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MLB News and Notes July 2

MLB News and Notes July 2

Wednesday's Predictions
By Josh Jacobs

To add some excitement to the usual hardball tip sheets, we’re going to throw in some predictions at the end of each breakdown. It’s that time of the year when baseball is filling the void for a slow summer in sports.

Here’s what Wednesday will bring to your tube, so study up and build that seasonal bankroll.

Detroit (Bonine) at Minnesota (Blackburn) – 1:10 p.m. EDT

This is a dangerous time for teams in the AL Central. The Tigers seem to be turning that hairpin corner by finishing June with a 19-8 record and going 18-4 in their last 22. Detroit has been blistering at the plate with a .329 BA and has outscored its opponents 5.2 runs per game versus 4.5 in the last 10.

First year major league slinger Eddie Bonine (2-0, 3.98 ERA) is scheduled to take pitching duties on Wednesday. His first start on Jun. 14 yielded a win even after giving up nine hits and six runs in only 5.1 innings, but he's since been unstoppable. In Bonine’s last two outings, a low three runs on 11 hits have been direct results to a 1-0 record.

The Twins have been a cash cow with the second best money line profit in the AL and third best in both leagues at +1239.

A 10-game winning streak which ended on Jun. 28 only helped validate that Minnesota is for real. Players like starting pitching Kevin Slowey (5-6, 3.47), catcher Joe Mauer (.341 BA with 13 RBIs in June) and left fielder Delmon Young (.321 BA with 13 RBIs) are just the tip of the ice burg in the sense of production.

The key for a Minnesota win will be to get lefty hitters Mauer, Alexi Casilla and Jason Kubel to jump on the Tigers’ pitcher Bonine early on. Southpaw swingers have done damage against Bonine with a .281 BA and an off the charts .917 OPS.

Pick: This contest goes to Minnesota on the basis of the lack of experience for Detroit’s Bonine and the Twins top notch offensive numbers at home (seventh best 214 runs with a .278 BA).

Kansas City (Meche) at Baltimore (Cabrera) – 7:05 p.m. EDT

Where did Kansas City come from all of a sudden? Entering mid-June on a mission, the Royals finished off the month with a 12-3 record in its last 15. While the starting pitching hasn’t been dominant by any means – the five starters are averaging an ERA of 4.15 – the bats have been able to come alive.

Kansas City’s .275 BA with 140 runs in June eclipsed its .260 BA with 95 runs in April and .258 BA with 101 runs in May. The main contributors to this spike in offensive numbers lies with players like David DeJesus (.361 BA, 19 RBIs in June), Jose Guillen (.345 BA, 25 RBIs) and Mike Aviles (.330 BA, 15 RBIs).

The Royals will entrust seven-year veteran starter Gil Meche with the job of earning the road win in Baltimore. Meche has been on fire with a 3-0 record, while surrendering six runs in his last three starts. The right-hander is 3-4 with a 4.09 ERA on the road this season, but a .240 BAA is proof that the offensive supporting him hasn’t been up to par (3.6 runs of support per start).

For the Orioles, unpredictable play has marred the franchise throughout the season. Baltimore is sitting above Toronto in the AL East by just 1 ½-games (as of Tuesday afternoon), is batting a below sea level .258 and is amongst the lowest scoring teams in the league at home with 168 runs registered.

A 22-13 home record is not to be overlooked and a 6-3 record in June reflects Baltimore’s overall success in its own ballpark.

It should be noted that Orioles right-handed starter, Daniel Cabrera (5-4, 4.53) is winless since May 20 and has since fallen ill to giving up 4.1 runs per game (in his last seven games). However, Cabrera is 2-0 at home, but a 5.25 ERA with a .279 BAA hasn’t been the best of outings.

Pick: While it may be a long shot for Kansas City to waltz into Baltimore with a 19-24 road record, things have been picking up for a club otherwise void of any heavy hitting moments this season. Seven ‘over’ games in their last 10 has also demonstrated a pick up on the offensive side of the ball and books aren’t taking any chances by installing the Royals as favorites nine times in the last 11 games. Kansas City should be considered a sharp play come Wednesday.

Milwaukee (McClung) at Arizona (Owings) – 9:40 p.m. EDT

Let’s take a stab at what’s sure to be an underdog pick on the card (odds haven’t been released yet as of Tuesday afternoon).

The Brewers are in a holding pattern, neither exploding onto the scene nor losing enough to sink them to the bottom of the division, but a 3-1 record versus Arizona this year is just one reason to back the visiting team here.

In the four games against the D-Backs, the Brew Crew’s pitching staff has blown by batters for a 2.57 ERA with 7.97 strikeouts per nine innings. As for the offense, a .281 BA with six runs per game scored against Arizona has been in stark contrast to Milwaukee’s .251 BA with 4.5 runs per game scored in 81 games played thus far.

And then there’s the slumping Micah Owings (6-7, 5.18).

Arizona’s right-hander may have started the season like a house on fire (going 4-0 in his first four starts), but has since slid down one heck of a slippery slope. Owings is 0-5 in his last six starts, has averaged an unbelievable 4.7 innings of work (in those six starts) and is close to giving up almost five runs per game. His numbers at home and on the road have been too close to deem serviceable when handicapping this contest.

What could dictate the result of this contest is a gluteus injury that Owings has been trying to overcome. Most reports indicate that he’ll make the start on Wednesday but just keep this in mind.

Pick: With Arizona’s problems in Owings starts combined with a decrepit offense, I’m going with the Brewers on this one. We’ll wait to see what the early value is but early thinking has a backing on Milwaukee come Wednesday night.

