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MLB News and Notes June 10

MLB News and Notes June 10

Tuesday's Tip Sheet
By Brian Edwards

It’s June and that means it’s hot as hell. It also means the division races are heating up and things are getting testy.

This past week, we saw the Rays and Red Sox fighting among themselves and against each other. The Dodgers and Rockies also went at it. Then on Monday, the benches cleared in Pittsburgh as the Pirates and Diamondbacks wrapped up their four-game set.

What’s in store for tonight’s stacked card? Let’s take a look…

**Braves at Cubs**

--Las Vegas Sports Consultants opened Chicago (40-24, +1,033) as a minus 145 favorite, but most books were at minus 155 or minus 160 late Monday evening. As always, there was no overnight total due to uncertain wind conditions.

--One factor likely leading to a more expensive price compared to LVSC’s opening number is the expected absence of Braves slugger Chipper Jones. The veteran third baseman, who is enjoying a career year with a .420 batting average, is “doubtful” with a quad injury.

--Atlanta (32-32, -652) comes to the Windy City after a rough weekend. Philadelphia came into Turner Field and swept a three-game series, including Sunday’s 6-3 triumph. The Braves are in third place in the National League East, 6½ games back of division-leading Philadelphia.

--Chicago returns home from a 4-3 road trip out west. Lou Piniella’s squad took two of three at San Diego before splitting a four-game set against the Dodgers. The Cubs have the majors’ best record and lead St. Louis by 2½ games in the NL Central.

--The Cubs have been outstanding at home all year, cashing tickets at a 26-8 clip at Wrigley Field. On the flip side, the Braves have the majors’ worst road record (7-21).

--Chicago has won eight consecutive home games and 16 of its last 18. As for the Braves, they have lost 14 of their last 17 road games.

--Tom Glavine (2-2, 4.47 ERA) has a 15-13 record and 3.61 ERA in 35 career starts against the Cubs. The left-hander is 1-1 with a 3.48 ERA in six road assignments this season.

--Chicago LHP Ted Lilly (5-5, 5.23) is 1-2 with a 6.17 ERA in five lifetime starts against Atlanta. The southpaw is 3-2 with a 5.23 ERA in six home starts this season.

--Aramis Ramirez has feasted on Glavine with 12 hits in 25 at-bats for a .480 batting average. Ramirez has two doubles and three homers against the lefty. Derek Lee is 16-for-55 (.291) with six doubles and a pair of homers vs. Glavine, while Alfonso Soriano is 8-for-20 (.400) with one double and one homer. On the other hand, Mark DeRosa is just 1-for-13 (.077) and Jim Edmonds is 4-for-21 (.190) off Glavine.

--The Cubs are 14-7 against southpaws, while the Braves are 11-13 versus lefties.

--The ‘under’ is on a 9-3-1 for the Braves, who have seen the ‘under’ go 40-25 overall, 19-7 in their road outings.

--The ‘over’ is 34-32 overall for Chicago, 19-16 in its home games.

**Yankees at A’s**

--LVSC opened New York (32-32, -1,121) as a minus 138 ‘chalk’ with a total of 8½ ‘under’ (minus 120). Gamblers can back the Yankees on the run line (minus 1½ runs) for a plus 120 return.

--Oakland (34-29, +617) is in second place in the AL West, four games behind the division-leading Angels. The A’s own a 21-15 home record.

--Joe Girardi will send Chien-Ming Wang (6-2, 4.57) to the bump in this spot. Wang is 3-0 with a 2.62 ERA in five road outings this year. The right-hander is 1-0 with a 1.42 ERA in a pair of career starts against Oakland.

--Oakland LHP Dana Eveland (4-4, 3.82) will get the starting nod in the lid-lifter of this series. Eveland is 3-1 with a 3.13 ERA in six home starts this year.

--The Bronx Bombers are 9-11 against left-handed pitching this year and 14-17 on the road. On the other hand, they are a perfect 6-0 against AL West foes.

--New York is in a last-place tie with Baltimore in the AL East. Both teams trail division-leading Boston by seven games.

