MLB News and Notes July 18

MLB News and Notes July 18

Friday's Tip Sheet
By Josh Jacobs

Alright, so now that the introduction to the second-half of the season is water under the bridge, bettors can prepare for a full, 15-game card on Friday. This preview will look at a pair of seven o’clock contests, plus a heated late night scuffle between Boston and the L.A. Angels.

Philadelphia (Moyer) at Florida (Nolasco) – 7:10 p.m. EDT

The Phillies are being stalked by a Mets team who’s out a ½-game from first place in the NL East. Philadelphia will now gear up for a three-game weekend series against a Florida club responsible for going 3-3 in head-to-head play this season.

The Phillies won’t be excited to face Marlins’ 10-game winner, Ricky Nolasco (10-4, 3.70 ERA) on Friday. The second-year slinger is 2-0 versus his Philly adversary in '08, holding that club to a .167 BA, striking out eight, walking only three and responsible for surrendering a total of five runs. From May 9 to his last start on Jul. 12, Nolasco has gone 9-1, has averaged 5.6 strikeouts per game and has only been tagged for three runs or more in only three starts.

When Jamie Moyer (8-6, 3.95) takes the mound for the Phillies, bettors will have to make a decision whether or not a 9-0 record in his last nine starts versus Florida will carry that success over into this contest.

On offense, Philly’s .268 BA with 61 runs and 22 long balls in July thus far is in stark contrast to a floundering .232 BA with 112 runs and only 27 bombs in the month of June. A major improvement has witnessed first baseman Ryan Howard improving his batting average from .223 in the last four months to .340 in July. Howard has brought in 16 RBIs this month, while tagging eight balls over the fence in the last 13 games.

The ‘under’ is 14-5 in the Phillies last l9 games following a win.

Toronto (Burnett) at Tampa Bay (Shields) – 7:10 p.m. EDT

Tampa Bay has to be happy that it has returned back home after suffering a brutal seven-game slide before heading into the All-Star break. Can a 36-14 home record help turn the club’s suffocating play into a positive?

The Rays have been outscored 45-13 during the recent collapse. Two of the losses witnessed Tampa ending the contest with zeros on the scoreboard and only two more games saw the organization score three runs or more.

A good reason for the recent debacle has been the Rays’ .233 BA, with the pitching staff combining for a 4.38 ERA in the last 10.

Starter James Shields (7-6, 3.83) will be responsible for pitching duties on Friday. The Tampa Bay right-hander is coming off a loss against Cleveland (5-0), giving up five runs (all five earned) on 10 hits in six innings of hurling. The ‘over’ is 4-1 in Shields’ last five starts.

Taking two of three in Yankee Stadium was a solid way to end the first-half of the season and now the Blue Jays will look to improve on an offense producing a low .246 BA in the last 10.

Toronto has struggled with men in scoring position this season, placing the bat on the ball for a .241 BA and scoring 3.4 runs per game. A microcosm of the larger universe involves just one player in the batters box making contact for a BA over .300 (Joe Inglett batting .301). The next closest contestant is the Jays’ Vernon Wells and his .287 BA.

Toronto is 7-1 in its last eight games played on field turf, while the ‘under’ has cashed tickets with a 16-5 frequency in the last 21 head-to-head meetings.

Some books have opened an early line favoring Tampa Bay at a $1.40 price tag.

Boston (Buchholz) at L.A. Angels (Lackey) – 10:05 p.m. EDT

With eight pitchers taking the mound in at least one start this season, Boston’s offense has been highly successful by awarding its arms with an average of 4.8 runs of support per starts.

Pitching support, coupled with a 3.32 ERA in the month of July are perfect recipes for a 7-3 record in the last 10 and first place positioning in the AL East. But all is not perfect as a 2-7 record in the Red Sox last nine road games indicates.

