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Friday, July 14

   by Larry Ness - 07/14/2006

MLB resumed play last night after a three-day break with a seven-game schedule. Aubrey Huff made a big splash with his new team, hitting a three-run HR in his first game as an Astro, in Houston's 5-1 win over the Marlins. Junior hit No. 555 of his career in the Reds' 9-7 win over the Rockies and Pujols hit his 30th HR of the year (a walk-off job in the 14th), as the Cards won their fourth straight, 3-2 over the Dodgers in 14 innings.

My free play for Friday is on the Min Twins over the Cle Indians. I opened the second half of the season with another Las Vegas Insider winner last night on the Cards (now 23-10 since May 1!), following Sunday's 20* AL Game of the Month winner (White Sox). I look to continue my winning ways with my lone Oddsmaker's Error Play in July plus a 15* Underdog Shocker. Get them both right now!

In a worst vs first battle in the AL, the Tigers beat the Royals 6-4, making the Tigers the first team to reach 60 wins this year. Oakland beat Boston 5-4 (11 inn) at Fenway to open a four-game series and the Rangers pounded out 19 hits in a 15-1 win over the Orioles. Rookie Francisco Liriano led the entire major leagues in ERA at the break (1.83) but allowed five hits (three HRs!) and five runs (four earned) in five innings last night, as the Twins lost to the Indians.

Eight more series get underway on Friday, as MLB plays a full 15-game schedule. The Mets and Cubs start things off at Wrigley on ESPN (2:20 ET). Ex-Cub Steve Trachsel goes for the Mets and Trachsel is looking for his seventh straight win. Maddux goes for the Cubs and the future Hall of Famer is mired in a terrible slump. After opening 5-0 (1.35) this year, he's 2-9 with a 6.43 ERA over his last 13 starts, with the Cubs losing 11 of those 13 starts.

Moving over to the seven-game AL schedule, a couple of games offer interesting storylines. KC remains in Detroit in this worst vs first scenario. The Royals began the season's second half with a 31-56 mark and if nothing else, one must admire this team's consistency. The Royals were 30-57 at the break last year and 31-54 at the break in 2004! On the other hand, Detroit's 59-29 record had them in first place at the break for the first time since 1988.

In tonight's game, Kenny Rogers (11-3 3.85) squares off against Mark Redman. Rogers, who last Tuesday became the second-oldest pitcher to start an All Star game, will try to keep Detroit's perfect 9-0 record over KC on the year intact. However, he'll get a 'fight' from his mound opponent, as Mark Redman takes a 6-0 (4.05) mark in his last seven starts (all Royals' wins) into the game. Redman's current winning streak was preceded by a 16-game non-winning streak!

The defending champs take on the Yankees tonight in New York. Pitching for Chicago will be Jose Contreras, who is trying to keep alive his amazing 17-game winning streak. He's had a number of no decisions in the streak but it's head to ignore his accomplishment. Contreras was traded by the Yankees in July 2004 to the White Sox.

He was 8-5 with a 5.64 ERA in 13 starts before the Yankees traded him for Esteban Loaiza. Contreras struggled for the remainder of 2004 season, going 5-4 with a 5.50 ERA but was brilliant for the White Sox last year. He ended the regular season with eight straight wins and finished with a 15-7 (3.61) mark. Including the postseason, the White Sox went 24-12 in his 36 starts, including a 12-3 mark on the road. Contreras enters this game 9-0 (3.37).

Going for the Yankees is Randy Johnson. Johnson has struggled for most of the year but has managed to go 10-7 despite a 5.13 ERA. While not showing the dominant form of years past, the four-time Cy Young Award winner entered the All-Star break with 10 wins for just the eighth time in his 19-year career.

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

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