MLB News and Notes June 21

MLB News and Notes June 21

The Fantastic Five
Scott Rickenbach

All the action this weekend involves three-game series. The Rockies are hosting the Mets in National League action and then all 14 of the other series are in Interleague action.

I'll examine five of these weekend sets in a quick rundown and point out the particular value as to why I consider these to be the Fantastic Five to keep an eye on this weekend.

New York Mets at Colorado Rockies


Colorado is just 12-25 on the road this season but at home they are a respectable 19-17. The Rockies offense is picking up the pace again with Brad Hawpe and Matt Holliday back in the lineup. This really makes a big difference for Colorado and especially at home. This is why, against a team like the Mets that generally gets some betting action, we should get some line value at home with the Rockies in this series. Keep an eye on this as the Mets are just 5-8 their last 13 and the Rockies are 11-4 their last 15. The Mets are still trying to deal with all the turmoil relating to Willie Randolph getting fired. We’d recommend looking at the Rockies to take two of three in this series.

Arizona Diamondbacks at Minnesota Twins

With Arizona leading the NL West by 4.5 games and the Twins trailing in the AL Central by 4.5 games this is a bit of an "under the radar" spot for Minnesota and that means value for us. Everyone sees Arizona with their decent full season record and plus they remember what they did earlier this season when they got off to the strong start. However, this team is just 11-18 their last 29 games. The Diamondbacks are also just 15-19 on the road while the Twins are 22-16 at home. With Scott Baker and Nick Blackburn pitching the first two games of this series there is good value with the Twins. Even with Livan Hernandez going in Game Three note that he’s come up with some solid performances at home this season. Arizona’s offense is just not that impressive and the Twins can absolutely take two of three in this series. They’ve won five of six heading into this weekend series.

Detroit Tigers  at San Diego Padres

Detroit already got Fernando Rodney back in their bullpen. Now Joel Zumaya is coming back and, oh yeah by the way, the Tigers are 10-2 their last 12 games. Detroit is hot again and once they get past a tough match-up with Greg Maddux on Friday (winnable but tough), they could easily roll the rest of the series. The Tigers are simply hitting on all cylinders right now as their average margin of victory in their ten games has been 3.4 runs per win! In other words, they’re not just winning they’re blowing teams out and they now face a Padres club that is struggling once again as they are just 1-5 in their last six games and the five losses have come by an average margin of four runs per game! Again, Friday’s match-up is a little tough to call but the Tigers should take at least two of three in this series no matter what happens Friday.

Cleveland Indians at Los Angeles Dodgers

The Dodgers roll into this series with some momentum as they just took three straight from the Reds to get back on track. As for the Indians, they just lost three straight to the Rockies and they come into Los Angeles in a slump. Facing some solid Dodgers pitching in a pitchers’ park is not likely to cure things for Cleveland and, in terms of pitching, the Indians starters aren’t as impressive as they might appear to be on the surface plus the Dodgers have a big bullpen edge in this match-up. As for the starters, Cliff Lee has not been impressive recently if you look at what he’s done since mid-May. CC Sabathia has been very inconsistent and Paul Byrd has also shown a tendency to get rocked on the road. This is why the Dodgers at home will offer some line value as their bats woke up on their recent road trip and they should take at least two out of three from the Tribe.

Florida Marlins at Oakland Athletics

Starting with a look at the A’s on the run line (-1.5 runs) on Friday night we will be searching for value in this series with the Athletics. Oakland will enjoy some big pitching edges in this match-up with Florida and the lines should be reasonable on Saturday and Sunday. Rich Harden over Mark Hendrickson is a big mis-match on Friday and then Dan Eveland and Justin Duchscherer have been simply phenomenal at home this season! By making use of the run line where necessary and the money line where reasonable, there are indeed some profit opportunities in this series. The Marlins are only 9-13 in their last 22 games and guys like Hendrickson and Ricky Nolasco simply can’t be trusted. Southpaw Andrew Miller has been a little tougher but he’s still shown his youth with inconsistency at times and being matched up with Duchscherer would mean he’d have to pitch a gem to win and we don’t see that happening on the road. The A’s should win this series and a sweep should not surprise. Again, keep in mind that you can get line value with the run line too where necessary (Friday’s game is a good example of this).

