As we approach the second-to-last weekend of the regular season, reality is setting in that time is running out. Whether you're battling in your head-to-head playoff matchup or trying to hold onto the top spot in your rotisserie or points league, we've officially hit "crunch time." So let's buckle down and finish strong.
Here's a look at the day's top streaming options, focusing on players rostered in less than 50 percent of ESPN leagues.
Pitchers to stream
Reynaldo Lopez (R), rostered in 41 percent of ESPN leagues, Chicago White Sox vs. Chicago Cubs: Given Lopez's see-saw track record, it's hard to have complete faith in him as a streaming option. There are definitely some things to like here, however. Lopez has been cruising since the calendar flipped to September. Over his last 20 innings, he's allowed just one earned run on 10 hits while striking out 22. Lopez has now fanned at least six batters in five straight starts. While Friday's matchup against the Cubs looks dangerous on paper, the numbers tell a different story. Since the All-Star break, the Cubs rank 24th or worst in ISO, wOBA, and wRC+, making this a decent spot for the Chicago righty.
CC Sabathia (L), 32 percent, New York Yankees vs. Baltimore Orioles: Sabathia may have stumbled in his last outing (5 ER in 2.1 IP), but don't let that discourage you too much. Prior to that outing, the big lefty held a 3.38 ERA over his previous six starts without allowing a single home run. Best of all, Sabathia gets to follow up that down performance with a prime matchup against the Orioles, who rank 22nd in ISO (.152), 24th in wRC+ (86), and 26th in wOBA (.298).
Ivan Nova (R), 11 percent, Pittsburgh Pirates vs. Milwaukee Brewers: When streaming starters, the ideal scenario is finding a quality hurler who's been pitching well and has a favorable matchup. Unfortunately, it's not often that we get that ideal scenario. Such is the case here. The Brewers aren't exactly a team you want to miss with, but Nova has been awfully sharp of late. Over his last six starts, the Pittsburgh righty owns a 2.62 ERA with a 4:1 strikeout-to-walk ratio. As luck would have it, that includes a six-inning, one-run performance against these same Brewers his last time out. With the way he's been going, Nova has a good chance to shut the Brew Crew down for the second straight time on Friday.
John Gant (R), 19 percent, St. Louis Cardinals vs. San Francisco Giants: Some of what Gant has done this season has been done with smoke and mirrors. Despite holding a solid 3.53 ERA, he has a lackluster 7.6 K/9 rate, a poor 4.3 BB/9 rate, and an inflated 44.5 percent hard-hit rate allowed. Those are the negatives. On the positive front, he's surrendered two or fewer earned runs in seven on his last eight starts, resulting in a 2.68 ERA. He also gets a pristine matchup against a Giants team that's been the worst offense in baseball in the second half (66, wRC+, .266 wOBA).
Nick Pivetta (R), 27 percent, Philadelphia Phillies at Atlanta Braves: Pivetta has faded down the stretch. His second-half ERA sits at 4.81, and he hasn't made it past the fifth inning in any of his last four outings. However, since the break, he's still racking up K's (10.6 K/9), keeping his walks in check (2.6 BB/9), and getting a good number of grounders (47.3 percent). There's certainly no guarantee that Pivetta bounces back here, especially against a tough opponent like the Braves. That said, the skills here are good, and those are worth betting on.
Pitchers to avoid
Chris Sale and Trevor Bauer aren't pitchers to avoid in the typical sense. Rather, expectations need to be reined in as the two square off against each other Friday. Sale is will be limited to roughly 65 pitches, which obviously hinders his upside and ability to pick up a win. Bauer, meanwhile, is making his first start since suffering a fractured right fibula back on August 11. He's expected to work a few innings, with Shane Bieber set to follow him.
We've got three other more conventional bullpen games on the slate. Connor Sadzeck will pitch an inning or two as the opener for Texas, with Ariel Jurado scheduled to follow. The Rays have named Diego Castillo as Friday's opener. However, with Yonny Chirinos, Jalen Beeks, Ryan Yarbrough and Jacob Faria all having appeared in the last three days, this could be more of an old-fashioned "all hands on deck" affair as opposed to someone serving as the primary pitcher. Liam Hendriks will serve as opener for Oakland with Chris Bassitt a possibility for the newfangled "primary pitcher" role.