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Diamond Preview
By Matt Fargo

Wednesday, July 2nd

Detroit Tigers at Minnesota Twins 1:10 PM ET


The three-game set between the Tigers and Twins concludes on Wednesday afternoon. This is a big series for the visitors as Detroit has somehow gotten itself back into the American League Central race. Entering the week, the Tigers are on a five-game winning streak and are 17-4 over their last 21 games. The Twins are hot as well as they have won 10 of their last 11 games heading into this series. Minnesota has won five of the last six meetings including a sweep at the Metrodome back in early May.

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Chan's money arms: Week of June 30th
By DAVID CHAN

Scott Kazmir, Tampa Bay Rays, Wednesday vs. Boston

Coming off four consecutive subpar outings, now is the time to buy low with Scott Kazmir. Who better to right the ship against than the Red Sox. In 18 career starts against the defending world champs, Kazmir has recorded a 2.82 ERA and held them to a paltry .224 batting average. He owns a 1.24 ERA at Tropicana Field this season, but was a 3-2 loser against Houston in his last start here. The Red Sox have excelled against left-handed pitching this year, but that should only serve to give us added value in this situation.

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Wednesday’s MLB streaking and slumping starters
By COVERS.com

Streaking

C.C. Sabathia Cleveland (6-8, 3.78)


It’s safe to say Sabathia’s early-season struggles are over. Cleveland’s ace has helped the club to four straight victories, during which he has only allowed four total runs while striking out 36.

Sabathia’s hot streak is only adding fuel to burning trade rumors that expect him to end up with a contender as the trade deadline looms at the end of the month. The 6-foot-7, 290-pounder has three complete games already this season.

Rocky Nolasco Florida (8-4, 4.05)

The Marlins didn’t really know what to expect from Nolasco after he missed most of last season with arm problems. Now all of a sudden he’s one of the nastiest starters in the National League.

Nolasco has helped Florida to eight wins in his last 10 starts, allowing more than three runs just once over that stretch.

"You can almost say he's back to form," manager Fredi Goznalez told reporters. "His velocity is up and his command on all his pitches has been very good."


Slumping

Micah Owings Arizona (6-7, 5.28)


Owings has just one win in his last six starts and has allowed at least four runs in four of those outings.

To make matters worse, he’ll be pitching at less than 100 percent after he hurt his back in his last start while covering first base and had to hit the showers after four innings.

"I wish I could explain it," Owings told reporters. "When I went down for the ball, my lower right side and upper glute just locked up on me. I've never had anything like that happen."

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Baseball Today

Boston at Tampa Bay (7:10 p.m.) Daisuke Matsuzaka (9-1, 3.21 ERA) faces the Rays' Scott Kazmir (7-3, 2.28) in a matchup between the top two teams in the AL East.

STARS

- Shane Victorino, Phillies, hit a home run and drove in four runs and Philadelphia beat Atlanta 8-3 to remain unbeaten at Turner Field this season.

- Ronnie Belliard, Nationals, hit his second career grand slam to help Washington beat Florida 9-6.

- Matt Garza, Rays, pitched seven strong innings in his first outing since throwing a one-hitter, and Tampa Bay beat Boston 3-1.

- J.J. Hardy, Brewers, homered twice and Milwaukee defeated the Diamondbacks 8-6

- Aaron Cook, Rockies, needed just 79 pitches to shut out the Padres 4-0, helping Colorado snap an eight-game losing streak.

- David Wright, Mets, hit his 16th homer and led a 14-hit attack in New York's 7-4 win over St. Louis.

- Matt Cain, Giants, struck out 10 and gave up only two hits in eight shutout innings of San Francisco's 2-1 victory over the Chicago Cubs.

WELCOME BACK

Chipper Jones, expected to be placed on the disabled list Tuesday, instead was back in the lineup for the Atlanta Braves. Jones missed eight straight starts with a strained right quadriceps. Because of the continued discomfort, Jones feared he would be placed on the DL as the Braves opened an important series against the NL East-leading Phillies on Tuesday night. Instead, he was ``very surprised'' he didn't feel the expected discomfort while stretching and then running before the game. Manager Bobby Cox put him in the lineup, along with center fielder Mark Kotsay, who was activated from the 15-day disabled list.

WELCOME BACK, PART II

The Giants recalled former backup catcher Eliezer Alfonzo from Triple-A Fresno, nine days after he completed a 50-game suspension for testing positive for a performance-enhancing substance. Alfonzo arrived fit, healthy and ready for a clean slate, insisting he never knowingly took steroids but did take medicine in December while home in Venezuela for bronchitis.

OUCH!

The Diamondbacks placed outfielder Eric Byrnes and catcher Chris Snyder on the 15-day disabled list. Byrnes is out with a strained left hamstring, Snyder with a left testicular fracture. For Byrnes, the move comes eight days after he came off the DL, where he spent a month with injuries to both hamstrings. Snyder left Monday night's game after being hit in the groin area by a foul tip and underwent an MRI on Tuesday.

PADRE PUMMELER

Colorado's Aaron Cook threw his first career shutout, needing just 79 pitches to beat the Padres 4-0. Since 2004, Cook is 8-1 with a 1.52 ERA in 11 starts against San Diego, and hasn't allowed more than two runs in any of those starts.

SOLID DEBUT


Collin Balester gave up one hit and struck out three in five innings to become the first Nationals starting pitcher to win his big league debut in a 9-6 win over the Marlins. Balester became the first franchise starter to win his debut since Dan Smith on June 8, 1999, when the club was still in Montreal.

NOT CLOSING TIME

Mariano Rivera gave up the winning run in the ninth inning in the Yankees' 3-2 loss to Texas. He has given up four runs this season, none of them in a save opportunity.

