September 22, 2008

Each week, we'll profile the projected two-start pitchers for the upcoming fantasy week. Keep in mind that these are subject to change as managers adjust their rotations over the weekend.

Cliff Lee: @ BOS (Wakefield); @ CWS (Vazquez) -- The southpaw will cap off his should-be Cy Young season with a pair of potentially tough road starts. Lee is 10-0 since the All-Star break, and we see no reason to doubt him at this point.

Brandon Webb: @ STL (Wellemeyer); vs. COL (Reynolds) -- Unlike Lee, Webb probably still has some work to do in order to win the Cy Young. His last two road starts were rough, but fantasy owners know better than to bench him. The Diamondbacks may be eliminated from the playoffs well in advance of the Rockies tilt. Webb is 3-0 against that NL West foe this year.

Johan Santana: vs. CHC (Harden); vs. FLA (Olsen) -- There's a pretty good chance that the Mets will need Santana to win on the final day in order to get into the postseason. Johan is 7-0 since the start of July, and he owns a 2.26 ERA and 1.18 WHIP at home this year. Yeah, you should go ahead and start him.

Josh Beckett: vs. CLE (Jackson); vs. NYY (Pettitte) -- The Rays and Red Sox look like they are going down to the wire, although both clubs could secure a playoff spot prior to Beckett's second start. Still, fantasy owners should obviously start this ace, even if he only ends up making the home start against the Indians. If Beckett does pitch on Sunday, too, it'll help to know he is 3-1 versus the Yankees this season.

James Shields: @ BAL (Olson); @ DET (Garcia) -- Shields is in the same boat as Beckett, but we're not about to bench a guy who is 6-1 with a 3.30 ERA and 1.16 WHIP since the All-Star break. Shields hasn't pitched well on the road this year. These matchups look tasty, though.

Joe Saunders: @ SEA (Feieraband); vs. TEX (Millwood) -- Yes, we sound like a broken record. Saunders is a good bet to make the first start in Seattle, but the Angels may skip his final outing in order to line up for the playoffs. The southpaw is 6-2 against the AL West this year.

Randy Johnson: @ STL (Lohse); vs. COL (Jimenez) -- The Cardinals swatted the Big Unit around back on September 1, but Johnson has generally been in a zone since the start of July. He is 4-2 with a 2.28 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, and 68 strikeouts over 71.0 innings since the All-Star break. Yep, Randy still has it.

Aaron Harang: vs. FLA (Nolasco); @ STL (Wellemeyer) -- How is it that a 5-16 pitcher makes it into this top grouping? Harang has apparently shaken out of his season-long malaise and owns a 1.93 ERA and 1.02 WHIP over his last six starts. Due to bad run support, Harang is also 2-3 during that time, but we trust the right-hander to keep delivering.

Chad Billingsley: vs. SD (LeBlanc); @ SF (Sanchez) -- Billingsley was shelled in his most recent start in Pittsburgh, but he has turned into one of the NL's bright young pitchers and a trustworthy fantasy asset. The schedule looks great this week, with the obvious caveat that he may not make his Sunday start if the Dodgers have everything wrapped up by then.

Rich Harden: @ NYM (Santana); @ MLW (Bush) -- Normally, Harden would be higher on this list. He has some control issues lately, but he hasn't allowed many hits or runs all year. We placed Harden at the bottom of this section because we simply can't be sure of his status. The Cubs could wrap up the AL Central this weekend, and Lou Piniella may opt to rest Harden this week or push him back to a mid-week outing.

Edinson Volquez: @ HOU (Backe); @ STL (Lohse) -- If you've stuck with Volquez this long, you might as well see it through until the end. He is 4-3 with a 4.94 ERA and 1.51 WHIP since the All-Star break, but the good news is that his road stats (2.53 ERA, .207 BAA) continue to sparkle.

