MLB News and Notes June 6

MLB News and Notes June 6

Friday's MLB Tip Sheet
By Brad Young

The calendar says June, but the Chicago Cubs currently have the best record in baseball and Tampa Bay continues to battle atop the American League East standings. Chicago hasn’t won the World Series since 1908, and hasn’t even appeared in the World Series since 1945. Tampa Bay has been a perennial doormat since joining the league in 1998, finishing dead last in the AL East every year except for one when the Rays finished fourth.

There are still four months to go in the regular season and over 100 games per team, so it will be interesting to see how everything plays out during the summer. Now let’s break down four games on Friday’s schedule, with two each from the National and American Leagues.

**Cardinals (Looper) at Astros (Moehler)**


-The Stratosphere installed Houston as a $1.25 home ‘chalk’ over St. Louis, with the total set at 9½. This National League Central contest is slated to start at 8:05 p.m. ET.

-St. Louis pitcher Braden Looper (7-4, 5.03 ERA) heads to the hill fresh off Sunday’s victory over Pittsburgh as a $1.35 home favorite, 7-4. The Wichita State product went 5 2/3 innings, allowing three runs on eight hits with three walks and a strikeout.

-The combined 11 runs toppled the nine-run closing total, enabling the ‘over’ to cash his third consecutive start.

-Looper is 1-1 against the Astros this season in three starts, going a combined 17 innings while yielding 11 runs on 16 hits (one home run) with four walks and seven strikeouts. The Cardinals prevailed as a $1.10 road underdog, 6-4, while losing as a $1.27 home ‘chalk,’ 3-2, and as a $1.33 home favorite, 8-2. The ‘over’ went 2-1 during those three outings.

-Houston’s Brian Moehler (2-2, 3.81 ERA) dropped to 1-2 his last three starts after Saturday’s setback to Milwaukee as a $1.70 road underdog, 4-1. The right-hander was reached for three runs on six hits (one home run) with a walk and six strikeouts over five innings.

-The combined five runs failed to eclipse the 8 ½-run closing total, helping the ‘under’ improve to 4-0-1 his five starts.

-The 36-year-old has not started against the Cardinals the previous few seasons.

**Cubs (Gallagher) at Dodgers (Kuroda)**

-The Stratosphere opened Los Angeles as a $1.25 home favorite over Chicago, with the total listed at 8½ (-120). First pitch is scheduled for 10:40 p.m. ET.

-Chicago right-hander Sean Gallagher (3-1, 4.55 ERA) has strung together back-to-back victories after upending Colorado Sunday as a $1.60 home ‘chalk,’ 5-3. The 22-year-old went 5 2/3 innings, surrendering three runs on six hits with no walks and eight strikeouts.

-The combined eight runs failed to topple the 9½-run closing total, enabling the ‘under’ to cash his third consecutive start.

-Gallagher beat the Dodgers May 27 as a $1.10 home favorite, 3-1, allowing one run on four hits with two walks and three strikeouts over seven innings. The combined four runs went ‘under’ the 7 ½-run closing total.

-Los Angeles pitcher Hiroki Kuroda (2-5, 3.93 ERA) has dropped consecutive contests after falling to New York Sunday as a $1.60 road underdog, 6-1. The Japanese native lasted just 2 2/3 innings while getting tagged for six runs on seven hits (two home runs) with two walks and no strikeouts.

-The combined seven runs slithered ‘under’ the 7 ½-run closing total, enabling the ‘under’ to cash his fourth straight start.

-Kuroda fell to Gallagher and the Cubs in that May 27 matchup, pitching 6 1/3 innings while surrendering two runs (one earned) on seven hits with three walks and three strikeouts.

**Rays (Kazmir) at Rangers (Padilla)**

-The Stratosphere lists Tampa Bay as a $1.35 road ‘chalk’ over Texas, with the total set at 9 ½. The American League contest is scheduled to begin at 8:05 p.m. ET.

-Tampa Bay southpaw Scott Kazmir (5-1, 1.22 ERA) continued his winning ways by blanking Chicago Saturday as a $1.50 home favorite, 2-0. The five-year veteran went seven innings, yielding just three hits with three walks and six strikeouts.

