MLB News and Notes April 22

MLB News and Notes April 22

Financial Improvement
By Josh Jacobs

Some teams quietly improving on past performances are beginning to emerge in the standings and on betting cards across the country. One example is the Chicago White Sox.

After Sox manager Ozzie Guillen stampeded over topics such as his “warm” feelings for Cubs’ manager Lou Piniella, a dissertation on heaven and hell and telling reporters where he would like to stick the world series trophy (and not on a shelf; use your imagination), his club has since torn through the AL Central with a 9-3 record in the last 12.

Here are some clubs (including the White Sox) that have defied public perception in their quest to attain the trophy that Guillen thinks so highly of.

Chicago White Sox (24-20, +415)

Minus manager Guillen’s take on life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, his White Sox have been dicing up opponents with ease. As of Wednesday, Chicago is on a six-game winning streak, has outscored opponents 32-14 (scoring 13 runs alone on Sunday) and is in a dogfight with Minnesota and Cleveland to retain the No. 1 spot in the division.

Right-handed slinger Jose Contreras (5-3, 3.17 ERA) has had a rebirth in the majors, going 4-1 in his last five starts. Even more remarkable is that Contreras has tossed five games where opposing teams were able to squeeze just one run from the 36-year-old crafty veteran.

Overall, this is a club who finished 2007 with a 72-90 record and is now on a mission to make things right in the Windy City. With a 26-18 record on the run line equating to a +822 profit and an ‘under’ run now sitting at 6-1 in the last seven, bettors have had opportunities to rake in the cash.

The Sox will finish a three-game series against the Indians on Thursday, followed by a three-game series against the L.A. Angels over the weekend.

Toeing the Slab: Javier Vazquez (4-3, 3.53) on Thursday, Mark Buehrle (2-5, 5.27) on Friday, Gavin Floyd (4-2, 2.92) on Friday, John Danks (3-3, 2.94) on Saturday, TBD on Sunday

Baltimore (24-20, +779)

This writer has mentioned the Orioles in prior tip sheets and previews and with good reason. Baltimore isn’t exceeding in any specific statistical category (22nd in runs per game, 23rd in batting average, 11th in ERA and 29th in total strikeouts) but going 8-2 in the last 10 and improving its home record to 14-7 has some backers and fans excited at this team’s promising future.

Not one player in everyday’s starting lineup is batting .300 or above, but holding opposing clubs to 3.2 runs per game in the last 10 has proven to be a key to registering ‘W’s’. A big reason for the recent turnaround; pitching.

The Orioles have received great starts from pitcher Daniel Cabrera (5-1, 3.48), and southpaw slinger Garrett Olson (3-0, 3.47) has done his part in the limited four games he’s appeared in. Mentioned in the last tip sheet, closer George Sherill (3.43, 17 saves) has been lights out, currently ranked second in both leagues with 17 saves. The bullpen as a whole has donated some impressive showings, accounting for 21 holds and a 3.38 ERA.

With a 25-19 record on the run line you’d expect the income to surpass the current +218 budget, but books have been quick to adjust these lines. The Orioles have been favorites five times in the last 10 games.

Baltimore will finish up its three-game set with the Yankees before traveling to Tampa Bay over the weekend.

Toeing the Slab: Brian Burres (4-4, 3.47) on Thursday, Jeremy Guthrie (2-4, 3.86) on Friday, Steve Trachsel (2-4, 6.75) on Saturday and Daniel Cabrera (5-1, 3.48) on Sunday

Atlanta (24-21, -100)

Alright, before you start burning the Braves because of their small deficit in the money line department take some of these facts into consideration. Atlanta is 27-18 on the run line, resulting in a massive +1357 profit. The Braves have improved their home record to a current 18-5 and both offensive and defensive units are doing their job in the hopes of surpassing the Marlins for first place honors in the NL East.

Atlanta has been bullish during day games, going 10-4 this season. A .303 BA with 81 RBIs in 14-day games has leveled a .272 BA with 128 RBIs in 30 contests played during the evening hours. First baseman Mark Teixeira has filled the shoes that the organization planned on when acquiring him from Texas last season. Teixeria’s .412 BA with 13 RBIs during the day has been key for Atlanta.

