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Monday, July 3

   by Larry Ness - 07/03/2006

Interleague play concluded over the weekend with the AL finishing with a 154-98 advantage over its NL counterparts. The Red Sox and Twins led the way with identical 16-2 marks, followed by the Tigers' 15-3 record. The Mariners and White Sox both finished at 14-4. The Rockies were the lone bright spot for the NL going 11-4, as just one other NL club (the Giants at 8-7) finished with an above .500 record.

My free play for Monday is on theTor Blue Jays over the Tex Rangers at 8:05 ET. The Angels' 4-0 win on Sunday upped my Las Vegas Insider mark to 21-7 or 75%winners since May 1. I'm back with another Insider tonight plus my first "Diamond in the Rough" Play of 2006.

The biggest IL losers were the Pirates (3-12), as the D'backs swept the A's this past weekend, finishing with a 4-11 IL mark (matching the Cubs), after opening 1-11. The Angels and Rangers both finished 7-11, giving them the worst record of any AL teams. A third member of the AL West, the Oakland A's, finished at 8-10, tying them with the Indians for the third-worst record among AL teams.

The D'backs, who not only entered this past weekend's action with MLB's worst IL record (1-11) but also having lost 20 of their previous 23 games, now own MLB's second-longest active winning streak, after their three-game sweep of the A's. However, it's the Twins, with a 10-game winning, who lead the charge as intra-league play resumes today.

The Twins have won 20 of their last 22 but they are hardly the only AL team playing well with seven days to go before the All Star break. The Red Sox have won 14 of their last 15, the Tigers have won 19 of their last 23 and the White Sox have won 15 of their last 19.

The A's and Brewers own MLB's longest active losing streaks with three straight losses but they are not even close to being the teams playing the worst. The Pirates have lost 15 of 17, the Cubs 15 of 19, the Phillies 16 of 21 and the Nationals 14 of 19. You may have noticed that all four of the above mentioned teams play in the NL, which most likely doesn't bode well for the league's chances in the upcoming mid-summer classic.

For the fourth straight year, the winning league in the Al Star Game will claim home field advantage for its league in the World Series. The NL has not won an All Star Game since 1996 and has also lost seven of the last 10 World Series, including losing four-game sweeps in each of the last two years (the White Sox over the Astros last year and the Red Sox over the Cardinals in 2004).

All Star selections were announced Sunday, with the White Sox and Mets each sending six players to the game in Pittsburgh. While none of the White Sox players are among the starters, the Mets will have four starters, joining last year's Red Sox and the 1976 Cincinnati Reds for the highest number of starters by any team in the last 30 years. Currently (internet balloting will add one more member to each team), this year's game will feature 23 first-time all stars.

There are 14 games scheduled in Monday's action and two of tonight's probable starters may cause one to do a double-take! Pedro has a sore hip and will not make his scheduled start for the Mets tonight when they host the Pirates (7:10 ET). In his place will be 13-year veteran Darren Oliver.Oliver is playing for his seventh team in 2006 and has made 23 appearances out of the bullpen this year, posting a 3-0 record with a 2.45 ERA.

Oliver is 2-0 with a 1.32 ERA over his last 12 outings and faces the struggling Pirates, who have lost 15 of 17. Starting for Pittsburgh is Paul Maholm, who in seven road starts this year, is 0-5 with a 6.31 ERA (Pirates are 1-6 in the seven games). No wonder the Mets are favored by about minus-$1.80?

When the Nationals host the Marlins tonight at 7:05 ET, Washington's starter will be Pedro Astacio. Yes, that Pedro Astacio. Astacio was just activated off the 60-day DL and will be appearing in his 15th ML season for his eighth team (his sixth since 2001!). Astacio began his career with the Dodgers in 1992 and owns a lifetime record of 124-119 (4.61).

He made just 12 appearances (seven starts) in the 2003 and 2004 seasons (for the Mets and Red Sox), going 3-2 with a 7.94 ERA. Pitching for Texas and San Diego last year, Astacio was 6-10 with a 4.69 ERA. Interestingly, his career mark against the Marlins is 10-3 (4.39), so maybe he has a chance?

Ness Notes is available Monday through Friday by 1:00 ET (please note: there will be no notes on July 4th).

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