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Thursday, June 22

   by Larry Ness - 06/22/2006

Miami's series clinching win Tuesday night in Dallas was the first win by a road team in the Finals this year. It continued a trend that saw home teams greatly improve their winning percentage in this year's postseason, after going just 46-38 last year. That winning percentage of just .5476, represented the worst-ever by home teams in any playoff year since the NBA adopted a 16-team playoff field in 1984.

My free play for Thursday is on the Chi White Sox over the StL Cardinals at 8:05 ET. In Thursday's MLB, it's my 15* IL Getaway Day Game of the Month plus another 15* Pitching Classic (3-0 in MLB '06!) on the Twins/Astros game (Liriano vs Clemens). Get them BOTH right now!

Home teams concluded this year's postseason at 60-29 overall, a winning percentage of .674. While that was a significant improvement, it didn't matter much in the pointspread department. Home teams finished the 2006 playoffs just 43-44-2 ATS.

Overs and unders were about 50-50, with 43 games going over the total and 46 staying under. However, totals were very streaky during this year's playoffs. Beginning with the conference finals, 14 of the final 18 games went under. That under trend directly followed a run in which 26 of the previous 36 playoff games had gone over.

Followers of the "Zig-Zag" theory ended up the postseason just about where they started it. If one had played "on" the SU loser of the previous game of a series, he would have ended this year's postseason with an ATS mark of 38-34-2, or plus-.6 units/games!

My NBA coverage will conclude tomorrow with commentary on the teams, players and coaches.

MLB notes

Wednesday's results saw MLB's two-longest active winning streaks come to an end. The Marlins, who have never won 10 straight in franchise history, saw their nine-game winning streak end with a 4-0 loss in Baltimore to the Orioles. Rookie Ricky Nolasco has now book-ended the Marlins' streak, as he was the losing pitcher back on June 9 in a 3-2 loss to the Padres and in last night's loss as well.

The Twins also saw their eight-game winning streak end last night, losing 5-3 in Houston. Carlos Silva, who entered with a 7.07 ERA and an opponents BA of .352, actually pitched pretty well. He left with a 3-2 lead in the 7th but the Twins, who had scored four or more runs in 12 straight games, didn't score after the 4th inning and the bullpen couldn't hold the lead.

Two teams entered last night's action undefeated in IL play this year, Colorado (5-0) and Seattle (7-0). The Rockies lost 3-2 in 11 innings to the A's (Oakland tied it in the 9th with a Swisher HR) but the Mariners moved to 8-0 in IL play with an 8-5 win in LA over the Dodgers. Atlanta and Arizona both entered last night's play winless in IL play (0-4) and will enter Thursday's action the same way.

The Braves extended their overall losing streak to nine straight (longest active losing streak in MLB) with a 6-3 loss to the Blue Jays on Wednesday and have now lost 19 of their last 22. The D'backs' 3-2 loss in Tampa matches the Braves' 0-5 IL mark and also gives Arizona 14 losses in its last 16 games.

The highlight of Thursday's nine-game MLB card is the Rocket's return tonight in Houston. The Astros host the Twins at 8:05 ET on ESPN, as Clemens will face Minnesota rookie, Francisco Liriano. Liriano has made 18 appearances this year with a 6-1 record (2.16) and a strikeout-to-walk ratio of 67-17. Since joining the Twins' starting rotation, the team is 5-1 in his six starts with Liriano allowing 20 hits and just six ERs in 36 innings (1.50).

Of course the Rocket owns 341 career wins (9th all-time), as well as 4,502 career Ks (2nd all-time). Clemens had a career-best 1.87 ERA last year but including the postseason, Houston went just 16-19 in his starts, as the Rocket received the sixth-worst run support of any starting pitcher in the league (3.58 runs per game).

Also of note, is AJ Burnett returning to the mound for the Blue Jays tonight in Atlanta. The Jays signed Burnett to a five-year $55 million contract during the off season, despite the fact that Burnett's seven-year career mark was only 49-50 (3.73). Burnett has posted just two above-.500 seasons in his career, going 12-9 in 2002 and 7-6 in 2004. Burnett began the year on the DL for Toronto and after two mid-April starts (6.30 ERA), he's been on the DL since.

From the "pick your poison" department comes today's Pittsburgh/Kansa City game (2:10 ET). The Pirates are a pathetic 8-27 on the road and send Paul Maholm to the mound, who is 0-4 in six road starts this year (team is 1-5) with an ERA of 5.46. The Royals, MLB's worst team with a 21-49 mark, send Scott Elarton to the mound. Elarton has made eight home starts in 2006, going 0-5 with an ERA of 5.64 (team is 1-7).

Ness Notes is available Monday through Friday by 1:00 ET.

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