Ness Notes (August 11)

The Mets continue to advance as the best team in the National League with a 69-44 record. Their 7-3 win over the Padres on Thursday gives them a season-high 14-game lead in the NL East and a record 8 1/2 games better than the St. Louis Cardinals. who with a record of 62-52, are owners of the second division of the National League. best mark.

My bye for Friday is the NY Yankees over the LA Angels at 7:05 ET. Following last night’s 2-0 sweep of my NFLX Doubleheader, I’ll throw my only Week One 20* into tonight’s game. In MLB, it’s another one of my exclusive Las Vegas Insiders (2-0 since Saturday) plus an MLB Triple 15 Report*, featuring my National League pitching mismatch of the month.

New York will enter this weekend’s game with MLB’s longest active winning streak (five straight) and MLB’s second-best road record (34-22), as only the Tigers (39-19) they have been better this year away from home. The Red Sox and Pirates enter the weekend tied for the longest active losing streak in the MLB as both teams have lost five in a row!

That’s to be expected from Pittsburgh, which at 42-73 owns a record that’s only a half-game better than the KC Royals (41-73). The Pirates own the worst road record in MLB at 14-45 and have overtaken the Cleveland Indians for last place in MLB’s top “money line” ranking. Pittsburgh’s current drop has them at minus-$2,324 on the year at $100/game.

However, what about the Red Sox? The team’s five-game losing streak has taken them to 65-48, three games behind the Yankees in the AL East, as well as two games behind the White Sox in the wild-card hunt (even the Twins are 1 1/2 games ahead of Boston). Of greater concern should be that the team’s slump has come against the Devil Rays (first two losses) and Royals (last three losses), the two worst teams in the American League!

In last night’s loss to the Royals, Curt Schilling allowed 10 extra-base hits to the Royals, the most against any major league pitcher in a game in 37 years, since Cleveland’s Luis Tiant gave up 10 (five homers and five doubles) to the Royals. Red Sox at Fenway Park on April 18, 1969. Schilling is the first American League pitcher to allow nine or more doubles in a game since July 10, 1935, when Washington’s Earl Whitehill allowed 10 two-base hits to the Tigers.

Before moving on to Friday’s 15-game schedule, I mentioned two pitchers in yesterday’s notes, San Diego’s Chris Young and Cincy’s Bronson Arroyo. Young didn’t take the loss against the Mets yesterday and is now 8-0 with 12 no-decisions in his last 20 road starts (3-0 in his last nine road starts with Texas last season and 5-0 in 11 road starts with San Diego this season). It is only the 10th time in MLB history that a pitcher has gone undefeated in 20 straight starts on the road.

Arroyo faltered for the 10th straight start on Thursday, earning his 10th win of the year. He becomes the first major league pitcher since 1900 to win at least nine of his first 15 starts in a season and then win none of his next 10 starts. Arroyo started this year 9-3 but hasn’t recorded a win in his 10 starts since then. wow!

The most important series this weekend will be between the Tigers and the White Sox in Chicago. Game one is tonight at 8:35 ET and features Detroit rookie Justin Verlander (14-4, 2.79) against Jose Contreras (10-4, 3.75). The White Sox are coming off a three-game home series with the Yankees in which they won two of three, with each game decided by one run. The Tigers beat the Twins on Monday 99-3, but then lost the last two games of the series by scores of 4-2 and 4-3.
Detroit (76-38) enters this game with the best record in the major leagues and an 8 1/2-game lead over the White Sox (67-46) in the AL Central. Although the Tigers have had sole possession of the division lead since May 21, they have lost six of nine this season to the White Sox.

Justin Verlander hasn’t pitched since August. 1, but he looks to become the majors’ first 15-game winner and win his eighth straight decision when he takes the mound for Detroit in the series opener. Leyland decided to skip the 23-year-old rookie right-hander’s last scheduled starts to rest his weary arm. Verlander will look for better results against the White Sox this time. He is 0-2 with an 11.42 ERA in two starts against Chicago, allowing 11 runs on 14 hits (four home runs) in just 8 2/3 innings.

Jose Contreras takes the mound for Chicago and will try to avoid his fifth loss in six starts since the All-Star break after opening the season 9-0. Contreras tied a season high by allowing six runs in 6 2-3 innings of Sunday’s 7-3 loss at Toronto. He’s already faced the Tigers three times this season, going 2-1 with a 2.05 ERA in those outings, including a June 7 win over Verlander. He is 7-3 with a 3.30 ERA in 14 career starts against Detroit.

I have two closing notes from MLB. First, regarding Zach Duke of Pittsburgh. Last year, the young left-hander put the world of baseball on his ear. After going 12-3 with Triple-A Indianapolis, he was recalled in July and went 8-2 with a 1.81 ERA in 14 starts for a Pittsburgh club that finished the season 67-95.

However, not much has gone well for him this year. Yet while he has pitched just as poorly at home (5.13 ERA) as he has on the road (5.54), the Pirates are 8-3 in his home starts and 1-12 in his 13 road starts. Guess the numbers? The Pirates are 28-28 at home and 14-45, the worst in the ML, on the road.

The Royals, fresh off their three-game sweep of the Red Sox, will open a three-game series tonight in Cleveland against the Indians (7:05 ET). While both of these teams are having miserable seasons (the Royals are the worst in ML 41-73 and the Indians are 49-64), there is a HUGE discrepancy between the betting fortunes of the teams.

While the Indians own a record that’s 8 1/2 games better than the Royals in the standings, playing $100 a game on each team would cost you $2,308 in Cleveland, but only $104 less in Kansas City. That is a difference worth noting!

NFL ratings

The Eagles opened up a 20-0 lead over the Browns last night and won 20-7. The loss in point spread by the Browns ended a streak of seven consecutive preseason ‘covers’ by the team, a streak that was the longest active of any team. The longest active SU winning streak of any team in the preseason is owned by the Broncos (4-0 SU and 3-1 ATS last year) and they play tonight in Detroit against the Lions at 7:30 ET.

The Colts lost in St Louis to the Rams 19-17 in last night’s televised game. Twenty-two of the game’s 36 points were scored in the first quarter, when the Rams’ Scotsman Linehan earned a victory in his NFL coaching debut. Although the Colts covered the five-point spread, it was the team’s seventh straight preseason loss (the Colts were 0-5 SU and ATS in 2005).

The Chiefs will have a six-game losing streak in the preseason (as well as a six-game losing streak in the ATS) when they visit Houston tomorrow at 8:00 ET to take on the Texans. Interestingly, the Texans own the worst preseason ATS record of any team in the last five seasons (2001-05). The Texans have actually only had four preseasons (joining the NFL in 2002) but their 4-13 ATS is still their worst.

Following the Texans are the Dolphins (6-13-3), Raiders (7-14), Lions (7-13) and Redskins (8-14). The top five preseason ATS records over the past five years belong to the Cardinals (14-6), Titans (13-6-1), Cowboys and Jets (both 14-7) plus Browns (13-7). .

Of course, the Raiders have opened 1-0 ATS this year (they won and covered against Philly last Sunday) and the Browns lost last night, so maybe these five-year records don’t mean much. Then again, maybe they do? Along with the Broncos/Lions, there are four other games on tonight’s NFL preseason schedule, including the Patriots in Atlanta to take on the Falcons at 8:00 ET on CBS.

Ness Notes is available Monday through Friday at 1:00 ET, but remember I have a special edition of Ness Notes (available Saturday morning) featuring the CFB’s 2006 coaching carousel.

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