The pickings are slim in Week 18, as the majority of the two starters you're about to see are owned in the majority of leagues. Seriously, only six of the 21 starters I recommend using for both starts are available in more than 50% of leagues, so my hands are kind of tied. While you're fighting to get into the playoffs, remember: fantasy baseball is just a game. So is the baseball played between the lines, but don't tell that to Matt Garza. Sheesh.
Clayton Kershaw: Mon-@STL (Wainwright), Sat-TB (Hernandez)
Adam Wainwright: Mon-LAD (Kershaw), Sat-CHC (Villanueva)
Chris Sale: Tue-NYY (Kuroda), Sun-MIN (TBD)
Stephen Strasburg: Mon-ATL (Minor), Sun-PHI (Lannan)
John Lackey: Mon-@HOU (Oberholtzer), Sat-@KC (Guthrie)
Justin Masterson: Tue-DET (Verlander), Sun-LAA (Williams)
Mike Minor: Mon-@WSH (Strasburg), Sun-MIA (Alvarez)
Anibal Sanchez: Mon-@CLE (Kluber), Sat-@NYY (Hughes)
Hisashi Iwakuma: Mon-TOR (Dickey), Sun-MIL (Peralta)
Justin Verlander: Tue-@CLE (Masterson), Sun-@NYY (Pettitte)
James Shields: Tue-MIN (TBD), Sun-BOS (Dempster)
Pretty, pretty good
Matt Cain: Tue-MIL (Peralta), Sun-BAL (Chen)
Jose Quintana: Mon-NYY (Pettitte), Sat-MIN (Correia)
Jeremy Hellickson: Tue-@ARI (Miley), Sun-@LAD (Nolasco)
Jeff Locke: Tue-MIA (Alvarez), Sun-@COL (Chatwood)
Edwin Jackson: Tue-@PHI (Lannan), Sun-@STL (Kelly)
Chad Gaudin: Mon-MIL (Thornburg), Sat-BAL (Feldman)
Wily Peralta: Tue-@SF (Cain), Sun-@SEA (Iwakuma)
Tyler Chatwood: Tue-@NYM (Wheeler), Sun-PIT (Locke)
R.A. Dickey: Mon-@SEA (Iwakuma), Sun-OAK (Griffin)
Ricky Nolasco: Tue-@STL (Kelly), Sun-TB (Hellickson)
Play the matchups
Andy Pettitte: *Mon-@CWS (Quintana), Sun-DET (Verlander)
Corey Kluber: Mon-DET (Sanchez), *Sat-LAA (Wilson)
Joe Kelly: Tue-LAD (Nolasco), *Sun-CHC (Jackson)
Jeremy Guthrie: *Mon-MIN (Correia), Sat-BOS (Lackey)
Not this week
Henderson Alvarez: Tue-@PIT (Locke), Sun-@ATL (Minor)
Kevin Correia: Mon-@KC (Guthrie), Sat-@CWS (Quintana)
Ryan Dempster: Tue-@HOU (Lyles), Sun-@KC (Shields)
Kyle Kendrick: Tue-CHC (Jackson), Sun-@WSH (Strasburg)
Brett Oberholtzer: Mon-BOS (Lackey), Sun-TEX (Perez)
Martin Perez: Mon-@LAA (Williams), Sun-@HOU (Oberholtzer)
Tyler Thornburg: Mon-@SF (Gaudin), Sat-@SEA (Saunders)
Jerome Williams: Mon-TEX (Perez), Sun-@CLE (Masterson)
Jose Quintana (10.4% ESPN; 17% Yahoo!)
2013: 5-3, 131.2 IP, 7.18 K/9, 2.67 BB/9, 3.62 ERA, 1.23 WHIP
Jose Quintana is basically the "Average Joe, err...Jose" of fantasy starters. He'll beat you with average stuff and make you think he didn't. Average strikeout rate? Check. Average walk rate? Check. Average groundball rate? Check. You get the idea. Quintana gets a pair of home starts against the Yankees and Twins in Week 18, with both offenses coming off subpar July's. The Yankees, especially, struggle against left-handers with a team slash of .239/.306/.346. Quintana's 2.5 fWAR is in the neighborhood of Cliff Lee (2.8) and James Shields (2.7), so I wonder if people question the name more than anything.
Edwin Jackson (22.9% ESPN; 31% Yahoo!)
2013: 7-11, 122 IP, 7.45 K/9, 2.95 BB/9, 4.65 ERA, 1.35 WHIP
It's easy to dismiss Edwin Jackson and his 4.65 ERA and 1.35 WHIP, but the Cubs starter has been much better than that, as his 3.45 FIP and 3.61 xFIP indicate. He was absolutely on fire in July, going 3-1 and posting a 1.83 ERA and 0.87 WHIP with 22 strikeouts in 34 1/3 innings -- and holding opposing batters to a .194/.234/.295 slash. While the matchups aren't the greatest on paper (at Phillies; at Cardinals), I'm going to trust the skills of Jackson to hold up after an unlucky-ish first three months. I see Jackson finishing the year out strong in Chicago.
Chad Gaudin (8.4% ESPN; 16% Yahoo!)
2013: 5-2, 81.2 IP, 7.60 K/9, 3.20 BB/9, 2.64 ERA, 1.14 WHIP
Daniel Schwartz took a look at Chad Gaudin a week and change back, and the takeaway was this:
"...he should have his spot in the rotation locked for the rest of the season, but in all likelihood they'll catch-up to his fastball and he'll regress, but he's a must-start at home and against paltry offenses."
Gaudin gets a paltry offense in his first turn -- the Brewers -- followed by the Orioles in start No. 2. Both starts, however, are in San Francisco, where the right-hander has posted a 1.96 ERA in four starts and held batters to a .206/.288/.264 slash. Gaudin has shut down the likes of the Cardinals, Dodgers and Diamondbacks, so I'm not sweating the home start against Baltimore.
Wily Peralta (5.6% ESPN; 12% Yahoo!)
2013: 7-11, 130 IP, 5.82 K/9, 3.60 BB/9, 4.57 ERA, 1.46 WHIP
Wily Peralta quietly put together a solid July, posting a 2.13 ERA and 1.11 WHIP with 33 strikeouts in 38 innings. Most significantly, Peralta's strikeout rate soared to 21.7% after being in the 11-13% range in the first three months. Peralta has started using his slider more, and the whiff rate on the pitch has increased every month -- from 10% in April to 20.13% in July. Minus one blowup at Colorado, Peralta has given up three runs or less in seven of eight starts, including four starts with no runs allowed. The right-hander gets a pair of west coast starts in San Francisco and Seattle in Week 18 -- both are plus matchups for the groundball pitcher. Hopefully, the Mariners offense won't be so hot by next Sunday.
Alex Kantecki is a fantasy baseball writer for Fake Teams. He also writes the "Closer Chronicle" for Vigilante Baseball every Thursday, ranking and tiering all 30 MLB closers. You can follow Alex on Twitter at @rotodealer.