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MLB cheat sheet for the weekend's best series
By MARC LAWRENCE

While the College World Series winds its way to a conclusion, MLB enters another weekend of interleague play.

The series of focus is in the Windy City when the Cubs host the White Sox in a battle of crosstown rivals. In addition, St. Louis battles Boston in Beantown while suddenly surging Detroit takes on the Padres in San Diego. Wrapping up our take on the weekend card is Jerry Manuel’s New York Mets visit to Colorado in a National League showdown.

Here’s our take of each of these series. All pitcher records are team starts unless noted otherwise. Best and worst arm records are versus this weekend’s opponent. Enjoy the games.

NATIONAL LEAGUE

New York Mets at Colorado Rockies


Most Recent Series Result: Rockies 6-1 last 7 games

Most Recent Series Result at the Site: Rockies 6-1 last 8 here

Key Day/Month Stat: Mets 13-3 away on Fridays

Best Arm in the Series: Vargas 7-2 4.97 ERA career

Worst Arm in the Series: Perez 0-3 9.00 last 3 here


INTERLEAGUE

Chicago White Sox at Chicago Cubs


Most Recent Series Result: Cubs 6-1 last 7 games

Most Recent Series Result at the Site: Cubs 3-1 last 4 here

Key Day/Month Stat: Cubs 7-0 home Sundays

Best Arm in the Series: Lilly 7-2 6.22 ERA career

Worst Arm in the Series: Buerhle 0-3 7.26 ERA last 3; Contreras 0-3 5.24 last 3


St. Louis Cardinals at Boston Red Sox

Mot Recent Series Result: Red Sox 5-2 last 7 games

Most Recent Series Result at the Site: Red Sox 2-0 last 2 here

Key Day/Month Stat: Red Sox 13-1 home Saturdays

Best Arm in the Series: Colon 3-0 5.06 ERA career

Worst Arm in the Series: Beckett 0-4 last 4 starts and 0-3 6.50 ERA here career

Most Recent Series Result: Tigers 5-1 last 6 games

Most Recent Series Result at the Site: Padres 2-1 last 3 here

Key Day/Month Stat: Padres 14-6 Saturdays

Best Arm in the Series: Maddux 1-0 0.00 ERA career

Worst Arm in the Series: Young 0-2 1.80 ERA career

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Baseball Today

St. Louis at Boston (3:55 p.m. EDT). Daisuke Matsuzaka (8-0, 2.53 ERA), who's been out with shoulder fatigue, returns to the mound for the first time since May 27 when he leads the Red Sox against Mitchell Boggs (1-0, 5.56) and the Cardinals.

STARS

- Elijah Dukes, Nationals, had five hits, including a winning single in the 14th inning for a 4-3 win.

- Ervin Santana, Angels, struck out nine in seven innings to lead Los Angeles to a 7-1 win over the Philadelphia Phillies.

- Aramis Ramirez, Cubs, hit a leadoff homer in the bottom of the ninth for a 4-3 win over the Chicago White Sox.

- Aubrey Huff, Orioles, went 4-for-5 with two homers in Baltimore's 8-5 victory over Milwaukee.

- Edinson Volquez, Reds, pitched seven effective innings in Cincinnati's 4-2 win over the New York Yankees.

BONUS BASEBALL

Plenty of teams didn't think nine innings were enough Friday night. The Pirates needed 12 to earn a 1-0 win over the Blue Jays and newly promoted manager Cito Gaston, and the Indians scored twice in the 10th after blowing a four-run lead in a 6-4 win over the Dodgers. Oakland beat the Marlins 7-6 in 11 innings, and Elijah Dukes drove in the winning run in the 14th inning of the Nationals' 4-3 win over the Rangers.