Matt Garza: @ BAL (Bass); @ DET (Miner) -- Three of Garza's four starts this month have been pretty rough, and he'll need to shape up if the Rays are going to hold off the Red Sox. Garza is 2-0 with a 3.38 ERA over three starts against the Orioles this year, and he has yet to face the Tigers, which may work in his favor.

Javier Vazquez: @ MIN (Baker); vs. CLE (Lee) -- No matter what happens this weekend, the opening of the Twins-White Sox series will be huge. Vazquez has pitched pretty well over the past two months, but he is coming off a rough outing and owns a 5.11 ERA and 1.54 WHIP against the Twins this year. His second start is generally more promising, until you notice his pitching opponent.

Scott Baker: vs. CWS (Vazquez); vs. KC (Meche) -- It makes sense to place Baker right after Vazquez. It is bound to be a tense week for the Twins and this right-hander. The good news is that Baker owns a 3.28 ERA and 1.08 WHIP at home. He is also a combined 2-0 against the White Sox and Royals this year.

Jered Weaver: @ SEA (Rowland-Smith); vs. TEX (Feldman) -- How can you not like those matchups? Weaver has had an inconsistent season, but four of his last five starts have been quality outings and he is 3-1 against these two AL West foes this year.

Gil Meche: @ DET (Miner); @ MIN (Baker) -- Meche has a chance to play spoiler when he pitches in Minnesota on the final Sunday. Gil is 6-2 with a 3.12 ERA and 1.19 WHIP since the All-Star break, and his road splits are noticeably better than his home numbers. He should finish strong.

Mike Mussina: @ TOR (Purcey); @ BOS (Wakefield) -- Moose has hit a couple bumps this September, but he is sitting on 18 wins and would probably like to get to 20. He has been very steady all season, and the only negative this week is that his last few visits to Fenway Park haven't gone well.

Jason Marquis: @ PHI (Niese); @ MLW (Parra) -- Marquis is working on his third straight month with a sub-4.00 ERA. He has struggled with walks recently, but we're putting him in this category because he is 6-3 with a 3.05 ERA on the road this year.

Tim Wakefield: vs. CLE (Lee); vs. NYY (Mussina) -- Wakefield's last three starts provide all the info we need to describe "at your own risk." He allowed seven runs over 1.2 innings, tossed eight shutout frames, and served up six runs over 2.1 innings. Wakefield has pitched well at home this year, but do you want to trust him against Lee and Mussina?

Kyle Lohse: vs. ARZ (Johnson); vs. CIN (Volquez) -- Lohse would probably like to pick up two more wins to boost his stock heading into free agency. We're a bit wary. Lohse is only 3-4 with a 4.34 ERA since the All-Star break, and we hear good things about this Johnson guy and that Volquez kid.

Kevin Millwood: vs. OAK (Smith); @ LAA (Saunders) -- Name recognition plus a potent offense lead us to still put Millwood in this section. It also helps that he is a combined 2-1 with a 3.08 ERA over five starts against the Athletics and Angels this year.

Ubaldo Jimenez: @ SF (Sanchez); @ ARZ (Johnson) -- Jimenez is the best bet to step in following an off-day on Monday and make two starts this week. He is 7-3 with a 3.96 ERA since the All-Star break, but, oddly enough, he owns a 5.14 ERA and 1.74 WHIP away from Coors Field.

Jonathon Niese: vs. CHC (Marquis); vs. FLA (Nolasco) -- Will the Mets really rest their playoff hopes on two starts from this rookie? Niese was excellent in the minors, and he pitched very well in his second major league start. We'd like to have more faith, but the Cubs and Marlins are two pretty good teams.

J.A. Happ: vs. ATL (Jurrjens); vs. WAS (Clippard) -- Will the Phillies really rest their playoff hopes on two starts from this rookie? Happ tossed six shutout innings in Atlanta in his last start, and we love that he has two home games against bad opponents. He remains risky for all the obvious reasons, though.

