MLB News and Notes July 4

MLB News and Notes July 4

Friday's MLB Tip Sheet
By Brad Young

The Fourth of July holiday weekend is here, and what’s more American than wagering on the national pastime? This is the slow time in athletics, with pro football camps still three weeks away from opening and the Summer Olympics won’t take center stage for another month.

Outside of the Ultimate Fighting Championship this weekend, baseball will take the spotlight during the holiday weekend. The All-Star break is still a few weeks away, but there are plenty of baseball games on Friday’s schedule. Now let’s break down four of Friday’s marquee matchups.

**Dodgers (Lowe) at Giants (Sanchez)**


-Caesars Palace installed San Francisco as a $1.10 home ‘chalk’ over Los Angeles, with the total set at 7½. This National League West tilt is slated to start at 4:05 p.m. ET.

-Los Angeles pitcher Derek Lowe (5-8, 3.88 ERA) dropped to 1-3 his last four starts after Sunday’s setback to the Los Angeles Angels as a $1.25 home underdog, 1-0. The right-hander went seven innings, yielding the lone run on five hits with two walks and seven strikeouts.

-The lone run never seriously threatened the seven-run closing total, enabling the ‘under’ to cash his fourth consecutive contest.

-The 6-foot-6 hurler picked up a no-decision against the Giants April 1, tossing six innings while being reached for two runs on nine hits with no walks and four strikeouts. The Dodgers ended up winning that affair as a $1.60 home favorite, 3-2, while the combined five runs failed to topple the 7½ -run closing total.

-San Francisco left-hander Jonathan Sanchez (8-4, 3.79 ERA) improved to 4-1 his last five starts after upending Oakland Sunday as a $1.25 road underdog, 11-1. The Puerto Rico product surrendered the lone run on four hits (one home run) with a walk and six strikeouts over seven innings.

-The combined 12 runs eclipsed the eight-run closing total, ending back-to-back ‘under’ outings for the 25-year-old.

-Sanchez picked up a no-decision against the Dodgers last year after going seven innings and allowing three runs on eight hits (one home run) with no walks and five strikeouts. The Giants eventually triumphed as a $1.18 home underdog, 5-4, while the combined nine runs slithered ‘over’ the 8½-run closing total.

**Cubs (Zambrano) at Cardinals (Looper)**

-Caesars Palace opened Chicago as a $1.30 road favorite over St. Louis, with the total listed at 8½ ‘under’ (minus $1.20). This NL Central contest is scheduled to start at 8:15 p.m. ET.

-Chicago’s Carlos Zambrano (8-3, 3.13 ERA) returns to the starting rotation after going on the 15-day disabled list because of inflammation in his pitching shoulder. The Venezuela native went on the shelf after a June 18 setback to Tampa Bay as a $1.20 road ‘chalk,’ 5-4, pitching 6 2/3 innings while surrendering five runs (four earned) on seven hits with four walks and two strikeouts.

-The combined nine runs toppled the eight-run closing total, helping the ‘over’ improve to 6-2 his last eight outings.

-Zambrano went 3-0 against the Cardinals last season in three starts, going a combined 21 1/3 innings while yielding four runs on 16 hits (two home runs) with five walks and 10 strikeouts. The Cubs prevailed as a $1.00 road underdog, 8-1, a $1.40 road ‘dog, 4-3, and as a $1.20 road ‘dog, 5-3.

-St. Louis gives the starting assignment to Braden Looper, hoping the right-hander can improve on his 9-5 record and 4.50 ERA. The Wichita State product lasted just 3 1/3 innings against Kansas City in Sunday’s no decision, allowing three runs (two earned) on six hits with four walks and two strikeouts.

-The Cardinals eventually prevailed as a $1.10 road underdog, 9-6, while the combined 15 runs soared ‘over’ the nine-run closing total. The ‘over’ is 6-2 in Looper’s past eight outings.

-The 11-year veteran went 2-1 against the Cubs last year in four starts, going a combined 27 innings while being reached for five runs on 17 hits (two home runs) with nine walks and 17 strikeouts. The Cardinals prevailed as a $1.27 road underdog, 2-1, and as a $1.10 home ‘chalk,’ 11-1, while losing as a $1.25 road ‘dog, 2-1, and as a $1.00 home selection, 3-2. The ‘under’ went 3-1 during those four outings.

**Indians (Byrd) at Twins (Hernandez)**

-Caesars Palace lists Minnesota as a $1.20 home ‘chalk’ over Cleveland, with the total set at 9 ½. This American League Central matchup is slated to start at 7:10 p.m. ET.

-Cleveland’s Paul Byrd (3-9, 5.26 ERA) heads to the hill searching for his first victory in almost a month. The veteran right-hander has dropped his last four starts after Saturday’s setback to Cincinnati as a $1.10 home favorite, 5-0. The Louisiana State product went six innings, surrendering four runs on six hits (one home run) with three walks and four strikeouts.

-The five runs failed to eclipse the nine-run closing total, helping the ‘under’ cash his second consecutive start. The Indians are just 1-8 his last nine starts overall.

-Byrd is 0-1 against the Twins this year in two starts, tossing a combined 10 innings while yielding seven runs (six earned) on 12 hits (two home runs) with a walk and three strikeouts. The Indians fell as a road ‘pick,’ 2-1, and as a $1.35 home favorite, 8-5.

-Minnesota righty Livan Hernandez (8-5, 5.22 ERA) had recorded back-to-back victories before Saturday’s setback to Milwaukee as a $1.03 home selection, 5-1. The veteran hurler went seven innings, allowing five runs (four earned) on seven hits with four walks and five strikeouts.

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

-The Cuba native was roughed up by Cleveland June 12 as a $1.70 road underdog, 12-2, getting tagged for seven runs on 12 hits (two home runs) with no walks and a strikeout over just three innings. The combined 14 innings went ‘over’ the 9½-run closing total.

**Blue Jays (Burnett) at Angels (Weaver)**

-Caesars Palace opened Los Angeles as a $1.25 home favorite over Toronto, with the total set at 7½ ‘under’ (minus $1.20). First pitch is scheduled for 9:05 p.m. ET.

-Toronto pitcher A.J. Burnett (8-6, 4.61 ERA) toes the rubber riding a personal two-game winning streak after beating Atlanta Sunday as a $1.50 home ‘chalk,’ 1-0. The 6-foot-5 hurler tossed seven scoreless innings on four hits with four walks and 11 strikeouts.