During those seven defeats, Boston has fallen victim to giving up 5.4 runs per game, while the bats have been responsible for bringing in four runs. The pitching game will have right-hander Clay Buchholz (2-4, 5.70) making his second start since returning to the majors after breaking a nail on his right middle finger. In his last start, Buchholz threw 107 pitches in only five innings, giving up five hits and four earned runs on the way to a 4-2 loss against Baltimore.

Boston is 2-8 in Buchholz’s last 10 starts.

While not nearly as successful at home (26-20) as it is on the road (31-18), L.A. is six games ahead of Oakland in the AL West. A 3.84 combined ERA in the pen and rotation with a .257 BAA has helped pick up for a sluggish offense. In-fact the bats have produced a scarce 409 runs with an underachieving .257 BA to boot.

Red Sox backers looking to cash on the opening price tag of +130 must be concerned that Angels’ ace John Lackey (6-2, 2.46) will be protecting home field advantage. Having won five games in a row, Lackey hasn’t risen to the occasion in his last two starts. In a loss against Toronto (7-5) on Jul. 5, followed by a no decision against Texas, Lackey was guilty of surrendering a total of 12 runs (11 earned), 23 hits and three long balls.

L.A. is a despicable 1-11 in Lackey’s last 12 starts versus Boston.

Most books have opened the total at eight runs.

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Friday’s streaking and slumping pitchers


C.C. Sabathia, Milwaukee Brewers (8-8, 3.67)

It hasn’t taken Sabathia long to settle in Milwaukee. The extra-large left-hander is 2-0 and has a 2.40 ERA in his first two starts as a member of the Brew Crew.

In his last two outings, Sabathia has pitched 15 innings, relinquishing just five total hits and four earned runs. He also has 14 strikeouts and six walks in that span.

Sabathia is also 1-0 in one career start at AT&T Park and the Brewers are 11-5 in their last 16 contests against the Giants.

Bronson Arroyo, Cincinnati Reds (7-7, 5.97)

It has been a very topsy-turvy campaign for Arroyo. The right-hander started the season with just one victory in his first seven starts but he has since won three straight, including a six-inning shutout against the Nationals.

Arroyo is 3-0 in his last three with a solid 3.18 ERA and 1.47 WHIP. He is also 1-0 in his sole meeting this season against the Mets, surrendering one ER in eight IP.

The Reds are 4-1 in Arroyo’s last five home starts and are 5-0 in their last five meetings with NL East opponents.


Joe Blanton, Oakland Athletics (5-12, 4.96)

In three MLB campaigns, Blanton has never finished with a losing record. The right-hander has a lot of making up to do if his streak is to reach four straight. The righty is a mere 3-3 with a 5.73 ERA on the road. Blanton managed to pick up his third road victory this season on July 4, tossing a season-high 119 pitches in the triumph.

Blanton is just 1-2 in his last three starts with a soaring 7.41 ERA and has relinquished at least one HR in seven of his last 10 starts.

Oakland is 0-4 in Blanton’s last four starts against Yankees and is 1-4 in its last five contests against the AL East.

Greg Maddux, San Diego Padres (3-8, 3.90)

Mad Dog Maddux seems to have finally lost his bite. The right-hander is 0-2 with a 6.11 ERA in his last three starts, surrendering 18 hits, 12 earned runs and two HRs in that period.

Maddux, winless in his last seven road tilts, is 2-5 with a 5.71 ERA and 1.54 WHIP outside Petco Park.

The Padres are an atrocious 20-50 in their last 70 meetings with St. Louis and are 9-27 in their last 36 visits to Busch Stadium.

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Philadelphia (52-44) at Florida (50-45)

The Marlins look to move closer to first place in the N.L. East when they send red-hot Ricky Nolasco to the mound (10-4, 3.70) as these rivals kick off a weekend series at Dolphin Stadium. Florida capped the first half of the season with an 11-game road trip to Colorado, San Diego and Los Angeles, going 6-5 on the journey, including a 6-2 in the last eight.