-The two runs never seriously threatened the 7 ½-run closing total, helping the ‘under’ improve to 4-1 his last five outings.

-Kazmir beat the Rangers May 26 as a $2.00 home ‘chalk,’ 7-3, going seven innings while surrendering one run on three hits with no walks and 10 strikeouts. The combined 10 runs eclipsed the 8 ½-run closing total.

-Texas gives the starting assignment to Vicente Padilla, hoping the right-hander can improve on his 7-2 record and 3.67 ERA.

-The Nicaragua native beat the Rays in his last start May 27 as a $1.35 road underdog, 12-6. In six innings, the 30-year-old was reached for five runs on seven hits (two home runs) with four walks and 10 strikeouts.

-The combined 18 runs obliterated the nine-run closing total, helping the ‘over’ improve to 3-1 his last four starts.

**Angels (Lackey) at Athletics (Blanton)**

-The Stratosphere opened Los Angeles as a $1.25 road favorite over Oakland, with the total listed at 7½. This AL West contest is scheduled to start at 10:05 p.m. ET.

-Los Angeles righty John Lackey (1-1, 1.80 ERA) toes the rubber after picking up a no-decision in Saturday’s effort against Toronto. The Texas native went eight innings, yielding two runs (one earned) on six hits (one home run) with a walk and seven strikeouts.

-The Angels eventually prevailed as a $1.40 home favorite, 3-2, while the combined five runs went ‘under’ the 7 ½-run closing total. The ‘under’ has cashed in all four of his starts this season.

-Lackey went 3-1 against the Athletics last season in five starts, going a combined 33 2/3 innings while surrendering 10 runs on 33 hits (two home runs) with eight walks and 24 strikeouts. The Angels prevailed as a $1.35 home ‘chalk,’ 2-1, a $1.75 home favorite, 7-6, a road ‘pick,’ 4-3, and as a $1.00 road selection, 2-0, while losing as a $1.10 road underdog, 3-0. The ‘under’ went 4-1 during those five games.

-Oakland’s Joe Blanton (3-7, 4.27 ERA) is off Saturday’s setback to Texas as a road ‘pick,’ 8-4, going six innings while getting tagged for six runs on 10 hits (one home run) with a walk and no strikeouts.

-The combined 12 runs eclipsed the 10-run closing total, helping the ‘over’ cash his third straight start.

-The former Kentucky Wildcat went 3-0 against the Angels last year in four starts, going a combined 26 1/3 innings while surrendering nine runs on 30 hits with five walks and eight strikeouts. The A’s triumphed as a $1.37 road underdog, 2-1, as a $1.27 home ‘dog, 2-1, and as a $1.30 road ‘dog, 6-2, while falling as a $1.65 road ‘dog, 7-6. The ‘under’ went 3-1 during those four outings.

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Baseball Today

Tampa Bay at Texas (8:05 p.m. EDT). Rays ace Scott Kazmir (5-1) has been superb since coming off the disabled list. Rangers right-hander Vicente Padilla (7-2) returns to the rotation after spending time in his native Nicaragua this week tending to family issues.

Wednesday

-Chipper Jones, Braves, went 4-for-5 and hit his 400th home run in a 7-5 victory over the Marlins. Jones raised his batting average to a major league-leading .418.

-Jason Giambi, Yankees, hit a two-run, pinch-hit homer in the ninth inning with two outs to give New York a 9-8 victory over the Blue Jays

-Cole Hamels, Phillies, gave up three hits and three walks in a complete-game, 5-0 win over the Reds. He walked four in his second career shutout - in a span of three weeks

-Troy Glaus, Cardinals, homered in each game of a day-night doubleheader against the Nationals. He drove in two runs in a 4-1 win and had a solo shot in a 10-9, 10-inning loss.

-Manny Ramirez, Red Sox, homered and drove in five runs in a 7-1 rout of the Rays.

-Paul Maholm, Pirates, gave up two runs on eight hits in eight innings, beating Houston 4-3.

-Jose Contreras, White Sox, limited the Royals to four hits, two walks and an earned run over seven innings in a 6-2 win. He struck out three to win his fourth straight decision.