JUNE CLASSICS

Five weekend series were replays of former World Series matchups. St. Louis visited Boston to reprise their 2004 series, and beat the Red Sox 5-4, something the Cardinals couldn't manage in Boston's sweep. ... San Diego beat Detroit 6-2 in a rematch of the 1984 World Series. ... Cincinnati made its first trip to Yankee Stadium since finishing off a sweep of the 1976 World Series. The Yankees won the teams' two previous Fall Classics, in 1939 and 1961. ... Cleveland won its first regular season game at Dodger Stadium 6-4, but the franchises squared off in 1920, when the Indians beat the Brooklyn Robins five games to two in the best-of-nine series played at League Park and Ebbets Field. ... And the Chicago Cubs beat their South Side rivals 4-3, thin revenge 102 years after the Pale Hose took the 1906 World Series.

HOMECOMING

The Texas Rangers returned to Washington for the first time since the former Senators were moved by owner Bob Short to Texas after the 1971 season. The Senators' final game was ruled a forfeit after angry fans invaded the field and tore up the turf in the ninth inning at RFK Stadium. Washington went without baseball for more than three decades until the Montreal Expos relocated in 2005.

BACK IN THE DAY

St. Louis beat Boston 5-4 Friday night in its first visit to Fenway Park since Game 2 of the 2004 World Series, which Boston swept in four games. ... The New York Yankees hosted Cincinnati for the first time since the Reds won 7-2 on Oct. 21, 1976, to complete a four-game World Series sweep - the third and last time the Yankees were swept in the Fall Classic.

SEA CHANGE

In Jim Riggleman's first game as Seattle manager since John McLaren was fired, the Mariners had 15 hits, including a season-high eight doubles, and thumped the Atlanta Braves 10-2 Friday night.

FOUR OF A KIND

Minnesota starters have won four straight for the first time since Aug. 22-26, 2007, after Scott Baker pitched the Twins to a 7-2 win over the Arizona Diamondbacks on Friday night.

SNAPPED

Houston beat Tampa Bay 4-3 Friday night to end its eight-game losing streak. ... San Francisco snapped the Kansas City Royals' five-game winning streak with a 9-4 win. ... Milwaukee's four-game winning streak came to an end with an 8-5 loss to Baltimore. ... Cincinnati snapped New York's seven-game winning streak with a 4-2 win at Yankee Stadium.

BACK IN THE DAY

After beating the Brewers in Milwaukee's final AL game in County Stadium on Sept. 28, 1997, the Orioles picked up right where they left off by beating them 8-5.

SPEAKING

``It's really not that impressive to me because I should have been doing it. I commend myself because I did what it takes to get better, and that was get in early and hit in the cage. When you know what you can do, there's no need to press. I knew I was a better hitter. It was just a matter of time for me to wake up and start hitting the ball.'' - said Washington outfielder Elijah Dukes, whose went 5-for-6 with a game-winning in the 14th inning of the Nationals' 4-3 victory over Texas.

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Saturday's Tip Sheet
By Brian Edwards

Editor’s note: The stats used in this article reflect numbers that were accurate before Friday’s games concluded.

Before we examine some of Saturday’s matchups, let’s quickly update you on the division races. You know, just another June with Tampa Bay and Boston slugging it out for first-place honors in the American League East.

The Rays remain at home this weekend, where they are downright nasty and off a mid-week sweep of the Cubs. The Red Sox are back at home, where they have an MLB-best 28-7 record. Tampa Bay is taking on Houston, while Boston has the slumping Cardinals in town.

Speaking of St. Louis, it is trying to keep things together with Albert Pujols and Adam Wainright on the disabled list. Tony Larussa’s squad got swept at home by woeful Kansas City this week, yet the Cards remain on the Cubs’ heels in the NL Central. Remember, they are still hoping to get Chris Carpenter back in the not-too-distant future.

Arizona is enduring a horrific June, allowing the Dodgers to remain in striking distance. Nevertheless, this division remains the Diamondbacks’ to lose.

