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Tues, Oct 29, 2013: MLB, NBA

Mike Matheny is getting a fair bit of heat and the Cardinals are in a must-win situation until the end. Fortunately they are 4-0 in their last 4 during game 6 of a series and 6-1 in their last 7 interleague games vs. a right-handed starter.

And I hear there is this other sports called, what is it… Bas-ket-ball. Right. Basketball. The NBA’s 2013-14 season opens tonight and here at B3TZ sports we’re throwing caution to the wind. The marquee match-up pits the reigning world champion Miami Heat against the “Derrick Rose is back now” Bulls. Rose has something to prove here.

And why not pull another rabbit out of the hat? The Clippers and Lakers mix it up in Los Angeles. The Clippers season last year was a disappointment and the Lakers are on the brink of calling it quits and rebuilding and tonight will be the first hard evidence.

MLB: Indians at Twins

Come on already Cleveland Indians, wrap this sucker up. Cleveland is a game up on the Texas Rangers for the American League’s second wild card and one behind the Tampa Bay Rays for the top spot. Will the Indians take full advantage of a weak schedule down the stretch to draw closer to a wild-card spot.

They visit the Minnesota Twins for the opener of a four-game, regular season-closing series Thursday and will have to hope they can get it done on the road.

The Twins (66-92) are just slightly better than Chicago and Houston but played the American League Central-leading Detroit Tigers tough in a three-game series this week.

And Cleveland is going to get a nice gift as the Twins send left-hander Andrew Albers (2-4, 3.98) to the mound. Albers is attempting to snap a seven-start winless streak and make it through five innings for only the second time in his last five turns.

The Indians got to feel confident sending Zach McAllister (9-9, 3.88 ERA) to face Minnesota. The 25-year-old last made it through seven innings against Minnesota on Aug. 24, when he yielded two runs on four hits in 7 1/3 frames to pick up a win. Though overall, McAllister is 2-3 with a 4.43 ERA in five career starts against the Twins.

September has been a bit of a grind for the Twins. After winning their first three games this month, they have dropped 17 of 22, including a 3-10 mark against clubs currently holding playoff spots.

The Indians have won nine of 15 games against Minnesota this season, but they’ve split the six contests at Target Field.

[copy assembled from MLB.com and other sources]

MLB: Dodgers at Giants

Earlier this year, much earlier, Barry Zito couldn’t lose at AT&T Park going 9-0 at one point. And while he couldn’t win anywhere else, you could take the good with the bad. But then he couldn’t win anywhere and got dropped from the rotation. Such has been his tenure with the Giants. Major success (2012: won last 15 games he started and both post-season appearances — including Game 1 of the World Series) and major failures (too many to list here…).

Wednesday night, Zito will get one last chance to end his Giants’ career with a ‘W’ in San Francisco. He will face the now reigning NL West champion and bitter division rival Dodgers.

The appearance of Zito (4-11, 5.91) back in the rotation is going to divide fans. One side is just done with him; thanks for the key victories, we like you but, since you’re not winning anymore, goodbye. The other side wants to see Barry win one last game in the orange and black.

The team has said it decided to shut down starter Madison Bumgarner for the final five games, and they need Zito to start in his place. But I doubt that’s anything more than a nice coincidence.

Trouble is, the Dodgers are the only NL team with a winning record at AT&T Park and are in full post-season ramp-up mode — not to mention Los Angeles is only two games behind the Braves as it attempts to secure home-field advantage during the National League playoffs.

Add to that Ricky Nolasco (8-2, 3.14 ERA) is fighting for a place in the Dodgers starting rotation and you have a mountain for Zito to climb for the win.

But as Zito has shown Giants fan time and again, just when you think he’s done, he has a little more to give.

MLB: Rays at Yankees

Tampa Bay, which has won four straight, is 9-7 against the Yankees while leading Cleveland by one game and Texas by two for the top spot in American League wild-card race. The Rays take to the road for the final six games of the regular season after winning nine of their last 12 to put destiny in their own hands starting in the Bronx Tuesday night.

Matt Moore (15-4, 3.34 ERA) lost for the first time in more than three months Thursday, allowing six runs (five earned) over four innings against Texas. The 24-year-old is 2-0 against the Yankees this season in four starts with a 3.55 ERA, but surrendered five runs over five innings in his last outing against them July 28. Alfonso Soriano is 2-for-3 with a homer versus Moore, who is 4-2 lifetime against New York with a 4.24 ERA.