Jair Jurrjens: @ PHI (Happ); @ HOU (Backe) -- Jurrjens will wrap up his solid rookie campaign with a pair of road starts against beatable pitchers. He has been better away from home this year, but that work is overridden by the fact that he owns a 4.86 ERA and 1.51 WHIP since the All-Star break.

Jonathan Sanchez: vs. COL (Jimenez); vs. LAD (Billingsley) -- After a very good first half of the season, Sanchez has run into issues and is 1-6 with a 6.60 ERA after the All-Star break. He has struggled against the Rockies and Dodgers this year, and he can only blame himself. Sanchez has walked 21 batters over 33 innings against these rivals.

Freddy Garcia: vs. KC (Greinke); vs. TB (Shields) -- Garcia has made three appearances (two minor league, one major) since coming back from shoulder surgery, and he has yet to allow an earned run over 10.0 innings. That's not enough work for us to re-establish trust, but it's a good start.

Ryan Feierabend: vs. LAA (Saunders); vs. OAK (Meyer) -- In the minors this year, Feierabend went 7-2 with a 2.49 ERA. And since joining the Mariners, he is 1-0 with a 2.84 ERA at home. The bad news is that he has been awful, awful, awful on the road. Good thing both starts are in Seattle this week.

Zach Miner: vs. KC (Meche); vs. TB (Garza) -- This 26-year-old right-hander has been quietly solid since joining the rotation. He is 5-1 with a 4.11 ERA and 1.32 WHIP as a starter. Do we trust him? Not really, but the Royals shouldn't be a tough matchup and the Rays may rest their regulars if they've wrapped up a playoff spot.

David Purcey: vs. NYY (Mussina); @ BAL (Olson) -- Purcey is a good bet to be part of the rotation in 2008, but a couple nice outings against the Yankees and Orioles couldn't hurt. He has been shelled in his starts versus those AL East foes, combining to allow 18 hits and 11 runs over nine innings.

Dave Bush: vs. PIT (Karstens); vs. CHC (Harden) -- Bush has long preferred to pitch in Miller Park, where he is 23-14 with a 3.76 ERA and 1.10 WHIP over his career. He'll face two familiar foes this week. The Pirates have lost six straight road games and probably are more interested in their postseason plans than playing out the final week. As for the second contest, we're willing to gamble that the Cubs end up shuffling things around or flat out skipping Harden. They should have a postseason spot wrapped up well in advance of that Sunday tilt. Why wouldn't they bench Harden and many of their regulars?

Todd Wellemeyer: vs. ARZ (Webb); vs. CIN (Harang) -- Thanks for the major help this year, Mr. Wellemeyer. This right-hander was an excellent pickup and addition to the back of mixed league rotations, and he has been especially sharp since the All-Star break. So why are we benching him? The Diamondbacks will still be in the playoff hunt on Monday, which means Webb should bring his best stuff to St. Louis, and Harang is using the final six weeks to make up for an awful season. Wellemeyer will have a tough time winning, and it doesn't help that his home ERA (4.32) is noticeably higher than his road mark (2.98).

Brian Bass: vs. TB (Garza); vs. TOR (Parrish)Garrett Olson: vs. TB (Shields); vs. TOR (Purcey)Ryan Rowland-Smith: vs. LAA (Weaver); vs. OAK (Gallagher)Zach Jackson: @ BOS (Beckett); @ CWS (Richard)Brandon Backe: vs. CIN (Volquez); vs. ATL (Jurrjens)Wade LeBlanc: @ LAD (Billingsley); vs. PIT (Karstens)Jeff Karstens: @ MLW (Bush); @ SD (LeBlanc)

• Fantasy owners need to be wary of teams who have clinched (Angels) or are very close to clinching a playoff spot (Cubs, Dodgers). These clubs may skip starters and begin lining up their rotations for the postseason.

• The Rockies rotation is in flux thanks to off days (last Thursday, next Monday) and because they shutdown Jeff Francis. Jimenez is the best guess for the two-start turn this week.

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