Closing Time: Ganging up on the San Diego offense

We often think of fantasy football as the game where exploitable matchups are everything, but the theme applies to the make-believe sandlots as well. Exhibit A: the 2011 Padres.

The Sons of the San Diego Chicken couldn't do a thing in frigid Wrigley Field on Monday night, managing just five singles (and zero runs) in a 10-inning defeat. The Friars piled up 13 strikeouts (against just one walk) en route to their fourth shutout loss of the season. Carlos Zambrano dominated them over eight innings (3 H, 10 K), with Sean Marshall and Carlos Marmol taking over from there.

Bud Black knows his team lacks in the lumber department; he's letting his men run freely. The Padres have stolen 20 bases in 25 attempts. But otherwise this offense has been a nightmare, posting a .213/.299/.318 line through 16 games. Borderline pitchers become must-starts when San Diego is on the schedule.

Mind you, I'm not ready to trust James Russell in this spot Tuesday, and the big-name Phillies (headed to San Diego for the weekend) are already owned in all mixers. But you might want to consider Joe Blanton for a spot start at Petco on Saturday, or Derek Lowe and Jair Jurrjens in the same spot early next week. Look ahead, stream aggressively.

The Padres aren't the lowest-scoring team in the majors yet (Minnesota currently owns that title), but they're headed there. San Diego collected 16 runs in its first two games of the year at St. Louis; it's managed just 38 runs in 14 games since. Does a team using Orlando Hudson in the No. 3 slot scare you? Will Venable (.149), Jorge Cantu (.162), Ryan Ludwick (.135) and Jason Bartlett (.196) have been out-making machines all season.

• Daisuke Matsuzaka has become the little plastic castle of the Boston staff, a surprise every time. He toyed with the Blue Jays on Monday (7 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 3 K), on the heels of a terrible turn against Tampa and a mediocre one at Cleveland. You can talk yourself into Dice-K against the Angels if you want, but I'll need more evidence. And for the love of all things holy, never watch this guy pitch live — the dreadful pace of the game will have you wanting to throw things at the TV.

• David Price was on top of his game Monday against the White Sox (8 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 9 K) so not much offense was needed in support. Sam Fuld donned the superhero cape as usual (four hits), while Ben Zobrist and Felipe Lopez hit homers. Lopez has utility for those in super-deep leagues; he currently qualifies at three infield spots (second, short, third) and he's mainly batting cleanup for the Rays. You'll find him available in 98 percent of Yahoo! groups. He's still just 30, and he was a useful fantasy player as recently as 2009 (.310 average, .383 OBP, 88 runs).

• The Dodgers gave Jerry Sands the call on Monday after watching the 23-year-old dominate Triple-A pitching for two weeks (.400/.422/.875, five homers). We should also mention that Sands had 35 homers, 18 steals and a .301/.395/.586 slash in the minors last year, splitting time between High-A and Double-A. The kid will probably get most of the run in left field; he manned that post and hit seventh Monday. He had a double and a sacrifice fly in his debut, sandwiched around two strikeouts. You'll find him available in the Yahoo! game this morning, with the waiver tag attached to him. If you crave more Sands propaganda, Andy has it here; for those not making the immediate jump, enjoy the Hollywood celebrity siting on the left.

• If you've got any kind of a heart, you're rooting for the Kevin Correia story; the veteran righty lost his brother in a tragic accident last May and didn't pitch well, understandably, after that. Correia is off to a tidy start for the Pirates (three wins, 2.48 ERA, 0.97 WHIP), including a complete-game victory at Cincinnati on Monday. You see a modest 12 strikeouts over 29 innings and you worry, and Correira's also relying on a lot of fly-ball outs and batted-ball luck (.202 BABIP) through the opening weeks. That established, he's making some of his own luck - cheek out the scant 8.4 line-drive rate. He's not a bad streaming choice this weekend against Washington.

Handshakes and other bullpen follies: Matt Capps was handed the easiest of save assignments (a three-run lead) and came through, though Luke Scott hit a homer off him. … John Axford was wild in Philly, throwing just nine strikes on 24 pitches, and it led to his second blown save of the year. Milwaukee got the last laugh in extra innings, scoring three times on Kyle Kendrick in the 12th. … Jonathan Broxton got the dreaded "non-save inning of work" and allowed two runs to the Braves, though he also struck out two. He needed 25 pitches to get through the inning . … Kevin Gregg was touched for two runs in a get-work appearance. … Matt Thornton worked in a mop-up role at Tampa and allowed the homer to Lopez. He also struck out two, throwing 14 of 18 pitches for strikes. … He's not going to be a closer, but let's say something nice about Pedro Strop of Texas, who hasn't allowed a run over five appearances (4.2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 4 BB, 7 K). … Four Cleveland relievers put up bagels in Kansas City en route to a 10-inning victory; the Tribe broke through in the tenth against Tim Collins (four runs). KC's Aaron Crow (1.2 IP, 0 R, 2 BB, 2 K) still hasn't allowed a run this year. … Aroldis Chapman returned to work and is throwing 100 again, so everyone can exhale.

Speed Round: Jake Peavy left Monday's rehab turn, dealing with discomfort in his shoulder. Here we go again. … Jason Bay (ribs) should be back with the Mets on Thursday. … Victor Martinez started Monday's game at Seattle but left after his groin started to hurt again. … Brandon Phillips (groin) should be able to play Tuesday. … Dallas Braden (shoulder) went on the 15-day DL, which means Tyson Ross might get a shot in the rotation. … Ryan Raburn went 1-for-5 with a run at Seattle but he also struck out three times, giving him 22 whiffs over 53 at-bats. … It's easy to make fun of the Seattle lineup but there are some bats making an impact. Milton Bradley reached base four times Monday (including a homer), while Justin Smoak (.291) crushed his second homer of the year. … Francisco Liriano and Ted Lilly needed "come in from the ledge" starts and they both got them Monday. Liriano's was more of the done-with-mirrors outing; he walked five against just two strikeouts over 6.1 innings, and he was touched for two homers in his final frame. Lilly had his surgery in the 80s bit working against the Braves, posting seven bagels (4 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 6 K). … Tim Lincecum flirted with a no-hitter in Colorado before Carlos Gonzalez reached in the seventh. Timmay worked into the eighth before departing, allowing three hits and a run and striking out ten. … A flu bug kept Justin Morneau out at Baltimore . … The glaring oversight to this column is your favorite player, so please crow about him (and how you scouted him months ago) in the comments.


Images courtesy Associated Press (Chicken) and US Presswire (King)

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