The Braves lead both league with 6.9 runs scored per game versus right-hand pitchers at home this season.

While starting pitcher Tim Hudson (6-3, 3.06) has been a solid contributor, right-hander Jair Jurrjens (4-3, 2.82) has used his second year in the big leagues to prove that the Braves made the right decision in acquiring him. Jurrjens has surrendered just five runs in his last four starts (1.25 runs per game), while righty hitters are struggling with a .208 BA. However, manager Bobby Cox has had to shuffle up the rotation with John Smoltz’s (3-2, 2.00) shoulder injury delaying his return.

Toeing the Slab: Tim Hudson (6-3, 3.06) on Thursday, Jo-Jo Reyes (2-1, 4.12) on Friday, Tom Glavine (2-1, 3.98) on Saturday and Jorge Campillo (0.99 ERA) on Sunday

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Re: MLB News and Notes April 22

NATIONAL LEAGUE

N.Y. Mets (22-22) at Atlanta (25-21)


Looking to avoid an ugly four-game sweep in Atlanta, the Mets turn to left-hander Johan Santana (5-2, 3.30 ERA), while the Braves will counter with Tim Hudson (6-3, 3.06) in a clash of aces.

Atlanta opened this series by breezing to 6-1 and 6-2 victories in Tuesday’s doubleheader, then came back Wednesday and rolled 11-4. The Braves are 7-3 in their last 10 outings and are on a 24-6 spree at home, including an MLB-best 19-5 home record this season. The inconsistent Mets, meanwhile, have dropped 11 of their last 19 games (5-6 on the road), going 2-5 in their last seven starts.

The Braves are now 6-2 this season against New York, winning all five games played in Atlanta, and Bobby Cox’s club is now 40-18 in the last 58 head-to-head clashes at Turner Field.

The Mets have been on a tear with Santana on the hill, winning his last six starts, as the lefty has gone 4-0 with two no-decisions. In an interleague contest Saturday at Yankee Stadium, Santana got touched up a little bit, giving up four runs on seven hits in 7 2/3 innings (his longest outing of the season), but he still earned a 7-4 win.

With Saturday’s win at Yankee Stadium, Santana improved to 4-1 with a 2.81 ERA on the highway this season. However, Santana is 0-2 in three career starts against the Braves, despite a sterling 2.41 ERA. On April 6 at Atlanta, he allowed just one run on seven hits in seven innings, but he got no offensive support, and the bullpen gave up a pair of runs in a 3-1 loss.

Hudson had a three-game win streak come to an end in Saturday’s 5-4 interleague loss to Oakland at home, as he allowed all five runs on five hits (two homers) in five innings. Prior to that, he had given up just three runs (two earned) in 23 innings over three games, including a three-hit complete-game 2-0 home win over Cincinnati.

Despite Saturday’s results against the A’s, Hudson is 4-1 with a 2.94 ERA at Turner Field this season, and he’s 8-5 with a 3.96 ERA in 14 career starts against the Mets. That includes an 11-5 home win on April 5, when Hudson held New York to three runs on six hits in six innings.

The Mets are in slumps of 2-8 on Thursdays, 1-5 on the road against winning teams and 0-5 against National League East rivals. But they’re perfect in Santana’s last four road starts.

The Braves are 1-5 in Hudson’s last six starts against winning teams, but the team’s trends are all positive from there, including 4-0 against left-handed starters, 12-2 at home against winning teams, 36-16 overall at Turner Field, 4-1 when Hudson starts at home, 4-1 with Hudson going on Thursday and 19-9 in Hudson’s last 28 starts overall.

The over is 6-1 in Santana’s last seven starts, but the under is 9-4-1 in Hudson’s last 14 outings.

