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MLB News and Notes June 3

MLB News and Notes June 3

Tuesday's Tip Sheet
By Josh Jacobs

It might look like just another day in baseball come Tuesday but some highlighted headlines will be sure to make the front page. Taking center stage will be New York Yankees’ relief pitcher, Joba Chamberlain’s (1-2, 2.28 ERA) first start on a major league level.

A duel between the AL East leading Rays and the second place Red Sox should provide more firepower to the full, 15-game card. Boston rookie slinger Justin Masterson (1-0, 1.46) will be making his third start of the season.

With the NBA Finals taking a backseat until Thursday and the Stanley Cup Finals drawing to a close, bettors can truly focus on baseball betting. Here’s a breakdown of some intriguing matchups that should put our wallets to the test.

Tampa Bay (M. Garza) at Boston (J. Masterson) – 7:05 p.m. EDT

The Red Sox completed a sweep over Baltimore this weekend and will now have their sights zeroed in on the Rays. Tampa Bay was ousted in early May by Boston in a three-game set. Magnifying the series defeat was the Rays inability to jump on Sox’s starters Jon Lester, Josh Beckett and Clay Buchholz. All three of Boston’s slingers held Tampa to just 10 runs in the series, while the lumber in the box posted a total of 26 runs. The ‘over’ cashed in three straight times, while Red Sox backers witnessed chalky lines going as high as $1.62 (in favor of Boston).

As of Monday the Rays hold the best record in the AL with 35 wins and 22 losses. Tampa has now amassed an 8-2 run in the last 10 and will enter this series with a 12-7 ledger heading into Game 1's this season. But as good as Tampa Bay has been, fending off a Boston team whose in possession of a 21-5 record at home should prove difficult.

A balanced attack inside Fenway Park has been key to the Red Sox success. Batters have posted a .303 BA at home, while the arms in the rotation and pen have combined for a 3.50 ERA. Boston’s Manny Ramirez has found rhythm at the plate, turning the corner of 500 homeruns (logged in his 501st long ball in a win over Baltimore on Sunday). In the last seven games, Ramirez has broken out the wood for 10 RBIs on 11 hits with three homers.

Tampa Bay will place solid producing starter, Matt Garza (4-1, 3.78) on the hill. The second year right-hander has cashed in on three wins in his last four starts, with his biggest downfall coming in a no decision at St. Louis. That outing witnessed Garza going 4.1 innings, giving up six earned runs on 10 hits. The one stat that becomes a sticking point is a .286 BA when right-handed batters have squared off against Garza. With the small dimensions inside Fenway, a few hits can and will turn into runs support for the Sox when batting from the right side.

So far this season Boston has gone on to exceed a run total of nine 46-percent of the time and 10 runs 32-percent of the time.

Toronto (R. Halladay) at N.Y. Yankees (J. Chamberlain) – 7:05 p.m. EDT

The big news of day will document Joba Chamberlain’s highly anticipated first major league start for the Yankees. In two years and 39 games deep into his major league career, Chamberlain has constructed an impressive 1.32 ERA with 64 strikeouts and seven earned runs sacrificed (career numbers). His 12 holds this season have been instrumental for setting up closer Mariano Rivera (15 saves, 0.36) in the ninth inning, but with Chamberlain’s departure from the pen into the rotation, several questions are left unanswered.

First the obvious; bettors can’t expect Chamberlain to last more then five innings or 60-plus pitches as manager Joe Girardi will impose a strict count on his young commodity. Second; with Chamberlain’s upgrade as a starter, who will fill his shoes in the bullpen in late inning situations? Relievers Kyle Farnsworth (4.26), LaTroy Hawkins (6.75) and Jose Veras (3.86) have been putrid this season for a combined ERA of 4.95 in 60.3 innings. The proof is in the pudding for New York’s lack of trust in the pen. Sending down infielder Morgan Ensberg to make room for relief hurler Scott Patterson (brought up from Scranton-Wilkes Barre of the International League – AAA) is just the beginning for placing a band aid on a gushing middle relief squad.

