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AL Streaks and ATS Highlights

   by Al McMordie - 07/05/2009

Handicapping baseball is about searching and tweaking to find positive results. Managers do this to lineups to try and get the most out of them. Boston manager Terry Francona shifted his lineup last month, dropping Jacoby Ellsbury from the leadoff spot because he wasn’t getting on base enough while moving slumping slugger David Ortiz from the third to the No. 7 slot.

Ortiz has improved since then, but the move put higher on-base percentage guys like Kevin Youkalis and J.D. Drew higher in the order and helped spark the offense. By the way, Boston’s combination of great pitching depth and improving defense is the main reason they’ve been on a 28-14-2 run under the total.

Tampa Bay may be in third place in the AL East, but the defending AL champs are sending four players to the All-Star team and playing well. Evan Longoria won the fan vote and will start at third base for the American League, and teammates Carl Crawford, Jason Bartlett and Ben Zobrist also made the team. Carlos Peña may also find his way in, leading the AL with 23 homers and also leads the way with 54 walks. Adding lefty David Price to the rotation and getting Scott Kazmir back are as good as any trade the Rays could have made for the second half run. With all that pitching, Tampa Bay is on a 16-9 run under the total.

The Blue Jays continue to fade in the AL East, largely because injuries to the starting staff has finally caught up to them. Having Roy Halladay out for a few weeks hurt not just because he’s a dominant ace, but because it had a domino effect on the rest of the staff and bullpen. Toronto is on a 2-7 run and the Toronto Star had this headline after a loss at NY: “TheStar.com | Baseball | Doc Halladay rocked in homer hell

Doc Halladay rocked in homer hell.â€쳌

"I think he's still working on his location," manager Cito Gaston said of his ace, who was making his second start since returning from the disabled list with a sore groin. Righty Scott Richmond was placed on the 15-day disabled list throwing the Jays' rotation into further disarray. The 29-year-old is suffering from tendinitis in his right shoulder and becomes the 10th different Jays pitcher to go on the DL this season. LHP Brad Mills will be recalled by the Jays and will start this week against the Rays.

The Tigers may be in the running for a division title, but their pitchers are walking too many batters and the offense still has yet to get going. Manager Jim Leyland expressed concern this weekend about how disappointing the offense has been in the first half. It has been a boon to astute bettors, however, as Detroit is on 29-14-1 run under the total.

Like Detroit, Oakland has had a lousy offense all season, and they are on a 10-3 run under the total. And for a team that's struggled offensively, Oakland does not have it any easier this week as they continue a nine-game road trip. Look at the pitchers they face: Over a three-game stretch they face Cleveland left-hander Cliff Lee, plus John Smoltz and Josh Beckett of the Red Sox. That is the defending American League Cy Young winner (Lee), a former National League Cy Young winner (Smoltz), and a former World Series MVP (Beckett). Then they face 42-year-old Tim Wakefield who is tied for the AL lead in wins. Wakefield (10-3) took a no-hitter into the eighth inning during an April 15 victory at the Oakland Coliseum. Jason Giambi is hitting just .163 (15-for-92) against the knuckleballer.

There is an old wagering adage about going against pitchers coming off the DL. Ervin Santana of the Angels came back over the weekend, and lost to the Orioles at home, 6-4. He loaded the bases in the first inning. But Mike Scioscia said after the game that he was impressed with Santana's performance despite the score.

"Physically he's real close to where he used to be," Scioscia said. "There's a little difference between being physically well and going out there, finding a rhythm and making pitches and there's a little bit of a gap right now. If he matches the command with it, he's going to get the results." Regardless, the Angels are on a nice run, winning 8 of 11 games despite playing a six-game road trip. They are getting healthy, which is even more important than any kind of streak a team might be on. Good luck, as always...Al McMordie.

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