Philadelphia went into the All-Star break on a 4-1 run, all at home, and the last time the Phillies went on the road they swept a three-game series from division-rival Atlanta. Tonight, Charlie Manuel is set to go with ageless southpaw Jamie Moyer (8-6, 3.95), who is unbeaten in nine career starts against the Marlins.

The Phillies and Marlins have split six meetings this year, with the host taking two of three in each series.

Florida is on a 10-1 run with Nolasco on the hill, including 7-0 in the last seven. In Saturday’s 5-3, 12-inning win at the Dodgers, the right-hander gave up just two runs on five hits in six innings. Nolasco has delivered a quality start in six consecutive outings, posting a 1.95 ERA during this stretch.

Nolasco has won four straight home starts, giving up just four earned runs in 28 innings (1.29 ERA). That includes a 5-4 win over the Phillies on June 10 when Nolasco gave up three runs (all unearned) on four hits in six innings. For his career, Nolasco is 3-2 with a 4.23 ERA in seven games (four starts) against Philadelphia.

Moyer hasn’t been on the mound since July 10, when he dominated the Cardinals in a 4-1 home victory, giving up a run on seven hits in seven innings. Prior to that outing, the Phillies had lost four straight games behind Moyer. The 45-year-old lefty has given up three earned runs or fewer in seven consecutive starts.

Moyer is 4-3 with a 3.13 ERA in nine home starts, and since coming to Philly in 2006, he’s dominated Florida, going 9-0 with a 3.03 ERA. Moyer has faced the Fish twice this year, giving up five runs in seven innings of a 7-5 home win on June 1, then scattering two hits and a walk in eight scoreless innings of a 3-0 road victory 12 days later.

The over is 36-17-1 in the last 54 meetings between these clubs, 48-19-3 in the last 70 clashes at Dolphin Stadium and 6-2 in Moyer’s last eight outings against Florida. In addition, for the Marlins, the over is on streaks of 39-16-6 overall, 66-30-9 against the N.L. East, 28-11-3 on Fridays and 12-4-1 against southpaw starters.


L.A. Dodgers (46-49) at Arizona (47-48)

First place in the N.L. West is up for grabs at Chase Field in Phoenix, where the Diamondbacks are set to hand the ball to Doug Davis (3-4, 3.80) in the opener of a three-game series. Arizona alternated wins and losses on a six-game road trip to Washington and Philadelphia prior to the All-Star break, and the DBacks are just 19-32 going back to May 20.

Los Angeles, which starts Hiroki Kuroda (5-6, 3.43) in this one, pounded the Marlins 9-1 in its most recent game on Sunday, avoiding a four-game sweep at the hands of Florida. On the bright side, the Dodgers are 8-2 in their last 10 on the highway.

Arizona is 4-1 against the Dodgers this season, including a three-game sweep at Chase Field from April 7-9. The Diamondbacks have averaged 6.4 runs per game in the five contests.

Davis has given up exactly three runs in four straight starts, but the DBacks are just 1-3 in those contests. Also, the southpaw has recorded a quality start in five of his last six outings, with Arizona splitting those games. In six starts at home this season, Davis is 2-2 with a 3.58 ERA, but the DBacks are 19-6 in his last 25 efforts at Chase Field. That includes a 10-5 home win over the Dodgers on April 8, with Davis giving up two runs in six innings as he improved to 4-2 with a 1.33 ERA in six career starts versus Los Angeles.

Kuroda returned from a three-week stint on the disabled list and was brilliant in two games against the Astros and Braves, allowing a combined six hits and one walk in 16 scoreless innings. However, his scoreless streak ended in his last start against the Marlins on Saturday, allowing three runs on seven hits in 6 2/3 innings, getting a no-decision in L.A.’s 5-3 loss.

The right-hander is 2-6 with a 4.29 ERA in nine starts on the road, and in his lone career start against the Diamondbacks on April 9, he gave up four runs (two earned) in 5 2/3 innings, losing 4-3.