So now that you’re acquainted with Chamberlain taking the mound for the pinstripes, how will the Blue Jays attempt to counter?

Since Apr. 12, Toronto has concocted 14-6 performance. The ‘under’ has been golden, going 9-4 in the last 13 games and shattering books with a 37-19-3 record on the year (the Yankees haven’t been far behind with a 35-19-1 record on the ‘under’).

The Jays have slowly sunk into a two-game skid with losses versus the Angels over the weekend, but much of May’s success can be pinned to the teams pitching staff. In 20 wins this past month, Toronto’s arms have held opponents in check for a debilitating 1.9 runs per game. In only two defeats did the Blue Jays sacrifice more then five runs in May.

Right-hander, Roy Halladay (6-5, 2.93) has been a success story in his last three starts, working for three straight victories. Halladay even appeared as a reliever (first time since 2001) in a win over the Phillies (6-5) on May 18. The 10-year veteran should have recorded a win or two more this season, but Toronto’s offense has only dished out 3.4 runs per start of support (second worst run support for a starter on the team).

Both teams enter Tuesday with a below average record in evening games (the Blue Jays are 17-25 with the Yankees going 19-20). Toronto is 7-2 in Halladay’s last nine starts versus New York, while the ‘under’ is a prosperous 8-3 in Halladay’s last 11 starts versus the Pinstripes.

Extra Bases

-- The New York Mets will travel into the Bay area to meet with the Giants at 10:05 p.m. EDT.

-- For Mets’ starter Pedro Martinez (0-0, 10.80) this will be his first start since leaving a contest with the Marlins on Apr. 1 with a strained left hamstring. Martinez has experienced an ever increasing amount of injuries over the last three seasons, going from 33 starts in 2004 to just five starts in 2007.

-- San Francisco will place struggling ace Barry Zito (1-8, 5.53) on the hill for his 12th start this season. Zito earned his first win of the season in Florida on May 23 (8-2), but not all the blame can be strapped to the eight-year southpaw out of USC. Zito has received a deplorable 2.3 runs of support per start, and the Giants as a team are ranked 27th worst with 218 runs and are only batting .257 this season.

-- San Francisco is 30-27 on the run line this season with a -329 deficit. On the money line, the Giants are -438.

-- San Fran is 9-23 in Zito’s last 32 starts and are 2-9 in Zito’s last 11 starts as an underdog. Most books have installed the Giants as $1.24 home ‘dogs with a total set at 8½ runs.

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Yankees C Posada expected back this week

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) -Yankees catcher Jorge Posada went 1-for-3 with a walk in an extended spring training game Monday and remains on schedule to rejoin the team this week.

Sidelined since April 27 by a sore right shoulder, Posada made two throws to the bases in the game against Philadelphia's minor leaguers. He made a throw to first on a batted ball near the plate that was ruled foul, and also tried to pick a runner off second.

``You keep working on things and try to throw,'' Posada said. ``I threw the ball behind the runner and felt good about it.''

It was the second time since getting hurt that Posada was allowed to throw to the bases during a game. His status to resume catching for New York will be evaluated after playing in another extended spring game on Tuesday.

``We'll see how it feels tomorrow,'' Posada said. ``Be ready for Thursday or Friday.''

Posada had an RBI single and popped out twice Monday. The five-time All-Star is 9-for-25 with five walks in six extended spring games overall.

Notes: RHP Alan Horne, one the Yankees' top starting pitching prospects, allowed six runs and six hits over 5 2-3 innings in his last extended spring start. On the Triple-A disabled list with a biceps injury, struck six out and walked one during his 76-pitch outing. ... C Francisco Cervelli, who broke his wrist during a collision at the plate in a spring training game against Tampa Bay, is hitting in a batting cage and taking part in a throwing program.

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Baseball Today

Tampa Bay at Boston (7:05 p.m. EDT). The top two teams in the AL East open a three-game series at Fenway Park. The Rays' Matt Garza (4-1, 3.78 ERA) faces the Red Sox's Justin Masterson (1-0, 1.46).