--The ‘under’ is 33-26 overall for Oakland, 18-15 in its home games.

--The Yankees have watched the ‘under’ go 35-30 overall, 19-15 in their road games.

**B.E.’s Bonus Nuggets**

--Ken Griffey Jr. belted his 600th career homer Monday against Florida’s Mark Hendrickson.

--The ‘under’ has cashed in seven consecutive games for the Phillies. On the other hand, the 'over' has hit in six straight games for the Marlins, who have the best 'over' record in the majors (43-22). Something has to give tonight as the Fish host Philadelphia with a total of 9½ flat (minus 110 either way). Brett Myers and Ricky Nolasco will oppose each other. 

--Pittsburgh has MLB's second-best 'over' record (40-24), but the 'under' is on a 6-1 run for the Pirates. They play host to Washington tonight. Tim Redding will toe the rubber for the Nationals, who are plus 135 underdogs. Redding is the majors' fifth-best money pitcher, as Washington has a 10-3 record (+887) in 13 assignments.

--The start time for Boston's home game tonight against Baltimore has been moved up to 6:00 p.m. Eastern due to the Celtics-Lakers' tip-off at 9:05 p.m. ET.

--Houston RHP Roy Oswalt has a 12-8 record and 3.69 ERA in 24 career starts against Milwaukee.

--Tampa Bay RHP James Shields owns a 3-1 record and 2.62 ERA in five career starts against the Angels. Remember, Shields was ejected early and threw only 27 pitches in Thursday’s start at Boston.

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Mets OF Church going on DL, slowed by concussion

NEW YORK (AP) -Mets outfielder Ryan Church will go on the disabled list Tuesday, still slowed by the effects of a concussion nearly three weeks ago.

Church's most recent examination with a neurologist didn't show dizziness or any major symptoms, the Mets said Monday. But he doesn't feel 100 percent, and the team decided to hold him out longer.

The move to the DL would be made retroactive to Friday, a day after Church last played. The Mets will make it official before opening a series at home against Arizona.

Acquired from Washington in an offseason trade, Church is hitting .300 with 10 home runs and 35 RBIs. He is just 2-for-11 with six strikeouts since the injury, and went 0-for-4 and fanned three times Thursday night in San Diego.

Church was injured May 20 at Atlanta. He was accidentally kneed in the head by Atlanta Braves shortstop Yunel Escobar while trying to break up a game-ending double play.

Church pinch-hit on May 22, and did not return to the starting lineup until June 1 against the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Either Moises Alou (calf) or Marlon Anderson (hamstring) could come off the disabled list and take Church's place.

Mets general manager Omar Minaya announced the move during a charity event in Greenwich, Conn. Jose Reyes, David Wright and Johan Santana attended, as did former Mets stars Tom Seaver and Darryl Strawberry.

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Hairston leaves game with fractured thumb

MIAMI (AP) -Cincinnati Reds shortstop Jerry Hairston left the game Monday night against the Florida Marlins after fracturing his left thumb.

Hairston singled to lead off the game and injured himself when he stole second. He also stole third before scoring on Ken Griffey Jr.'s 600th career home run.

Paul Janish replaced Hairston to start the bottom of the first.

Hairston's single raised his average to .336 with 1 home run, 14 RBI and 12 stolen bases. He was promoted from Triple-A Louisville on April 21.

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Baseball Today

Baltimore at Boston (7:05 p.m. EDT). Josh Beckett (6-4, 4.07 ERA) leads the Red Sox against Daniel Cabrera (5-2, 3.98) in the opener of the AL East rivals' three-game series.


- Jose Guillen, Royals, hit a tiebreaking home run off Mariano Rivera in the ninth inning to lift Kansas City to a 3-2 win over the New York Yankees.

- Nick Swisher, Cubs, homered from both sides of the plate and Chicago completed a dominant four-game sweep, beating Minnesota 7-5 for its seventh straight victory.