The under is 7-2 in Kuroda’s last nine starts overall, 7-2 in his nine outings on the road, 4-1-1 in Davis’ last six overall and 4-2 in Davis’ six outings at home in 2008. However, the over is 4-1 in the five series meetings between these teams this season.



Boston (57-40) at L.A. Angels (57-38)

The Angels send ace John Lackey (6-2, 2.46) to the mound as the top two teams in the American League kick off a three-game series against the Red Sox at Angel Stadium. Los Angeles went into the break with consecutive wins at Oakland on Saturday and Sunday, but the team is just 9-8 in its last 17 games overall and 6-6 in its last 12 at home. On the bright side, Mike Scioscia’s squad is 37-16 in Lackey’s last 53 starts.

Clay Buchholz (2-4, 5.70) is scheduled to get the call for Boston, which closed the first half of the season on a 5-1 run, and the club is 44-20 in its last 64 games following an off day. On the downside, the Red Sox are mired in slumps of 3-8 versus the A.L. West, 2-7 on the road, 2-8 in Buchholz’s last 10 starts overall and 0-6 with Buchholz working on the highway.

These teams haven’t faced each other since late April, when L.A. went to Fenway Park and took two of three from the Sox. However, Boston went 9-4 against the Angels last year, including sweeping a divisional playoff series in October.

After starting the year off with nine straight quality starts, Lackey has gotten roughed up in his last two against the Blue Jays (home) and Rangers (road), giving up 12 runs (11 earned) on 22 hits in 11 2/3 innings. Los Angeles split the two contests and is 8-3 in Lackey’s 11 outings this year, including 3-2 at home where the big right-hander sports a 2.50 ERA.

Buchholz returned from a two-month stint in Triple-A a week ago tonight and suffered a 7-3 home loss to the Orioles, as he allowed four runs on five hits in five innings. Buchholz is 0-2 with a 10.80 ERA in his last three starts and he’s 0-3 with an 8.64 ERA in five road starts this season, all Red Sox losses.

Lackey has struggled against Boston in his career, going 1-6 with a 6.27 ERA in 11 career starts, 10 of which the Angels have lost. Meanwhile, Buchholz’s first career big-league start came against Lackey and the Angels at home last Aug. 17, and he gave up four runs (three earned) in six innings of an 8-4 victory.

For the Angels, the under is on streaks of 35-17-3 overall, 9-3 on Fridays, 13-3-1 with Lackey on the hill overall and 5-2-1 when Lackey pitches at home. Conversely, the over is 5-1-1 in Buchholz’s last seven starts overall, 4-1 in his last five on the road and 8-3-1 in the last 12 meetings in this rivalry.


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Report: Yankees reach deal with 1B Sexson

First baseman Richie Sexson and the New York Yankees reached a deal Thursday, a week after the Seattle Mariners cut the slumping slugger.

A person familiar with the contract said Sexson would be paid a prorated share of the $390,000 minimum salary. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because an official announcement had not been made. first reported a tentative agreement between Sexson and the Yankees.

The Yankees were eager to add a powerful right-handed bat as they start the second half of the season. They went into the All-Star break third in the AL East, six games behind Boston.

Sexson hit .344 with five home runs in 71 at-bats against lefties this year. That was his bright spot during a season in which the 33-year-old Sexson hit .218 overall with 11 homers and 30 RBIs.

The Yankees picked up a fraction of Sexson's contract, leaving the Mariners to pay the rest of his $14 million salary.

New York is minus two of its top hitters. Leadoff man Johnny Damon is on the disabled list because of an injured left shoulder and Hideki Matsui is sidelined with a sore knee that could require season-ending surgery.

The Yankees' lineup is packed with left-handed hitters - Damon, Matsui, Jason Giambi, Bobby Abreu and Robinson Cano swing from that side - and New York has struggled against lefty pitching all year.

A native of Brush Prairie, Wash., the 6-foot-8 Sexson became a frequent target of boobirds in Seattle over the past two years. He hit a career-low .205 with 21 homers and 100 strikeouts in 2007, and often was benched in favor of Miguel Cairo this season.