BRAWLING IN BOSTON

The Red Sox and Rays got into a bench-clearing brawl after Boston's Coco Crisp was hit on the right hip by a second-inning pitch from James Shields. Crisp dropped his bat, charged the mound and ducked a wild right by Shields before throwing a few punches himself. Crisp was tackled to the ground by Tampa Bay catcher Dioner Navarro. Rays DH Jonny Gomes charged the mound from the dugout, jumped on Navarro and Crisp, and threw several punches that hit Crisp while he was on the ground. Crisp, Shields and Gomes were ejected.

MORE BRAWLING IN BOSTON

The Red Sox seem to like fighting even when it doesn't involve the other team. Not long after a bench-clearing brawl against Tampa Bay, TV cameras showed Manny Ramirez and Kevin Youkilis being separated after exchanging words in the dugout. Ramirez was eventually escorted down the runway toward the clubhouse by trainer Paul Lessard and a few players.

AND THE RED SOX WON!

The Red Sox posted their 13th straight home win by beating Tampa Bay, matching the majors' longest streak in nearly two years. The Red Sox also completed their second three-game sweep of the Rays in just more than a month.

CHIPPING AWAY AT .400

Chipper Jones hit his 400th home run and finished 4-for-5 in a win over the Marlins, raising his major league-leading batting average to .418. The Braves slugger became the third switch-hitter to reach 400 homers, following Mickey Mantle (536) and Eddie Murray (504). The last time a major leaguer hit .418 or better through games of June 5 was in 1994, when Paul O'Neill of the Yankees had a .430 average on that date, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

TAKE ONE FOR THE TEAM


The Padres picked up a cheap win over the Mets when Paul McAnulty got hit by a pitch with the bases loaded in the ninth inning. Mets reliever Scott Schoeneweis walked Scott Hairston and Brian Giles, who both advanced on Adrian Gonzalez's groundout, and Kevin Kouzmanoff was walked intentionally to load the bases. McAnulty was hit in the right shoulder for the 2-1 win.

PUTTING UP YOUR DUKES


Elijah Dukes hit a two-run, 10th inning homer to give the Nationals a 10-9 win over the Cardinals and a split of a day-night doubleheader. Dukes had four hits and drove in four runs, finishing a double shy of the cycle.

THE GREAT GIAMBINO

Jason Giambi hit a pinch-hit, two-run homer on an 0-2 pitch from B.J. Ryan to cap the Yankees' biggest comeback this season, rallying from five runs down in a 9-8 win over the Blue Jays. Giambi has missed two straight starts since being hit on the top of his left foot by a pitch Tuesday, but came on to deliver the two-out homer in the ninth inning.

ROYAL ROAD KILL

Jose Contreras won his fourth straight decision and Jim Thome homered as the White Sox beat the Royals to complete a three-game sweep. Kansas City lost its 11th straight road game, one shy of the franchise record, and has dropped 15 of 17 overall.

SPEAKING


``I'm not upset at all. We fought. That's all it is. There were some cheap shots there. (Carl) Crawford came sliding in. I don't know why he was pulling hair, scratching. After that it was three, four guys on one.'' -Red Sox outfielder Coco Crisp, who charged the mound after getting hit by a pitch from the Rays' James Shields and touched off a bench-clearing brawl.

``That's the great thing about baseball. You can go from zero to hero real quick.'' -Yankees slugger Jason Giambi, whose two-run pinch-hit homer with two outs in the ninth inning gave New York a stunning 9-8 victory over the Blue Jays.

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NATIONAL LEAGUE

Philadelphia (36-26) at Atlanta (32-29)


The streaking Phillies head south to Atlanta to open a three-game weekend series, with ageless Jamie Moyer (8-4, 4.65 ERA) set to oppose Braves ace Tim Hudson (7-4, 3.01).

Philadelphia capped an 8-2 homestand by blanking the Reds 5-0 on Thursday. The Phillies are 9-2 in their last 11, and they’ve given up two runs or fewer in three straight contests. Also, Charlie Manuel’s club has won four of its last six away from Philly and 16 of its last 21 on Fridays.

Atlanta wrapped up a four-game home series against Florida with Thursday’s come-from-behind 7-5 victory, taking three of four against the Marlins. The Braves are now 25-8 at Turner Field this season, the third best home mark in the majors. Also, they’re 7-1 in their last eight against the N.L. East and 20-8 in their last 28 against southpaw starters.