- Cliff Lee, Indians, allowed two runs, six hits and two walks while striking out five over five innings to become the AL's first 10-game winner in Cleveland's 8-2 win over Detroit.

- Evan Longoria, Rays, had a pair of solo homers and an RBI double, in Tampa Bay's 13-4 win at Anaheim.


Ken Griffey Jr. hit his 600th home run, becoming the sixth player in history to reach that milestone. He homered off Mark Hendrickson in the first inning of the Reds' 9-4 win over Florida. Griffey joined Barry Bonds, Hank Aaron, Babe Ruth, Willie Mays and Sammy Sosa in the exclusive club. Griffey, one of baseball's most prolific sluggers before injuries began to take their toll, started the season with 593 home runs. It took 216 at-bats to reach the milestone.


Jose Guillen homered in the ninth inning to lift the Royals to a 3-2 win over the Yankees. He went 9-for-16 in the four-game series in New York with four homers and 10 RBIs, and also scored six runs to help the Royals gain a split.


Detroit's Dontrelle Willis (0-1) gave up eight earned runs - matching a career high - three hits and five walks in 1 1-3 innings of the Tigers 8-2 loss to Cleveland. He was making his second start since going on the disabled list with a hyperextended right knee.


Brewers second baseman Rickie Weeks was placed on the 15-day disabled list because of a sprained left knee. Weeks was put on the DL retroactive to June 7 and will stay in Milwaukee to receive treatment. He was injured Friday at Colorado, when Jeff Baker slid into him on a play at second base. ... Mets outfielder Ryan Church was to go on the disabled list Tuesday, still slowed by the effects of a concussion nearly three weeks ago. Church's most recent examination with a neurologist didn't show dizziness or any major symptoms, the Mets said. But he doesn't feel 100 percent, and the team decided to hold him out longer.


Arizona Diamondbacks manager Bob Melvin was ejected after the umpires reversed their call and took a home run away from Mark Reynolds against Pittsburgh in a 5-3 loss. Reynolds hit a long drive to right field in the second inning that appeared ready to hit the top of the 21-foot high wall. A fan wearing a glove leaned several feet over the outfield railing and caught the ball. The umpires initially ruled it a home run, but after Pirates manager John Russell went out to argue, the umpires huddled briefly and reversed their call. That brought an angry Melvin out of Arizona's dugout, and he was ejected by home plate umpire Jeff Kellogg, the crew chief.


San Francisco beat Washington 3-2 and has won six of eight overall, and its seven-game road winning streak is its longest since 2003. ... The Royals also improved to 5-29 at Yankee Stadium since the start of the 2000 season with a 3-2 win. ... Toronto has lost seven of nine and is 2-6 in June after going 20-10 in May.


Evan Longoria, Willy Aybar and Dioner Navarro hit consecutive homers in the second inning off Joe Saunders in the Rays' 13-4 win over the Angels.


``I don't think I touched any of the bases. I sort of floated around.'' - Ken Griffey Jr. on rounding the bases after hitting his 600th home run in the Cincinnati Reds' 9-4 win over Florida.

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Florida (34-29) at Philadelphia (39-26)

The Marlins look to put a dent into the Phillies’ lead in the N.L. East when these division rivals start a three-game series at Dolphin Stadium. The scheduled pitching matchup for the series-opener features Florida’s Ricky Nolasco (5-4, 5.05) against the Phillies’ Brett Myers (3-7, 5.13).

Philadelphia, which was idle on Monday, arrives in South Beach with a four-game winning streak, this after sweeping a three-game series in Atlanta over the weekend. Charlie Manuel’s club is 12-2 in its last 14 overall (7-1 in the last eight), including four straight road wins, and 20-6 in its last 26 on Tuesdays.

Florida has split the first four games on its current homestand, all against the Reds, including Monday’s 9-4 setback. The Marlins are 7-3 in their last 10 in front of the home crowd, but 4-9 in their last 13 overall and 2-5 in their last seven on Tuesdays.

The Phillies are 4-1 in their last five against the Marlins, including taking two of three in the first series meeting this season 10 days ago. However, the Marlins have won six of the last eight clashes at Dolphin Stadium.

