Must-win games for Mets, Phils

Originally Published: September 6, 2005
By Buster Olney | ESPN The Magazine

• 7:05 p.m. ET: John Lackey has had trouble pitching against the American League's big boys on the road, but he has progressed markedly this season -- so tonight's game in Fenway will be a great test for Lackey, and for the Angels. He has made three starts in Boston during his career and is 0-2 with a 10.13 ERA, having allowed 25 hits and five walks in 13.1 innings. Today, he'll be matched up against Tim Wakefield in The Must-Watch Game of the Night.

• 7:05: As the Red Sox and Angels play, the Yankees will be peeking at the scoreboard, while playing the Devil Rays. Randy Johnson, dominant in his last outing, throws against Tampa Bay's Casey Fossum, and Alex Rodriguez is waiting: He has six hits in 17 career at-bats vs. Fossum, including three homers, and that makes him The Most Likely Guy To Go Deep tonight.

• 7:05: A.J. Burnett and Josh Beckett have not gotten the job done lately for Florida, so the Marlins need a nice outing from Ismael Valdez in Washington. Darrell Rasner makes his major-league debut for the Nationals.

• 7:05: It's Take Care of Business time for the Indians, who play their next three games against Detroit. Cliff Lee starts against Jason Johnson, in Comerica Park.

• 7:05: At some point, the Phillies have to draw a line in the sand during the wild-card race, and it needs to be tonight, in the Must-Win Game of the Night, as Philadelphia faces Houston and Roy Oswalt. Jon Lieber throws for Philadelphia, which will open tonight a half-game out of first place.

Pedro Martinez
Starting Pitcher
New York Mets
Profile
LAST SIX STARTS
W L HR BB K ERA BAA
1 3 8 10 33 3.46 .240

• 7:35: Pedro Martinez has had a slow erosion of stuff over the last few starts, and you wonder how his arm is feeling. But the pressure will be on him tonight, when he's matched up against John Smoltz of the Braves. If New York loses this game, it's going to lose ground in the playoff race to either Houston or Philadelphia, and you wonder whether the Mets will be able to maintain contact with the lead pack the rest of the way. The Must-Win Game, Volume II, of tonight.

• 10:05: Oakland had better apply the brakes very quickly to its three-game losing streak, lest the Athletics fall too far behind the Yankees. Seattle's Joel Pineiro pitches against Joe Kennedy, who is filling in for Rich Harden in the Oakland rotation.

10:10: There are only two reasons to think about watching the Giants and Dodgers -- Barry, and Bonds.

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