First, the Thursday recap. Hitting wise, my picks were not nearly as productive. On the bright side, minus Jim Edmonds going 0-3 (headline picture curse?) and Garret Anderson's 23-game hitting streak coming to a screeching halt with an 0-5 performance, the rest of the lineup managed to combine for eight hits in 26 at-bats, three scores, all while driving in seven runs.
Three pitchers were mentioned as spot-start candidates, due to their availability in many leagues; this was indicated with italics within the article. Two of the three had a no-decision, but it was Oakland's Greg Smith that excelled to the head of the class. The young lefty managed six shutout innings for the win. The good news? He still seems to be available in 81 percent of fantasy leagues.
In many head-to-head fantasy baseball leagues, Monday, Aug. 25 marks a beginning to the final week of the regular season. For some, a good week could be the difference between a bye-week starting next Monday or even just flat-out making the cut!
With that said, it's important that you bring your "A-game" all next week. I'll do my best to help get Monday started off on the right foot, good luck:
- The Chicago Cubs, already likely to end the season with the best record in the NL, place their No. 4-man, Ted Lilly on the mound. And although I wouldn't normally recommend 1B Adam LaRoche against another lefty, this time is different. Not only is Lilly allowing lefties to hit .307 against him this season, but Adam is 4-9 with three doubles against Lilly in his career. I'm also a strong advocate of Mr. "Second Half" down the stretch (a.k.a. Adam LaRoche), who is only 26.9 percent owned in fantasy leagues! Opposing the Cubs? Jeff Karstens, who threw six scoreless innings against them in his first start for the Pirates since being traded from the Yankees. If the Cubs didn't read the scouting report yet, he could do it again, but I wouldn't exactly count on that.
- Who's looking to break out the buttered popcorn for a pitching duel? Maybe the baseball gods will grant us one, as two playoff contenders face off. Brett Myers takes the mound for the home-team Phillies against Chad Billingsley of the Los Angeles Dodgers. I've been a strong advocate of Brett Myers since he's come back from the minors. He's actually a fixture on all but two of my seven fantasy teams. Look for his 72.7 percent ownership in leagues to near 100 percent after he pitches another gem. Helping on the offensive side for the hometown Phillies will be 3B Pedro Feliz. Billingsley just might be what the doctor ordered for Feliz, who recently returned off the DL just a few days ago. Helping Feliz' cause? He has the most experience vs. Billingsley of any Philly player, at 3-9, with a HR and two RBI.
- Two southpaw rookies take to the mound for the Chicago White Sox and Baltimore Orioles. Clayton Richard will be facing Chris Waters. Clayton Richard lit up AAA earlier this season for a 6-0 record in seven starts, boasting a phenomenally low WHIP of 0.84, well complemented by a 2.84 ERA. That success finally translated into a successful major-league start this past week—six shutout innings and the win. Look for more of the same, as the White Sox are in a dead-heat with the Twins for first place in the AL central.
- Cleveland vs. Detroit. This is a matchup of "why exactly are you pitching in the major leagues" vs. "you've already shown us you belong in the bigs!" Zach Jackson wasn't exactly lighting up AAA the past three seasons, putting up an ERA over four each time. On the other side is Andres Galarraga, who is 5-0 in his past six starts. He looks to extend his streak to six. Keep an eye on OF Shin-Soo Choo though, as he is 3-5 with two doubles and an RBI in his career against the overachieving Detroit Tiger pitcher.
- Two solid pitchers take to the mound in New York. Houston's Brian Moehler against Mike Pelfrey. The difference between them is that the Mets need to hang on to first place if they want to be playing in October. Pelfrey will help them do that, as he is 10-2 since June 16. Brian Moehler has been just as good, going 5-0 in his past eight starts. The issue at hand might be the home-field advantage, as the Mets are 40-24 at home. The other side of the coin shows the Astros at 31-36 on the road.
- The next game gets a potential "slugfest" alert. Even though it's not in the Texas heat, the Rangers will still be playing just slightly up the road a bit. Give 3B Hank Blalock a shot, at only 9.4 percent owned. Those numbers will increase strictly based off of his career line of: 12-30, three HR, and eight RBI against Gil Meche. He will also have his hands full with C Gerald Laird, who is batting .444 in nine career at-bats, against arguably one of the most overpaid pitchers in baseball. Kansas City looks to OF David Dejesus against Texas' Seth Feldman. Dejesus has done phenomenally well in limited playing time against Feldman, 2-2, a HR, two RBI, four BB, and two SB.
- The West Coast games start when Oakland's Dallas Braden takes on Anaheim's Jered Weaver. Take a chance with SS Bobby Crosby, who is 2-6 with a HR, three RBI, and a SB against the 10-game winner.
- Dan Haren vs. Jake Peavy, sounds like a pitching duel, but it wasn't this past Wednesday when they met. The two combined for 17 H and 10 ER in 11 IP. Counter Haren with OF Jody Gerut, who is 5-10 against him with a solo HR. He's also hit 6 HR already this month. At home, Jake Peavy is "lights out," holding opponents to a .193 batting average. His ERA? An even more impressive 1.42!
- Francisco Liriano looks for his fifth-straight win since being called up earlier this month. The man is on fire and he's drawn some easy bait in the form of Miguel Batista and the Seattle Mariners. Look for 2B/SS/3B Nick Punto and OF Jason Kubel to combine and make the most in limited opportunities. Punto's only AB previously against Batista was a two-run shot, while he earned walks in his other three plate appearances, in turn, stealing two bases. Kubel's prior accomplishments against Batista almost pale in comparison, but he is still a perfect 2-2 with an RBI.
- Matt Cain, will be at home in San Francisco, looking for just his ninth win of the season. A 1.88 ERA over his past eight games should help his cause. Facing him will be Colorado's lefty Jeff Francis, who has an ERA two full points higher on the season at 5.52, and may be staring loss No. 9 right in the face. Especially if Matt Cain continues his hot streak.
There's good news about the potential spot-starters on the hitting side to kick off this week, as we can field an entire lineup at each position on the field and still have one on the bench. Brett Myers, Clayton Richard, and Mike Pelfrey are all great spot-start opportunities on the pitching side.
Let's start the week off right; consider it the warm-up before the playoffs begin for all you head-to-head players out there in cyberland. For those playing in rotisserie leagues, if you find yourself behind at certain positions and categories, be sure to utilize the spot-start strategy. Most importantly, I wish you good luck. Now is the time to have it!
Shaun Copsey currently manages seven fantasy baseball teams, one in fourth, two in third, one in second, and the final three occupying first place.