Philadelphia is atop the NL East standings, but Florida isn’t showing any signs of going away. The Marlins also have pitching help on the way, as they hope to get Anibal Sanchez and/or Josh Johnson back at some point after the All-Star break.

The White Sox are in first place in the AL Central, but Minnesota is hanging in there. And let’s not put the Tigers to bed yet. Although they have been the most disappointing team in baseball all year, Jim Leyland’s squad has shown some life in recent weeks.

The Angels are in control of the AL West, but Oakland is well within reach. In addition, Texas is within striking distance thanks to the MVP-type season of Josh Hamilton.

To Saturday’s games…

Cardinals at Red Sox**


--Las Vegas Sports Consultants opened Boston (46-29, +1,363) as a minus 210 favorite with a total of 9½ ‘over’ (minus 125). Bettors can dodge the chalky straight price and take the Red Sox on the run line at minus 115.

--St. Louis (42-32, +803) took a five-game losing streak into Friday’s series lid-lifter at Fenway Park. The Cardinals, who are 19-15 on the road, are obviously struggling without the services of perennial All-Star Albert Pujols.

--Daisuke Matsuzuka (8-0, 2.53 ERA) returns from the disabled list in this spot, taking the ball for the first time since May 27. Dice-K owns a 5-0 record and 2.48 ERA at home this season. The right-hander is facing St. Louis for the first time in his career.

--Boston has a 10-1 record in Dice-K's 11 starts this year, leading backers to a plus 829 money tally.

--St. Louis RHP Mitchell Boggs (1-0, 5.56) will toe the rubber for the visitors. The rookie got roughed up in his last assignments, giving up six hits and four earned runs in 4 1/3 innings of work against the Phillies.

--The ‘under’ is 38-34 overall for the Cars, 17-15 in their road games.

--The ‘over’ is 36-34 overall for the Red Sox, but the ‘under’ is 18-17 in their home games.

--FOX will provide regional television coverage at 3:55 p.m. Eastern.

**Marlins at A’s**

--LVSC opened Oakland (39-33, +744) as a minus 140 ‘chalk’ with a total of eight flat (minus 110 either way). The A’s are plus 150 on the run line (risk $100 to win $150).

--Florida (39-33, +1,313) takes the field here for the eighth time in this nine-game road trip. Fredi Gonzalez’s squad had won three of its last four games before Friday’s series opener.

--Florida RHP Ricky Nolasco (7-4, 4.35) is 5-2 with a 4.44 ERA in nine road starts in 2008.

--Oakland will counter Nolasco with LHP Dana Eveland, who is 5-5 with a 3.56 ERA. The southpaw is 3-2 with a 3.12 ERA in seven home starts.

--The Marlins are 9-11 against left-handed pitching.

--The A’s are 22-17 at home, while the Fish are 17-18 on the road.

--The ‘over’ is an MLB-best 47-27 overall for the Marlins, 23-12 in their road outings. The ‘over’ is 17-6-3 in Florida’s last 26 games.

--Oakland has watched the ‘under’ go 38-29 overall, 20-16 in its home games.

**B.E.’s Bonus Nuggets**

--The ‘under’ is an MLB-best 47-28 overall for the Braves.

--Gamblers need to get their bets in early for a pair of one o’clock starts – Reds at Yankees and White Sox at Cubs. WGN will have the telecast for the Windy City rivalry.

--The Yankees and Reds have both called up pitchers from the minors to oppose each other Saturday. Cincy’s Daryl Thompson had a 3-0 record and 3.25 ERA in four games at Triple-A Louisville. Meanwhile, New York’s Dan Giese had a 4-2 record and 1.98 ERA in 13 games (10 starts) at Triple-A Scranton.

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INTERLEAGUE

Chicago White Sox (41-32) at Chicago Cubs (46-28)


The Cubs will try to make it five in a row over their crosstown rivals when they send veteran Jason Marquis (5-3, 4.24 ERA) to the hill to face the White Sox and Jose Contreras (6-5, 3.24) at Wrigley Field.

