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3 Up, 3 Down

   by ASA - 05/25/2007

Pitching is the primary factor in the outcome of any baseball game. If a team’s staff, especially the starters, can’t shut down the opposing offense than said team has little chance of winning.

The teams with the five best team-ERA’s – the Padres, A’s, Mets, Red Sox and Dodgers – are a combined 40 games over .500. Additionally, the nine best team-ERA’s in baseball are all playing .500 ball or better.

With that said, here’s a look at what pitchers are guiding their teams to victory and which are taking their teams down with them.

Ian Snell and Tom Gorzelanny, Pittsburgh: Where would the lowly Pirates be without these two relatively unknown hurlers? Pittsburgh has won only 19 games this season but 11 of those wins have come in Snell and Gorzelanny starts. Gorzelanny owns a 2.51 ERA, good for fourth-best in the National League, and has allowed more than three earned runs in a game just once in 10 starts. Snell boasts a 3.06 ERA and 1.22 WHIP and the Pirates have won three of his last four starts.

Chris Capuano, Milwaukee: The Milwaukee southpaw was 5-0 with a 2.31 ERA through seven starts but has gotten shelled in his last three outings. He has allowed 14 earned runs in just 13.1 innings of work over his last three starts, seeing his ERA climb nearly a full two runs. A similar pattern developed last year when Capuano earned an All-Star berth with a strong first half, only to fall off dramatically in the second half.

Fausto Carmona, Cleveland: The young Indian right-hander went through one of the toughest pitching stretches in baseball history last year when he was routinely giving up game-winning home runs. He was given a second chance following a flurry of injuries to the Cleveland rotation and has responded. Carmona has won five straight decisions and has surrendered just 11 earned runs in his last seven outings, climbing to ninth in the American League with a 2.77 ERA.

Ervin Santana, LA Angels: Santana’s stature as a “downâ€쳌 pitcher applies only to road starts. Santana has been virtually light outs at home but is getting lit up away from home. He is 0-4 with a 7.86 ERA on the road with 26 runs allowed in 26.1 innings. Opponents are hitting .336 against him on the road and he has allowed no less than three earned runs in six total road starts. Santana’s latest road effort was “highlightedâ€쳌 by eight earned runs in just 3.2 innings of work against Detroit.

Ben Sheets, Milwaukee: While rotation mate Capuano has started to slide, Sheets has started to pick things up. He struggled in back-to-back losses earlier this year but has allowed three or fewer runs in each of his seven starts since. Sheets has surrendered just 13 earned runs in the 38.1 innings covering those seven starts. The Brewers have won four of the last five games he has started as Sheets is looking more and more like the front of the rotation guy Milwaukee expects him to be.

Ramon Ortiz, Minnesota: Journeyman Ortiz looked like he had found a home in Minnesota following a strong start to the season but has considerably fallen off since. He has surrendered at least four earned runs in each of his last four starts, allowing 20 total earned runs in just 15.1 innings of work during that stretch. He has reached the fifth inning just once over that time and has seen his ERA climb nearly three whole runs. The opposition is hitting .390 against him in May as he continues to show signs of exactly why he is a journeyman.

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