- Casey Blake, Indians, homered twice and matched a career high with seven RBIs in a 13-9 victory over Texas.

- Chase Utley, Phillies, hit his major league-best 21st homer in a 5-4 victory over the Reds. Utley has homered in five straight games.

- Carlos Zambrano, Cubs, allowed three runs in the first inning before settling down. He legged out three hits to tie his career high and raise his average to .366 in the Cubs 7-6 win over the Padres.

- Bobby Crosby, Athletics, doubled twice and hit an RBI single in the ninth to lift Oakland to a 3-2 victory over Detroit.

- Derek Lowe, Dodgers, pitched eight strong innings for his first win in more than five weeks as Los Angeles beat Colorado 8-2.

- Prince Fielder, Brewers, homered for the third time in the last four games to help Milwaukee beat Arizona 4-3.


The best team in baseball, the Cubs (37-21) held on to win the opener of a seven-game swing through San Diego and Los Angeles. They were coming off a 7-0 stretch at Wrigley Field, their first unbeaten homestand of at least six games since 1970. It's their first eight-game winning streak since 2001, when they won 12 straight between May 19-June 2. After playing 17 of 23 at Wrigley, the Cubs began a stretch in which they play 23 of 32 on the road, where they have lost five straight series.


John Smoltz returned to the Atlanta Braves as a closer, hoping the role he had from 2001-04 will help him cope with an aching right shoulder and extend his career. His first appearance didn't go like he wanted: Coming on in the ninth inning with a 4-3 lead against the Florida Marlins, he gave up a two-out, two-run single to Jeremy Hermida to blow the save Monday night. Still, the Braves rallied for a 7-5 win. Jeff Francoeur scored on a wild pitch in the bottom of the ninth with two outs, and Yunel Escobar ended it with a two-run homer in the 10th.


Colorado is 18 games under .500 for the first time since finishing the 2005 season 67-95. The Rockies have lost 19 of their last 21 away from Coors Field. ... Alex Rodriguez had three hits, including a homer, a double and two RBIs and now has a .379 career average at the Metrodome, higher than any other player with at least 175 at-bats there. ... Randy Winn hit the 14th leadoff homer of his career - and first by a Giants player this season. ... Jason Michaels' pinch-hit slam was the first for Pittsburgh since Craig Wilson hit one against Milwaukee in 2003.


Red Sox's David Ortiz will be placed on the 15-day disabled list with a partially torn tendon in his left wrist, manager Terry Francona said Monday night. Boston's DH hurt his wrist while swinging at a pitch Saturday night in a game against the Baltimore Orioles. He missed Sunday's game, then left the team for Boston, where he underwent an MRI on Monday. The injury was determined to be a torn ECU tendon shead. He is batting .252 and leads the Red Sox with 13 homers and 43 RBIs.


Rangers outfielder Josh Hamilton, who has made an inspiring comeback from drug and alcohol abuse, was chosen as the American League player of the month for May on Monday. Hamilton became the first American League player to win the monthly award in April and May the same season. Hamilton had eight homers and 29 RBIs in May, when the Rangers won 19 games for their winningest month since June 1983. ... Houston's Lance Berkman was selected for the NL honor after batting .471 with nine HRs and 22 RBIs.


Yankees catcher Jorge Posada went 1-for-3 with a walk in an extended spring training game Monday and remains on schedule to rejoin the team this week. Sidelined since April 27 by a sore right shoulder, Posada made two throws to the bases in the game against Philadelphia's minor leaguers. ... Detroit relievers Fernando Rodney and Joel Zumaya are set to begin injury rehabilitation assignments Tuesday, the next step toward their return to the majors. Rodney will be assigned to Triple-A Toledo and the hard-throwing Zumaya is headed to Class A Lakeland.


Texas' Michael Young was 3-for-5 in a 13-9 loss to Cleveland on Monday night, extending his hitting streak to 18 games. Rangers teammate Ian Kinsler also had three hits to stretch his career-best hitting streak to 17 games. ... The Cubs' 7-6 victory at San Diego was their eighth straight. ... Colorado's 8-2 loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers was the Rockies eighth straight defeat and 13th straight on the road.