-The lone run never seriously threatened the 8½-run closing total, ending back-to-back ‘over’ outings for the right-hander.

-Burnett is 1-0 against the Angels this season in two starts, tossing a combined 14 innings while surrendering five runs on nine hits (one home run) with five walks and 14 strikeouts. The Blue Jays triumphed as a $1.30 home favorite, 4-3, while falling as a $1.10 road ‘chalk,’ 4-3. The ‘under’ cashed both times.

-Los Angeles hurler Jered Weaver (7-8, 4.30 ERA) heads to the hill for the first time since suffering his tough-luck loss to the Dodgers Saturday as a $1.10 road underdog, 1-0. The 6-foot-7 hurler didn’t allow a hit, but one unearned run with three walks and six strikeouts over six innings.

-The lone run never seriously threatened the 7 ½-run closing total, helping the ‘under’ improve to 3-1 his last four starts.

-The right-hander fell to Toronto May 30 as a $1.30 home ‘chalk,’ 10-4, going just four innings while yielding six runs on 10 hits (one home run) with no walks and two strikeouts. The combined 14 runs eclipsed the eight-run closing total.

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Friday's streaking starting pitchers
By JUSTIN BANKS

Dan Haren, Arizona Diamondbacks (8-4, 2.85)

Haren continues to intimidate his opponents, despite playing for his third team in five campaigns. The righty ranks ninth in MLB and fourth in the NL with a 3.04 ERA. He is also 2-0 with a solid 0.43 ERA and 20 strikeouts in his last three outings.

In his last two starts, Haren has pitched 14 scoreless innings, surrendering seven hits. He is 7-1 with a 2.41 ERA and 0.92 WHIP at Chase Field.

The Diamondbacks are 7-2 in Haren’s last nine home starts. They are also 6-2 in their last eight tilts against the Padres.


Mark Buehrle, Chicago White Sox (6-6, 3.79)

Buehrle has regained his form and it’s starting to pay off for the Sox. The left-hander lost six of his first 11 starts, but has since strung together three straight victories.

Buehrle, 3-0 with a 1.17 ERA in his last three starts, has 25 strikeouts in his last six contests and has not conceded more than three ER in that period. He is also 3-0 with a 1.17 ERA in his last three tilts and 3-2, including three straight victories, at U.S. Cellular Field.

Chicago is 4-1 in Buehrle’s last five starts, while the A’s are 2-5 in Joe Blanton’s last seven road starts.


Slumping

Paul Byrd, Cleveland Indians (3-9, 5.26)


Byrd is off to his worst start in eight seasons. The right-hander is 0-3 in his last three starts with a 5.26 ERA in 17 innings pitched. Byrd has also surrendered 18 ER and four home runs in his last six outings.

Byrd is 1-7 on the road with a lofty 6.89 ERA and 1.41 WHIP, including a 5-0 setback to the Reds last Saturday.

The Tribe is just 1-4 in its last five against the AL Central.


Darrell Rasner, New York Yankees (1-2, 6.60)

Rasner is a miserable 1-6 in his last seven starts. The third-year pitcher is fresh off a respectable start versus the Mets, but gave up 21 hits in his last three tilts, conceding 11 earned runs in just 15 innings.

The right-hander, 0-2 in his last two starts, is 3-1 with a 2.08 ERA in the Bronx, but has never faced the league-leading Boston Red Sox.

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Diamond Preview
By Matt Fargo

Friday, July 4th

Chicago Cubs at St. Louis Cardinals 8:15 PM ET


The holiday is filled with action day and night and one of the best matchups takes place Friday night with the Cubs taking on the Cardinals in the first game of this weekend series. St. Louis is the closest pursuer in the National League Central as it came into the new week trailing Chicago by just 2.5 games. This is just the second series between these two rivals as the Cardinals took two of three in the first set back in early May. Chicago has been nearly unbeatable at home but is struggling on the road with six straight losses.

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"Every Game Every Day"

July 4, 2008

Boston Red Sox at New York Yankees

I know on paper this looks like a major mis-match but let’s dig a little deeper. Josh has made two starts against the Yankees this season. He had one start at Fenway and one start at Yankee stadium. Both of them were just average starts. He threw fourteen innings and he allowed thirteen base-runners (For Josh that is just average). Also in those fourteen innings he struck out just ten batters and he allowed six runs.

Josh is not the same pitcher on the road as he is at home. First of all at home he is 4-1 and has a fantastic whip. On the road Josh is just 3-4. Josh has allowed six long balls on the road and twenty one earned runs.

Let’s not forget that in the Red Sox last series they were swept out of the ball park. They just aren’t a good team on the road. Things may change in the future, but the Yankees at home will get the job done. Remember just two nights ago they scored 18 runs, that doesn’t happen on accident.

New York Yankees (+)


Detroit Tigers at Seattle Mariners

The Tigers have been playing better baseball but can’t pass on Erik Bedard tonight. It doesn’t matter that the Tigers are a better team than the Mariners. On most days that is surely the case, but not tonight, not with this match-up.

Kenny Rogers still battles, but he is just an average pitcher. On the season he is 6-5 and the Tigers are just 9-8 in his seventeen starts. Kenny faced the Mariners once before this season and didn’t fair too well. He lasted just 5 1/3 innings and allowed eight hits, two walks and two home-runs. That start was at home as well.

Seattle is playing much better baseball under their new manager. That includes a 5-1 record in their last six games and three straight series wins. Take the Mariners and Bedard tonight.

Seattle Mariners (-)


Texas Rangers at Baltimore Orioles

Look for the Orioles to bounce back tonight. The Orioles are a team that doesn’t get enough credit. Everyone talks about the rest of the AL East. Everyone talks about the nice job that the Twins have done. People talk about what the Cardinals have done. What about these Baltimore Orioles?

The Orioles play in the toughest division in all of baseball. Imagine playing almost half your schedule against the: Toronto Blue Jays, Tampa Bay Rays, New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox. Even with that competition they are above .500.

Jeremy Guthrie has a big time arm. His last 21 innings he has allowed just five runs and sports a 3.50 earned run average on the season. Look for him to keep down a Texas line-up that is good but not great.

