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Friday, August 11

   by Larry Ness - 08/11/2006

The Mets continue to roll along as the NL's best team with a 69-44 record. Their 7-3 win over the Padres on Thursday give them a season-high 14-game lead in the NL East and a record 8 1/2 games better than the St Louis Cardinals, who at 62-52, own the NL's second-best mark.

My free play for Friday is the NY Yankees over the LA Angels at 7:05 ET. Coming off last night's 2-0 sweep of my NFLX Doubleheader, I'm releasing my lone Week One 20* in tonight's play. In MLB, it's another one of my exclusive Las Vegas Insiders (2-0 since Saturday) plus a Triple 15* MLB Report, featuring my NL Pitching Mismatch of the Month.

New York will enter this weekend's play with MLB's longest active winning streak (five straight) and MLB's second-best road record (34-22), as only the Tigers (39-19) have been better this year away from home. The Red Sox and Pirates enter the weekend tied for MLB's longest active losing streak, as both teams have lost five-in-a-row!

That's expected of Pittsburgh, which at 42-73, owns a record that is just a half-game better than that of the KC Royals (41-73). The Pirates are the owners of MLB's worst road record at 14-45 and have overtaken the Cleveland Indians for last-place in MLB's all-important "moneyline" standings. Pittsburgh's current slide has them at minus-$2,324 on the year at $100/game.

However, what's up with the Red Sox? The team's five-game losing streak has dropped them to 65-48, three-games behind the Yankees in the AL East, as well as two games behind the White Sox in the wild card chase (even the Twins are 1 1/2 games ahead of Boston). Of even greater concern should be that the team's slump has come against the Devil Rays (first two losses) and the Royals (last three losses), the AL's two-worst teams!

In last night's loss to the Royals, Curt Schilling allowed 10 extra-base hits to the Royals, the most against any major league pitcher in one game in 37 years -- since Cleveland's Luis Tiant surrendered 10 (five homers and five doubles) to the Red Sox at Fenway Park on April 18, 1969. Schilling is the first AL pitcher to allow nine or more doubles in a game since July 10, 1935, when Washington's Earl Whitehill gave up 10 two-base hits to the Tigers.

Before moving on to Friday's 15-game schedule, I mentioned two pitchers in yesterday's notes, San Diego's Chris Young and Cincy's Bronson Arroyo. Young did not take the loss against the Mets yesterday and is now 8-0 with 12 no-decisions in his last 20 road starts (3-0 in his last nine road starts with Texas last season and 5-0 in 11 road starts with San Diego this season). It's only the 10th time in MLB history a pitcher has gone undefeated in 20 consecutive road starts.

Arroyo failed for the 10th straight start on Thursday, to get his 10th win of the year. He becomes the first major league pitcher since 1900 to win at least nine of his first 15 starts of a season and then fail to win any of his next 10 starts. Arroyo started this year 9-3 but has not recorded a victory in his 10 starts since then. Wow!

This weekend's most important series will be between the Tigers and White Sox in Chicago. The first game is tonight at 8:35 ET and features Detroit rookie Justin Verlander (14-4, 2.79) against Jose Contreras (10-4, 3.75). The White Sox are coming off a three-game home series with the Yankees in which they took two-of-three, with each game being decided by one run. The Tigers beat the Twins Monday 99-3) but then dropped the last two games of the series by scores of 4-2 and 4-3.

Detroit (76-38) enters this game with the best record in the major leagues and an 8 1/2-game lead over the White Sox (67-46) in the AL Central. Although the Tigers have held sole possession of the division lead since May 21, they have lost six of nine this season to the White Sox.

Justin Verlander hasn't pitched since Aug. 1, but looks to become the majors' first 15-game winner and win his eighth straight decision when he takes the mound for Detroit in the series opener. Leyland decided to skip the 23-year-old rookie right-hander's last scheduled starts in order to rest his tired arm. Verlander will seek better results against the White Sox this time. He is 0-2 with an 11.42 ERA in two starts versus Chicago, allowing 11 runs and 14 hits (four HRs) in just 8.2 innings.

Jose Contreras takes the mound for Chicago and will try to avoid his fifth loss in six starts since the All-Star break after opening the season 9-0. Contreras tied a season-high by allowing six runs in 6 2-3 innings of Sunday's 7-3 loss at Toronto. He's already faced the Tigers three times this season, going 2-1 with a 2.05 ERA in those outings including a June 7 victory over Verlander. He is 7-3 with a 3.30 ERA in 14 career starts versus Detroit.

I have two closing MLB notes. First, regarding Pittsburgh's Zach Duke. Last year the young lefty set the baseball world on its ear. After going 12-3 with Triple-A Indianapolis, he was called up in July and went 8-2 with a 1.81 ERA in 14 starts, for a Pittsburgh club that finished the season 67-95.

However, not much has gone right for him this year. However, while he's pitched equally as bad at home (5.13 ERA) as he has on the road (5.54), the Pirates are 8-3 in his home starts while going 1-12 in his 13 road starts. I guess that figures? The Pirates are 28-28 at home and a ML-worst 14-45 on the road.

The Royals, fresh off their three-game sweep of the Red Sox, will open a three-game series tonight in Cleveland against the Indians (7:05 ET). While both of these teams are having miserable seasons (the Royals are a ML-worst 41-73 and the Indians are 49-64), there is a HUGE discrepancy between the teams betting fortunes.

While the Indians own a record that's 8 1/2 games better than the Royals in the standings, playing $100 per game on each team would have you down $2,308 on Cleveland but down just $104 on Kansas city. Now that's a difference worth noting!

NFL notes

The Eagles opened up a 20-0 lead on the Browns last night and won 20-7. The pointspread loss for the Browns ended a streak of seven straight preseason 'covers' by the team, a streak that was the longest active one of any team. The longest active SU winning streak of any team in the preseason is owned by the Broncos (4-0 SU and 3-1 ATS last year) and they play tonight in Detroit against the Lions at 7:30 ET.

The Colts lost in St Louis to the Rams 19-17 in last night's televised game. Twenty-two of the game's 36 points were scored in the first quarter, as the Rams' Scot Linehan's picked up a win in his NFL coaching debut. While the Colts did cover the five-point spread, it was the team's seventh straight preseason loss (Colts were 0-5 SU and ATS in 2005).

The Chiefs will take a streak of six consecutive preseason losses (as well as six straight ATS losses) when they visit Houston tomorrow night at 8:00 ET to take on the Texans. Interestingly, the Texans own the worst preseason ATS record of any team over the last five seasons (2001-05). Actually, the Texans have only had four preseasons (joined the NFL in 2002) but their 4-13 ATS still stands as the worst.

Following the Texans are the Dolphins (6-13-3), the Raiders (7-14), the Lions (7-13) and the Redskins (8-14). The five-best preseason ATS records these last five years are owned by the Cardinals (14-6), the Titans (13-6-1), the Cowboys and Jets (both 14-7) plus the Browns (13-7).

Of course the Raiders have opened 1-0 ATS this year (won and covered vs Philly last Sunday) and the Browns lost last night, so maybe these five-year records don't mean much. Then again, maybe they do? Along with the Broncos/Lions, there are four other games on tonight's NFL preseason schedule, including the Patriots in Atlanta to take on the Falcons at 8:00 ET on CBS.

Ness Notes is available Monday through Friday by 1:00 ET but remember, I have a special edition of Ness Notes (available Saturday morning) featuring CFB's 2006 coaching carousel.

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