MILITARY TELECAST

On Wednesday night, thousands of military members will be able to watch the San Francisco Giants host the Chicago Cubs in a special telecast done as a tribute leading up to July 4. The Giants and Comcast SportsNet Bay Area will honor members of the Armed Forces and their families on ``Salute to the Military Night.'' The game will be broadcast on American Forces Network and available to 176 countries and more than 200 U.S. Navy ships.

MILESTONE BALL*

Now branded with an asterisk, the ball Barry Bonds launched for his record 756th home run nearly a year ago landed in the Hall of Fame. Fashion designer Marc Ecko, who paid $752,467 for the prize in an online auction in September, asked fans to vote in an Internet poll on what he should do with the ball. The winner: Brand it with an asterisk, to reflect the steroid allegations surrounding Bonds, and give it to the Hall. The ball indeed was marked, with the five-pronged asterisk dye-cut into the cowhide, from stitch-to-stitch where ``Major League Baseball'' is printed.

LONG GONE

Alex Gordon of the Royals hit a first-inning home run that cleared the 25-foot scoreboard in right field and traveled an estimated 430 feet. It was the 45th home run in the 17-year history of Camden Yards to land on Eutaw Street, the fifth this season. The Orioles won 7-5.

SNAPPED

The Royals' six-game road winning streak ended with a 7-5 loss at Baltimore. ... The Rockies snapped their eight-game losing streak with a 4-0 win over the Padres.

STATS

Alex Gordon of the Royals hit the 45th home run in the 17-year history of Camden Yards to land on Eutaw Street, the fifth this season. ... Mariano Rivera has allowed all four of his runs this season in non-save situations. ... The Phillies are 13-4 in Kyle Kendrick's starts this season after a 8-3 win over the Braves. ... With his 20th homer, Pat Burrell joined Mike Schmidt as the only Phillies with 20 or more homers in eight straight seasons. Schmidt hit at least 20 homers in eight straight seasons (1974-87).

SPEAKING

``(The media) brings it up a lot, so it's hard not to think about. I know I've got two starts left before the All-Star break. I can't sit on what I've done this year; I've got to keep moving forward.'' - Rockies starter Aaron Cook discussing his All-Star chances.

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American League East: Handicapping the great race
By BEN BURNS

There’s nothing unusual about a great pennant race in the American League East. The last decade has seen races between the Red Sox and Yankees, and at times even the Blue Jays. All three are known for stocking up during the offseason on free agents. However, the one thing unusual about the 2008 AL East race is the new kid on the block: Tampa Bay.

The young Rays are hungry and motivated. They are also for real, with the kind of pitching staff built for the long haul of a 162-game season. They may not be etched in the history of big league lexicon, but who wouldn’t want a rotation of Scott Kazmir, James Shields, Matt Garza, Edwin Jackson and Andy Sonnanstine?

Perhaps even more impressive is their ages: 24, 26, 24, 24 and 25. The bullpen has been outstanding behind J.P. Howell, Gary Glover, Dan Wheeler and Trever Miller. Throw in an offense with speed and power with talents like B.J. Upton and Carl Crawford and this has been the best story of the season.

Twenty-two year old third baseman Evan Longoria became the first Rays rookie to take Player of the Week honors after hitting .433 (13-for-30) with five doubles, three homers and 10 RBIs last week against Florida and Pittsburgh.

The Rays play in a small, hitter-friendly park in Tampa, yet the pitching and defense has been so improved they surprised oddsmakers, starting 29-14 under the total at home. So can they stay in the race? Based on all that quality pitching depth, you would think so. Everyone likes underdogs and the Rays are a dog to root for in 2008.

Behind the young upstarts is big bad Boston, the defending champs. They’ve won two of the last four World Series and have a deadly combination right now of a high payroll and talented young players popping out of the farm system.

The Red Sox have actually played very well, better than many expected, considering all their problems. Curt Schilling was penciled in as the No. 3 starter, yet won’t pitch an inning because of an injured shoulder. No. 2 starter Daisuke Matzusaka just came back from missing a few weeks with a a tired arm, while star slugger David Ortiz hasn’t played since May 31 because of a torn tendon sheath in his left wrist. That’s a lot of key players on the shelf. Throw in the fact that they opened the season with a brutal schedule, playing in Japan, and this team has been great and is likely to get better. The main concern is their road play, starting 19-25 on the road.

The Yankees are hoping to make a second half run, sitting six games out of first. But they are also just five games over .500 with all kinds of problems, especially with the starting pitching. Unlike Tampa Bay, there is a lot of age with this team.

Their best pitcher, Chien-Ming Wang (8-2), is on the shelf until September with an ankle injury. Starters Andy Pettitte (age 36) and Mike Mussina (39) have given up more hits than innings pitched, while kids Dan Rasner, Ian Kennedy, Phil Hughes and Kei Igawa have had problems. Adding Joba Chamberlain to the rotation seems to be their best hope and the kid has won 4 starts in a row.

The Yankees continue to be an under machine, at 48-31 under for the season and 7-3 the last 10 games. They are barely over .500 at home, offering excellent wagering value as a go-against favorite at Yankee Stadium. Said new manager Joe Girardi on the Yanks' losing the Subway Series to the Mets: "We came out with great energy. We just didn't hit." They’d better get better offensively, as one has to wonder about this pitching staff. If the playoffs started today the Yankees wouldn’t be in it for the first time since 1994.

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Vegas Watch: Spotting underdog value
By JACOB WHEATLEY-SCHALLER

A very important aspect of betting on baseball, especially towards the beginning of the season, is understanding how good a team is when compared to their general reputation.  If you can spot a team that’s better than everyone thinks, there is going to be tremendous value in betting on that team on a consistent basis.