Baltimore Orioles (-)


Kansas City Royals at Tampa Bay Rays

How can you not love what the Rays are doing? Tampa is now a full 20 games over the .500 mark. Yes on July 4 the Tampa Bay Rays have the best record in all of base baseball. They haven’t done it with a soft schedule either. The Rays have played the toughest schedule of any team so far this season. They still have managed a 52-32 record on the season.

Tampa is even more impressive in their ball park. The Rays are 33-13 at home. It is not out of the question that this team will have 60 wins in their building. At worst they are looking at a 55 win season in Tropicana field.

Tampa has won four straight games and seven of their last eight. They know how to win close games, and will win again here tonight. The Royals are a below average team, the Rays are now the class of the American league.

Tampa Bay Rays (-)


Oakland Athletics at Chicago White Sox

Mark Buehrle is heating up as usual. Mark has been on a torrid pace on the mound. It is not just his last three starts. Mark has had six straight top level starts. In fact eight of his nine starts have been of the quality start variety.

Last start for Mark Buherle he allowed zero earned runs, one the start before, two the start before that, one the start before that, one the start before that, three the start before that. Do you see a pattern here? Mark has been going deep in to games and not just pitching well but winning these contests.

Mark hasn’t lost a start since May 27 and that was on the road. He hasn’t lost at home since the first week of May. Mark just beat the Cubs and the Dodgers, he will take care of an Oakland line-up that has been over-achieving for a while. White Sox are the play here tonight.

Chicago White Sox (-)


Cleveland Indians at Minnesota Twins

Both of these two teams are coming off an off day on July 3 and both are going in separate directions. The Cleveland Indians just can’t put anything together this season. They surprised many people last year, but they aren’t even close to having the same success. There is no doubt that injuries have been a big part of the problem. You can’t lose your number two starter (Carmona) your All-Star catcher (Martinez) and your clean-up hitter (Hafner) within the span of a month. That is exactly what has happened to the now buried Indians.

The Twins on the other hand have been playing fantastic baseball. In fact Minnesota and not Tampa may be the best story of the American league as we head in to July 4 weekend. We all knew that Tampa had pitching, but Minnesota? Who knew?

Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau are arguably the two best back to back left-handed hitters in baseball. If you don’t think facing those guys causes right-handed pitching to scratch their head, than you are missing the boat. Livan Hernandez will always allow his share of hits, but the guy still wins ball games. Twins are the play tonight.

Minnesota Twins (-)


Toronto Blue Jays at LA Angels

Toronto is one of the few teams that can win on the road. There is one simple reason for that and that is they send out a quality starter to the mound each and every day. Whether it is Dustin McGowan or Roy Halladay or Shaun Marcum or tonight’s starter the Blue Jays always have a chance to win. If you don’t want to take our word for it, just look at their season statistics. They have played 81 games and 48 times the number has gone under.

Tonight we get the Blue Jays hottest pitcher. We get a pitcher that has much talent as anyone out there. We also get a pitcher that is throwing for his supper. A.J. Burnett will not be in Toronto after this season and he knows it. Last start A.J. faced one of the best line-ups in baseball (Atlanta Braves) and absolutely shut them down. Seven innings, four hits, no runs, eleven strikeouts! Think that was a fluke? How about the start before against the Reds in which he threw eight innings of one run ball? This guy can win and he can win on the road.

Toronto Blue Jays (+)


National League    

Washington Nationals at Cincinnati Reds

We were very impressed with the Reds last night. They were down 3-1 late in that game, in a classic let-down game. They were facing a bad team, they were tired from the night but they went to work and took care of the Nationals as they should. The Reds were able to take advantage of some bad defense by the Nationals. Brandon Phillips ended up with three RBI’s and the Reds capitalized and won the game 5-3.

Tonight expect much of the same. While the Reds don’t have a great record they are still playing better than expected. 40-47 on the season and showing sings of life each and every ball game. After all this team is 23-19 at home. The Reds face a starter who is used to losing tonight. Jason Bergmann is just 1-5 on the season. Even worse is the fact that the team is 2-9 in his eleven starts of 2008. Take the Reds and lay the number.

Cincinnati Reds (-)


Pittsburgh Pirates at Milwaukee Brewers

The Brewers will bounce back tonight. Sure they were stunned last night. Sure last night was a terrible loss. We aren’t going to come on here and tell you that they did play well last night. Actually for the first eight innings they did play well. They were able to score off the best pitcher in the National league (Brandon Webb) and they were able to put some runs on the board.

They just couldn’t close the door. After all they don’t have a dominant closer. Eric Gagne is hurt and Torres just couldn’t close the door. They allowed the Diamondbacks to come and score six runs in the final inning and losing the game. That game is over and done with though.

Momentum is only as good as the next day’s starter right? Well who would we and the Brewers have than Ben Sheets? Ben is 9-2 on the season with a 2.83 ERA. When healthy this guy wins, and that is exactly what he is doing right now. Take the home team at any price!

Milwaukee Brewers (-)


LA Dodgers at San Francisco Giants

This line is just too good to pass up. The Dodgers are making a long trip to come here and start a set with the Giants. The Giants played yesterday at well, but they were at home. Last night the Giants beat the Cubs behind their ace Tim Lincecum. They feel real good about themselves today. They will send their second best pitcher to the mound in Pac Bell Park.

Jonathan Sanchez has been dealing. Jonathan is 6-1 in his last seven starts! Notice we didn’t say the Giants or his team is 6-1, Mr. Sanchez has gone out there and battled the opposition and has won ball games.

Sanchez has allowed just two runs in his last three starts. IN fact in his last ten starts he has had just one bad start (Seven runs against the Rockies in a start he actually won). He has not allowed more than a handful of runs since early May. Keep riding this left-handed all the way to the bank!

San Francisco Giants (-)


New York Mets at Philadelphia Phillies

It wouldn’t matter if Sandy Koufax was on the hill for the New York Mets tonight, this line is just completely off. The Mets are far too up and down to trust at all like this. We are sure that many of you have been burned by the Mets and especially Johan Santana in the recent months.

The Mets and Johan are laying this big number even though they are on the road and they don’t deserve it. Johan Santana’s last win came on the first day of JUNE. He has gone five straight starts without a win. Even worse the Mets haven’t won in Johan’s last five starts. Johan just hasn’t been on top of his game. Just two starts ago he allowed a grand-slam to an American League pitcher.

