Every roster move in fantasy baseball is so crucial at this stage as we have less and less time to overcome mistakes. With that in mind, I will urge you to be careful on spot-starting pitchers. Continue to monitor your standings and understand where you can gain or lose points. Don't take unnecessary risks if a win or five to six strikeouts won't even get you close to gaining points. Head-to-head scenarios are different and I'd loosen the reins in those situations. Just two more weeks, so let's win some titles!
Pitchers to stream
German Marquez (R), 26 percent ownership in ESPN leagues, Colorado Rockies at San Francisco Giants: Marquez has a chance to be a fantasy gem this week as a widely available arm with trips to San Francisco and San Diego. Marquez has shown a reverse platoon split this year with lefties hitting 88 points worse than righties at a .751 OPS. The Giants' starting lineup usually features five lefties, and if they make switches, the righties on the bench are remarkably underwhelming. Marquez was actually popped in San Francisco back in June (4 IP/5 ER), but I'm not betting on lightning striking twice here.
Mike Leake (R), 42 percent, Seattle Mariners vs. Texas Rangers: It's been a roller-coaster season for Leake. He started by posting a 2.97 ERA through June, followed by a 6.94 in the next two months, only to look like the early-season version in three starts with Seattle, where he's posted a 2.41 ERA and 17 strikeouts in 18 2/3 IP. Keeping the ball in the yard is usually the driver behind his success or failure (0.76 through June, 1.9 in July-August, 0 with SEA) so I'm willing to trust him at home. The Rangers' .301 wOBA on the road is 25th in the league.
Mike Montgomery (L), 12 percent, Chicago Cubs at Tampa Bay Rays: Montgomery has a 2.73 ERA and 1.14 WHIP over his past 26.3 IP (4 starts, 2 relief appearances). He has only 17 strikeouts in that time, but the Rays have the league's highest strikeout rate against lefties at 26 percent and their .311 wOBA sits 26th.
Pitcher to avoid
Jose Berrios (R), 73 percent, Minnesota Twins at New York Yankees: In the interest of full disclosure, I'm a big Berrios fan and think he has front-line potential going forward. That said, he's been inconsistent down the stretch with four great starts and four bad ones. The Yankees have the league's second-best wOBA against righties on the year at .348 (second to only Houston).
If I have a concern about the Montgomery recommendation, it's that the Cubs' bullpen could cost him a win. He doesn't often go deep into games, so he'll likely need three to four innings pitched out of them, and they've posted a 4.99 ERA, 1.46 WHIP, 13 percent walk rate and 1.3 HR/9 in the second half. Be careful relying on Montgomery or any Cubs starters for wins down the stretch.
Projected game scores
GS is the projected game score for the pitcher. A "*" means the pitcher lacks requisite career major league data to produce an accurate rating; these are the author's ratings.
Robinson Chirinos (R), 42 percent, Texas Rangers at Seattle Mariners (RHP Mike Leake): Chirinos' breakout season has been powered by his destruction of lefties (1.153 OPS, 6 HR), but the power is still there against righties and his .254 ISO has yielded 11 HR in 211 PA. I'm surprised that a catcher with 17 HR and a .911 OPS is still so widely available.
Justin Bour (L), 30 percent, Miami Marlins vs. New York Mets (RHP Seth Lugo): Bour was the toast of baseball back in May when he posted a .344/.427/.729 line with 11 HR. He came back to earth in June and July before an injury ate up 43 games, including all of August. He hasn't hit a homer in eight games since returning, but his .287/.369/.524 against righties makes him a reasonable bet to pop a few more home runs down the stretch, perhaps against Lugo with his .303/.350/.449 line against lefties. Lugo also has a 5.60 ERA and 1.45 WHIP in the second half. Any Marlin seems like a good option ... which is why we'll have another one soon.
Ian Happ (B), 33 percent, Chicago Cubs at Tampa Bay Rays (RHP Chris Archer): Happ has come down from his huge August (.958 OPS, 7 HR), but he's still a viable play against righties or lefties, home or away. How is he rostered in only 33 percent of leagues?! Archer has a 119-point platoon split favoring lefty hitters. They're hitting .269/.332/.444 with 12 HR in 371 PA (righties have 13 HR in 419 PA).
Derek Dietrich (L), 1 percent, Miami Marlins vs. New York Mets (RHP Seth Lugo): Dietrich hasn't handled righties like he did the previous two years from a triple slash standpoint, but it's mostly because he's hitting just .229. The power is still there with a .185 ISO and a career-high 12 HR.
Tim Anderson (R), 29 percent, Chicago White Sox at Houston Astros (RHP Collin McHugh): Anderson is rallying to the finish line with an .872 OPS since Aug. 1, and while he's doing his best work against lefties (1.017 OPS), he is starting to hit righties more: .298/.315/.488 with 4 HR. McHugh has allowed five of his six home runs to righties and has been dealing with a fingernail issue that could impact his outing. Maybe we'll get super lucky and the Astros will let Anderson get an at-bat or two against Francisco Liriano or Tony Sipp.
Jeimer Candelario (B), 3 percent, Detroit Tigers vs. Oakland Athletics (RHP Daniel Gossett): Candelario has flown under the radar. He's on a Tigers team getting little attention after a fire sale, but they still have some intriguing offensive pieces, including Candelario, the key return in the Alex Avila/Justin Wilson deal with the Cubs. The bulk of his playing time has come against righties (82 of 99 PA) and he's posted a strong .282/.378/.465 line with 3 HR. He also has 20 percent strikeout and 12 percent walk rates, both very solid. Gossett, meanwhile, has allowed both lefties and righties to hit .293 off him, and while righties have more power, lefties strike out far less often.
Jed Lowrie (B), 31 percent, Oakland Athletics at Detroit Tigers (LHP Chad Bell): It's switch-hitter Tuesday! OK, it's just three switch-hitters, but you get the idea. Lowrie's .254/.348/.395 line against lefties doesn't jump off the page, but he has ramped up in the past month-plus with a .289/.391/.500 line against them since Aug. 1. Bell has been pummeled by righties this year with a .333/.408/.547 and 8 HR in 179 PA. Since joining the rotation this month, he's allowed an insane 1.041 OPS to righties in 60 PA. Start any Oakland righties.
Nicholas Castellanos (R), 52 percent, Detroit Tigers vs. Oakland Athletics (RHP Daniel Gossett): Castellanos does have a nearly 200-point platoon split favoring lefties on the year, but he still has 46 extra-base hits against righties and he's been raking them the past month: .341/.341/.682 in 88 PA. Gossett is allowing a .293/.332/.537 line to righties with 11 of his 14 HR. While he does fan righties at a much better clip than lefties, the damage done when not striking out makes Castellanos an easy play.
Jose Martinez (R), 38 percent, St. Louis Cardinals at Cincinnati Reds (RHP Jackson Stephens): Martinez has come out of nowhere this year and it's because he obliterates lefties (1.347 OPS), but I'm running him out there against a rookie righty. His .278/.338/.422 against righties isn't too bad and includes six home runs as well as all three of his steals this season.
Michael Taylor (R), 33 percent, Washington Nationals at Atlanta Braves (LHP Luiz Gohara): Taylor has smacked lefties to the tune of a .305/.345/.500 line with 4 HR in 87 PA. Even if it's a shortened outing for Gohara and they go to righties in the bullpen, Taylor still has a passable .257/.305/.471 line with 12 HR and 13 SB (on 13 attempts). Gohara rebounded against the Nats after getting ripped by Texas in his opener. Even with his improvement against Washington, Gohara still allowed five of his six hits to righties.
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.