The Phillies have won four of the last five series meetings, including taking two of three at home in mid-May in the first series between the clubs this season. The host is 7-3 in the last 10 clashes.

Moyer is 4-0 with a 4.05 ERA in his last four starts, with the Phillies scoring a whopping 49 runs in those four contests. Their lowest run output during this stretch was in Sunday’s 7-5 win over the Marlins, as Moyer won despite allowing five runs on seven hits in seven innings.

The 45-year-old southpaw is 3-1 with a 3.41 ERA in five road starts this season, with the Phillies also winning his one no-decision. On the downside, Moyer is 3-8 with a 5.42 ERA in 12 appearances (11 starts) against Atlanta in his career. Last year, he faced the Braves four times, going 2-2 with a 5.55 ERA.

Hudson has logged three straight quality starts, allowing seven earned runs in 22 innings (2.86 ERA), but Atlanta lost the last two – both on the road at Milwaukee (3-2 on May 27) and Cincinnati (6-2 on Sunday). However, at home this year, the right-hander is 5-1 with a 2.81 ERA in six starts. Going back to 2007, the Braves are 20-8 in Hudson’s last 28 starts at Turner Field.

Hudson has made 13 career starts against the Phillies, going 4-5 with a 4.02 ERA, including 0-2 with a 4.13 ERA in five contests last year.

The under is 6-1-1 in Hudson’s last eight starts overall, 4-0 in his last four Friday outings and 4-2 in his last six against the Phillies. On the flip side, the over is 6-0 in Moyer’s last six starts (3-0 on the road).

The under is on streaks of 36-17-3 for the Braves overall, 13-3-1 for the Braves on Fridays and 4-1 for the Phillies against right-handed starters. However, the over is 5-0-1 in the Braves’ last six home games, 4-0 in Philly’s last four against the N.L. East, 6-1 in Philly’s last seven on Fridays and 12-3 in Philly’s last 15 series-openers.

ATS ADVANTAGE: NONE


AMERICAN LEAGUE

L.A. Angels (37-24) at Oakland (33-27)


The top two teams in the A.L. West kick off a weekend series at McAfee Coliseum, with John Lackey (1-1, 1.80) set to toe the rubber for the Angels against Joe Blanton (3-7, 4.27) in a battle of aces.

Both teams were idle on Thursday, and both come in riding winning streaks, with Los Angeles having won five in a row and Oakland taking four straight. The Angels are an impressive 19-11 on the road this season, while the A’s are 20-13 at McAfee, including 8-2 in the last 10.

The clubs split a four-game series in Los Angeles in the first clashes of 2008 between the clubs. However, the Angels have been very successful against Oakland with Lackey on the mound recently, going 7-1 in his last eight starts against the A’s overall, including 4-1 in his last five in Oakland. Additionally, the Halos are 4-0 in the last four Lackey vs. Blanton matchups.

Lackey, who missed the first six weeks of the season while recovering from an arm injury, has been outstanding in his first four starts, pitching seven innings in the first two contests and eight innings in the last two, yielding a total of six earned runs in those 30 innings. However, the Angels are just 2-2 with Lackey pitching, including 1-1 on the road, where the big right-hander sports a 2.40 ERA.

Not only is L.A. 7-1 in Lackey’s last eight starts against the A’s, but the veteran hurler has recorded a quality start in all eight of those games, going at least six innings and giving up three earned runs or fewer in each contest. For his career, Lackey is 12-3 with a 2.84 ERA versus the A’s, including 6-2 with a 3.07 ERA in Oakland.

Blanton is just 2-5 in his last nine starts, and he’s surrendered at least four runs in five of his last 10 outings. In fact, he’s coming off his worst start of the season, as he gave up six runs on 10 hits over six innings of an 8-4 loss at Texas on Saturday. Also, in nine starts at home this year, the burly right-hander is 1-5 with a 3.99 ERA, with the A’s losing seven of the nine contests.

Blanton has a decent 3.56 ERA in 14 career games (11 starts) versus Los Angeles, but he only has a 3-6 record to show for it. However, the A’s are 3-1 in Blanton’s last four efforts against the Angels.