The Phillies won a huge ball game last night and their bats are picking up. They hit three long balls in Atlanta. Returning home they will put another three to four over the wall and they will beat the Mets here on this Friday night contest.

Philadelphia Phillies (+)


Houston Astros at Atlanta Braves

There is a reason why this line is so high folks. The line should be this high. After all look at it objectively. Tonight we get the better team, tonight we get the better pitcher, and tonight we get the home-field advantage. What else would we want? What else could we ask for?

The Braves are still one of the best teams at home this season. They are 10 games over .500 with a record of 28-18. Tonight we get Tim Hudson going for Atlanta. Tim thrives at home. Tim for the season is just 2-5 on the road with a 4.34 ERA. Not exactly CY Young numbers. At home though Tim Hudson has a 6-1 mark with a 2.24 ERA. Those numbers make him one of baseball’s best pitchers.

Atlanta still has a ton of power in their line-up. They are still in this division race because of the Mets and Phillies stumbling around. Look for the Braves to win this game easily.

Atlanta Braves (-)


Florida Marlins at Colorado Rockies

Wild game last night in Coors. Tonight look for a more conventional game. Scott Olsen goes for the Marlins and has he been good or what? Scott has really matured. He busted on the scene in 2005 making just four starts but throwing the ball well and impressing the Marlins enough to give him a spot in the rotation the following season.

2006 Scott was just as good. He won 12 games and had an ERA right at 4. His electric stuff really impressed people. He had 166 strikeouts in that his “rookie” season. Last year he had a ton of off the field problems and took a step back. This year he has picked up where he left off in 2006. This guy is just 4-4 but the team has won ten of his starts. Scott has an ERA and a WHIP they rank in the top 20 in the National league.

The Rockies aren’t the same team from last year folks. Look for Florida to keep plugging along and win this game.

Florida Marlins (+)


Chicago Cubs at St. Louis Cardinals

Big match-up here in St. Louis. This is a rivalry in every sense of the word. This year this rivalry is hotter than ever. Sure the Cubs have been playing great baseball. They have been a feel good story. They have people out there predicting that they will be in the World Series etc. etc. Before we crown the Cubs, can they win a few games on the road?

The Cubs fly in to St. Louis after a disappointing split at the hands of the Giants. Yes it is true that the Cubs couldn’t even beat the Giants more than two games (Four game series) on the road. For the season the Cubs are seven games under .500. The Cardinals in the mean time have almost caught the Cubbies. With a sweep here in this series the Cardinals will take over first place.

Carlos Zambrano does not pitch well on the road. At home he is 4-0 with a 2.40 ERA. On the road he is just 4-3 with an ERA over 4.08. Look for the battle of the Midwest go to the Cardinals in this game.

St. Louis Cardinals (+)


San Diego Padres at Arizona Diamondbacks

Don’t be scared off by this big line. In fact we want you to run to this line before it moves in any direction. The Diamondbacks are going to win this game and win this game easily.

Arizona is coming off their best win of 2008 season. See many people forget but the Diamondbacks are still a first place team. Sure there is no denying they have struggled for a long time, but they are a better team than what they have showed. Just take yesterday’s game for example. They were down 6-0 in the last inning. How many teams can come back from that? Well the Diamondbacks did exactly that. They scored seven runs in the last inning to win the game in dramatic fashion. You better believe that carries over the next day, especially when you have your “1A” on the hill.

Danny Haren would be an ace on 25 teams in baseball. For the season he is 8-4 but in the dessert this guy is just un-hittable. 7-1 with just 45 hits allowed in his sixty innings. Look for him to shut down a very weak line-up. Diamondbacks all the way.

Arizona Diamondbacks (-)

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NATIONAL LEAGUE

New York Mets (42-43) at Philadelphia (47-39)


Left-hander Johan Santana (7-7, 3.01 ERA), who is winless in his last five starts, will toe the slab for the Mets when they open a four-game weekend set at Citizens Bank Park against the Phillies. New York has alternated wins and losses in its last six games, though the Mets pounded St. Louis 11-1 on the road Thursday night. The Mets are 2-7 in their last nine against the National League East and 1-4 in Santana’s last five outings when facing a winning team.

Philadelphia will counter with 25-year-old left-hander J.A. Happ, making just his second career major league appearance. The Phillies finished off a three-game sweep of Atlanta on Thursday, winning 4-1 on the road to post a combined 19-6 run advantage in the series. Philly is just 5-9 in its last 14 outings and has lost five straight at home, but the Phillies are on hot streaks of 11-1 against losing teams, 8-2 in the N.L. East, 12-4 on Friday, 8-3 at home against southpaws, 9-4 overall against lefties and 36-16 in their last 52 series openers.

The Mets are 4-2 in six meetings against the Phillies this season, taking two of three at home and two of three on the highway in a pair of April series. However, New York is still only 2-6 in the last eight clashes at Citizens Bank Park.

Santana is 0-4 with a no-decision in his last five starts, despite giving up just nine runs in 32 innings (2.53 ERA). On Saturday at home against the Yankees, he allowed three runs on four hits in six innings in a 3-2 loss for his third straight setback. Santana has pitched at least six innings in 11 consecutive starts, going just 4-5 despite a 2.96 ERA.

Happ, meanwhile, will again face the Mets, whom he lost to in his only other major league appearance – giving up five runs on seven hits in four innings in an 8-3 setback last year.

Santana is 4-4 with a 3.12 ERA in nine road starts this year, with one of those wins being a 6-4 victory at Philadelphia on April 18. In that contest, he allowed three runs on four hits in seven innings, giving him a 1-0 mark and 3.09 ERA in two career starts against the Phillies.

The over is 6-0-1 in Santana’s last seven starts in series openers, and it is 10-4-1 in the Mets’ last 15 contests against left-handers. The over has also cashed in four of the last six for the Phillies and is 10-3 at home following a Philadelphia road trip of seven or more days.

ATS ADVANTAGE: N.Y. METS


Chicago Cubs (51-35) at St. Louis (49-38)

Carlos Zambrano (8-3, 3.13 ERA) returns from a stint on the disabled list as he leads the Cubs against the rival Cardinals in the opener of a three-game weekend series at Busch Stadium between the top teams in the N.L. Central. Chicago wrapped up a four-game set at San Francisco on Thursday by losing 8-3. The Cubs are mired in slumps of 2-6 overall, 2-7 on the road and 0-6 on the road against winning teams.

