Fantasy Game Notes for Friday: American League
Game Story: I'm getting tired of writing "Hernandez is expected back today," but he is again on Friday. At this point, I'll only activate him when I see him in there succeeding for a day or two, at least in mixed formats. Westbrook is finally coming off a decent outing, and the fact that current Orioles are a combined 41-for-140 (.293 AVG) against him might scare some owners off. Still, only nine of those hits were for extra bases, leading to a .695 OPS, enough to make him worth a look outside of the most shallow leagues. The Indians' offense, meanwhile, should get to Trachsel. As always, lean on those lefty Indians: Dellucci (if healthy), Trot Nixon and go for Ryan Garko.
Game Story: Oh, how do you do it, Ramon Ortiz? His 2.48 ERA and 0.86 WHIP back up his record, and there's no reason to say he's due for a collapse merely because he's facing the Tigers. If you're feeling lucky, keep riding that hot streak -- four straight quality starts -- but don't take that as a reason to bench Brandon Inge, Magglio Ordonez or Ivan Rodriguez, each of whom has hit him well. Verlander, by the way, was a perfect 3-0 with a 0.82 ERA in three starts against the Twins in 2006. He limits your options among Twins hitters; only go for those "New M&M Boys," not much else.
Game Story: Jeter is expected back for the Round 2 of the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry, this time in New York, so keep him active. Remember, he homered against Dice-K in Boston. The Yankees as a team, in fact, hit Matsuzaka, 8-for-28 total (.286 AVG), so use your Yankees, with the exception of guys like Melky Cabrera and Doug Mientkiewicz. Pettitte handled the Red Sox and should again in what might be a pitchers' duel, but consider that Manny Ramirez (.403 AVG, 3 HR, 62 AB), J.D. Drew (6-for-11, 2 HR) and Jason Varitek (.385 AVG, 1 HR, 39 AB) do hit him. Again, use most of your Red Sox, with the exception of Dustin Pedroia, Crisp and Wily Mo Pena.
Notable Injuries: Gregg Zaun, C (hand, DL)
Game Story: Though Tejeda has pitched well up to this point, Friday is not a good matchup for him, meaning this game could be one of the higher-scoring affairs of the day. One factor to consider, though: Tejada gets righties out (.227/.647 for his career), and these Blue Jays are right-handed heavy. Adam Lind and Lyle Overbay are your two standouts for this contest. For Texas, who doesn't preform against Towers? Frank Catalanotto is 3-for-6 with two homers against him; Hank Blalock is 3-for-7 with a homer and 6 RBIs; and Kenny Lofton is 4-for-7. Go heavy on Rangers hitters.
Game Story: I won't use Ervin Santana on the road; I simply won't do it, at least, not until he demonstrates some modicum of success away from Angel Stadium. He's now 9-13 with a 6.78 ERA in 27 career road starts. His dreadful road numbers combined with the fact that Friday's game is at homer-friendly U.S. Celluar, means he should be avoided, except in deep AL-only formats if Chicago's big lumber (Dye, Thome) is out of the lineup again (check the early listing). Darin Erstad and A.J. Pierzynski get the advantage against the right-hander, and Orlando Cabrera (.474 AVG, 2 HR, 19 AB career vs. Garland) is a standout among the Angels. Garland, though, should be in for a nice day against an Angels offense that's hardly threatening.
Notable Injuries: Nick Swisher, 1B/OF (hamstring, day-to-day)
Game Story: While Swisher is out, the Athletics' lineup is a lot less threatening (as Jarrod Washburn demonstrated recently). Shields is the type of pitcher who can keep a thin lineup at bay, so don't be surprised if he stands out. I'd take the chance, especially since in his last start he mastered the Indians, a much deeper lineup, for 12 strikeouts. Swisher, incidentally, has a grand slam in his only career at-bat against Shields. For the A's, Gaudin has looked good thus far, though the Devil Rays' lineup isn't as weak as it once was. Use your usual Devil Rays, and new shortstop Brendan Harris as well.
Notable Injuries: None
Game Story: De La Rosa has pitched well thus far, but he has been better at home (0.60 ERA, 0.87 WHIP) than on the road (6.17/1.54). Don't be fooled into thinking he's a quality option at Safeco. He's not terrible, but Mariners righties like Adrian Beltre, Jose Guillen, Kenji Johjima and Jose Lopez should get to him. Ramirez, though, could be in for a decent effort, in a home start against a Royals team better from the left side of the plate than the right. He's too risky to go for in mixed formats, in which his low strikeout rate limits his upside, but use him in AL-only leagues. Still, it's safe to use red-hot Royals like John Buck and Reggie Sanders (2-for-5, 1 HR career vs. Ramirez).
Fantasy Game Notes for Friday: National League
Notable Injuries: Ray King, RP (shoulder, DL)
Game Story: Almost anyone facing the Nationals warrants your attention. Also the fact that Perez's ERA is 3.31 and WHIP is 1.35 to date indicates his command is sharp enough to defeat this team. Former Reds Austin Kearns (4-for-15, 2 HR) and Felipe Lopez (6-for-13, 1 HR) are familiar enough with him from their NL Central days, though, to keep active. The shaky Chico, though, faces perhaps the weakest matchup of the day. Mets right-handers like Moises Alou (.333/.943 vs. LHP in 2007) and Paul Lo Duca (.429/.900) could tear him up, and if Damion Easley (.273/.899 vs. LHP since 2005) gets the start as he should, he'd be worth an NL-only look.
