As I’ve said so many times, “fortunes change very fast in MLB.” Just the latest examples are the current destinations of the Los Angeles Dodgers and St. Louis Cardinals. The Dodgers won 3-0 last night in Greg Maddux’s team debut (six innings and no hits!) And enter the weekend with the longest active winning streak in MLB (six in a row).
My free game for Friday is at the Oak A’s over the Sea Mariners at 10:05 ET. Tonight in MLB, I’m pitching one of my exclusive LEGEND Plays (4-0 in MLB 2006), as I look forward to coming out of a FEA nine-day run. Be sure to check out my play in this year’s NFL Hall of Fame Game over the weekend on Sunday.
Meanwhile, the Cardinals were beaten 8-1 by the Phillies last night as Chase Utley had three hits for the Phillies and extended his hitting streak to 35 games. The Cardinals have lost seven straight games, MLB’s longest active losing streak. Not long ago, things had been very different for these two teams.
The Dodgers opened the second half of the season by losing 13 of their first 14 games (they were outscored 81-29) and had lost eight straight games heading into their three-game home series with the Nationals last Friday. The Dodgers won tonight a week ago 13-1 and have outscored their opponents by a combined 42-16 in their winning streak.
The Cardinals were struggling before the break and had lost 13 of 16 games after losing the first game of their four-game series to the Astros in Houston on the final weekend of the first half of the season. However, the Cards took the final three games of that series and then opened the second half by sweeping a four-game series in Los Angeles against the declining Dodgers.
Now the Cardinals are back fighting, allowing 34 hits and 24 runs in their last two games, while being outscored 50-26 on their current slide. The Dodgers will attempt to extend their winning streak this weekend in Florida as the Cardinals attempt to end their streak against the Brewers at home. St Louis opened a minus $ 1.85 favorite despite their losing streak, as Chris Carpenter starts and starting money already has them hovering around minus $ 2.00.
Speaking of the $ 2.00 favorites, Carlos Zambrano and the Cubs open the 15-game schedule Friday as a minus $ 2.15 favorite when they host the Pirates at 2:20 ET. Zambrano (12-3, 3.26) has won his last nine decisions, losing for the last time on May 31. He is 7-2 with a 3.45 ERA in 11 career starts and two relief appearances against Pittsburgh. Pittsburgh initiates Tom Gorzelanny, coming off his first ML win in his last outing. However, at 13-40, the Pirates have the worst road record in MLB.
Three American League teams started as $ 2.00 favorites on Friday and all are playing on the road! Randy Johnson is going for the Yankees when they visit the Orioles tonight at 7:05 ET and is 11-9 with a 5.07 ERA. However, the Orioles send Bruce Chen to the mound, the 0-6 mark with a 7.07 ERA, if you’re wondering why the Yankees are a huge favorite.
The Red Sox visit the Devil Rays in Tampa tonight at 7:15 ET and with Curt Schilling on the mound, he opened as under $ 2.30 favorites. Boston dominated the series at Tropicana Field from 2001-2004, going 28-10 in that span. However, since the start of last season, the Red Sox have been 6-10 at Tampa Bay and have lost their last three series there, including both this season.
Curt Schilling (13-4, 3.84 ERA) has also struggled at Tropicana Field this season, losing both of his starts there to account for half of his losses. Meanwhile, Boston’s starting rotation has posted a 2-5 record, a 7.47 ERA and a .342 batting average against in its last 11 games. So why are the Red Sox such big favorites? The answer is Tampa rookie starter James Shields. The right-hander is 0-5 with a 7.26 ERA in his last seven starts after going 4-0 in his first five career starts.
Minnesota’s Johan Santana (12-5, 3.11 ERA) is 9-3 with a 3.74 ERA in 25 career appearances against the Royals, including 14 starts. He will attempt his 10th career win against the Royals tonight at 8:10 ET, a team that owns MLB’s worst overall record (38-70) and is just 8-22 against left-handed starters this season. Mark Redman (7-6, 5.40) is going for KC and the Twins have had no trouble hitting Redman. He lasted just 1 2-3 innings in a 7-3 loss to Minnesota on April 27, allowing six hits and five runs. Redman is 0-3 with a 6.14 ERA in seven career starts against the Twins.
The 2006 NFL preseason begins Sunday night from Canton, Ohio, with the Hall of Fame Game between the Oakland Raiders and the Philadelphia Eagles (8:00 ET on NBC). The Eagles are favored by three points with the total hovering around 36 or 36 1/2. I’ve been “teasing” the next NFL season all week and my countdown to the 2006 season in earnest next week.
It is important to note that luck changes rapidly in the NFL, just as it does in the MLB. Consider that since the NFL expanded to 32 teams and two four-division conferences, 21 of the 32 teams have won at least one divisional title (65.6 percent) and 26 teams (81.3 percent) have made at least one appearance in the playoffs.
The six players who have not made the playoffs in the past four years are the Cardinals (who last made the postseason in ’98), the Bills and the Lions who last made the playoffs in ’99, the Saints ( the latter made the playoffs in 2000) and the Dolphins and Texans. Miami, which by the way ended the 2005 season on a six-game winning streak, last reached the playoffs in ’01, while the expansion Texans are 0-for-4 in their four years since becoming the 32nd NFL franchise in 2002.
Speaking of the playoffs, last year’s 12-team playoff field included seven teams that had not qualified for the postseason in 2004. The league adopted its current 12-team playoff field in the 1990 season and, as of 1991, it is not unusual for a year. playoff team roster to be completed by teams that had not qualified for the postseason the previous year.
Last year’s seven total was high, but it was one less than in the 2003 playoff season, when eight teams on the playoff field that year had not qualified for the previous year’s playoffs. The average playoff season (over the past 15 years) has seen his playoff roster completed with an average of 5.67 teams per season that had not made the previous year’s postseason. The 1994 season saw only four participants who were not in the previous year’s playoffs, as five of the six NFC representatives had also been in the 1993 playoffs.
The AFC West has been the most volatile division in the league since 2002, as all four teams in that division have won division titles in the past four years. The Raiders won in 2002, the Chiefs in 2003, the Chargers in 2004 and the Broncos last year. The most stable divisions have been the AFC East and South, where the Pats (East) and Colts (South) have each claimed three consecutive division titles.
The Packers had won three consecutive NFC North titles heading into the 2005 season, as had the Eagles in the NFC East, but both races came to an end last year with the Bears 11-5 winning the North (GB I was only 4-12). and the Giants 11-5 winning the East (Philadelphia was just 6-10).
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