St. Louis, which will send right-hander Braden Looper (9-5, 4.26) to the hill, finished off a four-game home series against the Mets with a blowout 11-1 loss. Despite that, the Cards have won four of their last six after a three-game hiccup, and they’re 10-3 in their last 13 as a home underdog.

The Cardinals took two of three at home against the Cubs the first week of May, but Chicago is 11-5 in the last 16 clashes and a perfect 8-0 in the last eight games that Zambrano has started versus St. Louis.

Zambrano is 0-2 with a no-decision in his last three starts, taking the loss in a 5-4 setback at Tampa Bay on June 18 before going on the DL with a shoulder strain. In that game, he allowed five runs (four earned) on seven hits in 6 2/3 innings.

The Cardinals have won three of their last four behind Looper, with the 33-year-old going 2-0 with two no decisions. On Sunday at Kansas City, he didn’t figure in the decision after allowing three runs on six hits in 3 1/3 innings of a 9-6 St. Louis win.

Zambrano is 4-3 with a 4.08 ERA in seven road starts this season, but the Cubs are 30-13 in his last 43 on foreign turf. Also, the right-hander is 8-4 with a 2.37 ERA in 19 career appearances (18 starts) against the Cardinals. Meanwhile, Looper is 4-3 with a 4.50 ERA in nine home starts this year and is 3-1 with a 2.35 ERA in 47 career appearances – but just one start – against the Mets.

Chicago carries a plethora of “over” trends into this series, including 8-2 overall, 7-2 in roadies, 7-3 in series openers, 4-0 with Zambrano on the road and 6-2 overall behind Zambrano. The over is also 5-1-1 in St. Louis’ last seven games overall and 7-1-1 in its last nine against righties.

ATS ADVANTAGE: CHICAGO CUBS and OVER

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MLB Weekend Betting: Cubs at Cardinals

The Chicago Cubs enter the weekend leading the NL Central, but that could change if things don’t go their way in St. Louis. The Cubs and Cardinals collide for the three-game series starting on Friday with Chicago trying to hold off the hard-charging Cards in the Central.

In Friday’s series opener the Cubs are expected to send Carlos Zambrano (8-3, 3.13) to the mound after removing him from the disabled list. Zambrano has been out since the middle of June with a strained right shoulder. In his last start the shoulder injury appeared to hinder him, as he allowed four runs on seven hits in six 2-3 innings.

Starting for the Cardinals on Friday will be Braden Looper (9-5, 4.26). In his last start Looper lasted only three 1-3 innings after giving up two runs on six hits. Looper may have been able to go further in that game, but the Cardinals were likely handling him with kids glove due to a twisted knee he suffered in his previous start.

On Saturday Chicago will send lefthander Ted Lilly (9-5, 4.56) to the mound, while St. Louis will start Kyle Lohse (10-2, 3.67). Lilly is 4-0 in his five last starts and limited San Francisco to two runs in eight innings last time out. Lilly faced the Cardinals back in May and earned the win after giving up three runs in seven innings.

Lohse has been lights-out lately, with a sparkling 7-0 record in his last 10 starts. In his last outing Lohse allowed only one unearned run in seven strong innings versus the Mets. Lohse went up against the Cubs (and Lilly) back in May and was roughed up for eight runs in six innings.

Closing out the series on Sunday will be Jason Marquis (6-5, 4.78) for Chicago and Todd Wellemeyer (7-3, 3.86) for St Louis. Marquis took the loss in his last start despite allowing only two runs in seven innings versus the Giants. When Marquis faced St. Louis back in May, he struggled while allowing five runs on seven hits and five walks in five 1-3 innings.

Wellemeyer is coming off a rough outing against the Mets in which he was pounded for six runs in five innings. In his lone start against the Cubs in May, Wellemeyer allowed two runs over five innings to pick up the win.

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Baseball Today

Chicago Cubs at St. Louis (8:15 p.m.) The top teams in the NL Central square off, with the Cubs bringing ace Carlos Zambrano (8-3) off the disabled list to face Braden Looper (9-5) in the opener of a three-game series.

STARS

-Chad Billingsley, Dodgers, gave up six hits with five strikeouts over eight innings, allowing only a pair of unearned runs in beating the Astros 5-2.

-Cole Hamels, Phillies, came within an out of a second complete-game shutout of the Braves, giving up just one run in the ninth inning of a 4-1 win.

-Mark Grudzielanek, Royals, was 4-for-5 and played a big part in a seven-run sixth inning that carried Kansas City to a 10-7 win over the Orioles.

-Jon Lester, Red Sox, gave up five hits and a pair of walks while striking out eight in a complete-game, 7-0 win over the Yankees.

-Mike Pelfrey, Mets, gave up a run on six hits over seven innings, and also went 1-for-3 with an RBI and scored a run in an 11-1 rout of the Cardinals.

-J.J. Hardy, Brewers, went 4-for-5 with two doubles and a solo home run, but it wasn't enough. The Diamondbacks scored all six of their runs in the ninth for a 6-5 victory.

NINTH-INNING MELTDOWN

Conor Jackson delivered the winning two-run single to cap a six-run ninth inning, lifting the Diamondbacks to a 6-5 victory over the Brewers. Three Milwaukee pitchers failed to record an out as seven straight D-backs reached base in the inning. Salomon Torres picked up the loss.

JUST ANOTHER SERIES

There wasn't quite as much luster in the Bronx for the Red Sox-Yankees series, seeing as both clubs are chasing Tampa Bay in the division. It's the first time since September 1997 that the two teams played after Memorial Day with neither in first place, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. The Rays, by the way, had a well-deserved day off.

HOLDING COURT

David DeJesus matched his career-best hitting streak of 15 games with a single during the Royals' seven-run sixth inning, which carried them to a 10-7 win over Baltimore. The last time Kansas City scored more than six runs in an inning was June 14, 2007 - an eight-run second frame against St. Louis.

WHAT JINX?

Razzed by teammates for making the cover of Sports Illustrated this week, Giants youngster Tim Lincecum responded by increasing his NL-leading strikeout total to 122 with eight Ks in six innings of an 8-3 win over the Cubs. Lincecum also singled in a run and scored.