With Lackey on the hill, the under is on streaks of 6-0 overall, 4-0 in series openers, 19-7-3 on the road and 6-1 against the A’s. Meanwhile, the over is 4-1 in Blanton’s last five starts overall and 4-1 in his last five at home, but the under is 11-5 in his last 16 Friday outings and 5-1 in his last six against L.A.

The under is 21-7 in L.A.’s last 28 games overall, 7-2 in its last nine on the road, 5-1 in its last six on Fridays and 16-5 in its last 21 against righty starters. For Oakland, the under streaks include 5-1 on Fridays, 7-2 as an underdog and 11-5 following a victory, though the A’s have hurdled the total in four of their last five overall.

Finally, the under is 38-16-2 in the past 56 series meetings between these rivals, including 4-0-1 in the last five battle sin Oakland.

ATS ADVANTAGE: L.A. ANGELS and UNDER

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Behind the Lines

A's are a safer bet now


When General Manager Billy Beane traded Dan Haren and Nick Swisher during the off-season, the Athletics became a questionable bet for 2008. Not any more.

When General Manager Billy Beane traded Dan Haren, Oakland's best pitcher, and Nick Swisher, its best hitter, during the off-season, the Athletics became a questionable bet for 2008.

Not any more.

Led by a steady pitching staff, the streaky Athletics are 33-27 and in second place in the American League West behind the Angels.

Oakland, which has won four games in a row, has had a roller-coaster-type season. Six times the Athletics have won at least three consecutive games, and four times they have lost at least four consecutive games.

The key for Oakland, which begins a three-game series against the Angels tonight at McAfee Coliseum, has been its 3.48 team earned-run average, which is third-best in the league, and the bullpen's 3.21 ERA, which is fifth-best.

But Oakland will take the field as +110 underdogs for tonight's game because they will start right-hander Joe Blanton, who has a 3-7 record with a 4.27 ERA in 13 starts.

The Athletics are 2-7 in Blanton's last nine starts at home, and Oakland is 1-4 in his last five starts against a team with a winning record.

The Angels, who will start right-hander John Lackey (1-1) and are listed as -130 favorites tonight, are 37-24 and have won five games in a row, which includes a three-game sweep at Seattle.

Although Lackey has made only four starts this year, he has pitched well with a 1.80 ERA to go along with 20 strikeouts and six walks. The Angels are 13-5 in Lackey's last 18 road starts and 5-1 in their last six road games overall.

It also should be noted that the Angels, who did not play Thursday, are 1-8 in their last nine games after an off-day.

And, in updated odds for the AL West title, the Angels are still the favorite at 1-5, followed by Oakland at 5-2, Texas at 9-1 and Seattle at 50-1, according to Sportsbetting.com.

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Forecasts for this weekend's four-game series
By SCOTT RICKENBACH

New York Mets at San Diego Padres

The Mets come into this weekend series on a 7-2 run but let’s not forget that they were just 11-17 on the road this season before winning the last two games of their series at San Francisco. Also, the Padres have won six of their last 10 games and their overall poor record overshadows the fact that they have been decent at home. We could find some value with them at a few spots in this series.

The over might be a place to look as the Padres have a reputation as a low-scoring team. However, they’ve been scoring more than usual over the past 10 games, while the Mets also have used their lumber to improve their recent results during a 7-2 run.

Chicago Cubs at Los Angeles Dodgers

The Cubs have put up some impressive numbers so far this season and, of course, that’s why their record ranks them as one of the top teams in baseball. However, heading into this series, they are hitting 51 points lower on the road in comparison with at home. Also, their road record is a respectable, but certainly not impressive, 12-14 so far this season.

Even still, those of you wanting to back the Dodgers be forewarned: this team cannot score runs! Amazingly, they have been either shut out or held to just one run in 10 of their last 13 games. Looks like the under should get some attention in this series.

Arizona Diamondbacks at Pittsburgh Pirates

With the Diamondbacks still mired in a horrific long-term slump, the Pirates could offer us some good value spots in this series. Keep in mind that Pittsburgh is a respectable 16-12 at home and the D-backs have a very soft 11-16 road record. The Diamondbacks just got swept in a three-game series at Milwaukee and the Brewers won the last two games by a combined score of 17-2. Ouch! Certainly it would be hard to fade Brandon Webb on Friday but the remainder of this series should certainly offer some opportunities to play on Pittsburgh.