Notable Injuries: Mike Jacobs, 1B (thumb, day-to-day)
Game Story: Sanchez was shelled in his only career start at Citizens Bank, allowing nine runs and walking six this past July 30. Aaron Rowand hit him well, and lefties like Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins, Shane Victorino -- shall I go on? -- should give him headaches. Garcia, though, warrants your attention. I think one of the reasons he managed that 19-6 record and 2.34 ERA in 31 starts during interleague play (and therefore NL foes) in the past was that NL teams weren't familiar with his arsenal, which is the case with these Marlins. Go for Mike Jacobs and your usual Marlins, but that's a limited list.
Game Story: Facing the Pirates is typically a favorable matchup for a pitcher, but Milton has been more of a batting-practice type in three-plus years in the NL, serving up 115 home runs with a 5.43 ERA in that span. Freddy Sanchez (11-for-17) loves to hit him, so does Nady (6-for-13, 1 HR), and so should Jose Bautista and Ronny Paulino. A strikeout artist like Snell, though, could provide a good share of headaches for the Reds' free-swinging squad. The red-hot Josh Hamilton, Adam Dunn and Ken Griffey Jr. should be used, and Javier Valentin (5-for-8, 2 HR career vs. Snell) warrants a start if he plays.
Notable Injuries: None
Game Story: It's a nice pitching matchup here, though Capuano at Minute Maid Park isn't quite the assignment you'd want it to be. The Astros' righty lumber -- Morgan Ensberg, Carlos Lee -- should give him a little trouble, and Lance Berkman (6-for-15) has handled him in the past. Oswalt has the advantage; he's 55-18 with a 2.60 ERA in his career at Minute Maid Park. Sure, Bill Hall (.382 AVG, 1 HR, 34 AB) and Geoff Jenkins (.349 AVG, 2 HR, 43 AB) hit him, but don't go crazy with the spot starts among hitters here. This one should be a lower-scoring contest.
Notable Injuries: None
Game Story: It's Marquis' first trip back to St. Louis since he left there as a free agent in the offseason, and don't forget, he had a 6.91 ERA in 17 starts at the Cardinals' new ballpark. He's off to a hot start but the command isn't quite there, so Chris Duncan and Jim Edmonds are well worth keeping active. As for Reyes, how much longer can we afford to wait for him to make good on his breakout potential? The Cubs have beaten him all three times they've seen him, and Michael Barrett (2-for-5, 1 HR) and Matt Murton (2-for-4, 1 HR) have handled him nicely. Steer clear of Reyes in this one.
Notable Injuries: None
Game Story: The Jones brothers have a nice history at Coors, and against Francis, as Andruw and Chipper are a combined 106-for-313 (.339 AVG) with 24 home runs at Coors, and 4-for-7 (.571 AVG) with three homers against Francis. It's not like you'd sit either one, but it means you should sit Francis, as he'll be overmatched facing those two and a pair lefty killers, Jeff Francoeur and Edgar Renteria, as well. James, a fly-ball pitcher, is a riskier play at Coors, and consider he allowed two homers and six runs in a start there this past Sept. 24. Jeff Baker took him deep in that game, and since he should earn a start here, he's not a bad one-day option. Expect these Rockies to heat up now that they're back home.
Notable Injuries: Conor Jackson, 1B (hamstring, day-to-day)
Game Story: Zito just shut down the Diamondbacks for 7 1/3 innings this past Saturday, and current Diamondbacks are a combined 14-for-79 (.177 AVG) without a home run against the left-hander. What's not to like? Chad Tracy in particular is a poor start, 0-for-6 lifetime against Zito and Tracy has .225/.624 career rates against left-handers. I'd use Eric Byrnes despite his 0-for-9 mark against Zito, but not much else. Davis, meanwhile, has a WHIP (1.95) out of whack with his ERA (3.27), so treat him carefully. Bengie Molina (.389 AVG, 2 HR, 18 AB) owns him, and Rich Aurilia is a must-start.
Notable Injuries: Josh Bard, C (groin, DL)
Game Story: The Padres expect Bard back for this game, and since he's facing Hendrickson, go ahead and get him back in your lineup. Beyond that, though, Hendrickson isn't a terrible NL-only spot start, as he has a 1.32 ERA in his two career starts at Petco, while two of the Padres' best hitters, Brian Giles and Adrian Gonzalez, are left-handed. Khalil Greene warrants a start. Hensley, meanwhile, has been terrible to date, allowing a .391 batting average and 2.25 WHIP in four starts. That plays in favor of Luis Gonzalez, 4-for-10 with four doubles lifetime against Hensley, and Andre Ethier.
Waiver Wire Pickups
Jeff Baker, OF, COL versus Atlanta Braves
Frank Catalanotto, OF, TEX @ Toronto Blue Jays
Freddy Garcia, SP, PHI versus Florida Marlins
Bengie Molina, C, SF @ Arizona Diamondbacks
Xavier Nady, OF, PIT versus Cincinnati Reds
Oliver Perez, SP, NYM @ Washington Nationals
James Shields, SP, TB @ Oakland Athletics
Please Note that the notable injuries are not meant to be a comprehensive report of each team's disabled list. For brevity, we include only day-to-day injuries or new DL additions for players you might otherwise consider using in these games. Long-term DL or day-to-day injuries to starting pitchers who were not scheduled to appear are omitted.
Tristan H. Cockcroft covers fantasy sports for ESPN.com. You can e-mail him here.