COLE KO's BRAVES

Cole Hamels came within one out of his second shutout of the Braves this season, giving up his only run with two outs in the ninth inning of a 4-1 win. The Phillies have swept Atlanta twice at Turner Field and improved to 8-1 against the Braves this season. The last team to sweep two straight series in Atlanta was the Padres in August and September of 1989.

BOSS SENDS RSVP


Yankees owner George Steinbrenner said he'll be in attendance for the All-Star game on July 15, one of the featured events during the final season at the current Yankee Stadium. The Boss, who will celebrate his 78th birthday Friday with his family in Florida, has kept a low profile in recent years while sons Hank and Hal assume most of the club's daily operations.

SPEAKING

``For three years, Duchsherer preached down in the bullpen, 'I am a much better starter than a reliever. I'm a much better starter than a reliever.' To the point where it was ad nauseam, where you just wanted to tell him, 'Duke. You're not starting.''' - Oakland closer Huston Street, after watching Justin Duchscherer shut down the White Sox over seven innings of a 3-2 win. Duchscherer improved to 9-5 and leads the major leagues with a 1.96 ERA.

``We did not play a good game. We didn't do anything. We didn't hit, we didn't pitch. We didn't play a good game.'' -Yankees manager Joe Girardi, who closed the clubhouse for a 30-minute meeting after a 7-0 loss to Boston dropped them eight games back of division-leading Tampa Bay.

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NL West Historically Bad in 2008
by T.O. Whenham

There have been worse divisions than the NL West over the years. I just can't think of too many off the top of my head. With a win on Monday the Diamondbacks moved to the dizzying heights of one game above .500. That would be good enough for fourth in four divisions, and third in the other. In the National League West their .506 mark is good for a 3.5-game lead. That is, in a word, pathetic.

Let's take a look at this mess in a historical context. Over the last five years the average winning percentage for a division leader is .581. The worst winning record was the same .506 that Arizona is at now. That happened just once, in 2005, and it seems fitting that it was when San Diego prevailed in that equally pathetic version of the NL West. Only three of the 30 division winners in the last five years have had a record worse than .543. The struggles of the NL West aren't entirely unprecedented, but that's not something for the division to be proud of.

Since we just finished the ridiculous exercise called Interleague Play, we can use that as a measure of how the teams are doing. Since they all played teams they don't usually play, their records over those 12 or 15 games will give us a relatively true sense of where the teams are at. It's not pretty. The Padres won just twice in their 15 games. The Giants were 6-9. The Rockies were 5-7, and were spared from further humiliation by only having to play four series. The Dodgers were even worse at 4-8. That's the same record as the Diamondbacks. That makes them a combined 21-45 against the American League. There is no way to spin it - this division is really not very good.

The noble thing would probably be not to pick on this division. Where's the fun in that, though? They are down, so let the kicking begin. Let's see what other ways we can express how dismal this group is. Though we're doing this mostly for entertainment, it can serve a few betting purposes as well. If you've been betting on this division and losing then making fun of them might make you feel better. If you haven't been betting on them, or you have consistently been betting against them, then this may convince you to stay with the course.

- It probably goes without saying, but none of the five teams in the division are anywhere near profitable on the season. If you had flat bet on every game the teams have played (not that you would), you would be in the hole about 63 units so far. The Padres are the very worst team to bet on in the league, and the Rockies and the Dodgers are also in the bottom seven. If you see a guy tearing up a betting slip the next time you are at a sportsbook it's probably because he bet on the NL West.

- There are only five regular starting pitchers in the division with a winning record, and two teams - the Dodgers and the Padres - have none. The Diamondbacks have two in Brandon Webb and Danny Haren. In contrast, the Rays, the division leader with the best record, have four. So do the Cubs. The Rockies have just one - Aaron Cook at 10-5. The most pleasant surprise is with the Giants. They are a lousy team, but for two games out of five they are a pleasure to watch anyway. Jonathan Sanchez is at 8-4 in his first full year as a starter. He pales in comparison to Tim Lincecum, though. Lincecum looks like he is about 12 years old, yet he has a truly filthy fastball that has led him to a 9-1 record and a 2.38 ERA that is second best in the NL. Despite the team he plays for, Lincecum would get my CY Young vote if I had to choose right now (and if I had a vote).

- The five teams in the division have swept 11 series throughout the season. They have been swept 24 times. To make it worse, only five of those 11 sweeps have come against teams outside the division. That means that they have been swept 18 times by teams from outside the lousy confines of home. That's unimpressive. If you aren't already making money betting against these teams in series bets then maybe you should start.

Docsports.com

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MLB Independence Day games: Complete breakdowns
By COVERS.com

Boston vs. New York (+135, 9½), 1:05 p.m. ET

The Yankees will try to avoid losing to Beckett for the third time in as many starts this season when they continue their four-game home series with the Red Sox on Friday.

New York (45-41) fell five games behind second-place Boston (51-37) in the AL East race with a 7-0 loss on Thursday.

The Yankees have managed a total of four runs in their last four losses - a stretch interrupted only by an 18-7 rout of Texas on Wednesday.Yankees manager Joe Girard closed the clubhouse for a 30-minute meeting after Thursday's loss. He declined to give details on the late-night session.

Many of New York's hitters have fared poorly against Beckett, including Bobby Abreu (.193 against him), Johnny Damon (.222), Jason Giambi (.238) and Alex Rodriguez (.250).New York will turn to Darrell Rasner (4-6, 4.42), who hasn't pitched past the fifth inning in four straight starts. Since he won his first three outings of the year, Rasner is 1-6 with a 5.68 ERA in his last seven.

Washington vs. Cincinnati (-160, 9½) 1:15 p.m. ET

Reds starter Bronson Arroyo looks to build on his first win in over a month on Friday as the Reds and Washington Nationals continue their four-game series at Great American Ball Park in a matchup of last-place clubs.

Arroyo (5-7, 6.19 ERA) went 0-3 with a 10.07 ERA in five starts before snapping that skid on Sunday. He gave up an earned run and five hits in six innings with six strikeouts to lead Cincinnati (40-47) to a 9-5 victory at Cleveland. Arroyo also hopes for better results at home, where he is 1-4 with a 5.16 ERA in eight starts this season.

Washington sends Jason Bergmann (1-5, 4.26) to the mound.The right-hander is 0-4 with a 2.98 ERA in eight starts since beating the New York Mets on May 15.