Seattle, one of baseball's biggest disappointments this year, released Sexson right before the All-Star break.

Sexson has hit 30 or more homers six times, and also has six seasons of at least 100 RBIs. He started his major league career in 1997 with Cleveland and later played for Milwaukee and Arizona.

Sexson signed a $50 million, four-year contract with the Mariners in December 2004. He topped 30 homers and 100 RBIs in his first two seasons, then dropped off significantly last year.

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Baseball Today

Boston at Los Angeles Angels (10:05 p.m. EDT). The defending World Series champs send Clay Buchholz (2-4, 5.70 ERA) to the mound for their first game after the All-Star break. John Lackey (6-2, 2.46) gets the start for the AL West-leading Angels.


- David Wright, Mets, hit a tying, two-run homer in the ninth inning of New York's 10-8 win over Cincinnati.

- Troy Glaus, Cardinals, hit two solo homers off Jake Peavy to lift St. Louis to a 4-3 win over San Diego.

- Gary Sheffield, Tigers, hit one home run and was robbed of another in Detroit's 6-5 defeat of Baltimore.


Hideo Nomo, who pitched a pair of no-hitters and led a rush of Japanese players to the major leagues, announced his retirement Thursday, agent Don Nomura said. Once known for a deceptive delivery and a devastating forkball, the 39-year-old Nomo was released by the Kansas City Royals in late April. His 123 wins are the most in the majors by a Japanese pitcher. He was the 1995 NL Rookie of the Year with the Los Angeles Dodgers and is one of only four pitchers to throw no-hitters in the AL and NL.

TOP 10

The New York Mets beat Cincinnati 10-8 to win their 10th in a row and take over a share of first place in the NL East, back in the top spot for the first time since April 19. A month ago, they were 6 1/2 games out when they fired manager Willie Randolph.


Chris Ianetta broke his bat on a two-run homer in Colorado's 5-3 win over Pittsburgh.


The Arizona Diamondbacks acquired first baseman Tony Clark from the San Diego Padres on Thursday for minor league pitcher Evan Scribner. The 36-year-old Clark signed with the Padres before this season, but waived a $500,000 trade bonus in order to get the deal done. He hit .239 (21-for-88) with one home run and 11 RBIs in 70 games.


Jay Payton made a perfectly timed leap to rob Detroit's Gary Sheffield of a home run in Baltimore, but the Tigers won 6-5 anyway.


Sherman ``Jocko'' Maxwell, the pioneering black sportscaster who chronicled Negro League baseball players before the racial barrier fell, died Wednesday at 100. Supporting himself with a post office job during the day, Sherman Maxwell worked at night as a sportscaster. He was a prolific writer, submitting stories to the Ledger in Newark, N.J., the predecessor of The Star-Ledger, on games played by the Newark Eagles.


``We've been taking such a beating all year long for how we play the game and what we've done wrong and what little we've done right,'' closer Billy Wagner said. ``I love seeing guys who told us two weeks ago how bad we stunk, and now they're going, 'Well, you're in first place.' Yeah.''

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Baseball Weekend Preview

Now that the All-Star break is over the drive for the playoffs begins around Major League Baseball. Nowhere are the races closer than in the National League East and West, where the division leaders could change a few times this weekend.

In the NL East it's currently a three-team race for first place between the Phillies, the Mets, and the Marlins. Less than two games separate the three teams, with Philadelphia barely clinging to the top of the division. The Phillies can pull farther ahead or possibly be overtaken by the fish this weekend when they head to Florida for three games starting Friday. In six previous matchups this season the Phillies and Marlins have picked up three wins apiece.

The Mets got the post-All Star break portion of their season started early on Thursday with Game 1 of a four-game set with Cincinnati. The Mets entered the break red hot, having won their last nine games. If New York can keep winning at such a blistering pace they could actually win the East and make up for last year's collapse. Of course, it'd be too little too late for Willie Randolph.