Cincinnati Reds at Florida Marlins

The Reds are struggling again. After some strong offensive performances recently, Cincinnati ended up struggling badly at Philly in a four-game set. They won only one game, thanks to a strong effort from Edinson Volquez. Cincinnati only scored eight runs in the entire four-game series and this was at hitter-friendly Citizens Bank Park in Philly.

That doesn’t bode well for the Reds in Florida. Heading into Thursday’s action, the Marlins had scored 59 runs in their last 11 games. This is a tough matchup to call though as some pretty good pitching matchups are on deck in this series. When those come up, a look at the under may be worth it because the Reds' bats are likely to continue their swoon.

San Francisco Giants at Washington Nationals

The Nationals just can’t score runs right now and it’s killing them. Heading into Thursday’s double-header, the Nats had been held to two runs or less in 12 of their last 18 games. That is simply amazing offensive futility. Of course injuries haven’t helped but it is what it is. In Game 1 of the double-header Thursday, it took them until the eighth inning before they finally got on the board.

This offense is a mess and should be no match for a resurgent Giants lineup. This is a prime example of where full-season numbers can be deceiving because the Giants have indeed averaged 5.5 runs in their last 12 games heading into this series but their full-season numbers indicate a much weaker offense. Make no mistake, the Giants have enough sticks to win a few of these games in Washington against the punchless Nationals and we should get some line value since they are on the road.

Kansas City Royals at New York Yankees

The Royals have lost 14 of 16 entering Thursday’s action. As a result you better believe the prices will be high with a Yankees club that, even in a down year, is not easy pickings at home. We may look for value with overs with a couple of the right pitching match-ups. As long as we have a good match-up for the Royals to give us some runs we do expect the Yankees hitters to crush the Royals pitching this weekend.

Minnesota Twins at Chicago White Sox

Minnesota has been enjoying some surprising success of late and they’ve been hitting the ball better. Also, the White Sox offense appeared to be cooling off but they got the benefit of facing Royals pitching. With both lineups coming in fairly hot and confident for this series, we will definitely be seeking some value spots on over plays. The Twins had averaged nearly six runs per game in their last 16 games heading into Thursday’s action.

Cleveland Indians at Detroit Tigers

Speaking of hot offenses, heading into Thursday’s series finale with the Rangers, the Indians have certainly enjoyed their time down in Texas. The Tribe was 2-1 through the first three games and had scored - get this - 35 runs in the series. No matter what happens on Thursday night, the Indians have proven they can score in the right setting.

Detroit has allowed 32 runs in their last six games even though they faced the weak AL West offenses of the Mariners and the Athletics. Now they must face a surging Indians offense and we’ll be looking for overs in this series. The Tigers bats been quieted some on the road but don’t forget they scored 54 runs in their last six home games. They should resume the slugging here but the Indians should certainly answer them run for run.

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Malinsky's Ace Report: Bartolo Colon
By DAVID MALINSKY

He will examine some of the significant elements behind that pitcher’s performances and whether he is likely to be a “play-on” or a “play-against” in the series ahead.

With a Cy Young award in his resume, a 3-0 record and 3.50 ERA that will appear in Friday’s pitching forms and a Boston Red Sox uniform, Bartolo Colon has a high profile right now.

And judging by his apparent form, he looks like he’s back near his “ace” level of the past.

That puts him under our microscope for Friday because while there is no denying the three wins that he has picked up so far, they also create a lot of questions.

Here is the problem: Colon shows an explosive fastball that has reached the mid-90s complete with his usual command of the strike zone. But that’s pretty much it.

As decades of experience at charting MLB pitchers tells us, you can not live on fastballs alone. The fact that Colon has done just that to this point tells us more about the competition he has faced than it does about his own “stuff”.

It has been a three-game cycle against the Royals, Mariners and Orioles, who just happen to be the three teams on the bottom rungs of the AL in terms of runs scored. He was able to throw heat in the strike zone against them, with 169 of 261 pitches finding the zone (a solid ratio) and that was enough to beat them.

But Friday’s second meeting against the Mariners will make for an interesting read. In his earlier win at Seattle, there were 84 pitches thrown by Colon, 68 of them fastballs. He simply did not have enough command of anything else, and that creates a bit of a trust issue for a pitcher.

