StrategyMay 18, 2012

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Weekend Warrior: AL, Meet NL

By R.J. White

Today marks our first look at interleague play in 2012, and if you’re the kind of person who enjoys looking forward to this first interleague weekend, enjoy it, because next season things change. With Houston moving to the AL, there will be at least one interleague series at all times starting in 2013. Before we get to all the interleague action, let’s highlight the one non-interleague series this weekend first, as it involves two teams leading their respective divisions.

Cardinals at Dodgers
L.Lynn vs. T.Lilly (Fri.), J.Westbrook vs. C.Kershaw (Sat.), K.Lohse vs. C.Billingsley (Sun.)
The West-leading Dodgers are 16-4 at home this season but will have to do battle with the Central-leading Cardinals without top slugger Matt Kemp, on the DL with a hamstring injury. Bobby Abreu has actually been solid since joining the Dodgers, helping to soften the blow of Kemp’s loss. Friday starter Ted Lilly is 5-0 with a 2.11 ERA this season, but a 22/14 K/BB ratio screams sell high while you can.

The Cardinals are also dealing with the absence of a star slugger from the starting lineup, but Carlos Beltran has been healthy enough to pinch-hit this week, suggesting he may be able to play a full game this weekend. The Cardinals trio of starters pitching this weekend is a combined 15-4, led by Lance Lynn’s 6-1 record. Lynnsanity was merely mortal in his last start, giving up three earned runs for the first time this season. Expect a rebound here.

Orioles at Nationals
J.Arrieta vs. E.Jackson (Fri.), J.Hammel vs. R.Detwiler (Sat.), W.Chen vs. S.Strasburg (Sun.)
Both of these teams have been exceeding expectations this year, but no team is a bigger surprise than the 25-14 Orioles. Leading the offense is Adam Jones, who has 13 HRs on the year, good for a second-place tie behind the inhuman Josh Hamilton. Jason Hammel is 4-1 with a 41/14 K/BB ratio but is coming off his worst start of the year. Wei-Yin Chen is 4-0 with a 32/14 K/BB ratio and a 2.45 ERA in 44 innings. And he’s only 26 years old.

The Nationals hype may be centered largely around phenom Bryce Harper, but the pitchers are the ones getting it done. Gio Gonzalez leads the NL with 60 Ks, and Stephen Strasburg is second with 56, though the latter figures to take the lead this weekend. Even Ross Detwiler has pitched well, with a 2.75 ERA and a 28/10 K/BB ratio in 39.1 innings. Adam LaRoche is leading the Nats offense with a .336 AVG, .429 OBP, .595 SLG, seven HRs and 29 RBIs.

Braves at Rays
T.Hanson vs. J.Shields (Fri.), R.Delgado vs. A.Cobb (Sat.), T.Hudson vs. D.Price (Sun.)
These two teams enter the series with identical 24-15 records. Braves pitcher Brandon Beachy has a MLB-leading 1.33 ERA after yesterday’s complete game shutout. Freddie Freeman hit his team-leading seventh HR of the year on Thursday. Tim Hudson has done a solid job since coming off the DL, going 2-1 with a 3.96 ERA and a 16/7 K/BB ratio. Chipper Jones has been excellent when he plays, hitting .306 with five HRs.

The Rays lineup is missing Desmond Jennings, who is on the DL with a knee sprain, and Evan Longoria, who is out till late June at the earliest with a torn hamstring. Ben Zobrist is now leading off and has walked an AL-leading 31 times this year, giving him a .376 OBP to go with a .227 average. Teammate Carlos Pena is fourth in the AL with 25 free passes. James Shields and David Price are two of five major-league pitchers with six wins this year.

Red Sox at Phillies
D.Bard vs. C.Hamels (Fri.), J.Lester vs. J.Blanton (Sat.), J.Beckett vs. C.Lee (Sun.)
Things haven’t gotten much better for the basement-dwelling Red Sox yet; at least they can take solace in the Yankees’ fourth-place status. David Ortiz is leading the team with eight HRs, but no one could have predicted Cody Ross would be second with seven dingers. With a 23/20 K/BB ratio, Daniel Bard sure is looking like the failed minor-league starter we knew him to be before his excellent relief numbers with the Red Sox.

The Phillies have won five straight to move over .500 at 20-19. Unfortunately for them, that’s good for last place in the ultra-competitive NL East. Cliff Lee is 0-1 with a 1.95 ERA this season, which you probably already know if you own him in a league. The hero of the Phillies offense has been Carlos Ruiz, who collected four hits on Thursday to push his average up to .363 this season. His 1.024 OPS is tied for 10th in the league among batters with at least 100 at-bats.

White Sox at Cubs
P.Humber vs. J.Samardzija (Fri.), J.Danks vs. R.Dempster (Sat.), J.Peavy vs. P.Maholm (Sun.)
White Sox ace Jake Peavy is 4-1 with a 2.65 ERA and a 48/9 K/BB ratio, but Phil Humber and John Danks have been lousy this year, so use your Cub hitters Friday and Saturday. Jeff Samardzija and Ryan Dempster have been outstanding; no reason to doubt it continues.