In the NL West no one has a record above .500, but both Arizona and the Dodgers are still battling for first place and what may be an undeserved playoff spot. One game separates the first place Diamondbacks from the Dodgers, but that will change this weekend when the two teams clash in a three-game series in the desert. The Dodgers and D-Backs have met five times so far this season, and Arizona has owned Los Angeles with four wins. Arizona could have the upper hand again this weekend in the pitching matchups, as All Stars Dan Haren and Brandon Webb are both scheduled to pitch. The Dodgers will rely on Chad Billingsley and Derek Lowe to match the D-Backs' two aces.

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Re: MLB News and Notes July 18 -- MLB Mid-Season Report

The All-Star Break provided the time needed to create this years MLB Mid-Season Report -- see how our sports investing strategies have performed so far this MLB.

Highlights of the 2008 Baseball Season

* Tampa Bay has been a pleasant surprise for the baseball world.  The D-Rays played .600 ball for most of the first-half until a 7-game losing streak sank them to .585 -- and 1/2 game behind the Red Sox at the All-Star Break.  Tampa Bay has a lineup that includes three batters on target to hit around 30 HRs and a solid staff with 4 starting pitchers whose ERA's are below 4.00 -- led by Scott Kazmir's sparkling 2.69 ERA. 

* New York, New York.  The Yankees and Mets have had eerily similar seasons.  Relatively deep into the season, these highly paid teams had surprisingly sub-par records, with a combined record several games below .500.  First, the Yankees, and then the Mets -- got red hot -- and ended the first half in the thick of their respective pennant races.  The Mets are 1/2 game behind the first-place Phillies while the Yankees are 6 games behind the Red Sox. 

* NL West = NL Less.  When was the last time that a division winner finished the season below .500?  This year, the NL West pennant winner may accomplish this lowly feat.  Right now, Arizona and the LA Dodgers are fighting it out for 1st place -- and both teams are below .500.  Ouch! 

* The Chicago Cubs look like they have a serious shot of ending their World Series drought.  They are playing .600 ball and lead all of baseball with a +106 run differential.  The Cubbies' may end the season with 6 batters hitting more than 20 HRs and have 4 batters on target for more than 30 HRs.  Their starting staff is led by Zambrano, Dempster and Ted Lilly -- all of whom have either 9 or 10 wins. 

* The LA Angels are an interesting story.  They are tied with the Cubs for the best record in baseball, but their +21 run differential hints that they might be overachieving.  Or does solid pitching and a great reliever mean winning most of the close games?

* Josh Hamilton has an amazing 95 RBIs at the All-Star Break for the Texas Rangers.  The Rangers have baseball's best offense this season and are projected to score almost 1100 runs.  Too bad they are giving up more runs than they score!

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Friday's best MLB bets

Boston at Los Angeles Angels (-144, 8)

When you see the Red Sox at a price like this, it’s almost instinct to get your money down on them instantly. But hold on a second. Did you know the BoSox are just 7-13 as an underdog this season? Better think twice.

Especially with Clay Buchholtz on the mound. The kid has made five road starts this season and the Red Sox have lost every single one of them thanks to some awful pitching from the right-hander. Buchholtz has an 8.64 ERA in road games and a two-month stay in the minors doesn’t seem to have helped much. He was nervous and out of synch in his return to the majors on July 11, when he walked five and screwed BoSox backers as Boston lost to the Orioles as a -230 favorite.

Pick: Angels

New York Mets at Cincinnati (+103, 9)

It seems like the Mets are set to finally start playing like the club everyone thought they were supposed to be this season. They picked up where they left off before the All-Star break and made a dramatic ninth-inning rally to take a 10-8 road victory and extend their winning streak to 10 games. This club looks determined to correct the mistakes it made late last season and early this year.

The Reds' lineup made Johan Santana look like something less than an All Star last night, but believe it or not, they might have a tougher time against John Maine. The Reds are hitting just .239 against right-handers and Maine has been aguably the Mets’ most consistent starter all season.

Pick: Mets

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