The Rays have had 10 different pitchers start games this season, their most in one season since 2006, when 12 different pitchers started games. Since 2008, Tampa Bay has used only 20 starting pitchers — three fewer than any other team in baseball (Giants, 23).

This series a must-win for the Yankees, who will send Hiroki Kuroda to the mound on Tuesday. Kuroda is looking to even his season record at 12-12, though he owns a formidable 3.17 ERA on the year. Kuroda hasn’t won since Aug. 12 against the Angels, and he has dropped each of his past two decisions.

Tampa Bay or Cleveland? The Wild Card race here is neck-and-neck. The Indians have faltered but Tampa Bay has the harder task tonight while Cleveland won’t get much resistance from the White Sox.

[copy assembled from MLB.com and other sources]

MLB: Tigers at Twins

Monday will give Tigers ace Justin Verlander another chance to revert to that ace-like form that he’s been searching to find consistently this year. He’ll take on fellow righty Mike Pelfrey in the series opener at Target Field.

And for Detroit, everything will feel like failure if they don’t get back to the World Series.

With the American League Central title in their sights, the Detroit Tigers can trim their magic number in half on Monday, but they are looking weary across the board. Verlander (13-12, 3.66 ERA) fell to 1-4 in his last nine starts after allowing three runs on four hits in seven innings against Seattle on Wednesday and Miguel Cabrera was given the day off on Sunday to rest his sore groin and is listed as day-to-day.

Pelfrey (5-13, 5.34) lost his third straight start Tuesday, when he allowed three runs on nine hits in 4 1/3 innings against the White Sox. The 29-year-old hasn’t won since yielding three runs in 6 2/3 frames against the Tigers on Aug. 20. Although the victories have been scarce, Pelfrey has permitted only four homers in his last 10 starts and 13 on the season

Verlander was blitzed in his last meeting with Minnesota on Aug. 22, permitting six runs on 10 hits in seven frames of a no-decision.

And starting pitching has not been a strength of the Twins this year, entering Monday’s series opener with a Major League-leading 552 innings of relief work this year.
[copy assembled from MLB.com and other sources]

MLB: Marlins at Nationals

Jordan Zimmermann can move one step closer to 20 victories when the Washington Nationals host the Miami Marlins in the second of a four-game series Friday night. Zimmermann (18-8, 3.33) leads the National League with 18 wins and cannot afford to stumble with the Nationals sitting five games behind Cincinnati for the second wild card with nine games remaining.

And at least for today, things still look positive for Washington to stay on track to accomplish that.

The Marlins have been out of any thoughts of the post season for months and tonight’s starter Jacob Turner (3-7, 3.51 ERA) has not won since the All-Star break, going 0-6 in his last 11 outings and failing to get through six innings in his last seven starts.

He had a rocky outing against the Nationals on Sept. 8, lasting only four innings and giving up five runs on nine hits —  including a pair of homers. He also was taken deep twice in his last start, when he allowed three runs on five hits in five innings versus the Mets.

His short outing are thanks in no small part to manager Mike Redmond not wanting to destroy his young talent’s confidence. Well done.

On a personal note Miami outfielder Juan Pierre, with 2,215 career hits, needs one to pass Joe DiMaggio on the all-time list. No small feat.

I’m tempted to think the Marlins and Turner will pull a rabbit out of their hat tonight but probably not.

[copy assembled from MLB.com and other sources]

MLB: Astros at Indians

The Astros are embarking on their final road trip of the season and Houston can impact the playoff chase one way or another, playing its final 13 games against contending teams. The Astros were out of the race months ago but have not stopped competing and took the Cincinnati Reds to extra innings on Wednesday before falling 6-5 in 13 frames.

So, The Indians don’t look to get much of a break when they host the opener of a four-game series against the major league-worst Houston Astros on Thursday. Cleveland sits one-half game behind the Texas Rangers for the second American League wild-card spot.

Or won’t they? Though Houston’s Dallas Keuchel (6-9, 5.71 ERA) snapped a string of seven straight winless appearances with a victory over the Los Angeles Angels on Friday he still allowed six runs on 10 hits in 5 2/3 frames. Keuchel was knocked around for seven runs (three earned) in 2 2/3 frames against Cleveland on April 20.