``It means a lot to me. It's like most of the guys hitting 3,000. I know and understand I'm not a superstar. I'm not a Hall of Famer. But to get to 1,000 hits for a guy who wasn't supposed to sign and signed for $1,000 - $750 after taxes - for a guy who wasn't supposed to make in the minor leagues, for being the slowest guy in the world, to get 1,000 hits is really an honor for me. ... No scout in Puerto Rico gave me a chance to be a pro.'' - The Giants' Bengie Molina on getting his 1,000th career hit in San Francisco's 10-2 win over the New York Mets on Monday night.

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Toronto (31-28) at N.Y. Yankees (28-29)

Joba Chamberlain (1-2, 2.28 ERA) makes his much-anticipated first major-league start when he leads the Yankees against Roy Halladay (6-5, 2.93) and the Blue Jays in the opener of a three-game series in the Bronx.

New York capped a six-game road trip with Monday’s 6-5 loss at Minnesota, once again dropping the Pinstripers below .500. The Yankees have followed up an 8-1 run with consecutive losses. Also, even though Joe Girardi’s club has won five straight at home, it is still just 14-12 at Yankee Stadium this season.

Toronto took Monday off after suffering consecutive tough one-run losses to the Angels in Anaheim on Saturday (3-2) and Sunday (4-3). Prior to those two defeats, the Jays had been on an 8-1 run, and they’re still 14-6 in their last 20, including 9-4 on the highway. They’re also 7-2 in their last nine against right-handed starters, but 2-7 in their last nine divisional contests and 4-11 in their last 15 series openers.

These teams opened the season against one another in the Bronx, with New York winning two games by identical 3-2 scores, sandwiched around a 5-2 Toronto win.

Chamberlain, who will reportedly be limited to 45 pitches tonight, makes the move from set-up man in the bullpen to the rotation. In 23 2/3 relief innings this season, the hard-throwing right-hander gave up six runs (all earned) on 16 hits, walking 11 and striking out 30. He’s 1-1 with a 3.00 ERA in nine appearances at home.

Since being called up to the big leagues last season, Chamberlain has appeared in six games against the Blue Jays, yielding just one unearned run, three hits and five walks in nine innings, striking out 14.

Halladay is 3-0 with a 2.28 ERA in his last three outings, with the last two being gems: a complete-game four-hit, no-walk effort in a 7-1 home win over the Royals on May 23 and an eight-inning, one-run, eight-hit performance in a 2-1 victory at Oakland on Wednesday. Halladay, who has earned a decision in each of his 11 starts, has allowed exactly one run in five of his starts. However, he’s only 3-4 with a 3.07 ERA in seven starts on the road.

Halladay took the ball for Toronto in New York on Opening Night, giving up three runs on seven hits in a 3-2 loss. Prior to that, the Jays had gone 7-1 in the veteran right-hander’s previous eight starts against the Yankees. In his career, Halladay is 10-5 with a 3.03 ERA in 27 games (25 starts) versus the Bronx Bombers, including 5-4 with a 3.00 ERA in 16 appearances (14 starts) at Yankee Stadium.

With Halladay on the hill, the under is on streaks of 7-2 overall, 6-1 on the road, 6-0 on grass, 19-7 on Tuesdays, 16-5 as an underdog, 8-3 when he faces New York and 5-1 when he pitches in Yankee Stadium.

The under is 29-12-1 in Toronto’s last 42 games overall, 13-5 in their last 18 on grass and 45-21-3 in their last 69 on the highway. For New York, the under is on streaks of 11-3 against right-handed starters and 20-7 versus the A.L. East, but the over is 3-1 in its last four overall and 6-2 in the last eight at Yankee Stadium. Finally, the under is 4-0 in the last four head-to-head clashes and 25-10-2 in the past 37 meetings at the Stadium.


Tampa Bay (35-22) at Boston (35-25)

The top two teams in the American League East kick off a three-game series at Fenway Park, with both sending young right-handers to the mound as Tampa Bay’s Matt Garza (4-1, 3.78) opposes Boston rookie Justin Masterson (1-0, 1.46).