Philadelphia is 1-7 in Myers’ last seven trips to the bump and just 3-14 in his last 17 starts against the N.L. East, though one of those wins came against Florida on May 30. In that contest, Myers gave up three runs in eight innings, striking out a season-high 11 in a 12-3 victory. The right-hander followed that performance with an even stronger effort on Wednesday against the Reds, as he surrendered just one run and one hit in 7 1/3 innings, but he lost 2-0 at home.

Myers is 0-5 with a 7.15 ERA on the road this year. Also, despite the win on May 30, Myers is just 6-7 with a 4.89 ERA in 25 appearances (19 starts) versus the Marlins, including 1-2 with a 5.06 ERA at Dolphin Stadium.

Nolasco dominated the Phillies in a 7-3 road victory on May 31, giving up two runs on four hits in 6 2/3 innings as he improved to 2-2 with a 5.40 ERA in his career against Philadelphia. However, he came back on Thursday at Atlanta and had his worst performance of the season, getting rocked for seven runs on 12 hits in 5 2/3 innings, losing 7-5. In three starts at home, Nolasco is 1-2 with a 5.32 ERA.

The under is 3-1 in Myers’ last four starts overall and 3-1 in his last four on the road. However, the over is 6-1 in Nolasco’s last seven starts overall (3-0 last three).

The Phillies have stayed under the total in seven consecutive games, and the under is 5-1 in their past six on the highway. Conversely, for the Marlins, the over is on streaks of 22-6-3 overall, 6-0 at home, 7-0-1 against right-handed starters and 9-0-2 as an underdog. Also, the over is 37-15-2 in the last 54 battles in this rivalry, including 3-0 this season.



Tampa Bay (38-26) at L.A. Angels (39-26)

After hammering the Angels in Monday’s series opener, the Rays look to remain perfect this season against the A.L. West leaders when they send James Shields (4-4, 3.64 ERA) to the mound opposite L.A.’s Jered Weaver (5-6, 4.79).

Tampa Bay clobbered the Angels 13-4 on Monday night, improving to 4-0 against the Halos this season after losing 46 of the previous 62 meetings. The Rays are 21-10 in its last 31 overall (3-1 in their last four), 11-3 in their last 14 against the A.L. West and 23-10 in their last 33 against right-handed starters. However the Rays remain under .500 on the road this year (14-16), and going back to 2006, and they’re 46-101 in their past 147 road contests and 20-54 in their last 74 games on Tuesday.

The Angels have now dropped two in a row since ripping off a seven-game winning streak. Los Angeles is still on positive streaks of 37-18 at home against teams with a winning record, 13-3 on Tuesdays and 4-2 against right-handed pitching.

The Rays, who swept a three-game series from Los Angeles a month ago in Tampa Bay, have outscored the Angels 25-9 in four their four wins this season. However, they’re still just 5-24 in their last 29 games at Angel Stadium.

Shields is coming off his shortest stint of the season, as he got ejected after intentionally beaning Boston’s Coco Crisp with no outs in the second inning on Thursday at Fenway Park. He gave up four runs on three hits in his single inning of work in taking the loss, and he’s now gone five straight starts since his last victory, a 2-0 win over the Angels in Los Angeles. On the bright side, the Rays are 13-6 in Shields’ last 19 starts overall, 7-1 in his last eight against the A.L. West and 4-1 in his last four on Tuesdays.

Shields has struggled on the highway all season, going 1-3 with a 7.06 ERA in six starts, as opposed to 3-1 with a 1.72 ERA in seven home outings, and Tampa is 8-20 in his last 28 outings on the highway. The right-hander also has a serious home-road split in his career against Los Angeles, going 3-0 with a 1.27 ERA in four home starts (all Rays wins) and 0-1 with a 9.00 ERA in one start at Angel Stadium.

Weaver is 3-1 in his last four starts, but he’s given up 10 runs on 20 hits in his last two starts spanning 10 innings. On Wednesday at Seattle, he surrendered four runs on 10 hits in six innings, winning 5-4.