A good way of gauging this would be to compare Baseball Prospectus’ PECOTA forecast to the projections of ESPN’s analysts.  PECOTA is a very good predictor of the actual final standings, while the folks at ESPN generally give us a good idea of the perception of the team. For this article, I’ll use the predictions from Jayson Stark, Tim Kurkjian, Buster Olney, and Steve Phillips.

There are four teams for which the gap between perception and reality was greater than six wins, and betting on PECOTA’s side of each team in the first half would have been a very profitable venture for all four. Here’s a more detailed look.

Seattle Mariners

PECOTA: 76 wins

ESPN: 91 wins

Money standings (through June 30): -2074

The Mariners have been worse than anyone could have predicted, but PECOTA was certainly a whole lot closer.  The ESPN predictions were just laughably high; apparently they didn’t notice that the M’s were outscored by 19 runs last year.

Tampa Bay Rays

PECOTA: 90 wins

ESPN: 75.5 wins

Money standings: +1635

ESPN’s analysts weren’t the only ones who were way wrong about the Rays; their over/under opened at 72.  Everybody is now writing articles about Tampa’s greatly improved pitching and defense, but PECOTA actually saw this coming; they projected that the Rays would allow 722 runs, a stunning 222 run decrease from 2007.  They’re currently on pace to allow 654, although part of that is a product of the lower scoring environment in the AL this year.

Toronto Blue Jays

PECOTA: 77 wins

ESPN: 87 wins

Money standings: -945

Colorado Rockies

PECOTA: 81 wins

ESPN: 90 wins

Money standings: -2022

These two teams had smaller discrepancies, but there was clearly a large perception gap for both.  PECOTA just didn’t think the Blue Jays would score enough runs, while last year’s run allowed the Rockies to be overrated in the minds of many.

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"Every Game Every Day "

Detroit Tigers at Minnesota Twins

Big bounce back game from the Twins last night. They showed a ton of grit and a ton of heart. This was a team that came off a crushing loss the night before. There is no question that the Twins should have won on Monday night. They had two separate leads, they had leads late and they just didn’t come through. Last night they were able to bounce back from an early deficit and take care of business at home.

What happens when a team goes on a long run, everyone loves them. Everyone jumped all over the Twins after they won their six, seven, eighth game in a row etc. When they finally lose that inevitable game though, people don’t feel as if they are hot. We are here to tell you that is wrong. This is a team that is still 10-1 in their last eleven games. This is a team that is still seven games over .500, they know how to win. They have pop from the left-side and they have a top of the line-up that can steal 100 bases between them.

The Twins at this prices are too good to pass up, even though the Tigers are solid as well, the Twins in the metro-dome are great.

Minnesota Twins (-)


Kansas City Royals at Baltimore Orioles

Great game last night from Baltimore. How many people out there thought the Orioles would be a few games over .500 right around the all-star break? This team has not done it with smoke and mirrors either, this team has some ball players and this team will win 80 games this season. The Orioles are battle tested, unlike other teams the Orioles play the toughest schedule in baseball.

The Orioles have to play over one third of their schedule against the Tampa Bay Rays, New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox. The other 19 contests they have to play a Toronto Blue Jays team that can pitch with anyone. The Orioles really get it going when they play against the other AL teams, they know they have a shot to make up some ground.

This is a team that has a batting average of .258 which ranks in the middle, but they are in the top half of the league in both home runs (91 home runs good for ninth) and stolen bases (51 stolen bases good for thirteenth in the league). They are the best fourth place team in baseball by far, their win last night proves that.

Baltimore Orioles (-)


Texas Rangers at New York Yankees

Just can’t see the Yankees getting swept here tonight at the Bronx. The reason this line is so low is due to the fact the Yankees have lost the first two games of this set. Is it possible the first game they had a let-down after a very emotional series against the Mets? Sure it is possible. Is it possible that the Yankees were looking ahead to the Boston Red Sox big July 4 weekend series? Yes it is possible. Tonight they have no choice though, they have to stare at this game head on.

The Yankees offense has been in a funk. We all know they are better than this though. They have an offense that still averages over 4.60 runs per game, they still hit .270 as a team and they still hit the long ball. They just haven’t been consistent. You better believe that Joe Girardi is going to go after these guys today. He is going to challenge them to win this game. They have been here before and they have come through, tonight will be nothing new.

Ponson came up big against the Mets in the last start, he will do enough to get the win tonight, mark it down.

New York Yankees (-)


Boston Red Sox at Tampa Bay Rays

Face it the Rays are the real deal. If you didn’t think so before the week you sure think so now. Tampa is coming off of two straight wins against the now “hated” Red Sox. The impressive part about their two wins; is they have won them in close fashion. Winning both games by just a run or two has showed us that the Rays aren’t going anywhere.

Tonight we get the Rays best pitcher, and arguably the best pitcher in baseball. Let’s remember for a second who Kazmir pitches against. This is a kid that has to face the AL East in so many of his starts. Do you think Edinson Volquez would have the same numbers if he was pitching against the Yankees, Red Sox, Orioles and Blue Jays a lot? Not a chance.

Scott Kazmir is 7-3 on the season with an ERA of just 2.28. Kazmir doesn’t fear pitching against the Red Sox, he has yet to beat them this year, but has beaten them multiple times in years past. Look out for this sweep as the Trop will be going wild (sort of).

Tampa Bay Rays (-)


Cleveland Indians at Chicago White Sox

There are only a handful of pitchers that would be worth trusting in this spot. C.C. Sabathia is one of those starters. Please do not look at his season numbers, they mean absolutely nothing. C.C. came out of the gate terrible. He openly admitted that contract talks, and possible trade destinations were huge distractions. Since then he has been the CC of old, except better.