Pittsburgh vs. Milwaukee (-210, 8½) 2:05 p.m. ET

Back at Miller Park with their ace on the mound, the Brewers try for a seventh straight home win over the Pittsburgh Pirates in the opener of a three-game set Friday afternoon. The Brewers will have to try to shake off the cobwebs from a 5-5 road trip, however, which included a tough loss to Arizona last night after Milwaukee jumped to a 5-0 lead.

Staff ace Ben Sheets (9-2, 2.83 ERA) hopes to bounce back for Milwaukee after allowing five runs and nine hits in seven innings of a 5-0 loss at Minnesota on Sunday."I thought I had way better stuff than that," said Sheets, 5-1 over his last eight starts. "I didn't get away with any at all."

Outfielder J.J. Hardy is hot hitting for the Brewers, who has hit safely in 15 straight games, batting .419 (26-for-62) with 10 doubles, five homers and 14 RBIs during that span. He's hitting .351 with six home runs and 19 RBIs in 19 career games versus Pittsburgh at Miller Park.

Tom Gorzelanny (6-6, 6.18) looks for his second straight winning decision for the Pirates. He allowed two runs and eight hits in six innings, but didn't factor in the decision of a 4-3 loss to Tampa Bay on Sunday.

Pittsburgh's tattered bullpen will again try to get by after learning Wednesday that closer Matt Capps was lost for about eight weeks because of a shoulder injury.

L.A. Dodgers vs. San Francisco (-115, 7½) 4:05 p.m. ET

The injury-plagued Los Angeles Dodgers have been treading water in the lackluster NL West, but now they're about to get a boost.

Nomar Garciaparra and Andruw Jones will be activated from the disabled list Friday as the Dodgers open a three-game series with the San Francisco Giants at AT&T Park.Garciaparra has been on the disabled list since April 26 with a strained left calf, while Jones, acquired as a free agent in the offseason, has been on the DL since May 25 with a right knee injury.

The Dodgers (41-44) are also hoping the pair can jump-start an offense that ranks among the worst in the majors with 4.09 runs per game. However, Los Angeles has already shown signs of shaking its offensive woes, scoring 16 runs while winning its last three games.

Derek Lowe (5-8, 3.88 ERA), who starts the opener for Los Angeles, gave up one run in seven innings Sunday but was outdueled by John Lackey in a 1-0 loss to the Angels.

San Francisco counters with Jonathan Sanchez (8-4, 3.79), who was named NL player of the week after going 2-0 with a 1.23 ERA. The left-hander is 6-1 with a 3.06 ERA over his last eight starts.

Texas vs. Baltimore (-140, 9) 4:35 p.m. ET

The Rangers visit Baltimore for the first time since becoming the first team in 110 years to score 30 runs in a game Friday night when the teams open a three-game series. Texas beat the O's 30-3 last August in a humiliating affair.

Vicente Padilla (10-4, 4.13 ERA) takes the mound for the Rangers. The right-hander failed in a bid to win his fourth straight start, allowing a season high-tying seven runs and seven hits over six innings Saturday in an 8-6 loss to Philadelphia. The Rangers score an AL-high 6.96 runs per game for him, however.

Jeremy Guthrie (4-7, 3.50), who has received three runs or fewer from Baltimore's lineup in 13 of 18 starts.Guthrie has allowed three runs or less in eight of his past 10 outings, including Sunday's 3-2, 12-inning loss at Washington.

Kansas City vs. Tampa Bay (-160, 9) 5:10 p.m. ET

After enjoying a day off Thursday, major league leading Tampa Bay (52-32) enters its first meeting of 2008 with Kansas City looking for a fifth consecutive victory. The Rays, who have also won eight of nine and 14 of their last 18, rallied for a 7-6 victory over Boston on Wednesday.

On Wednesday, Evan Longoria had three hits and drove in three runs for Tampa Bay, which benefited from a six-run seventh inning to help improve to an AL-best 33-13 at home.

Edwin Jackson (4-6, 4.33 ERA) takes the ball for the Rays on Friday after allowing three runs and six hits in 6 2-3 innings of a 4-3, 13-inning loss at Pittsburgh on Saturday. The Rays have won nine of their last 11 at home against the Royals and their 24-18 all-time mark against them at Tropicana Field is their best versus any AL opponent.

Brian Bannister (7-7, 4.88) looks to avoid a second straight loss when he pitches Friday for Kansas City. He gave up seven runs and nine hits in 4 2-3 innings of a 9-6 defeat to St. Louis on Sunday. The Royals are 2-4 since winning six in a row.

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

Boston vs. New York

As I write this, the first game between these 2 teams have not been played so keep that in mind - Lester vs. Pettitte. But, early research allows for better lines typically and in the fall it is all about getting the research done early. Beckett has pitched 3 straight quality starts and 6 of his last 7 have been quality starts with a hiccup against Baltimore at home. He is actually better on the road with a 3.19 ERA. After starting of hot, Rasner is 1-6 in his last 7 but did have a bounce-back against the Mets. Beckett has beat the Yankees both times this year winning 4-3 and 7-5 with 4.05 and 3.38 ERA (on the road), lean on the Red Sox here with the better and more consistent pitcher, the more veteran pitcher as well, a bit more if they lose game 1 of this series. The Yankees will look to avoid losing 3 in a row to Beckett this year however.

Detroit vs. Seattle

As I write this the matchup between Verlander and Silva has not taken place, Rogers has won 2 of his last 3 and pitched 6 of 7 quality starts of late, he did have a 6.75 ERA against Seattle last time out but the Tigers did win 9-4 in that ballgame, now this start is on the road however, Bedard has pitched 5 of 6 quality starts of late including road wins at Atlanta (he did pick up a ND for this game, left the game early with some shoulder aches) and San Diego and although I like Kenny, he did give up 8 hits in less than 6 innings in his last start against Seattle at home, this is on the road and if Seattle loses game 1, it will increase their value here for game 2.

Texas vs. Baltimore

Whenever Texas and Baltimore meet, the bats usually get the scoreboards working overtime. We'll see what holds for this year between these 2 teams. Note I have never been a fan of Padilla except at home where he did well in certain spots last year, but give the man some credit where it is due, this year, on the highway he is 7-1 which is a far cry from last year. He has a 4.22 ERA thus far on the road and the pitching staff has worked with him extensively in getting better on the road, Padilla has picked up some wins despite some shaky starts in which he did not win those games last year due to a lack of offense when he pitched, but he does come off a loss at home against Philly where he had a 10 ERA in that start so I do expect a bounce-back for him today. Guthrie comes off a great start against Washington, has pitched 5 of 7 quality starts and has a low 3 ERA at home, if anything, I think this game might go under and I lean slightly on Texas but likely staying away.