At home this season, Weaver is 2-3 with a 3.47 ERA in six outings, and he’s 2-6 with a 5.46 ERA in 10 starts at night. Finally, in his lone career start against the Rays back in 2006, he surrendered two runs on four hits in six innings, winning 6-2 in Tampa Bay.

The under is 4-2 in Shields’ last six starts, but the over is 3-1 in his last four on the road. Meanwhile, the over is 3-1 in Weaver’s last four overall, but the under is 4-2 in his six home outings in 2008.

With last night’s game flying over the total, the over is now 11-3 in the last 14 meetings in Southern California. However, the under is 9-3 in the Rays’ last 12 overall and 7-2 in their past nine versus teams with a winning record. Also, for the Angels, the under runs include 20-8-1 overall, 19-9 against right-handed starters, 8-3 at home against righties and 7-1 at home against teams with a losing road record.



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This week's hot starters

Greg Maddux (San Diego Padres) Tuesday vs. Los Angeles

Despite pitching for a losing ball club, the veteran Maddux continues to prove his worth. He has really settled in over his last four starts, giving up two earned runs or less each time out. His command is as good as it has been in quite some time. Need proof? He’s issued one walk or less in eight of his last nine starts. In six home starts, Maddux has posted a 1.73 ERA. The Dodgers can’t hit their way out of a wet paper bag right now, so Maddux should run his undefeated streak to five games.

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Vegas Watch: Rating the Tampa Bay Rays

Today is June 9, and the Tampa Bay Rays are 37-26. The team that had never won more than 70 games, and had never been more than five games over .500, looks to be a legitimate contender. They’ve taken a lot of people by surprise, and made the few who saw this coming a lot of money; they’ve been the second most profitable team thus far, behind only the Marlins. It’s been an incredible turnaround for a team that lost 96 games last year and didn’t sign any big-name free agents in the offseason.

So, how have they done it?  They’ve done it by completely turning around two areas of the club that aren’t always that noticeable. The first of these is their defense.  According to Baseball Prospectus’ Defensive Efficiency—as well as just about anyone who saw them play—the Rays had the worst defense in baseball in 2007, and it wasn’t particularly close; they converted just 66.2 percent of balls in play into outs.

In the offseason, they completely switched up their defense. They finally moved Upton to centerfield, traded a terrible defender (Brendan Harris) for a very good one (Bartlett), moved Iwamura from third to second, and (eventually) called up Evan Longoria from AAA. The results have been really incredible.

This year, they are tied with the Braves for the highest Defensive Efficiency in the league, converting 71.8 percent of BIP into outs. Considering how many balls a team fields over the course of a season, that 5.6 percent jump is really insane. Matthews Carruth at The Hardball Times recently estimated that Tampa’s defense is on pace to be 200 runs better than last year, a 20-win improvement in the field alone.

The Rays’ bullpen last year was also incredibly bad, with a 6.16 ERA. Like the defense, it’s been an entirely different story this season, as they’ve had one of the best pens in baseball.  This is another change that could easily go overlooked. They’ve been led by a relative unknown in J.P. Howell and a guy that most people had completely given up on, Troy Percival.  Percival didn’t throw a pitch in the majors in 2006, and didn’t make his 2007 debut with the Cardinals until June 29. He was very good in limited work, with a 1.80 ERA in 40 innings. The Rays then signed him relatively cheaply, and he was excellent before recently going to the DL with a 2.95 ERA in the closer’s role.

Tampa tried Howell out in the rotation last year, and although his K/BB ratio was solid, he allowed eight home runs in 51 innings, contributing to a disastrous 7.59 ERA. After being moved to the bullpen in the offseason, he’s cut his HR rate in half this year and his ERA is down to 3.38.

Teams like the Mets and Tigers made headlines last winter by acquiring big names and giving them huge sums of cash. But the team that’s seen the most improvement stayed under the radar, making internal improvements that have them in position to make one of the biggest turnaround in baseball history.

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