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Thursday, July 6

   by Larry Ness - 07/06/2006

There were plenty of 'fireworks' on July 4, as 13 of 15 home teams won and 10 of the 15 games went over the total. Home teams went only 9-6 on Wednesday and the pitchers got the better of the batters with just seven of the games going over. The Twins lost for the second straight day but along with their AL Central mates the Tigers and White Sox, remain one of MLB's hottest teams.

I am not releasing a free play tonight but I am featuring a rare LEGEND Play. Previously available to only my personal clients, I began releasing my LEGEND Plays on the net, just last year. I've featured just two LEGEND Plays this MLB season (winning both), so don't miss this one!

Four teams entered Wednesday's action on four-game winning streaks but only the Angels made it five straight wins, beating the Mariners 4-0. The Astros, Indians and Nationals all saw their winning streaks end. The Astros lost just 1-0 but the Indians and Nationals left no doubt, losing 11-3 and 18-9, respectively. While the Angels own MLB's longest active winning streak, the Twins (21-4), Tigers (19-5) and White Sox (19-6) are still playing the best ball.

At the other end of the 'food chain' are the Pirates. While the Royals have owned MLB's worst record since the early season, a recent KC surge (the Royals have won 13 of 20) coupled with the Pirates losing 17 of 20, leaves Pittsburgh with MLB's worst record at 29-57 (KC is 29-54). The Pirates also own the majors' worst road record at 9-33.

The Reds own the longest active losing streak entering Thursday's play (have lost five straight) but the Cubs (have lost 17 of 22), the Phillies (have lost 17 of 23) and the D'backs (have lost 23 of 29) join the Pirates at the "bottom of the barrel" among MLB's worst current teams. The Phillies lone bright spot was their 11-game win streak over the Padres but even that went 'south' last night, as they lost 6-3 on a 3-run homer in the 9th.

The Phillies own the distinction of being MLB's worst second-place team. Their 38-44 mark is good enough for second place in the NL East, 11 games behind the first-place Mets, who own MLB's largest division lead. The tightest races are in the AL and NL West. Oakland leads in the AL with a 44-40 mark but the fourth-place Angels (four-team division) are 40-44. Over in the NL, Colorado, LA and SD are all tied at 44-40 with the Giants at 43-42 and the last-place D'backs just 4 1/2 games back.

There are 12 games on the Thursday schedule with the Marlins and Nationals playing the lone day game at 1:05 ET. Two NL games offer some intriguing pitching matchups. The first of these games is the Reds at the Braves (7:35 ET), where Jerry Mays takes on Tim Hudson. Mays went 6-10 with a 5.65 ERA for Minnesota last year (Twins were 8-18 in his starts) and signed in the off season with the Reds as a free agent (why?).

He's made 11 appearances this year for the Reds (eight starts), going 0-5 (team is 2-6 in his starts) with a 8.21 ERA. He's allowed 64 hits in just 41.2 innings! However, before 'jumping' on Atlanta, note that Tim Hudson enters the game on a four-game losing streak in which his ERA is 7.89. He's also off his shortest outing of the year, allowing 11 hits and six runs (five earned) while getting just eight outs against the Orioles last Saturday.

The Cards meet the Astros in Houston at 8:05 ET. St. Louis has dropped 12 of 15 games and Houston, despite going just 6-9 since June 18, has crept to within four games of St. Louis. Sidney Ponson starts for the Cards and after opening 4-0 with a 2.92 ERA in his first seven starts, has gone 0-3 in six appearances (five starts) with a 9.47 ERA. During his losing streak, opponents have batted .376!

Houston rookie Taylor Buchholz has made 16 appearances this year, including 14 starts. He's had two starts against the Rangers, throwing 16 shutout innings. However, against all other teams, he's 3-6 with a 6.51 ERA. "Pick your poison."

Thursday's "feel-good" story involves Mark Redman of the KC Royals. Redman starts tonight when the Royals host the Blue Jays (8:10 ET). After a May 19 start, Redman was allowed to go on "bereavement leave" to deal with his ailing father. He retuned to the KC rotation on June 4 in Seattle and posted a 9-4 win. That win ended a 16-start stretch in which he hadn't won and he's since extended his winning streak to five games!

Thursday's "not-so-good" story chronicles the demise of Greg Maddux. Maddux opened the 2006 season by going 5-0 in April, posting a 1.35 ERA. However, he's made 12 post-April starts, allowing five ERs or more seven times. He's 2-8 in the 12 games (Cubs are 2-10) with a 6.78 ERA!

From the "go figure" department I leave you with this. Ryan Madson starts for the Phillies tonight when they host the Padres (7:05 ET). He's made 18 appearances this year, including 13 starts. Despite a 5.71 ERA, he's 8-5 and the Phillies have won 10 of those 13 starts. In seven home starts, he's allowed 51 hits in just 35.1 innings with a 6.37 ERA and an opponents batting average of .338, yet the Phillies have won five of the seven!

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

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