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Thursday, July 17, 2008
Updated: July 20, 8:04 PM ET
Phillies, Marlins open second half with important series in NL East

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Hanley Ramirez is hitting .348 at home against the Phillies over the past two seasons.

WEEKEND PREVIEW

By Mark Simon, ESPN Research

Baseball gets back up and kicking on Friday -- every team is in action, most for the first time in the second half. We'll see if some time off helped the Rays, who limped into the break on a seven-game losing streak.

"SUNDAY NIGHT BASEBALL"

Red Sox at Angels, 6:05 p.m. ET, ESPN

The other Florida residents, the Marlins, open with an important matchup at home with the Phillies this weekend. Few took the Marlins' success seriously early this season, but the National League East is very much there for the taking, particularly if the Marlins can get better pitching in the second half of the season.

Also, with the July 31 trade deadline approaching, the next two weeks will be interesting as teams decide whether to buy or sell.

A look ahead at the weekend's best:

Best series

Phillies at Marlins

If the Marlins want to keep themselves in the hunt in the NL East, it would serve them well to get off to a strong start in this series. The Marlins could end up in first place by the end of the weekend with a strong showing.

Marlins at home vs. Phillies (past 2 seasons)
W-L 8-4
BA .264
Runs per game 5.4
ERA 4.22
Hanley Ramirez .348 BA, 4 HRs, 7 RBIs

Best pitching matchup

Roy Halladay (TOR) at Scott Kazmir (TAM), 6:10 p.m. ET, Saturday

With teams resetting their starting rotations for the start of the second half, there are some interesting matchups on the board. While Halladay closed out the first half of his season with three consecutive wins, Kazmir struggled mightily.

Scott Kazmir's season
First 7 starts Last 7 starts
W-L 6-1 1-4
ERA 1.40 4.97
BA against .179 .260

Best of the rest

Vladimir Guerrero is known to swing at -- and hit -- just about anything. Need proof? Look at his numbers against Red Sox knuckleballer Tim Wakefield. The matchup should be one of the more intriguing ones to watch on "Sunday Night Baseball", which starts at 6:05 p.m. because of the ESPYs.

Guerrero vs. Wakefield (career)
BA .438
HR 4
RBI 7
K-BB 3-8

Past Baseball Tonight Clubhouses: July 14 | July 13 | July 10 | July 9 | July 8 | July 7

BBTN ON THE AIR: SUNDAY

TIME WHO'S ON?
12:30 p.m. ET
ESPN
Host: Karl Ravech
Analysts: John Kruk, Steve Phillips
5 p.m. ET
ESPN
Host: Karl Ravech
Analysts: John Kruk, Steve Phillips, Eric Young

SPORTSNATION: ALL-TIME FRANCHISE PLAYERS

Baseball Tonight wants to hear from you. Go ahead and click here to vote for the all-time franchise players for all 30 big league teams.

BBTN MINUTE: RAYS SNAP LOSING STREAK

IF IT'S A TIE, IT'S A TIE

Baseball fans got quite upset in 2002 when the All-Star Game ended in a tie. You could hear the same screaming coming again earlier this week when the All-Star Game at Yankee Stadium just kept going. Let's make this simple: There is nothing wrong with the game. There is nothing wrong with the format. There would be nothing wrong if it ended in a tie.

You don't need to add players or change the rules. You don't need to expand the rosters. And we can stop complaining about the way managers use their players.

In the next two weeks, Bud Selig needs to alert all parties that, beginning in 2009, no All-Star Game shall last more than 15 innings. If the game is tied after 15 innings, it will end in a tie and home-field advantage for that year's World Series will be determined by which of the two teams in the World Series has a better record. That's it.

Understand that since the All-Star Game began in 1933, only twice has a game lasted 15 innings. The 2002 nightmare went only 11 innings before it was called. The game rarely, if ever, lasts that long, but if it does, there should be no complaining.

THURSDAY'S NOTEWORTHY PERFORMANCES

GOOD
Troy GlausTroy Glaus went deep twice against the Padres, connecting on a solo shot in the second and another in the fourth in the Cardinals' win.
BAD
Johan Santana• Moments after being handed a 2-0 lead, Johan Santana gave up five runs in the bottom of the fourth inning against Cincinnati.
UGLY
Francisco CorderoFrancisco Cordero gave up six hits and four runs in the ninth inning as the Reds turned an 8-6 lead into a 10-8 loss against the Mets.

FANTASY: PREVIEW OF FRIDAY'S GAMES

Tristan Cockcroft examines the pitching matchups in store for the 15 games on Friday's schedule.

Tristan also looks at current injuries and details player reports that could help shape the way you put together your roster for Friday's games. Daily Notes

NEWS AND NOTES

Magglio Ordonez • Magglio Ordonez went 1-for-5 in his return from the disabled list. He had been out since June 29 with a pulled oblique muscle. Ordonez is hitting .305 with 12 homers this season.