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Monday, July 24

   by Larry Ness - 07/24/2006

Are you ready for some football? Most NFL teams are in camp and the start of the season is about seven weeks away. The NFL's preseason begins with the Hall of Fame Game from Canton on Sunday August 6. NBC, back in the business of covering the NFL, will air the game between Oakland and Philadelphia at 8:00 ET. Week 1 of the preseason starts on Thursday night, August 10.

My free play for Monday is on the Oak A's over the Bos Red Sox. After a 2-0 Sunday sweep (including a LEGEND win on the White Sox to up that record to a perfect 4-0 this year!), I'm on a nice mini-run of 8-4 since Wednesday, despite an 0-3 Friday. I've got two plays for Monday, another exclusive Las Vegas Insider (25-12 since May 1) and my 15* Situational Game of the Month.

The 2006 season opens on Thursday September 7, as the defending champs (the Steelers for those of you with short memories) host the Miami Dolphins (8:30 ET). NBC will carry this game as well and the network begins it's Sunday night coverage on the 10th, with a Manning vs Manning matchup. Peyton and the Colts will visit Eli and the Giants at 8:15 ET.

ESPN takes over for ABC on Monday nights this year and opens with a Monday night doubleheader. The Vikings visit Washington to play the Redskins at 7:00 ET and the Chargers will be in Oakland to take on the Raiders at 10:15 ET. Regular Monday night games will start at 8:30 ET this year with ESPN dedicating almost all of its Monday programming as a day-long pre-game show.

Even the NFL Network joins the game coverage this year. The fledgling network will carry its first-ever live game on Thanksgiving night (November 23), after the traditional Detroit and Dallas home games air. The Dolphins will visit the Lions at 12:30 ET and the Bucs are in Dallas to play the Cowboys at 4:15 ET.

Then, the NFL Network will carry one of the AFC's (and the AFL's before that) great rivalries at 8:00 ET, as the Denver Broncos visit the Kansas City Chiefs. Now, if they could only get Darryl Lamonica and Len Dawson to due the broadcast!

Christmas Day is a Monday this year and ESPN will air another doubleheader. The Eagles visit the Cowboys (a present for T.O.) at 5:00 ET and then the Jets are in Miami at 8:30 ET. Week 17, the season's final week, will conclude with a yet to be determined game on NBC at 8:15 ET on New Year's Eve.

MLB notes

Minnesota and Tampa Bay each owned seven-game streaks entering the weekend. The Twins' seven-game streak was MLB's longest active winning streak, while the D'Rays' seven-game streak represented MLB's longest active losing streak. Minnesota extended its winning streak to eight with a Friday night win but lost 11-0 on Saturday in Cleveland, as Jeremy Sowers pitched a four-hit shutout (Twins had had at least 11 hits in each of the eight wins!).

Speaking of hits, the D'Rays pounded out 15 hits in a 14-7 win on Friday over the Orioles, to end their seven-game losing streak. They then beat the Orioles 13-12 on Saturday, as the teams combined to collect 39 hits. The D'Rays scored 10 runs in the fifth and the Orioles had a nine-run seventh.

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the last time two teams scored nine or more runs in an inning in the same game was June 3, 1933, when the New York Yankees scored 10 in one inning and the Philadelphia Athletics scored 11. Sunday, the teams combined for just six runs, as Baltimore's Erik Bedard won his seventh straight game, 4-2.

With Minnesota's winning streak ending, the Cards open the new week with MLB's longest active winning streak at four straight. The Cards are 8-2 since the break and have won 11 of their last 13, after dropping 13 of their previous 16 games before the turnaround. St Louis' three-game sweep of LA in Dodger Stadium gives the Dodgers MLB's longest active losing streak at five in a row. LA is 1-10 since the break, getting outscored 57-17!

A-Rod collected his 2,00th career hit over the weekend and it happened to be his 450th career HR as well, making him the youngest player to reach that milestone (he turns 31 this Thursday). However, things are not going well for MLB's $250 million man! Things are going well for Jered Weaver, as with Sunday's 3-1 win at Kansas City, he became the first rookie to open his career with seven wins in seven starts since Fernando opened the 1981 season 8-0 for the Dodgers.

Jered's big brother Jeff had a good weekend as well. After a horrible effort in his St Louis debut last Monday, Jeff last 5.2 innings while allowing just six hits and one ER in a 6-1 win over the Dodgers Saturday night. Weaver's doppelganger, Sidney Ponson (see last week's notes), was up to his old tricks. He got just seven outs for the Yankees on Sunday (five on strikeouts!), while allowing six ERs in a 13-5 loss in Toronto. Ponson hasn't won in nine starts.

Monday's schedule features 11 games with ESPN airing the Yankees at the Rangers (7:05 ET). However, no game is bigger than the first game of a three-game series between the Twins and the White Sox (in Chicago at 8:05 ET). The White Sox stood at 36-22 on the morning of June 8 (a half-game back of the Tigers), while the Twins were a season-worst eight games under .500 at 25-33.

Since then, the White Sox have gone a respectable 23-16 but the Twins have gone 31-8 (inclues two separate eight-game winning streaks plus an 11-game streak). Now, the White Sox find themselves a season-high 6 1/2 games behind Detroit and Minnesota just three games behind them. Tonight's pitching matchup features Brad Radke vs Javier Vazquez.

Radke is 4-0 with a 2.66 ERA over his last nine starts (Twins are 8-1) but offers a terrible away/home dichotomy. While his home ERA is 3.68 (team is 9-2 in his 11 starts), his road ERA is 6.52 (team is 2-7). Meanwhile, while Vazquez's ERA stinks on both the road (5.17) and at home (5.37), the White Sox are 4-5 in his road starts but 7-2 in his home starts.

Also of note is Maddux vs Trachsel when the Cubs visit the Mets at 7:10. While Maddux (a future Hall of Famer) is 2-11 with a 6.23 ERA over his last 15 starts, journeyman Trachsel hasn't lost since May 17 (an 11-start stretch in which the Mets have gone 9-2), posting seven straight wins!

My closing thought steps in the golfing world. Is it just me? How come I keep hearing everyone refering to a "Big-Five" on the PGA Tour? In alphabetical order, it refers to Ernie Els, Reief Goosen, Phil Mickelson, Vijay Singh and Tiger Woods. Not being all that smart, I am able to count. If one were to add up the career majors for Els, Goosen, Mickelson and Singh, you'd get 11. That's strange, because Tiger now owns 11 all by himself!

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

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