The Cubs scored three runs in the final two innings to beat the White Sox 4-3 on Friday, their fourth straight win and sixth in seven meetings dating back to last year. The Cubs’ pitching staff has dominated this matchup, allowing just five runs in the last four games.

Wrigley Field has been good to the Cubs as they’ve gone 39-13 in their last 52 in front of the faithful. They are also on runs of 6-2 in interleague home games, 17-7 overall, 7-1 against the A.L. Central and 40-19 at Wrigley against right-handed pitching. Meanwhile the White Sox are 11-6 in their last 17 overall and 7-3 in interleague play, but they are on an 0-7 slide on the highway.

Contreras is just 1-2 in his last three outings with a 4.58 ERA and he’s allowed 10 runs (nine earned) in is last 12 2/3 innings, losses to the Tigers and Rockies. For his career, Contreras is 1-2 in four starts against the Cubs with a 4.23 ERA. Last season he gave up two runs on 10 hits in seven innings of a 3-0 White Sox loss.

The White Sox are 11-4 when Contreras starts on Saturday and but just 1-4 in his last five interleague starts.

Marquis has been outstanding lately, going 3-0 in his last three with a 1.96 ERA. He allowed just one run on four hits in seven innings a week ago as the Cubs beat the Blue Jays 6-2. Last season he allowed five runs in six innings against the White Sox but the Cubs’ offense bailed him out with an 11-6 victory.

For his career, Marquis is 1-1 in three starts against the White Sox with a 10.06 ERA as he’s allowed 19 earned runs in 17 innings. The Cubs are 17-5 in his last 22 home starts but they are just 1-4 when he starts against a team with a winning record.

With Contreras on the hill, the over is 7-2 in interleague games, 5-1 against the N.L. Central and 5-0 when he starts on Saturday, but the under is 9-1 in his last 10 overall. With Marquis starting, the Cubs are on “over” runs of 5-2 at home and 4-1-2 on Saturdays.

For the White Sox, the under is 16-5 on the road against a right-handed starter, 21-8 on the road and 11-2 against teams with a winning record, however the over is 10-5 in interleague games against teams with a winning record. For the Cubs, the under is 10-4-1 in interleague play, 6-2 at home against teams with a winning record, 5-1 at home and 7-1 at home against right-handed starters.

In head-to-head matchups, the over is 5-1 at Wrigley.

ATS ADVANTAGE: CHICAGO CUBS and UNDER


L.A. Angels (44-30) at Philadelphia (42-33)


The Phillies hope to avoid a fourth-straight loss when they send Brett Myers (3-8, 5.58) to the mound opposite Angels’ southpaw Joe Saunders (10-3, 3.06) at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia.

The Angels shut down the Phillies on Friday, getting a 7-1 victory behind the pitching of Ervin Santana. It was the first meeting between these two since 2003 with Los Angeles taking three of the last four.

The Angels are 21-9 in interleague action, 5-1 in interleague road games, 6-2 against teams with a winning record and a staggering 59-24 in the second game of a series. Philadelphia is 1-6 on Saturdays, 1-5 in interleague play, 6-19 against interleague teams with a winning record and 4-11 in the second game of a series, but they are 8-2 against southpaws, 17-8 as a home favorite and 9-5 at home.

The Angels are 11-3 in Saunders’ starts this season and he’s 5-1 on the road with a 1.77 ERA. On Sunday he shut out the Braves on six hits for 7 1/3 innings of a 2-0 victory. In his previous interleague start this season, he held the Dodgers to two runs on five hits for 7 1/3 innings of a 4-2 win. The lefty has never faced the Phillies.

Philadelphia has lost 11 of Myers’ 15 starts and he’s 0-2 in his last three with a 5.79 ERA and the Phillies have lost all three. He’s allowed 11 runs on 15 hits in 11 1/3 innings in his last two. In his only outing against the Angels, he gave up five runs on eight hits of a 5-3 loss back in 2003.

