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Thursday, Agust 3

   by Larry Ness - 08/03/2006

Chase Utley extended his hitting streak to the 34 games last night (tied for the 5th-longest streak since Joe's D's 56-game streak in 1941) but not without some controversy. His eight-inning grounder to the third-base side of the pitcher's mound was initially scored a fielder's choice but was later changed to an infield hit. However, it should be noted that Utley did get a clean single in the 9th.

My free play for Thursday is on the LA Dodgers over the Cin Reds at 7:10 ET. I'm releasing another exclusive Las Vegas Insider tonight (25-15 since May 1, despite a mediocre July) and my 15* AL Mismatch of the Month. I feel like I'm overdue to go on a run, so why not be there at the beginning?

The San Francisco Giants beat the Washington Nationals Wednesday afternoon 8-6, ending MLB's longest active losing streak at nine straight. The St Louis Cardinals, who have lost six straight, now own MLB's longest losing streak. The Dodgers, who took an eight-game losing streak into last weekend's three-game series with the Nationals (had lost 13 of 14 since the break as well!), extended MLB's longest active winning streak to five straight last night with a 5-3 win over the Reds.

The A's took the rubber game of their three-game series with the Angels, 3-2. It was the 15th game decided by one run that the two teams have played over the last two seasons, the highest total between any two teams in the majors over that period.

There were only 14 runs scored in the three-game series between the A's and Angels. It was only the fourth three-game series in the American League this season in which the teams combined for fewer than 15 runs and either the Angels or the A's have been involved in three of them.

Speaking of one-run games, the Braves beat the Pirates yesterday, 3-2. It marked Pittsburgh's 27th one-run loss this year, the most of any team in MLB. Pittsburgh's 40-68 mark is the worst in the NL with only Kansas City (38-69) owning a worse record than the Pirates in all of MLB. A closer look shows that while the Pirates have been outscored by only 66 runs this year, the Royals have been outscored by a whopping 140 runs.

Another interesting fact is that while the Pirates are minus-$2,121 in the all-important "moneyline" standings (at $100/game), the Royals come in at just minus-$244! A look at the top of those standings show the Tigers at more than double their closest pursuer (the Twins). Detroit is plus-$3,274 and Minnesota, plus-$1,533. The Tigers also lead the league in run-differential at plus-142 runs.

Right behind the Tigers in run-differential are the Mets, who check in at plus-91 runs. Just behind the Mets are the Yankees, who have outscored their opponents by 89 runs. A point of interest for bettors is while the Yankees own a slightly better overall record than the Mets (63-41 to 64-42), the Yankees are just plus-$274 in the moneyline standings, while the Mets' mark of plus-$1,331 places them third-best in all of MLB!

Thursday's MLB features 12 games, including a doubleheader by the D'backs and Cubs, as they make up for last night's rain out. Both games of the doubleheader are afternoon starts, joining three other afternoon contests. The Braves and Pirates meet at 12:35 ET on TBS and the Blue Jays and Yanks are on ESPN at 1:05 ET. The Indians and Red Sox conclude their four-game series tonight in Fenway at 7:05 ET on ESPN2.

The Astros will attempt to sweep the Padres in San Diego at 12:35 ET. Houston last swept a three-game series in San Diego back in August of 1982, going just 59-92 against the Padres in San Diego since! Tonight, Jered Weaver starts for the Angels when they host the Rangers (10:05 ET). The 23-year-old Weaver became the first rookie in 25 years to win his first seven starts, before allowing three ERs in 7.2 innings last Saturday at Fenway.

Weaver didn't get a decision in that game, so he's still 7-0 with a 1.51 ERA. He's also allowed just 33 hits in 53.2 innings of work, which I think makes it safe to say, qualifies him as the best pitcher in the family. His brother Jeff got bombed again last night, allowing eight hits and seven ERs in just 3.1 innings of the Cards' 16-8 loss to the Phillies. The older Weaver's ERA is now 6.71 on the season, the highest for any qualifying pitcher in the majors.

What could be the "feel-good" story of the night (if he pitches well?), is Greg Maddux's Dodger debut, when the Dodgers take on the Reds tonight in Cincinnati (7:10 ET). Maddux joins the Dodgers with a career total of 327 victories. Only two other pitchers in the live-ball era had as many wins as Maddux at the time of a change of teams: Warren Spahn (356 when he joined the Mets, 360 when he joined the Giants, both in 1965) and Steve Carlton (328 when he joined the Twins in 1987).

Of course Maddux has struggled through mostly tough times this year. He opened 5-0 with a 1.35 ERA but then went 2-11 in a 15-start stretch (team was 2-13), before winning his last two starts with the Cubs. LA may have chosen his first opponent wisely, as Maddux is 3-0 (3.18 ERA) vs the Reds this year. Meanwhile, the Reds will start Eric Milton, who owns a 5.83 home ERA in 2006 with the Reds going 2-8 in his 10 home starts.

If one believes in history repeating itself, then expect Chase Utley's 34-game hitting streak to end tonight against the Cardinals (8:10 ET). Back on April 6, Jimmy Rollins (Utley's teammate) saw his 38-game hitting streak end in a game with the Cardinals. Jason Marquis was the Cards' starting pitcher that night, as he is in tonight's game!

Random thoughts

I'll resume my NFL notes tomorrow, as today I want to ask the question, "What's going on in college football?" We've hardly had time to blink since Miami's Larry Coker suspended four players (including Tyrone Moss and Ryan Moore) for the 'Canes September 4 opener with Florida State, when we're hit with the news that Oklahoma has suspended starting QB Rhett Bomar for the entire season!

What's next? Maybe Bobby Bowden will retroactively suspend Oakland's Sebastian Janikowski for his "boys will be boys behavior" while at Florida State. Come to think about it, maybe the self-righteous Tom Osborne will re-think his position on women's-rights activist Lawrence Phillips, rather than worrying about whether a person wants to bet on a football game or not?

From the "better late than never department" comes the news that the NBA has changed its seeding procedure. Starting in the upcoming season, the top four seeds -- the three division winners and the second-place team with the best record -- will be seeded according to their win-loss total, guaranteeing that the top two teams in each conference can't meet until the conference finals, the league announced Wednesday.

Who knows if that would have changed last year's results? However, any plan that would not have rewarded the LA Clippers with an easier first-round opponent for finishing the regular season behind the Grizzlies last year and one which would not have not forced the Spurs and Mavs to meet in the second round (rather than in the conference finals), seems like a step in the right direction.

Could it be that in the next few days college football will be announcing a major overhaul of the BCS? Nah, that's just wishful thinking.

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

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