C.C. has lost just three of his last ten starts. Out of those ten starts, he has struck out at least eight, six times, including three straight games of double-digit strikeouts. His last start against the White Sox in Chicago he pitched great. C.C. threw seven innings of just two run ball, walking just one while striking out eight.

Sabathia actually has better numbers away from Ohio. Pitching in a big game on the road gets C.C. going. Look for the Indians to steal one.

Cleveland Indians (+)


Toronto Blue Jays at Seattle Mariners

Dustin McGowan is an under-rated arm. People look at his 6-6 record and they think he can net them some profits, well they are wrong. Here is a pitcher that has over a 2 to 1 strikeout to walk ratio. Here is a pitcher that has let up just eight home-runs in 17 starts. In contrast Johan Santana has let up 14 home runs. Dustin knows how to pound the zone and pound down in the zone. He relies on his defense and he gets ground balls.

Dustin did struggle on the road earlier in the season but it looks as if he is over that. He has only lost one time on the road in his last four starts. He was able to beat the Pirates and the Angels as well, two very good home teams. Tonight he pitches against an offense that is struggling. He is not facing a top tier offense tonight.

The last time he pitched against the Mariners he dominated them. In that start he threw a complete game five hitter. He allowed just five hits, struck out seven and won the ball game 3-1. Don’t look too deep in to it, the Blue Jays are better and Dustin knows how to beat them.

Toronto Blue Jays (-)


National League    

Washington Nationals at Florida Marlins

Ricky Nolasco has been the Marlins best pitcher this season. Not only has he pitched well but it has translated into wins. Rick is 8-4 on the season. He has thrown 95.2 innings and allowed just a hit per inning (96 hits to be exact). Ricky has been even better recently. Ricky is 2-0 in his last three starts. The Marlins are undefeated in those three starts as well.

Ricky has actually been dominant in his last four starts. Against Philadelphia he threw six innings and allowed no runs. Against Tampa he threw over 8 innings and struck out 12 batters. Two starts ago he threw seven innings and allowed just three runs while walking one batter. His last start was arguably his best. Eight innings, six hits, one earned run, nine strikeouts, one walk.

Ricky hasn’t lost since June 6, and only lost two times since April. Ricky had cut down on his walks, cut down on the long ball (just two in his last four starts and none in his last two) and just pitched better. Look for the Marlins to beat up the Nats today in this afternoon game.

Florida Marlins (-)


Philadelphia Phillies at Atlanta Braves

How about this guy Jorge Campillo? You have to toss out his record for now. You may say well why would we do that? The record is so important. Listen we are not here to tell you it doesn’t matter but it is not the be all, end all of pitching characteristics. Jorge has made eight starts on the season. The Braves are 5-3 in those eight starts. Jorge has thrown 67 innings and he has allowed just 57 hits with a 2.54 ERA. Yes he has a 2.54 ERA.

It doesn’t matter if Jorge is home or on the road, he gets the job done. That shows us that this pitcher is for real, here is a guy that has an ERA of 1.00 on the road and a 66.6% winning percentage in his own building. Make no mistake about it, Jorge is not a young kid. He is a veteran from the Mexican league and he has waited a long time for this season. In his career before 2008 he had made just one professional major league start.

The Phillies are a classic boom or bust team, look for them to bust out here tonight against the Braves.

Atlanta Braves (-)


Pittsburgh Pirates at Cincinnati Reds

The Reds bats have been quiet it for a few games, look for that to change tonight. After all this is a team that has a ton of power. No they weren’t terrible last night, they got their hits, but couldn’t come up with the big one. They were facing a tough left-handed starter. Tonight it is a different story.

Jerry Hairston Jr. is now their starting shortstop and their lead-off hitter. Jerry has been red hot, he scored a run last night and is now hitting over .325. With Griffey, Dunn, Phillips, Encarnacion and Bruce you are not going to be able to keep the Reds offense down very long, especially in their park.

Daryl Thompson is a compliment pitcher. He has waited a long time for this call up and he will make the most of it. Look for the Reds to come up big in this game against a team that has a tough time winning on the road.

Cincinnati Reds (-)


LA Dodgers at Houston Astros

The Dodgers finally had some offense last night. This was a team that was desperate for offense. We all know what happened over the weekend right? Well just to rehash it one final time, the Dodgers scored just one in two games and actually had just four hits. In fact on Saturday night they won a game 1-0 and they were actually no-hit by Angels pitching. So seeing them score more than four runs last night, it really showed something.

The Dodgers aren’t all stagnant on offense though, they are fourth in baseball in steals and their batting average is right in the middle of the pack. We all know the Dodgers are led by their starting pitching (just look at last night’s contest). They are actually fifth in baseball in ERA and sixth in strikeouts. The key for the Dodgers is their defense. When the Dodgers don’t make errors they win ball games, when they make errors they lose games. They play a ton of low scoring games and play a ton of one run games.

With their offense waking up look for the Dodgers to get on a little run and take the series from the Astros.

Los Angeles Dodgers (EVEN)


New York Mets at St. Louis Cardinals

Nice to see the Mets finally come alive last night. This is a team that is very tough to figure out. There are so many questions and concerns with this team. If you would believe it, they are actually a bigger story in 2008 than the New York Yankees are. First off they made a big splash when they traded for Johan Santana. Let’s be honest Johan hasn’t lived up to the hype. He has not been bad, but he is supposed to be great. He is supposed to be better than Volquez, Lincecum and Zambrano etc. He has been just a good but not great pitcher.

The Mets are still a capable team. They have a tough top of the line-up. When Jose Reyes goes he causes a ton of chaos. Luis Castillo is a career .295 hitter and the big bats of David Wright and Carlos Beltran are capable of knocking those guys in each and every time out.