The Indians will counter with Ubaldo Jimenez (12-9, 3.49). Jimenez is becoming the most reliable starter on Terry Francona’s staff and is aiming for a four straight turn with fewer than two earned runs allowed.

I don’t see this one as being a pushover for the Indians, who won two of three from the Astros in Houston in April but, the teams have split six games all-time in Cleveland. And while Jimenez is expected to be the stopper in Cleveland’s mini-skid, the Astros have had some success against him.

[copy assembled from MLB.com and other sources]

MLB: Cardinals at Rockies

St. Louis carries a one-game lead over the Pittsburgh Pirates into the third contest of a four-game series against the Rockies in Colorado on Wednesday. As St. Louis was unleashing a 15-hit attack in an 11-4 victory over the Rockies on Tuesday, it was getting a big assist in the standings by San Diego who was winning its second straight in Pittsburgh.

Right-hander Adam Wainwright (16-9, 2.96 ERA) takes the hill in the third of a four-game set against the Rockies at Coors Field, as St. Louis looks to maintain its one-game edge over the second-place Pirates in the National League Central.

The Cardinals/Rockies series is tied at 1, and it will be Rockies righty Tyler Chatwood (7-4, 3.20) who looks to swing it in Colorado’s favor. Chatwood has struggled with a right thumb injury and his efficiency this season. He allowed seven hits and walked six D-backs in his last outing on Friday.

Chatwood has struggled with a right thumb injury and his efficiency this season.

Rockies first baseman Todd Helton is a .281 career hitter with 22 homers and 67 RBIs in 109 games against the Cardinals. Helton plans to retire at the end of the season but can he put a bite on Wainwright to improve the Rockies team ERA of .222 against Wainwright, with Troy Tulowitzki 1-for-11?

[copy assembled from MLB.com and other sources]

MLB: Giants at Mets

If you are a Giants fan there is something to root for, cheer for and especially pray for — for the rest of the baseball season: The Giants are trying to avoid becoming only the second team in the World Series era (since 1903) to finish in last place as the defending champion. The 1998 Marlins are the only team to do so.

And they won’t get any help today as they will once again face their former top pitching prospect, Zack Wheeler Zack Wheeler (7-5, 3.22), who they gave away (it didn’t qualify as a trade if you ask me) to the Mets in 2011 for Carlos Beltran (sigh…) at the Trade Deadline. That was a total bust.

All Wheeler did at AT&T Park on July 10 was beat San Francisco with seven innings of one-run ball, striking out five and scattering three hits.

While Wheeler likely will always cause Giants fans to wonder what could have been, their starter Tuesday has them wondering what they might have. Right-hander Yusmeiro Petit (3-0, 2.53 ERA) is set to make his fifth start for San Francisco this season, having gone 3-0 with a 2.36 ERA — and a near-perfect game — in his first four.

San Francisco is undefeated in his four starts, during which time he is allowing opposing hitters to bat .206 and has yet to surrender a home run.

Of late and ESPECIALLY AGAINST THE DODGERS, the Giants have been firing on all cylinders, as a team batting .297 and has scoring 77 runs in September, the first- and second-best marks in the National League over that span, respectively.

San Francisco is playing to ‘win out’ the rest of the season and I predict Wheeler will be the next notch in their bat.
[copy assembled from MLB.com and other sources]

MLB: Rangers at Rays

A pair of struggling teams still holding down the American League’s two wild-card spots meet when the Texas Rangers visit the Tampa Bay Rays on Monday to begin a four-game series. The Rangers have dropped six in a row and gone 2-11 this month to fall into a tie with the Rays at 81-67, one-half game ahead of the Cleveland Indians.

The series will certainly have a postseason feeling, but Rangers manager Ron Washington said before Sunday’s loss to the A’s that he’s not worried about potential playoff implications.

On the mound for the Rangers will be  Matt Garza (9-5, 3.79 ERA). Garza is winless in his past four starts and lasted only four innings against the Pirates on Wednesday.

Also struggling of late is the Rays’ starter Alex Cobb (8-3, 3.08).  Cobb has gone four games without a victory, allowing 11 runs in 25 1/3 innings while receiving a total of only 10 runs of support, though he  is 5-0 in 11 starts at home.

Tampa Bay needs one victory to clinch its sixth consecutive winning season.
[copy assembled from MLB.com and other sources]