Projected game scores
GS is the projected game score for the pitcher. The "*" symbol means the pitcher lacks requisite career major league data to produce an accurate rating; these are the author's ratings.
Willians Astudillo (R), 11 percent, Minnesota Twins at Oakland Athletics (Bullpen game): Astudillo has quietly emerged as a quality contributor for Minnesota behind the plate. Over his last 13 games, he's batting .325 with three homers and eight RBIs. He's also done the majority of his damage against same-sided pitching, putting up a .317/.349/.512 slash line against righties.
David Freese (R), 2 percent, Los Angeles Dodgers vs. San Diego Padres (LHP Eric Lauer): Freese frequently gets the call when a lefty is on the mound, and it's easy to see why. The veteran third baseman is batting .303/.374/.459 against southpaws this season, including a .375/.524/.750 triple slash over the last 30 days. Lauer, who owns a 5.03 road ERA, will have his hands full here.
Joey Wendle (L), 42 percent, Tampa Bay Rays at Toronto Blue Jays (RHP Sean Reid-Foley): It's been a rough beginning for Reid-Foley. The 11.1 K/9 is nice, but it gets you only so far with a 5.5 BB/9 and 2.1 HR/9. Look for Wendle to step in and take advantage. Not only does he have a .300/.349/.435 triple slash against righties, but he's been raking over the last month, too (.322/.379/.467).
Derek Dietrich (L), 18 percent, Miami Marlins vs. Cincinnati Reds (RHP Luis Castillo): Castillo has been pitching well of late, but his problems against lefty batters remain. Left-handed hitters have bombed him for a .379 wOBA this season. This presents a favorable spot for the lefty-swinging Dietrich, who is hitting .291/.365/.506 on the road in 2018.
Willy Adames (R), 15 percent, Tampa Bay Rays at Toronto Blue Jays (RHP Sean Reid-Foley): We're picking on Reid-Foley today. The young right-hander has made five big league starts and has a 5.54 ERA and 1.54 WHIP to show for it. Meanwhile, Adames has really settled in, batting .321/.400/.488 over the last 30 days.
Jeimer Candelario (B), 10 percent, Detroit Tigers vs. Kansas City Royals (RHP Ian Kennedy): Kennedy has gotten through his last couple of starts unscathed, but that just means he's due for a dud. After all, an extreme flyballer like Kennedy doesn't have much room for error. Candelario, who has a .906 OPS with six extra-base hits over his last 12 games, will look to make Kennedy pay on Friday.
Jeff McNeil (L), 34 percent, New York Mets at Washington Nationals (RHP Joe Ross): All McNeil does is rake. He's batting .339/.389/.492 since the All-Star break, .384/.419/.545 over the last 30 days, and .348/.392/.493 against righties. There's no reason to think McNeil will slow down against Ross, who is making just his second start of the season on Friday.
Curtis Granderson (L), 3 percent, Milwaukee Brewers at Pittsburgh Pirates (RHP Ivan Nova): Since joining the Brewers, Granderson is batting .300/.548/.700 in 12 games, carving out a regular role against right-handed pitching in the process. He also boasts an .826 OPS against righty pitching this season. Going from Miller Park to PNC is a downgrade, but Granderson finds himself in a promising spot against Nova, who can be vulnerable to lefty hitters.
Jay Bruce (L), 21 percent, New York Mets at Washington Nationals (RHP Joe Ross): It's been a disappointing season for Bruce, but he's ending the season on a high note. The veteran slugger sports a .920 OPS with four homers over the last 15 days, making him a nice under-the-radar power play in this matchup.
Phillip Ervin (R), 2 percent, Cincinnati Reds at Miami Marlins (LHP Wei-Yin Chen): Ervin may have a flawed skill set, but it's an intriguing one. He's got some pop, some speed, and some decent on-base skills. He sports a .209 ISO against righty pitching this season, which sets him up nicely against Chen, who is allowing an .804 OPS to right-handed hitters.
Hitter matchup ratings
Hitter ratings account for the opposing starting pitcher's history (three years' worth), as well as 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. For example, a 10 is a must-start rating, while 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.