Pedro Martinez still has something left. He was embarrassed after the Yankees game and he is going to bounce back in a big way, Mets take this game.

New York Mets (+)


San Diego Padres at Colorado Rockies

Monday night’s game for the Rockies was truly their breaking point. The Rockies have had a ton of bad baseball games this season, but this was by far the worst. This was a game that they let slip away in dramatic fashion.

On Monday night the Rockies were actually up 8-3 in the sixth inning. From there they just got absolutely destroyed. 12 runs in the final five innings led to the slow death of the Rockies. We don’t want to blame Coors field, this was a team that just went dead after the fifth inning. In the first five innings they scored in four of them, after the fifth, they put up goose-eggs in the sixth, seventh, eight and then went down quietly in the ninth inning.

All told they lost 15-8 and they allowed a whopping 22 hits to a team that is ranked in the bottom five in offense. In fact before that game they were actually the second worst offense in the league. The Padres hit under .250 as a team folks, you can’t allow them to walk on your field and put up 22 hits.

We will look for the Padres to start to build momentum they aren’t a bad baseball team and are getting healthier.

San Diego Padres (+)


Milwaukee Brewers at Arizona Diamondbacks

Don’t let one bad start by Randy Johnson throw you off. The Diamondbacks at home are still a good play. In fact they are a great play. This is a team that has spent so much time on the road. They had a terrible stretch in which they dropped seven of nine games. As we have highlighted before that was to three very good ball clubs and all of those three game sets were road contests.

At home Arizona is still one of the better teams in baseball. Going to play in Arizona is no easy task. It is a tough field, it is hot and you normally see a good pitcher. Tonight they roll out Micah Owings. Micah has struggled of late but he has pitched in to some bad luck. This guy still has good numbers from a walk and hits stand point. He is just one game under .500 even with his recent slide. He is a better pitcher than his 0-3 mark in his last contests would suggest. Look for Micah to spoil the Brewers plans on this Wednesday night affair.

Arizona Diamondbacks (-)


Chicago Cubs at San Francisco Giants

Sometimes you can’t take a game at face value. Sometimes you have to really dig deep in to a game and look at it for what is worth. Everyone will look at Ryan Dempster and feel very confident. They will look at his 9-3 record and feel confident. They will look at the Cubs record in his seventeen starts and feel confident. After all the Cubs are 12-5 in his seventeen starts. Let’s keep going though please.

Dempster has been amazing at home. This is a pitcher that has gone undefeated in Wrigley. How does a 9-0 mark sound with a 2.71 ERA? It sounds great actually. On the road though he isn’t even an average pitcher. On the road Ryan has not won a ball game this season. He is 0-3 with an ERA over 4. In those 38 innings he has allowed 15 walks and six long balls. Those numbers are too inflated to be successful on the road.

Look for the Giants to steal one and don’t be shocked at the outcome. Let Dempster prove it to us first, before we lay this number.

San Francisco Giants (+)

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Re: MLB News and Notes July 2

NATIONAL LEAGUE

Milwaukee (45-38) at Arizona (42-42)


Micah Owings (6-7, 5.18 ERA) looks to snap a personal five-game losing skid and pick up his first victory since May 25 when he takes the mound for the Diamondbacks in the rubber match of this series against the Brewers and Seth McClung (5-3, 4.25) at Chase Field. Arizona earned a 6-3 win Monday, but came back on Tuesday and fell 8-6. The DBacks are mired in funks of 3-8 overall, 8-21 against winning teams, 6-8 at home, 2-6 against right-handed starters and 3-9 versus the N.L. Central.

Milwaukee has followed an 8-1 hot streak by losing four of its last six, and the team has lost 14 of its last 20 road games against right-handed starters. Still, the Brewers are on positive runs of 11-5 against the N.L. West, 11-3 against winning teams and 5-1 on Wednesdays. Finally, Milwaukee is now 10-3 in the last 13 head-to-head meetings between these squads, including sweeping a three-game home series in early June. The Brew Crew has outscored the DBacks 55-16 in its last seven victories against Arizona.

Since starting the season 4-0 with 2.42 ERA in his first four outings, Owings has gone 2-7 with a 6.27 ERA in his last 12 starts, with Arizona losing nine of those contests. On Friday at Florida, Owings lasted just four innings, giving up three runs on four hits and two walks in a 3-1 loss. Also, the right-hander was on the wrong end of a 10-1 decision in Milwaukee on June 4, surrendering five runs (four earned) and eight hits in a season-low three innings of work. He’s 0-2 with an 8.00 ERA in two career starts against the Brewers, both in Milwaukee.

McClung, who is making his eighth start of the season for the Brewers, got roughed up his last time out on Friday at Minnesota, yielding five runs on nine hits in 4 2/3 innings and failing to get a decision in his team’s 7-6 loss. Prior to that, the right-hander had recorded four straight quality starts, going 3-1 with a 2.55 ERA. That included a 7-1 home win over Arizona on June 3.

McClung is 1-1 with a 3.26 ERA in 10 appearances on the road (three starts). Meanwhile, Owings is 3-3 with a 5.66 ERA in seven starts at Chase Field.

The under is 6-1 in McClung’s seven starts this year, the lone “over” coming in Friday’s game at Minnesota. The under is also 4-2-1 in Owings’ seven home games. Additionally, the under is on runs of 6-2 for Milwaukee overall (3-1 last four), 8-3 for Milwaukee as an underdog, 7-1-2 for Arizona overall, 11-5-1 for Arizona as a favorite and 7-4-1 in this rivalry.