Los Angeles is 25-10 in Saunders’ last 35 starts, 12-4 when he faces a winning team, 5-1 as a ‘dog, 5-1 on the road and 14-3 when he gets five days of rest. Philadelphia is 8-20 in Myers’ last 28 starts, 7-19 when he’s favored, 4-11 with him at home and 0-6 when he toes the rubber on Saturdays.

With Saunders on the hill, the Angels are on “over” runs of 8-3 on five days of rest and 4-1 on Saturdays, but the under is 5-2 in his last seven and 5-1-1 when he starts on the road against a winning team. The Phillies have topped the total in nine of Myers’ last 12 home starts against a winning team and five of his last seven on five days of rest.

The Angels are on “under” runs of 38-16-5 overall, 17-7 against right-handed pitching, 7-2-1 as a ‘dog and 15-5-2 on the highway. Philadelphia is on “over” runs of 8-3 in interleague games and 5-2 at home against winning teams, but the under is 13-3 for the Phillies on Saturday and 13-4 in their last 17 overall.

ATS ADVANTAGE: L.A. ANGELS

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Saturday's best MLB bets
COVERS.COM

Toronto vs. Pittsburgh Blue Jays -110, O/U 8

No team is happier to be back in a National League ballpark than the Pirates. Heading into this weekend's series against the Blue Jays, Pittsburgh is 4-29 on the road in interleague play since 2004. The club is fresh off a 0-3 series drubbing at the hands of the White Sox and a 2-2 series split with the Orioles before that.

The road woes aren't just an interleague thing for Pittsburgh though. They have pulled in a tidy profit for bettors of more than six units at home and have lost nearly six units on the road. (Six units equals $600 for the $100 per game bettor.)

The struggling Blue Jays are just 17-22 on the road coming into Pittsburgh, so the Pirates should have a decent shot at winning this series.

The Pirates also desperately need to improve on their majors-worst .372 winning percentage in interleague play since it began in 1997.

Pick: Pirates


St. Louis vs. Boston Red Sox -240, O/U 9.5

Did somebody say Game 2? The Cardinals love Game 2.

They are 18-6 this season when the second game of a series rolls around, which has made for some nice paydays. Even better, they are 12-1 in Game 2's when coming off a loss, with their lone blemish coming by one run on the road to KC this week.

The Cardinals have a pile of pitchers on the DL, so if they're going to earn the victory in Boston, they'll likely have to do it with the bats.

The bad news is they're scheduled to face Daisuke Matsuzaka. The good news is, he's making his first start since May 27 due to a shoulder injury so we could see a little rust. More good news is St. Louis is hitting much better against righties than lefties with a .274 average compared to .257.

Pick: Cardinals

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MLB Saturday Gameday

Another weekend of interleague play serves up an interesting battle in Chicago between the Cubs and White Sox. Elsewhere the Indians face the Dodgers, the Angels tangle with the Phillies, and the Marlins battle the A's.

Chicago White Sox at Chicago Cubs


Contreras enters Saturday's contest on a two-game losing streak, during which his ERA has risen by nearly half a run. In his last start Contreras allowed three runs on seven hits in six 2-3 innings versus Colorado. Marquis has posted wins in three straight starts and he's 4-0 in his last six outings. Last time out Marquis held the light-hitting Blue Jays to one run on four hits in seven innings.

Cleveland Indians at Los Angeles Dodgers

Sabathia kept his potential trade value high with solid back-to-back wins in his last two starts. The reigning Cy Young winner pitched a complete-game shutout against Minnesota and followed that up with a win over San Diego, in which he allowed three runs in eight innings while striking out 10. Park makes an emergency start on Saturday in place of the injured Hiroki Kuroda. Park has made only one other start this season back on May 17, when he went four innings against the Angels allowing one earned run. In his last appearance out of the bullpen last week, Park was roughed up for five runs in only one 1-3 innings against Detroit.