Reds at Yankees
B.Arroyo vs. A.Pettitte (Fri.), H.Bailey vs. I.Nova (Sat.), J.Cueto vs. C.Sabathia (Sun.)
Aroldis Chapman is second on the Reds with 36 Ks; he allowed his first run of the year on Thursday, though it was unearned. Andy Pettitte didn’t look too hot in his first start, and I don’t expect much better Friday. Rafael Soriano is the Yankee closer, but don’t sleep on Boone Logan’s excellent numbers in the ‘pen.

Marlins at Indians
C.Zambrano vs. J.Masterson (Fri.), A.Sanchez vs. J.Gomez (Sat.), J.Johnson vs. D.Lowe (Sun.)
The Indians swept their two-game series with the Twins and Mariners this week, scoring at least five runs in each game and 25 runs in total. Derek Lowe is 6-1 with a 2.05 ERA but has just 13 Ks and 17 walks this year. Giancarlo Stanton has a .323/.408/.742 line in May. He must be facing Heath Bell in every at-bat.

Pirates at Tigers
C.Morton vs. J.Verlander (Fri.), A.Burnett vs. D.Smyly (Sat.), K.Correia vs. M.Scherzer (Sun.)
Andrew McCutchen is hitting .349 with five HRs and seven SBs this year, earning every bit of his draft price and more. But Neil Walker is the only other Pirate with an OBP over .300, and he checks in at only .308. Max Scherzer has a 10.37 K/9 ratio, good for first in the AL. If he’s available on your waiver wire, you know what to do.

Mets at Blue Jays
J.Niese vs. R.Romero (Fri.), M.Batista vs. B.Morrow (Sat.), D. Gee vs. H.Alvarez (Sun.)
David Wright had two doubles and three walks in five plate apperances Thursday, bringing his line up to .411/.513/.621. He’s ranked third in OPS behind Josh Hamilton and Matt Kemp. Brandon Morrow has been a little wild in his last two starts, walking four batters in each, but he’s allowed just three earned runs in his last five games.

Rangers at Astros
N.Feliz vs. W.Rodriguez (Fri.), D.Holland vs. L.Harrell (Sat.), C.Lewis vs. J.Lyles (Sun.)
Your Josh Hamilton update: .399/.452/.826 with 18 HRs, though none in his last five games. For comparison, light-hitting Albert Pujols has two HRs in that timeframe. Jose Altuve is leading Astros hitters with a .319 average and .817 OPS, and he has eight SBs this year. Fantasy stud.

Angels at Padres
J.Weaver vs. J.Suppan (Fri.), D.Haren vs. T.Stauffer (Sat.), E.Santana vs. A.Bass (Sun.)
Albert Pujols has homers in back-to-back games, giving him three on the season; not owning him in any leagues, I’ll assume he’s only played a week or so this year so far. Tim Stauffer gets his first home start of the year, and you should know to always use him in Petco. Speaking of Petco, Dan Haren must be thrilled to pitch there after giving up nine runs in 9.2 innings in his last two starts.

Diamondbacks at Royals
J.Saunders vs. L.Mendoza (Fri.), I. Kennedy vs. B.Chen (Sat.), W.Miley vs. E.Teaford (Sun.)
Chris Young is expected to rejoin the Diamondbacks this weekend, likely as the team’s DH. Get him back in your lineup immediately. Eric Hosmer’s disappointing season continued Wednesday with an 0-for-7 line. Buy. His .165 BABIP has to turn around, and his other peripherals are fine.

Twins at Brewers
S.Diamond vs. M.Estrada (Fri.), C.Pavano vs. Y.Gallardo (Sat.), J.Marquis vs. Z.Greinke (Sun.)
Diamond twirled seven shutout innings in each of his first two starts, but I’d be shocked if he was anything better than average this year. Brian Dozier is off to a nice .298/.327/.489 start. Marco Estrada has a 20/3 K/BB ratio in his three starts this year. John Axford has a 5.56 ERA and plenty of job security.

Mariners at Rockies
K.Millwood vs. A.White (Fri.), J.Vargas vs. C.Friedrich (Sat.), B.Beavan vs. J.Guthrie (Sun.)
Kevin Millwood was rocked in four home starts with the Rockies in 2011. Rookie Jesus Montero is hitting .244/.273/.393 with a 33/6 K/BB ratio; he’s clearly a work in progress. Christian Friedrich piled up 10 Ks in seven innings in his debut Monday. Troy Tulowitzki finally hit his first May HR Thursday.

Athletics at Giants
J.Parker vs. B.Zito (Fri.), T.Ross vs. R.Vogelsong (Sat.), B.Colon vs. T.Lincecum (Sun.)
Josh Reddick’s 10 HRs are double anyone else on the team, and his .283 average is pacing the A’s. Brian Fuentes is 2-for-2 in save conversions since being named the closer. Tim Lincecum’s ERA is more than three runs worse than either of the Giants’ other weekend starters, despite his superior 48/22 K/BB ratio.

R.J. White is the head editor at the Cafe, writes for FanDuel and has previously written for FanHouse and Razzball. Catch up with him in the forums under the name daullaz. Follow him on Twitter; don't follow him in real life.
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