not stretched out as a starter -- so even if he throws well, he won't pitch deep into the contest.
Yonder Alonso (L), 34 percent, Seattle Mariners vs. Los Angeles Angels (RHP Ricky Nolasco): Alonso's power has dropped from earlier in the season, but the past couple of weeks he's been an on-base machine, which is useful in points leagues. Ben Gamel and Mitch Haniger are also in play against the pedestrian Nolasco.
Jose Reyes (B), 23 percent, New York Mets vs. Cincinnati Reds (LHP Amir Garrett): In Amed Rosario's absence, Reyes has moved back to his old stomping grounds at shortstop. The veteran has quietly amassed a .915 OPS the past month with six valuable steals. Reyes has historically hit better against southpaws, so at least to start the game, he's in a great spot. Juan Lagares, Asdrubal Cabrera and Travis d'Arnaud are also in the picture, facing a lefty who was pitching to an unsightly 7.41 ERA and 1.56 WHIP before being banished to the minors in June.
Harrison Bader (R), 3 percent, St. Louis Cardinals vs. Pittsburgh Pirates (RHP Trevor Williams): Williams was listed among the streaming options and has pitched well lately, but his track record isn't sufficient to completely run away from opposing hitters. Bader has been playing a lot, at the expense of Tommy Pham, Stephen Piscotty and Randal Grichuk. Check the lineup, as it's in flux, but all are in play. Additionally, Jose Martinez isn't just playing against lefties -- he's earned regular at-bats and is another option.
Austin Jackson (R), 3 percent, Cleveland Indians vs. Baltimore Orioles (LHP Wade Miley): Jackson has been hitting out of the two-hole, a great place to be against one of the worst pitchers in the league on the Progressive Field hill. Yandy Diaz, Yan Gomes or Roberto Perez and Brandon Guyer are also in line for productive efforts, all having the platoon edge.
Robbie Grossman (B), 1 percent, Minnesota Twins at Kansas City Royals (RHP Ian Kennedy): Grossman is off the disabled list, returning to his designated hitter role, showing no signs of rust, going 3-for-8 with a homer in his first two games back.
Hitter matchup ratings
Notes: Hitter ratings account for the opposing starting pitcher's history (three years' worth, as well as the past 21 days) and ballpark factors. "LH" and "RH" ratings account only for left- and right-handed batters, respectively. Weighted on-base average (wOBA) is the primary statistic used in the calculation. Ratings range from 1 to 10, with 10 representing the best possible matchup, statistically speaking, and 1 representing the worst. So, for example, a 10 is a must-start rating, whereas a 1 should be avoided (if possible); a 1-2 is poor, 3-4 is fair, 5-6 is average, 7-8 is very good and 9-10 is excellent.