The Red Sox return home following a 10-game road trip that began with five losses in six games at Oakland and Seattle. They then went to Baltimore over the weekend and won three of four, the lone setback coming in Monday’s 6-3 loss. Boston owns the best home record at 21-5, and the last time it was in Fenway, it swept a seven-game homestand. In fact, the Sox have won 10 straight at home going back to a three-game sweep of the Rays from May 2-4.

Tampa Bay was idle Monday after taking three of four games at home against the White Sox, losing the series opener then winning the next three by a combined tally of 8-4. The surprising Rays are on an 18-6 run, but much of that damage has come at home. On the highway, the Rays are just 14-19 this year and 43-97 in their last 140 road contests dating to 2006.

The host has won all six meetings between these division rivals this year, with the Rays getting outscored 26-10 in their three-game series at Fenway a month ago. Boston has absolutely owned Tampa, winning 95 of the last 138 meetings, going an astounding 42-9 in the last 51 battles at Fenway Park.

Garza has given up two earned runs or fewer while pitching at least six innings in five of his last six starts. In his last two trips to the hill (both at home), the right-hander beat the Orioles 2-0 (7 1/3 scoreless innings) and the Rangers 5-3 (two runs allowed in eight innings with a season-high 10 strikeouts).

Garza’s struggles in 2008 have come away from Tropicana Field, where he is 1-1 with a 5.64 ERA in four starts, with the Rays losing his two no-decisions as well. But in three career starts against Boston, Garza is 2-0 with a 3.45 ERA. The two wins came at Fenway Park in 2006 and 2007, with the one no-decision occurring at home on April 25. In the latter contest, Garza gave up three runs on five hits in five innings, with the Rays eventually winning, 5-4.

Masterson is making his third trip to the big leagues this season. He was outstanding his first two career major-league starts (both at Fenway), holding the Angels to one run on two hits in six innings and Kansas City to a single run on three hits in 6 1/3 innings. He got a no-decision in his team’s 7-5 loss to the Angels, while he defeated the Royals 2-1. The big right-hander has actually allowed more walks (seven) than hits (five), while he’s struck out nine in 12 1/3 innings.

The under is 6-1 in Garza’s last seven starts overall, 2-1 in his two road outings, 2-0-1 in his three career starts versus Boston and 5-0 in his last five against the A.L. East.

The Rays have stayed under the total in five straight games. However, the over is 8-3-1 in their last 12 on the road. For Boston, the under is on streaks of 4-1-2 overall, 5-1-3 vs. the A.L. East and 20-8-2 on Tuesdays. Finally, the over is 4-1 in the last five series meetings at Fenway Park (3-0 this year).


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Young arms on the rise

Young arms are a prized commodity for baseball teams, on the starting mound or in the pen. It’s an arms race, for sure, and you notice more and more World Series teams loaded with reliable arms, especially in the bullpen. The 2002 Angels and 2005 White Sox won the whole thing with deep bullpens, and last year’s World Series participants, the Red Sox and Rockies, were stockpiled with reliable pens and closers.

Last year it was Cleveland’s Fausto Carmona coming out of nowhere to win 19 games for the Indians. Here’s a look at some young arms that could fly under the radar until oddsmakers catch up.

Edinson Volquez: The Red did a lot of things right this offseason, shoring up the bullpen and stocking up with arms. It’s too bad their offense has been so hit-or-miss because they have a dynamite one-two punch atop the rotation with Aaron Harang and 24-year old Volquez.

They basically stole Volquez from the Rangers and the kid has electric stuff. He’s no longer under the radar at 7-2 with a 1.31 ERA, but what outstanding stuff. Opponents are hitting .194 off him and he has 76 Ks in 62 innings. He’s won four starts with some reasonable prices on him of -145, -170, even money and -135.

