Prior, Garland meet in Chicago

Originally Published: June 26, 2005
By Buster Olney | ESPN The Magazine

• 1:05 ET: The Orioles have dropped four in a row, 16 of their last 28, and they try to stop the bleeding with Rodrigo Lopez. John Smoltz pitches for the Braves, in a battle of the wild-card race leaders.

 Gustavo Chacin
Chacin
• 1:05: The Washington Nationals are 25-9 at RFK -- The House of Pain, as a colleague calls it. Gustavo Chacin, one of those guys who has consistently thrown good baseball this season, works for the Blue Jays, against Tony Armas, who is Superman at home, with a 1.88 ERA at home and an 8.74 ERA on the road.

• 1:35: Would it surprise anybody if the Red Sox spent every remaining day of this season in first place? David Wells will pitch for the sweep in Philadelphia today, matched up against Brett Myers, and while The Boomer usually finds ways to win, he'll also give up a couple of home runs along the way, especially in this park. So we'll say he'll help a slumping Phillie, with Pat Burrell representing The Most Likely Guy To Go Deep today.

• 2:15: The Florida Marlins have to start gaining some traction, and a win over the Devil Rays today would give them a sweep, and something to build on. A.J. Burnett works for Florida against Seth McClung.

• 3:05: The Pitching Matchup of the Day will be in Chicago, where Mark Prior will make his return to the mound a month after getting nailed by a line drive -- and the Cubs' right-hander will be throwing against Jon Garland of the White Sox, who is merely a Cy Young Award candidate. It's hard to imagine Prior is going to be at his best, in his first game back, while Garland might be the best in the AL this year, so this is also The Reverse Lock of the Day, with all logic pointing to a White Sox victory.

• 4:05: As the Angels prepare to begin the soft underbelly of their schedule, they are finishing June with a flourish, and go for a sweep of the Dodgers today. Derek Lowe for the Dodgers, and Paul Byrd for the Angels, in the series finale.

• 8:05: Randy Johnson has pitched in World Series games and thrived, but the pressure he will face tonight will be something unique in his career: The pressure of The Steinbrenner Doctrine. The Yankees are absolutely falling apart, they are in jeopardy of falling below .500, they've lost the first two games of this series to the Mets -- and the lonely eyes of Yankee Nation turn to The Big Unit, who did not look comfortable in his last start. Kris Benson throws for the Mets.

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly from Saturday

 Livan Hernandez
Hernandez
The Good: Livan Hernandez probably won't win the NL Cy Young Award because of the volume of hits and runs he allows. But there is nobody who appears to be more in control when he pitches a game these days, and after beating the Blue Jays Saturday, he is 11-2.

The Bad: The Orioles are leading the AL wild-card race, but their decline has been steep, having fallen from 4½ games ahead of Boston to 1½ games behind the Red Sox in only a month. They're not going to make the playoffs unless they get some help, in the form of a deal.

The Ugly: Bernie Williams has been a great Yankee, and was part of the foundation of the '96-'01 dynasty. But the team has to find a way to get him out of center field, at least temporarily -- and undoubtedly, they are working to find a permanent replacement.

Buster Olney is a senior writer for ESPN The Magazine. His book, "The Last Night of the Yankee Dynasty," is available in paperback and can be ordered through HarperCollins.com.

Buster Olney | email

Senior Writer, ESPN The Magazine