ATS ADVANTAGE: MILWAUKEE and UNDER


AMERICAN LEAGUE

Boston (50-36) at Tampa Bay (51-32)


Scott Kazmir (7-3, 2.28) toes the rubber as the first-place Rays go for a three-game sweep against the Red Sox. Tampa Bay held off Boston 5-4 on Monday and 3-1 on Tuesday and now leads the division by 2½ games. The Rays, who also sport baseball’s best record, have won 11 of their last 14 games overall, going 7-1 in the last eight. They’re also on an incredible 28-6 roll at Tropicana Field, and they’re 42-18 in their last 60 games as a favorite.

The Red Sox, who hand the ball to Daisuke Matsuzaka (9-1, 3.21) tonight, have lost four in a row (all on the road), and they’re now 17-37 in their last 54 contests on an artificial surface and 3-9 in their last 12 as an underdog.

The host is on a 12-0 run in this rivalry, with the home team winning all 11 meetings this year. Boston still owns an astounding 98-45 record in the last 143 clashes against the Rays, but it has lost six straight at Tampa dating to 2007.

Kazmir picked up a victory in Pittsburgh on Friday despite lasting just five innings, allowing four runs (three earned) on five hits in Tampa’s 10-5 rout. Although the southpaw hasn’t allowed more than three earned runs in any of his 11 starts this season, he has a 4.11 ERA in his last three trips to the mound, failing to get out of the sixth inning in any of those contests.

Kazmir has shined at home this year, going 4-1 with a 1.24 ERA in six starts, holding five of those six foes to one or no runs. In 18 career starts against the Red Sox, he’s 6-6 with a 2.82 ERA, but going back to last year, the Rays are 2-5 when Kazmir goes against Boston, including a 7-3 loss in Beantown in his season debut on May 4.

Matsuzaka bounced back from his first loss of the season – an ugly 9-3 home setback to the Cardinals in which he gave up seven runs in one-plus innings – with a dominating effort Friday at Houston. He gave up two hits and three walks over five scoreless innings en route to a 6-1 win over the Astros. With that effort, the right-hander improved to 4-0 with a 2.20 ERA in six road starts this year.

Matsuzaka faced Tampa Bay five times in his rookie season last year, going 1-3 with a 4.09 ERA, including 0-2 with a 4.26 ERA in three outings at Tropicana Field.

The under is 4-1-1 in Matsuzaka’s six road starts this year, 5-1 in Kazmir’s six home outings and 6-2 in Kazmir’s last eight efforts versus Boston. Also, the under is 6-2-1 in Boston’s last nine games overall, 8-4-2 in Boston’s last 14 against winning teams and 23-9-1 in Tampa’s last 33 home games. Finally, in this rivalry, the under has cashed in five of the last six meetings at Tropicana Field, the lone “over” coming when Monday’s 5-4 contest barely topped the posted total.

ATS ADVANTAGE: TAMPA BAY and UNDER

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Re: MLB News and Notes July 2

BEHIND THE LINES

Bettors can't get a read on Dodgers


Pitchers' records, home mark don't help much.

Two of the best telling betting trends in baseball are connected to starting pitching and home-field records.

Maybe that explains why the Dodgers have been so difficult to read for gamblers this season.

Looking for a dominant starter with a winning streak to back? Don't look into Manager Joe Torre's collection of starters. Derek Lowe, Chad Billingsley, Brad Penny and Hiroki Kuroda are the only Dodgers with more than seven starts and none has a winning record.

Home-field advantage? Again, don't count on the Dodgers, who are 22-20 at home.

The most consistent bet for the Dodgers this season has been over/under combined run total wagers.

Powered by the Dodgers' powder-puff offense -- which had produced only 53 home runs and a weak .322 on-base percentage -- the under was 46-35-1 before their game Tuesday at Houston.

Final add: The Dodgers will start Kuroda tonight against Houston's Runelvys Hernandez. According to Sportsbetting.com, the Astros are favored at -115.

The under is 6-1 in Kuroda's last seven road starts.

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Re: MLB News and Notes July 2

Wednesday's best MLB bets
Covers.com

Cleveland at Chicago White Sox -110, 8

Last-place Cleveland has dropped four straight and seven of its last nine games to fall 11 1/2 games behind the White Sox.

"In the position we're in trying to play catchup, you can't afford to let these games get away. We had an opportunity and I let it slip away," Indians closer Joe Borowski said after suffering his fourth blown save in 10 chances Tuesday.

With the Indians languishing at the bottom of the division, Sabathia (6-8, 3.78 ERA) has become the topic of trade rumors. The left-hander, who hasn't discussed whether he'll opt for free agency after the season, has succeeded in spite of those distractions. He has led the Indians to four straight wins, going 3-0 with a 1.13 ERA in that span while fanning at least 10 in each of his last three outings.

The left-hander struck out a season high-tying 11 and scattered four hits in eight innings of a 6-0 home win over Cincinnati on Friday. The reigning AL Cy Young Award winner hasn't had much trouble against the White Sox, going 14-4 with a 3.61 ERA in 25 career starts.

However, he'll be trying to avoid back-to-back losses to them for the first time after he gave up two runs and seven hits over seven innings in a 4-1 defeat on May 20 at U.S. Cellular Field - his first loss to Chicago in 11 starts.

Jose Contreras (7-6, 3.99), on the mound for the White Sox in that outing, looks to record a fourth straight victory over the Indians. In winning his last two starts against them, he has allowed one run and eight hits, while striking out nine in 12 2/3 innings.

Pick: Indians


Milwaukee at Arizona -130, 9

The Arizona Diamondbacks are still on top of the NL West, but things couldn't be going much worse lately.