Clayton Kershaw: This is a young phenom the Dodgers just brought up. He’s a 6-foot-3, 20-year old lefty with an outstanding fastball and drop-dead curve. He fanned seven with one walk in his first start, impressing everyone. In L.A. they’re calling him “Koufax Kernshaw.” The only pitchers since the turn of the century to make a major league debut at a younger age was Felix Hernandez of the Mariners, at 19, and Edwin Jackson of the Dodgers, who beat Randy Johnson on his 20th birthday.

He didn’t play college baseball and is the eighth player of the Top 11 picks in the 2006 draft to hit the majors, a class that is making a name for itself. Those eight players: Luke Hochevar (Royals, No. 1); Greg Reynolds (Rockies, 2); Evan Longoria (Rays, 3); Brandon Morrow (Mariners, 5); Florida’s Andrew Miller (Tigers, 6); Kershaw (7); Tim Lincecum (Giants, 10) and Max Scherzer (Diamondbacks, 11).

Justin Masterson: You will probably see more of this 23-year-old righty of the Red Sox because of the injury to Curt Schilling and the recent dead arm concern with Daisuke Matsuzaka. In two spot starts he had a 1.46 ERA. He has a long, almost sidearm delivery that unleashes a wicked sinker. Boston has very good infield defense, which is a huge plus for this kid with batters more likely to hit his sinker into the ground. He’s 6-foot-6, a long frame that helps add sink to his pitches.

The Red Sox baby their pitchers, letting Schilling rest for over a month last summer when he had a tired arm, having Josh Beckett miss two starts last May with an avulsion, and keeping Clay Buchholz off last year’s playoff roster because he had pitched a lot of innings in 2007 (even though he had pitched a no-hitter and would have been useful in the October bullpen). Don’t be surprised if they rest Dice-K, which will mean you will see more of young Mr. Masterson. In his last start the total was 9 1/2, but it sailed under in a 2-1 Red Sox win.

Matt Garza: It’s hard to figure why the Twins gave up on Garza, trading him and Johan Santana over the winter. The 24-year old Garza has been a great addition to the first-place Rays. All five of their starters have turned in at least one shutdown performance this season.

The Rays got another one last week with Garza handling a Rangers lineup that had posted a dozen runs the previous evening for an outing Rays manager Joe Maddon called his best yet. Add in some timely hitting and walks and Tampa Bay emerged with a 5-3 victory. Garza had a career-high eight innings and 10 strikeouts. In his previous start he was off 7 1/3 innings of shutout ball against the Orioles. The Rays won 15 of their last 20 games posting a collective 3.10 ERA along the way, with Garza a key factor. The under is 4-1 the last 5 starts by Garza.


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Vegas Watch: MLB home cooking

Over the first two months of the season, a somewhat strange statistical phenomenon has occurred.  Home teams have won 58 percent of games, which is extremely high.  Over the last four years, home teams have won an average of 54 percent of their games, always between 53 percent and 55 percent.

This trend has caught even the books by surprise.  Looking at the money standings, the average team is +169.6 at home, and -273.8 on the road.  The team with the most extreme splits is Atlanta—they’re an impressive 22-7 (+1260) at home, but only 7-21 (-1689) on the road.

The most likely explanation for this is probably random variation—we should probably expect home teams to have a .540 winning percentage from here on out.  The reason isn’t that the stronger teams have played more home games; the average PECOTA winning percentage of home teams has been .50034.  But it is possible that something is different than in the past.  Various explanations have been theorized, by Buster Olney, MGL, BBTF, and Joe Sheehan.  Here are a few examples:


This seems like the most reasonable answer, and was voiced by both Sheehan and an NL GM that Olney talked to.  Both claim that the travel schedules have been more challenging this year— even illogical at times—which would certainly be a sensible reason for road teams to be struggling.  Unfortunately, this would be very difficult to quantitatively test.

Parity/Lower run environment

Both of these explanations are based around the theory that when teams are closer together in talent, that causes home teams to win more of their games.  I’m not sure that this is true though.  Home-field advantage maybe be a more noticeable factor when two teams are close—for example, if they are even, it puts the home team over the edge—but that doesn’t mean it’s more significant.  Regardless, there’s no way it could explain a 4 percent difference.

