Ness’s Notes (July 28)
It’s not often that a last-place team has the distinction of possessing the longest active winning streak in MLB. Going into another baseball weekend, though, the Washington Nationals (just 46-56 overall), are on a six-game winning streak in their three-game series at Dodger Stadium (10:40 ET).
My free game for Friday is at the Bal Orioles over the Chi White Sox at 7:05 ET. After spending two of the last three days, I open the weekend with a single play on Friday. He’s a Las Vegas Insider as I try to improve my 25-13 streak since May 1 with these exclusive plays.
All six of Washington’s victories have come at home (three against the Cubs and three against the Giants) and while they will be on the road tonight (where the team is just 20-32), the good news is that they are playing the Dodgers. LA has lost eight straight games (MLB’s longest active losing streak) and is 1-13 since halftime.
The Dodgers have been outscored 81-29 in that span, and the team that went into halftime with the best batting average in the National League can’t seem to hit (or score) these days. LA hasn’t lost nine straight games since June 1992, when the Dodgers suffered a 10-game losing streak.
Tonight’s pitching showdown isn’t a classic, as Tony Armas goes for the Nats and rookie Chad Billingsley for the Dodgers. Alfonso Soriano is clearly not allowing the trade rumors to bother him, as he is hitting. 422 from the break, leading Washington to an 8-4 record.
It’s a full schedule of games tonight (15), with the Tigers / Twins reunion taking center stage. Detroit owns the best MLB overall record at 68-33, but no team has garnered more attention these days than the red-hot Twins, who have been 34-8 since June 8.
Minnesota was 11 games away from the AL wild-card spot before its current career, but enters this three-game series at home with Detroit tied with the White Sox at 59-41, just half a game behind the NY Yankees. (59-40).
The bad news for Minnesota is that the Twins are 2-7 against Detroit this year (outscored 64-25), including a three-game sweep of the Tigers at Comerica Park in late April in which the Tigers outscored the Twins, 33 -1! More bad news for the Twins comes from the fact that the Tigers’ 30-13 record in the AL Central is the best record of any team in MLB against its own division.
Tonight’s game (8:10 ET) features two rookie pitchers, Detroit’s Zack Miner and the Twins’ Francisco Liriano. Miner has pitched in the shadow of Justin Verlander this year, but after being called up in early June, he has pitched very well. He lost his first start, but then won six in a row, posting a 2.13 ERA.
However, Miner has been bombarded in his last two outings, allowing 15 hits and 10 ER in just 6.2 innings. That’s not good news against the Twins, a team that owns MLB’s best home record at 37-11, after winning 20 of its last 21 home games.
Liriano, of course, since it has been a big news this year. He had his first start on 5/19 and is 11-2 in his 13 starts in 2006, posting a 1.93 ERA. He started the year in the bullpen and has faced the Tigers twice this season.
He allowed 11 hits and seven ERs in just 3.2 innings of work against Detroit in those two appearances and it should be noted that the Tigers are 23-7 against left-handed starters this year, including 13-4 on the road. Those two relief appearances don’t seem like much of a concern to me though, as the Twins are the favorites under $ 1.75 (and climbing!).
While the Tigers / Twins series is the marquee showdown of the weekend, the Angels and Red Sox also open a three-game series of note tonight. The Angels are 17-5 in July and enter the weekend just half a game behind the A’s in the AL West.
The Red Sox have the second-best record in the MLB at 61-39 and while they have made the postseason in each of the last three seasons, including the World Series in 2004, they have not won the AL East since 1995.
In fact, the archrivals of the New York Yankees finished the first eight years in a row and nine of the last 10. Boston enters the weekend with a game and a half advantage over the Yankees in the East.
A quick review of the “money line” rankings shows that the Tigers continue to dominate the majors, at more than $ 3,047 for the year. The Twins’ recent hot streak and Chicago’s recent slump (the White Sox are just 2-10 since halftime and have lost 12 of their last 15), has caused a change behind Detroit.
The White Sox have fallen into the top five, with more than $ 569. Meanwhile, Minnesota is in second place with more $ 1,870, the Red Sox are third with more $ 1,341, the Mets are fourth with more $ 1,028 and the Reds (only 54-48) are now fifth with over- $ 641.
A look at the bottom points shows the Pirates at minus $ 2,283, the Indians at minus $ 1,968, the Cubs at minus $ 1,808, the Astros at minus $ 1,698 and the Phillies at minus $ 1,579. Despite MLB’s worst record (35-66), the Royals are under $ 510 on the year.
The lines are removed for the NFL Hall of Fame Game (the Eagles are minus 3 and the total is 36), Week 1 of the preseason, and Week 1 of the NFL regular season. My NFL previews will start on Monday.
Ness Notes is available Monday through Friday at 1:00 ET.