Kansas City vs. Tampa Bay

I was on Kansas City yesterday with Davies and it paid off nicely although it was a very high scoring game, Bannister did pitch 2 quality starts in a row but the last ballgame was one of revenge for the Cards who roughed him up simply because he held them to 2 runs in a 3-2 win the time before only to see the Cards give him a 13+ ERA in his last start. I do expect Bannister to bounce-back today although Jackson is on a bounce-back today as well but he has pitched just 2 of 7 quality starts of late. If anything a very small lean on the royals but even that is taken away given that I like Tampa Bay's offense more, but there is great value here with the Royals with plus money given they are coming on a bounce-back for Bannister and he is and I do expect Bannister to pitch well in this contest.

Oakland vs. White Sox

I wrote Oakland on a gutsy call over the White Sox to end the White Sox 7 game winning streak and I got it. Keep in mind that Blanton was brutalized by San Fran in his last start at home with a double-digit ERA so you would expect a bounce-back but Blanton has been horrible on the road with over a 6 ERA. In fact, it is nearly 7. Buehrle on the other hand has pitched 5 straight quality starts and has given up just 5earned runs in his last 39 innings. Buehrle did lose to Greg Smith when he faced the A's last time despite having a 2.57 ERA that ballgame. I typically don't like the RL and I typically don't like to go against the A's RL, but if there was a spot to do that, this one would be a decent spot to take a shot at the White Sox who did have a 7 game winning streak before being stopped yesterday, I say they pick up right where they left off likely.

Cleveland vs. Minny

Byrd has been horrible of late, giving up 18 earned runs in his last 20 innings, then again, the Indians have been horrible as well this year, but it is because of injuries and they are even below the Royals in the standings as well. The Indians have just 37 wins while the Royals have 39. Byrd has yet to beat Minny this year and got roughed up in his last start versus them for over a 15 ERA. Livan Hernandez got roughed up at home against Milwaukee in his last start, he looks to rebound here, but he did have 4 nonquality starts in a row, prior to 2 quality starts then getting roughed up by Milwaukee recently. Having said that, he is 6-1 with a 4 ERA at home. He also gave up 10 hits and 7 earned runs in 3 innings earlier this year to the Indians for over a 21 ERA. The Indians have lost 5 straight and Minny has put up 22 runs in their last 5 ballgames which shows that their bats are picking up. Lean on the Livan bounce-back here and Minny.

Toronto vs. Angels

Burnett has given up just 1 run in his last 15 innings, but the Bluejays come off losing 2 in a row to Seattle after winning game 1, Weaver comes off giving up just 1 run in his last 11 1/3 innings, but had a 13.50 ERA in his last start against the Bluejays, likely no play here as I don't trust Weaver to put together 3 straight solid starts despite having a bit of revenge here, at the same time, I don't trust the Bluejays offense, no thanks.

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Friday's best MLB bets
Covers.com

Kansas City vs. Tampa Bay (-160, 9)

After enjoying a day off Thursday, major league leading Tampa Bay (52-32) enters its first meeting of 2008 with Kansas City looking for a fifth consecutive victory. The Rays, who have also won eight of nine and 14 of their last 18, rallied for a 7-6 victory over Boston on Wednesday.

On Wednesday, Evan Longoria had three hits and drove in three runs for Tampa Bay, which benefited from a six-run seventh inning to help improve to an AL-best 33-13 at home.

Edwin Jackson (4-6, 4.33 ERA) takes the ball for the Rays on Friday after allowing three runs and six hits in 6 2/3 innings of a 4-3, 13-inning loss at Pittsburgh on Saturday. The Rays have won nine of their last 11 at home against the Royals and their 24-18 all-time mark against them at Tropicana Field is their best versus any AL opponent.

Brian Bannister (7-7, 4.88) looks to avoid a second straight loss when he pitches Friday for Kansas City. He gave up seven runs and nine hits in 4 2/3 innings of a 9-6 defeat to St. Louis on Sunday. The Royals are 2-4 since winning six in a row.

Pick: Tampa Bay


Chicago Cubs vs. St. Louis (+110, 8½)

Jim Edmonds isn't the only member of the Chicago Cubs making a much-anticipated appearance in St. Louis on Friday night. Staff ace Carlos Zambrano is expected to return to the mound after a stint on the disabled list to open a three-game set at Busch Stadium between the top two teams in the NL Central.

The Cardinals' faithful get their first chance to welcome back Edmonds since St. Louis traded the fan favorite to San Diego last winter. Zambrano (8-3, 3.13 ERA), meanwhile, hasn't pitched since losing June 18 at Tampa Bay, when he left in the seventh inning due to shoulder discomfort.Manager Lou Piniella hopes for 85 to 90 pitches from the right-hander, who is 0-2 with a 5.75 ERA over his last three starts.

The bad news for the Cubs is that their bullpen has produced a sloppy 7.01 ERA over its last three games. The club is also 2-5 on its current road trip.

Pick: Cards

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Best and Worst MLB money-making teams.
By Larry Ness

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Best and worst starting pitchers in July
By MARC LAWRENCE

In keeping with our game plan of acknowledging good pitchers and avoiding bad pitchers during their good and bad months of the season, below is the list of arms to watch throughout the month of July. 

The win-loss records listed are from the previous three seasons.

July’s good pitchers

Miguel Batista 9-2

Eric Bedard 11-3

Jeff Francis 11-5

Cole Hamels 7-3

Danny Haren 12-5

Orlando Hernandez 10-2

Tim Hudson 11-3

John Lackey 12-5

Mike Mussina 11-5

Roy Oswalt 11-5

Andy Pettitte 12-5

Johan Santana 12-4

Ben Sheets 7-3

Tim Wakefield 9-4

Carlos Zambrano 14-3.


July’s bad pitchers

Mark Buehrle 4-12

Greg Maddux 4-14

C.C. Sabathia 4-12

James Shields 3-9

Jake Westbrook 5-11.

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