Even though last night’s game soared over the posted total, the under is still 10-4 in the last 14 series meetings between these rivals and is 10-2 in the last 12 clashes in Atlanta. Finally, the under is on runs of 40-16-2 for Atlanta overall, 7-2 for Atlanta at home, 20-9-2 for New York against winning teams, 4-1 for New York on Thursdays and 4-1 for New York in divisional play.

ATS ADVANTAGE: ATLANTA and UNDER


AMERICAN LEAGUE

L.A. Angels (28-20) at Toronto (23-25)


The Angels hand the ball to the red-hot Joe Saunders (7-1, 2.48 ERA) as they look to complete a three-game sweep of the Blue Jays, who will send A.J. Burnett (4-4, 4.71) to the hill.

Los Angeles opened the series with a 3-1 victory Tuesday night, then came back Wednesday and held on for a 4-3 win. Following a 2-4 slide, the Angels have bounced back to win four of their last five games. Meanwhile, the Blue Jays have come back down to earth after a 6-1 run, and they’re now just 1-4 in their last five home contests.

Despite dropping the first two games of this series, Toronto is still 8-4 in its last 12 meetings with the Angels in Canada and 17-10 in the last 27 clashes overall.

The Angels are 8-1 in Saunders’ nine starts this season, including a 4-2 home win over the Dodgers on Friday in interleague play. Saunders allowed both runs on just five hits in 7 1/3 innings to bounce back from his first loss of the season – in which he allowed just one run on four hits in six innings but got no offensive support in a 2-0 loss at Tampa Bay on May 10.

Saunders is 3-1 with a stellar 2.13 ERA in four road starts this season, but he is 1-2 with a 3.62 ERA in four career outings against Toronto.

Burnett snapped a two-game slide in his last outing Saturday, yielding two runs on four hits in 6 1/3 innings in a 6-3 interleague win at Philadelphia. Burnett is 1-2 with an inflated 8.64 ERA in three starts (four appearances) at Rogers Centre this season, and he’s 0-1 with a 3.86 ERA in his only start against the Angels, which came two seasons ago.

The Angels are still just 2-4 in their last six on the highway and 2-5 in their last seven as an underdog, but they are 10-4 in their last 14 Thursday matchups. In addition, with Saunders pitching, L.A. is on streaks of 22-8 overall, 10-4 on the road, 7-3 against the A.L. East and 12-2 when he goes on five days’ rest.

The Blue Jays are 2-6 in their last eight Thursday games, but they are 35-16 their last 51 at home against lefties. Also, with Burnett starting, Toronto is on streaks of 6-1 against winning teams, 6-2 on Thursday and 8-3 at home against winning clubs.

The over is 5-2 in Saunders’ last seven starts on the road and 4-1 in his last five against the A.L. East. Conversely, the under is 9-4 in Burnett’s last 13 at home, 5-1 in his last six against winning teams, 4-1 in his last five on Thursdays and 12-3-1 in his last 16 when pitching on four days’ rest.

Additionally, for Los Angeles, the under is on streaks of 7-1 overall, 8-2-1 on the highway and 9-1-1 against losing teams. For Toronto, the under is on rolls of 22-8-1 overall, 10-2 at home, 6-1 on Thursday, 7-2 against lefties and 12-1-2 at home against winning road teams. Finally, with both games in this series staying low, the under is now 38-14-5 in the last 57 meetings between these two teams, including 21-6-3 in the last 30 clashes in Toronto.

ATS ADVANTAGE: L.A. ANGELS and UNDER

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Baseball Today

New York Mets at Atlanta (7:10 p.m.). Mets ace Johan Santana (5-2) pitches for New York.

STARS

- Vladimir Guerrero, Angels, homered twice to give Los Angeles a 4-3 win in Toronto.

- Ricky Nolasco, Marlins, outdueled Brandon Webb by allowing just one run on three hits in seven innings in Florida's 3-1 win over Arizona.

- Ryan Howard, Phillies, hit two home runs in Philadelphia's 12-2 win at Washington.

- Omar Vizquel, Giants, doubled to start a game-tying rally in the ninth inning and hit a go-ahead sacrifice fly in the 10th inning of San Francisco's 3-2 win over Colorado.