Influx of young players

This is Olney’s main theory, that there are more young players, and those players have a more difficult time adjusting to life on the road.  I have a hard time giving much credence to this though, for two reasons.  The first is that, as MGL points out, there doesn’t seem to more under-25 players this year than last year.  Secondly, this seems like it is made up to fit the observation; if we were seeing  a decreases in home-field advantage, these same people would probably be saying that the young players felt less comfortable at home, and that was causing the difference.

Regardless of whether this trend is going to continue, there’s no doubt that some teams have benefited immensely from home-field advantage thus far. This can be seen in the two teams with the best records in baseball, the Cubs and Rays. These two teams lead the majors not only in win percentage, but also in the percentage of games they’ve played at home—both teams have played 34 home games, and only 23 road games.  They also both have extremely dramatic home-road splits; Tampa is only 11-12 away from home, while Chicago is 10-13.  So we should keep in mind that both of these teams have had favorable schedules thus far, and will plan an inordinate number of road games the rest of the season.

The White Sox have also gotten off to a good start, surprising a lot of people by leading the AL Central after two months. Possibly the most impressive part of this is that they’ve done it in spite of playing just over 60 percent of their games on the road.  They’ve done this while their two closest competitors, Minnesota and Cleveland, have played 57 and 55 percent of their games at home, respectively.  So, not only do the White Sox have the edge in the standings, they’ll get to play significantly more home games than their divisional rivals over the next four months.

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MLB handicapping helper: The times are a-changin

As the calendar turned to June 1 on Sunday, the end of the day's MLB action brought us an occurrence which last happened 100 years ago. By the end of all of Sunday's games, the Cubs not only owned MLB's longest active winning streak at seven straight but the North Siders owned MLB's best record as of June 1 (36-21), for the first time since June 1 of 1908.

Baseball historians will tell you that the Cubs stood at 23-14 back on June 1, 1908, on their way to a 99-65 regular season mark. The Cubs advanced to their third straight World Series that year (no, I'm not making this up) and after losing in 1906 (4-2 to the White Sox) plus in 1907 (4-1 to the Tigers), swept the Tigers 4-0 to capture the franchise's first World Series title. Of course, as everyone knows, the Cubs haven't won one since.

In fact, the Cubs haven't even been back to a World Series since 1945, which was also against the Tigers (lost that one in seven games). I believe there is a certain symmetry in the world of sports but with the Tigers at 24-32 in games played through June 1, a Cubs/Tigers World Series is likely a long shot. Is this the Cubs year? We'll have to see.

Growing up in the 60s and 70s, I often heard it said that the words and music of Bob Dylan were "the voice of a generation." Looking at the "state of the union" in MLB as of June 1, Dylan's words seem to have staying power. In his classic song The Times they are a-Changin, one of his best lines was "the first ones now will later be last." I wonder if Dylan was talking about MLB here? Let's take a closer look.

Now this is a sports betting column, so I'm talking "moneylines" here. MLB's biggest "money-maker" in 2007 was the Colorado Rockies. The Rockies were + $2,466 during the regular season at $100 per game. So where do the Rockies stand through games played June 1? Here's you cue Bob! Colorado is dead-last (30th of 30 teams) in '08, at -$1,839 on the moneyline. They will enter play on June 2 with a seven-game losing streak overall and a road losing streak which has reached 12 in a row.

That's the longest road losing streak in MLB since the Seattle Mariners lost 15 consecutive road games back in 2004. Speaking of the Mariners - here's some of that symmetry I like to talk about - they came in second to only the Rockies last year against the moneyline, going + $1,924 at $100 per game. So where do they rank this year? You guessed it, the Mariners rank 29th against the moneyline through June 1, at -$1,598. Another favorite saying of my mine is, "you can't make this stuff up."

So who are MLB's biggest winners through June 1? Just look to the state of Florida. In Tampa Bay, the franchise which has never had a winning record in 10 previous years (Tampa has finished in last-place in nine of its 10 MLB seasons), the team decided to drop the "devil" from its nickname after the Devil Rays finished with a ML-worst mark of 66-96 in 2007. Someone in the organization should have thought of that sooner.

