• Ryan Rowland-Smith(notes) against Texas: He's been a super play at home all year (2.88 ERA, 0.98 WHIP), using that roomy park and Seattle's outstanding defense to his advantage. You're not going to get a lot of strikeout upside with Rowland-Smith, but a quality start looks likely and it helps that the Rangers haven't seen him yet this year. Texas also could be missing a slew of big-name players; Josh Hamilton(notes) is out for the year and several other guys (Michael Young(notes) and Nelson Cruz(notes), to name two) are currently dinged up.
• Nick Blackburn(notes) against Kansas City: A date with the Royals, that's good. An assignment against Zack Greinke(notes), not so good. And if the Twins are eliminated from the AL Central race on Friday, Ron Gardenhire might turn this game into a March exhibition.
• Kyle Lohse(notes) against Milwaukee: He's shown something in his last two turns and you'd like to believe the Cards will do something against Carlos Villanueva(notes) on the other side. A respectful win grab here, and Lohse will probably strike out four batters or so. July, no one cares, but on the second-to-last day of the season, that might matter.
• Freddy Garcia(notes) at Detroit: He threw five good innings against the Tigers last week and then it all fell apart, mainly because Ozzie Guillen didn't get him out of the game in time. If Detroit wraps the division Friday night Garcia becomes a better play here; the Tigers probably won't use most of their regulars the day after a clinching.
• Jeff Niemann(notes) against New York: He's done a pretty good job ducking and weaving in two starts against the Yanks, allowing just three runs over 10.1 innings despite a
whopping 16 baserunners. I doubt he'll see a skeleton lineup from Joe Girardi here but a few big names could be sitting.
Other items of interest: The Rockies punched their playoff ticket Thursday so be on the lookout Friday night as they will probably rest a of lot key guys. … Anyone feeling that retro vibe for Ken Griffery Jr.? He's got three homers in his last 24 at-bats. … Jered Weaver(notes) will start against Oakland Friday but won't go deep into the game. The same sort of plan might be in line for Scott Kazmir(notes) Saturday (he's been outstanding since joining the Angels, for what it's worth). … Fox's Ken Rosenthal reports that the Blue Jays players want to see Cito Gaston get the axe. Will a similar lynch mob form for GM J.P. Ricciardi? … Is Bronson Arroyo's(notes) second-half run tied to pine tar? That's what Tony La Russa seems to think. … If you're already looking to the Sunday streamers, here are some names to consider: Homer Bailey(notes) against Pittsburgh, Wade Davis(notes) against whatever the Yanks thrown out there, Joel Pineiro(notes) against Milwaukee, Brian Duensing(notes) against Kansas City and Edward Mujica(notes) against the Giants (in friendly Petco).