- Jeff Francoeur, Braves, homered and drove in four runs and Atlanta beat the New York Mets 11-4.

- Dana Eveland, Athletics, pitched a three-hitter for his first career complete game and helped Oakland beat Tampa Bay 9-1.

- Jermaine Dye, White Sox, hit a go-ahead three-run homer in the sixth inning, and added solo shot in the seventh during Chicago's 7-2 win over Cleveland.

ALMOST

Brandon Webb finally lost, when Florida beat Arizona 3-1 Wednesday night, keeping him from becoming the third pitcher since World War I to win his first 10 starts.

NINE FINE INNINGS

Oakland's Dana Eveland pitched a three-hitter for his first career complete game, and the A's avoided being swept at home by the Rays for the first time with a 9-1 win Wednesday. ... Texas' Sidney Ponson pitched nine innings for the first time since April 24, 2005. He allowed one run on six hits in the Rangers' 10-1 win over Minnesota. ... Milwaukee's Ben Sheets pitched his 15th career complete game and second of the season, scattering 11 hits and allowing only a run in a 4-1 win over Pittsburgh.

YOUNG HURT

Albert Pujols broke the nose of Padres pitcher Chris Young in the third inning of St. Louis' 11-3 win Wednesday night when he hit a line drive off the right-hander's face. Young immediately fell on his backside and put his right hand up to his face, which had blood running down it. After a few minutes of sitting on the grass, Young walked off holding a bandage on his face with blood on the front of his jersey. He was taken to a hospital.

DECISIONS, DECISIONS

Shawn Chacon pitched seven solid innings for his first win this season, breaking his major league record streak of nine straight no-decisions to start a season in Houston's 5-3 win over the Cubs. Carlos Lee's three-run homer in the third inning helped Chacon (1-0) overcome a rough start and avoid tying the overall record for consecutive starts without a decision.

O-FOR-EVERYTHING

The two longest active hitting streaks in the majors both ended Wednesday. Randy Winn of the Giants had hit safely in 15 in a row before an 0-for-4 afternoon, while the Rockies' Clint Barmes' streak of 13 straight was halted after going hitless in five plate appearances during San Francisco's 3-2 win in 10 innings.

SQUEEZE PLAY

Matt Treanor pulled off a successful suicide squeeze bunt to get Florida's first run home against Arizona ace Brandon Webb and the Marlins went on to win 3-1 Wednesday night after the bold move by manager Fredi Gonzalez.

SPEAKING

``There's not going to be as much media around to be canonized - that's probably the only good thing.'' - Arizona ace Brandon Webb after missing out on his chance to become the third pitcher since World War I to win his first 10 starts.

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Re: MLB News and Notes April 22

Thursday's best MLB bets
Covers.com

New York Mets at Atlanta +102, 8

This is a tough one. On one hand, you've got Johan Santana going for a sweet price against a club that he's dominated in the past (2.47 ERA in three career meetings). But on the other hand, you've got Tim Hudson on the hill for the Braves, who actually has a better ERA than Santana this season and one more win.

And when you look at the hitting numbers of these two teams, it's not surprising that the Braves are working on a sweep in this four-game series. The Braves are hitting .284 as a team, which is second best in the majors, and that gets even better (.315) at home. New York is struggling at the plate, ranked 21st in MLB with a .255 team average, and have managed only seven runs in the previous three games of this series.

As tempting as it might be to go with Santana at -115, the big lefty can only do so much by himself.

Pick: Braves


Milwaukee at Pittsburgh -110, 9

The Pirates have gotten a reputation for being pathetic at the plate this year largely because of a .249 team batting average - one of the worst averages in baseball. But don't make too much of that. Pittsburgh is actually among the league leaders in runs produced, which goes a long way in explaining why the over/under in Bucs' games is 27-17-2.

This game has as good a chance as any of going over the total with David Bush and Tom Gorzelanny in the starting roles. Both pitchers have ERAs above 6.00 and even at the pitcher-friendly PNC Park you can expect plenty of offense today.

Pick: Over

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