This year the Rays own MLB's best moneyline mark at +$1,340 through June 1. On the other side of the state, the Florida Marlins finished the 2007 season at 71-91, three games ahead of the 68-94 Pirates, who owned the NL's worst record. However, the Marlins currently rank second to only the Rays against the moneyline, with a + $1,275 mark.

Now pitchers have the greatest daily influence on the moneyline, so let's take a quick look at how last year's top money makers are doing in 2008. I think you already know what's coming. Aaron Harang was MLB's biggest money maker among last year's starting pitchers, as the Reds went 24-10 in his 34 starts (+ $1,347). Through June 1, the Reds are 5-7 (-$226) in his 12 starts of '08. Colorado went 22-12 (+$1,094) in Jeff Francis' starts last year but are only 3-8 (-$520) in his 11 starts during '08.

Rounding out the top five from '07 are L.A.'s Brad Penny, 23-10 (+$1,042 in '07) but 6-6 (-36) in '08. The Mariners went 21-9 (+ $1,020) in starts made by Felix Hernandez in '07 but they are just 5-7 (-$452) in his 12 starts so far this season. Converted reliever Todd Wellemeyer made only 11 starts for the Cards last year but the team's 9-2 (+$995) record vs the moneyline ranked him fifth-best among MLB's starting pitchers in '07. Wellemeyer has already made 12 starts in '08 (again, through June 1), with the Cards going 7-5 (+$164).

Next week I'll update you on how last year's biggest money-burners are doing in 2008 and also which pitchers are this year's biggest money makers. Join me back here Wednesday, for my NBA playoff notebook, as I recap the postseason to-date plus look ahead to the NBA Finals.


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Re: MLB News and Notes June 3

Tuesday MLB Gameday

A pair of AL East matchups highlight the Tuesday MLB schedule, as Tampa Bay visits Boston and Toronto takes on the Yankees. New York?s other team, the Mets, welcome back Pedro Martinez as they head west to battle San Francisco.

Tampa Bay at Boston

Garza is coming off an impressive win versus Texas in which he held the Rangers to two runs on only four hits, while striking out 10 over eight innings. Earlier this season versus the Red Sox, Garza picked up a no-decision after giving up three runs on five hits in five innings. Tampa Bay went on to win that game 5-4 in 11 innings.

Masterson will make his return to the big leagues from Triple A to start in place of the injured Daisuke Matsuzaka. Masterson has started two games for Boston this year, with his last start coming back on May 20 when he held the Royals to one run in a six 1-3 innings. Masterson also looked good in his other start when he limited the Angels to a single run and only two hits in six innings.

Toronto at NY Yankees

Halladay dominated the Athletics in his last start, a 2-1 Toronto victory, in which he pitched eight strong innings, allowing one run on eight hits with nine strikeouts. This will be Halladay?s first start of the season against the Yankees, but he was 1-0 with a 2.38 ERA in three starts against the Bronx Bombers last season, and he?s 5-4 with a 3.00 ERA in 16 career appearances at Yankee Stadium.

Chamberlain makes his first career start at the Major League-level after 20 appearances out of the bullpen so far this season. Chamberlain will be limited to 65-70 pitches in the game, so he may not pitch long enough to factor into the decision if he runs into any trouble. Chamberlain pitched two innings out of the bullpen versus Toronto earlier this season and allowed only one hit while striking out three.

NY Mets at San Francisco

Martinez finally returns from the DL after missing two months with a hamstring injury he suffered while pitching in his season debut. Before the injury cut his day short, Martinez was roughed up for four runs on four hits in only three 1-3 innings against Florida. Martinez was victimized by the long ball in the game, as two of the four hits he surrendered were home runs.

Zito escaped with a no-decision in his last start versus Arizona after allowing three runs on six hits in six innings. The Giants? overpaid lefty may finally be getting back on track after dropping his ERA by more than a run over his last three starts. Zito could still use some more run support though, as the Giants have scored only 25 runs combined in his 11 starts this season.

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