The Diamondbacks will be trying to avoid falling under .500 on Wednesday as they continue a four-game series with the Milwaukee Brewers at Chase Field.

Arizona lost for the 11th time in 16 games on Tuesday, falling 8-6 to Milwaukee (45-38). The loss knocked the Diamondbacks back to 42-42 - the third time in five games they have fallen to .500.

Arizona has managed to win the last two times they have been at the break-even mark. But the Diamondbacks are once again on the verge of falling under .500 for the first time since they were 1-2.

Injury concerns have also thrown Wednesday's starting assignment into doubt. Micah Owings (6-7, 5.18 ERA) is scheduled to get the ball, but he tweaked his gluteus muscle in his last start on Friday and might not be able to go.

Manager Bob Melvin said that righty Yusmeiro Petit will take the mound if Owings can't.

Owings is 0-5 with an 8.28 ERA in six starts since his last win on May 25 in Atlanta. He gave up three runs in four innings of Friday's 3-1 loss in Florida.

Owings has lost both of his previous starts against the Brewers, posting an 8.00 ERA in those outings, both at Miller Park. He gave up five runs in three innings of a 10-1 loss in Milwaukee on June 4.

Pick: Brewers

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Re: MLB News and Notes July 2

Tuesday MLB Research (Only American League to focus on moving trends)
By Indiancowboy

Detroit vs. Minnesotta

Baseball really is very much like a tug of war of rope, sometimes you have the edges in your favor or the tug, in this case, Detroit in game 1 of this series with Galaraga and Minny in game 2 with Baker over Robertson to get it done, today Bonnie and Blackburn go at it, after a tough start against the Dodgers with over a 10 ERA, Bonnie has come back to put back to back quality starts San Diego on the road and Colorado at home for the win, Blackburn got roughed up by Milwaukee in his last start for a 11 ERA so he will look to bounce-back today, similar to when he had a 15 ERA against the White Sox and then came back with a 3 ERA on the road to beat the Indians. I think Blackburn will have a great bounce-back start today, if anything, this game is likely to go under imo.

Oakland vs. Angels

The A's just keep producing one gem after another in quality pitchers from the days of Haren and Harden to now guys like Smith and Eveland. Eveland has had 4 quality starts in a row and had a 10 ERA against the Angels last time out so I do think he pitches better today. In fact, I took Oakland recently on the road at the Angels and do note the Angels bounced-back with Santana over Harden yesterday, Saunders has pitched 3 straight quality starts and beat the A's last time out by not yielding a run in 8 innings, if anything I lean on the under again here and I think Oakland has the edge with a bit of revenge today as both Oakland and Eveland have revenge here.

Royals vs. Baltimore

The Royals are so unpredictable but to their credit they have 38 wins and the Orioles have 42. Heck, Baltimore is 2 games above .500, Meche has pitched 4 quality stats and is 3-0 in that span but did get roughed up against the O's last time out this year as he lost to Trachsel 4-7, Cabreray comes off 5 straight non-quailty starts but is 2-0 despite having over a 5 ERA at home, he did beat KC on the road earlier this year by having a 1 ERA and pitched a complete game in that outing. Sure, I lean on the Royals with Meche with some revenge against the O's, Cabrera is at home where he typically shows up however, small lean on KC, likely going to stay away.

Texas vs. Yankees

Texas has beat the Yankees 2-1 and 3-2 cashing as +165 and +190 Dogs during these 2 games and what if I told you at the beginning of the season, that the Rangers at this stage in the season have 1 more win than the Yankees? What would you have believed me? Well, such is the case as the Rangers are rolling but do send Mendoza to the mound who has looked absolutely terrible in his first 3 appearances. Having said that, given that he is facing the Yankees watch him bring his best stuff today, but he is still a young kid. I'm not a fan of Ponson but he is 2-0 at Yankee stadium despite having a 4.41 ERA. I think this is a crappy game to choose from given these pitchers, no thanks.

Boston vs. Tampa Bay

I mentioned to you that I thought that Boston was in for a tough time in this series given these two teams' brawl and they have lost the first 2 games of this matchup. Dice-K is 4-0 with a 2.2 ERA on the year and 9-1 overall to his credit and he was brutalized by St. Louis but came back with a gem against Houston, Kaz has pitched back to back non-quality starts and did lose to Boston earlier this year, I lean on Boston a bit here not to get swept but I do think Kaz shows up and pitches a sound game: I just don't trust Dice-K on the road as the Houston Astros are one type of competition while the Devil Rays are a whole new league, likely staying away.

Do note Tampa Bay is 51-32 while Boston is 50-36 currently - and yes, this is a big deal as it is quite evident that the Devil Rays are here to stay - at least for this season:

Cleveland vs. White Sox

Sabathia has pitched 4 straight quality starts and the Indians have won his last 4 contests and Contreras really has not pitched all that well in his last 4 starts but does have a 3.22 ERA at home and did beat the White Sox adn Sabathia last time 4-1, to be frank the Indians should not be favored here imo as I think Contreras will show up at home and if you're looking for a small dog, the Wsox are as good as any on the board imo.

Toronto vs. Seattle

The good news for Toronto yesterday is that they put up 6 runs which is a shocker given that they only average 4.14 rpg, but the bad news is that they lost 6-7 to a no-named pitcher to the Mariners. McGowan did not pitch well in his last 3 starts but when facing Silva and the Mariners he did have a 1 ERA at home and picked up the wni. In fact, in his last 3 starts McGowan is giving up 1.5 hits per inning per about 21 innings in fact, Washburn has pitching well lately coming around and pitching 4 straight quality starts, in fact, this is a game that Seattle has the edge imo as I just don't trust McGowan's consistency at this rate and Washburn has been pitching well of late

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