Los Angeles Angels at Philadelphia Phillies


Saunders bounced back from his worst start of the season versus Tampa Bay earlier this week by pitching seven 1-3 shutout innings against the Braves. In his previous start he had been lit up for eight runs in four 2-3 innings, which included three home runs against the Rays. Myers escaped with a no-decision in his last start despite getting shelled for six runs on eight hits in six innings. In his last 10 starts, Myers is 1-7 and he has given up 12 home runs in those games.

Florida Marlins at Oakland Athletics

Nolasco delivered a dominating performance in his last start, holding Tampa Bay to two earned runs on six hits with 12 strikeouts in eight 2-3 innings. Nolasco is 5-1 in his last seven starts, with a 2.18 ERA in those five wins. Eveland recorded his first victory of June last time out after limiting the Giants to one run on six hits over six 2-3 innings. Eveland finally seemed to get his control back in that start, walking only three batters. In his previous two starts he had issued a combined 13 free passes.

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BEHIND THE LINES

Cubs and White Sox square off


Interleague matchup features the leaders of the N.L. and A.L. Central divisions.

For baseball gamblers who like to bet on interleague games, the best action this weekend is in Chicago where the Cubs and White Sox are playing a three-game series at Wrigley Field.

With the Cubs leading the National League Central and the White Sox in first place in the American League Central, the matchup features two of baseball's best teams over the first half of the season.

The Cubs, who have the best overall record in the majors at 46-28, were favored in Friday's opener and defeated the White Sox, 4-3, behind two home runs by Aramis Ramirez.

Early betting lines have today's game listed as a toss-up with the Cubs starting right-hander Jason Marquis (5-3 with a 4.24 earned-run average) and the White Sox going with right-hander Jose Contreras (5-3, 3.24 ERA).

Both teams are listed at -110 at Sportsbetting.com and Sportsbook.com.

The Cubs, who have been playing without injured outfielder Alfonso Soriano, are 6-0 in their last six home games against a team with a winning record.

Even without Soriano, who has missed 23 games this season but still leads the Cubs with 15 home runs, the Cubs are forecast to reach the playoffs at 89% and win the Division at 73.4%, according to AccuScore.com.

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Saturday's streaking starting pitchers
COVERS.com

Here's a look at a few of Saturday's starting pitchers who have been enjoying streaks or suffering through slumps.

Streaking

Ricky Nolasco, Florida Marlins (4.35, 7-4)


Not all of the wins have been his doing but nonetheless, the Marlins have won five of Nolasco’s last six starts. The right-hander has had a few bad nights this season, but his last two starts have been a couple of the best of his career. He pitched six scoreless innings against the Phillies on June 10 and then went 8 1/3 innings in which he allowed only six hits and struck out 12 batters for a 9-3 win in Tampa Bay. Nolasco is as hot as could be right now, but it should be noted that he threw132 pitches in that last outing.

Daisuke Matsuzaka, Boston Red Sox (2.53, 8-0)

Dice-K has been out of the rotation since May 27 with shoulder fatigue, but before he took a no-decision in that game, the BoSox ace pitched had four straight wins and his club hadn’t lost with him on the mound. He reportedly looked sharp in a rehab start earlier this week and there’s no reason he shouldn’t pick up where he left off.

Paul Maholm, Pittsburgh Pirates (4.45, 4-5)

It’s unlikely the Blue Jays are quaking in their cleats about the prospect of facing Maholm, but there’s no doubt he is a much better pitcher at home. Maholm has a personal 3-1 record and a 3.42 ERA at PNC Park and the Pirates have gone 6-3 when their left-hander gets the home start.

Slumping

Jose Contreras, Chicago White Sox (3.24, 6-5)


Contreras got off to an amazing start this season, but the battle with inconsistency that has plagued Contreras throughout his career seem to be cropping up again. A few weeks ago, the big right-hander was 6-3, but in his last two games, a lot of pitches have been up in the strike zone and batters have taken advantage. He gave up nine earned runs and 20 hits in those two most recent starts.

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