Colon does have multiple fastballs in his arsenal – a two-seamer and a four-seamer to get some late movement – but in all three starts he has not been able to throw sliders in the strike zone, and curveballs and changeups have been almost non-existent.

Now the Mariners will know what to expect. Whether they can do anything about it is another matter, of course. That is baseball.

Colon’s other pitches may come with time. Keep in mind that he only threw 14 innings over three minor league appearances before being called up earlier than the Red Sox wanted because of the injury to Daisuke Matsuzaka.

So it is not a lack of a belief in Colon. Rather, we are not sure he is really at the level at which the market will be pricing him. As such, will be watching closely.

Keep a close eye on Colon on Friday. We might develop a stronger rating for him if he gets hit hard, but still manages to get some off-speed pitches into the strike zone, rather just than another win in which it is nothing but fastballs.

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Friday's streaking and slumping starting pitchers
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Streaking

Bartolo Colon (Boston):
There are lots of big names to choose from for today’s Streakers, but you have to take note of what Bartolo Colon has been up to in Beantown. He has won three straight since joining the rotation following an early-season rehab assignment in the minors, allowing seven earned runs to date.

Colon's velocity continues to improve the more he throws, so keep an eye on the radar gun today.

Scott Kazmir (Tampa Bay): Kazmir was the AL’s Pitcher of the Month for May - not surprising since he was 5-1 with a 1.22 ERA and 38 strikeouts over six starts. The lefty has only allowed two earned runs over his last 33 innings of work.

"It feels like I'm a different pitcher now," Kazmir told the Tampa Bay Tribune. "Not stuff-wise, or anything like that. But with the defense that we have, you just have so much more confidence now. You get behind in the count and just throw strikes, because these guys are just chasing everything down."

Slumping

Paul Byrd (Cleveland):
Rough stretch for Byrd over the past few games. He’s allowed 24 hits and 14 runs during the slump, pitching the Indians to three straight losses.

What’s worse is that Byrd’s real problems have come on the road as he’s 0-5 in six visiting starts.

Brian Burres (Baltimore): Baltimore’s 27-year-old lefty has taken it on the chin in two straight starts. He allowed eight runs on 10 hits over just 3 2/3 innings against the Yanks and then surrendered seven earned runs and 12 hits over four innings in a loss to Boston.

"I really just pitched behind a lot and didn't locate down," Burres told reporters after his last start. "I got a lot of balls up, and they swung it pretty well. When I did make a bad pitch, they didn't miss it. Even a couple of good pitches got hit. It was just one of those days I have to try to learn from."

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Friday's best MLB bets
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Tampa Bay at Texas +115 9½

So the Texas Rangers have played over the total in six consecutive games (three of them against Oakland, which has one of the best pitching staffs in the majors). They will have Vincente Padilla on the hill, who despite his 7-2 record, has an 8-4 over/under record in his 12 starts. And they have the most productive offense (347 runs scored) in baseball.

Sounds like the makings of an over, right?

Not with Scott Kazmir on the mound. The All-Star lefty has allowed only two earned runs in his six starts this season since coming off the DL and he has yet to allow a home run. The last time Kazmir faced Texas, he worked seven innings, allowed one run, three hits and struck out 10. Today?s is the highest total he?s seen this season.

As for the Rays, they are coming off an exhausting and deflating series in Boston in which they dropped all three games and fell out of first place. A long trip to Texas probably won?t help as they try to get their bats back into a rhythm after averaging only 2.5 runs per game in their last two series.

Pick: Under


San Francisco at Washington +105 7

On paper, both these clubs look equally horrendous. Both are hovering around 10 games below .500 and neither seems capable of doing the little things necessary to win ballgames. But with Tim Lincecum going against Jason Bergmann, the Giants become by far the superior club. Add all the injured Nationals position players into the equation (Kearns, Lo Duca, Zimmerman, Belliard, Johnson, Estrada) and the balance tips even further in San Fran?s favor. Then consider the Giants are coming off a day of rest while the Nats went into extra innings in the back end of yesterday?s double-header with St. Louis, and the scenario probably couldn?t get any better for Giants backers.

Pick: Giants

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