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Thursday, August 24

   by Larry Ness - 08/24/2006

Week 3 of the preseason gets underway tonight (8:00 ET on FOX) as the Dolphins take on the Panthers in Carolina. Nick Saban finally got his first ATS win in the preseason in Week 2, as the Dolphins won in Tampa over the Bucs, 13-10. The Dolphins were 1-4 SU but 0-3-2 ATS in last year's preseason (Saban's first year with Miami) and opened 2006 by losing at home to Jacksonville in Week 1, 31-26.

My free play for Thursday is on the Pit Pirates over the Hou Astros at 7:05 ET. I'm passing on tonight's NFLX action but feature a 15* Afternoon Delight in MLB plus a 15* Evening Clincher, as I look to extend my current all-sports run at the site. Last night's 20* NL Game of the Month winner on the Mets, ups my record since Friday to 10-3 or 77% winners. Jump aboard right now!

Carolina's John Fox had won and covered 10 straight preseason games until finishing 1-2 SU and ATS his last three games in 2005. The Panthers are off to a 2-0 start in this year's preseason, after winning 14-13 over the Bills in Week ( a non-cover) and winning last week in Jacksonville 17-10, as a small road underdog.

Home teams went 11-5 SU and 8-7-1 ATS in Week 1 and 8-8 SU and ATS in Week 2. After both of last Thursday's nights games went 'under' the total, under bettors were cashing at the rate of 15-4 or 78.9 percent winners. However, 'over players' have fared much better since last Friday, as Week 2 concluded with nine of the remaining 14 games going over. What results will this weekend bring? We begin to find out tonight, as the Panthers are favored tonight by 4 1/2 points and the total is 36 1/2.

MLB notes

The Mets jumped out to a 10-2 4th-inning lead over the Cards last night and although they didn't get a hit after the 4th-inning, held on to win 10-8. The win puts them a season-high 29 games over .500 and their 10th straight home win was their sixth straight overall, the longest active winning streak in MLB. The Angels also owned a five-game winning streak entering last night's action but lost to the Red Sox, 5-4. The Phillies (five straight wins) plus the Marlins and Padres (four apiece), are right behind the Mets.

Boston's win ended the team's season-high six-game slide and leaves the Nationals and Rockies (both have lost five straight) with the longest active losing streak. The Cubs and D'backs have each lost four in a row. Thursday's 11-game schedule includes three day games, two of which are on TV. The White Sox and Tigers conclude their four-game series in Detroit at 1:05 ET on ESPN2 and the Phillies go for a four-game sweep of the Cubs in Wrigley at 2:20 ET on WGN.

The White Sox (74-52) dropped the first two games of the series, but rebounded with a 7-5 victory on Wednesday. Chicago trails Detroit by 6 1/2 games in the AL Central, but leads division-rival Minnesota - which visits the White Sox for three games over the weekend - by a half-game in the wild-card race.

Nate Robertson (11-9, 3.71 ERA) will look to lead Detroit to the series win. He allowed three runs, one earned, and two hits in eight innings of Saturday's 3-1 loss to Texas. Robertson has received two or fewer runs of support in three of his last four starts, taking the loss in each despite a 2.53 ERA in those three outings. Robertson is 4-5 with a 4.41 ERA in 13 career starts against the White Sox, including an 0-2 mark and 4.50 ERA in three starts against them this season.

Jon Garland (14-4, 4.73) goes for the White Sox. He won his second straight start on Saturday, allowing one unearned run and five hits in 7.2 innings of a 4-1 victory at Minnesota. Garland, who retired 14 straight at one point, improved to 10-1 with a 3.20 ERA over his last 12 starts. He's 11-5 with a 4.51 ERA in 20 career starts against the Tigers, including 2-1 with a 6.63 ERA in three starts against them this season.

Philly rookie Cole Hamels (6-6, 4.40) squares off against Chicago's Carlos Zambrano in Wrigley. Hamels has won four of his last four starts and is 3-1 with a 1.33 ERA in four starts in August. This will be his first start in Wrigley. Zambrano is 13-5, 3.34 in 27 starts for a team's that's 53-73. Consider that Chicago is 17-10 in his starts (.630) but just 36-63 (.364) when he doesn't!

Tonight's most interesting game is the Red Sox at the Angels (10:05 ET). Jered Weaver (9-0, 1.95 ERA) looks to become the first American League starting pitcher to win his first 10 decisions in league history! He held Seattle to three singles while striking out seven in seven innings of Los Angeles' 3-0 victory Friday, tying Whitey Ford's record - set in 1950 - as the only AL rookies to win their first nine decisions as starters. Opponents are batting just .191 against him.

Josh Beckett (13-8, 5.35) goes for Boston. Beckett opened 3-0, was 7-1 by late May and 10-3 at the end of June. However, he's 0-3 with an 8.75 ERA in four August starts and owns a 5.92 road ERA on the year. These pitchers met in Boston on July 29 with the Red Sox winning 7-6 in 11 innings. Neither figured in the decision, as Weaver went 6.2 innings allowing seven hits and three ERs, while Beckett went six innings allowing four hits and three ERs.

Wednesday highlights

Scott Olsen improved his record to 10-7 in the Marlins' 9-7 victory over the Nationals, joining his rookie teammates Josh Johnson (11-6) and Ricky Nolasco (11-8), who previously reached double figures in wins. Florida is the first team in 54 years with three rookies with 10 or more victories. The last was the 1952 Brooklyn Dodgers: Joe Black (15-4), Billy Loes (13-8), and Ben Wade (11-9).

Jason Schmidt blew an early 4-1 lead, and the Giants trailed the Diamondbacks when he left the game after six innings. However, San Francisco rallied for a 7-6 win, its 16th consecutive victory when Schmidt has started against Arizona. Over the last 30 years, the only other team to win 16 in a row with a particular starting pitcher against the same opponent was the Orioles, who won 17 straight against the Twins behind Mike Flanagan from 1977 to 1983.

Mark Mulder allowed nine earned runs for the second consecutive start. Only three other pitchers have done so in the last 50 years: Chris Holt and Jose Lima, teammates on the 2000 Astros; and John Thomson of the Rockies in 1998. Mulder's last start had been June 20 vs the White Sox. Mulder wasn't the only pitcher returning off a long layoff, as Toronto's Gustavo Chacin pitched last night for the first time since June 9. He got just four outs, allowing six hits and five ERs in the Blue Jays' 6-0 loss.

As my niece likes to say, "go figure?" When the Indians and Royals stepped on the field last night, the home team had won the last 13 games between the Royals and Indians (six in Kansas City, seven in Cleveland), the longest streak within one season in 15 years. On Wednesday night, the home team Royals took a 10-1 lead in the first inning and LOST! Cleveland won 15-13 in 10 innings.Go figure!

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

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