- Buster Olney, Senior Writer, ESPN The Magazine
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• 7:05 p.m. ET: The Red Sox win about 70 percent of their home games, and about two-thirds of their remaining games are at home. They begin a series against the Baltimore Orioles, going with a wild-card starter -- Lenny DiNardo, who makes the first big-league start of his career, against John Maine of the Orioles.
• 7:05 p.m. ET: Think of all the NL East teams like survivors in a lifeboat, and right now, the others are on the verge of throwing Washington over the side; the Nationals are three games behind the Phillies as they begin a series against Philadelphia this weekend. They will either make up ground or get knocked out.
• 7:35 p.m. ET: The Must-Win Game of the Night will be in Florida, where the Marlins and Mets begin what will be a typical NL East series in September. New York is coming off a couple of disappointing losses to the Phillies, and the Mets need this game. Victor Zambrano throws against the Marlins' Dontrelle Willis at a time when Florida desperately needs to regain momentum. All logic points to a Florida victory, making the Mets and Zambrano The Reverse Lock of the Night.
• 8:05 p.m. ET: Houston plays one of the last remaining series it has against a contending team, starting a set with the St. Louis Cardinals. Mark Mulder of the Cardinals, scratched twice in the last 10 days because of neck stiffness, faces Ezequiel Astacio, who is 2-6 with a 6.03 ERA.
• 8:10 p.m. ET: The Best Pitching Matchup of the Night will be in Minnesota, where C.C. Sabathia faces the Twins' Brad Radke. Minnesota goes into this series with a survivor's mentality -- the Twins are five games out of the wild-card lead and have to start winning immediately to stay alive, and they have a solid veteran on the mound. Cleveland lost some ground in the standings this week and has to turn it around ASAP. Last year, the young Cleveland pitchers faltered down the stretch, and tonight is a big challenge for Sabathia.
• 10:05 p.m. ET: The Big Series will be in Oakland, where the Athletics, hurt by injuries to shortstop Bobby Crosby, center fielder Mark Kotsay and pitcher Rich Harden, take on the Yankees, with the two teams sporting the same 74-58 record. The Yankees have an enormous advantage in this series in pure firepower: Alex Rodriguez, Gary Sheffield, Hideki Matsui and on and on. But with Mike Mussina hurt and Randy Johnson not scheduled to start in this series, the Yankees will go into the weekend starting Al Leiter, Aaron Small and Shawn Chacon, against Oakland's Danny Haren, Kirk Saarloos and Barry Zito. This is not a good matchup for Leiter, because the Athletics are generally patient and, at the same time, they don't strike out much; they could force him to throw even more pitches than he usually does. A fascinating series, with interesting contrasts in styles.
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 takes a look at Friday's top matchups.