BASEBALL TONIGHT EXTRA

Don't overlook the Rockies


The NL wild-card race remains a wide-open battle as we head into the final weeks of the season. The teams out West -- the Padres, Diamondbacks, Rockies and Dodgers -- all have played themselves into the mix, but the Phillies have struggled since beating the Mets.

The pool might thin itself out pretty quickly, given what is coming up for these squads, particularly the Dodgers and Rockies, who have multiple teams to climb in their pursuit of a postseason bid. Colorado has hung in longer than most people thought it would, but now the season has reached its breaking point. The good news for the Rockies is that everyone seems to be clicking, and the team's best hitters all are at the top of their game. It should make for an interesting week ahead, with perhaps a dose of something unexpected on the horizon.

NATIONAL LEAGUE

SAN DIEGO PADRES
Who's hot: Adrian Gonzalez is hitting .326 in August and September, and currently is riding an eight-game hit streak. His offense and the pitching of Jake Peavy (7-0, 1.17 ERA in past eight starts) and Greg Maddux (4-0, 1.97 ERA in past five starts) have carried the Padres.
Who's not: Chris Young has a 6.39 ERA in his past five starts, and the Padres have lost all five games. Looks like the combination of innings and injuries has caught up to him.
Outlook: The Padres and Diamondbacks play nearly identical schedules down the stretch, so Wednesday's game, the last meeting between the two this season, is big, especially with a six-game road trip looming.
ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS
Who's hot: Doug Davis, Tuesday's winner, has been fantastic. After handily beating the Padres, he has a career-high 13 wins and is 8-1 since the All-Star break.
Who's not: Orlando Hudson entered Tuesday's game in a 6-for-42 funk, but he might have snapped out of it with a 3-for-3 showing.
Outlook: The Diamondbacks get the Cardinals next, so they can't afford a letdown. They are just 1-3 against St. Louis this season.
LOS ANGELES DODGERS
Who's hot: How about that Dodgers defense? It has turned eight double plays in the past two games. Also, Matt Kemp has been really good in his past two starts, collecting seven hits in his past 10 at-bats.
Who's not: Now that he's back, Nomar Garciaparra qualifies. He went 3-for-20 in his past six starts before going on the disabled list.
Outlook: Everything is with an eye toward next week, when the Dodgers' season could be made -- or broken -- by six meetings with the Padres and Diamondbacks.
PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES
Who's hot: The Phillies have won the past six games in which Ryan Howard has homered. He's got 46 RBIs in 50 games since the All-Star break, including two in Tuesday's win.
Who's not: Pat Burrell is 1-for-17 since the Phillies took four straight from the Mets and now is batting just .222 when away from Citizens Bank Park this season.
Outlook: The schedule gets a little easier with the Marlins and Rockies visiting Philadelphia, although the Fish gave the Phillies fits by taking two of three after the Phils drubbed the Mets.
COLORADO ROCKIES
Who's hot: Jeff Francis should pitch only in the daytime. He's 6-0 with a 2.68 ERA in seven day starts this season, while his night ERA is 4.62. Matt Holliday, ranked among the leading candidates for MVP in ESPN.com's Player Rater, has 12 RBIs in his past 11 games.
Who's not: Ryan Spilborghs' is the only Colorado bat that has gone cold. He is just 3-for-28 in his past 10 games.
Outlook: The Rockies could have their fate determined in a week, with three home games against the Padres and four in Philadelphia. Colorado has enjoyed the comforts of home, going 41-26 at Coors Field, but is just 31-40 on the road.

INTERNATIONAL WEEK: VENEZUELA
On Tuesday's "Baseball Tonight," International Week continued with a celebration of Venezuelan baseball legends. We showed highlights from the careers of Luis Aparicio, Andres Galarraga and greats from the past. We also spotlighted the tradition of great defensive play -- from Omar Vizquel's wizardry to Dave Concepcion's wonders that helped the Reds win back-to-back World Series titles.

Speaking of the postseason, there is a history of Venezuelan greatness in big moments on the diamond, and those were noted as well. From Eddie Perez (1999 NLCS) and Luis Sojo (2000 World Series) breaking the hearts of the Mets in back-to-back years, to Endy Chavez's amazing catch in the 2006 NLCS, there have been some unlikely Venezuelan baseball heroes. One of the highlights Tuesday was Miguel Cabrera, a native Venezuelan, who became the third-youngest player to reach 500 career RBIs.

On Wednesday's show, our celebration will continue with a special focus on the career of Roberto Clemente, who will be honored around the majors on Wednesday. Be sure to tune in.

VENEZUELAN-BORN BASEBALL LEADERS, ALL-TIME
HOME RUNS Andres Galarraga 399
HITS Luis Aparicio 2,677
STOLEN BASES Luis Aparicio 506
WINS Freddy Garcia 117
STRIKEOUTS Johan Santana 1,349

NEWS AND NOTES
Roger Clemens • Yankees RHP Roger Clemens will get a cortisone shot for his ailing right elbow Wednesday and is confident he will be able to pitch again this season. The Rocket will miss at least one start and hinted that the injury is more serious than the diagnosis of "inflammation" that was announced by the team.

• Padres RHP Jake Peavy will start the series finale against the D-backs on Wednesday on three days' rest for the second time in his career. The first time came Sept. 26, 2004, when he allowed one run in six innings to beat Arizona.

• Orioles LHP Erik Bedard underwent an MRI exam that confirmed he has a strained right oblique muscle. Bedard, the AL strikeout leader, has been out since allowing six runs in six innings in a loss to the Twins on Aug. 26.

BLUE STREAK
Dodgers quiet Cubs for third straight win.
IN THE ZONE
Paul Lo Duca Mets catcher Paul Lo Duca hit a pair of three-run homers and drove in a career-high seven runs, powering the Mets to an 11-7 win over the Reds -- New York's fifth straight win, the team's longest winning streak of the season. It was the third two-homer game of Lo Duca's career and his first since Oct. 2, 2001.
WINNING CAUSE
Chris Carlson/AP Photo
Life is good for the Angels, who beat the A's to pad their AL West lead to 7½ games.
NOTEWORTHY PERFORMANCES
GOOD
Josh Beckett Josh Beckett outpitched Roy Halladay to become the majors' first 17-game winner of the season. Beckett, who allowed a career-high 13 hits to the Yankees in his previous start, gave up three runs on five hits over eight innings in the Red Sox's 5-3 victory over the Blue Jays.
BAD
Buddy Carlyle Buddy Carlyle lasted just 1 2/3 innings in the Braves' 5-2 loss to the Phillies. Carlyle (8-6) gave up three runs (two homers) on four hits and three walks in the shortest start of his career. The right-hander has allowed 12 jacks in his past 11 starts.
UGLY
Seattle Mariners The Mariners' bullpen offered no relief in a 12-3 loss to the Yankees. Five relievers -- Eric O'Flaherty, Brandon Morrow, Ryan Rowland-Smith, John Parrish and Sean White -- allowed eight runs on 11 hits in 2 1/3 innings as Seattle lost for the 10th time in 11 games and dropped two games back in the AL wild-card race.
COMEBACK KID
Josh Hamilton is a true inspiration for us all.
QUOTE OF THE NIGHT
"I love the Cubs' fans. I still think they are still the greatest fans of baseball. ... They have been waiting for 99 years. Sometimes we don't do a good job, and they get frustrated, too. I apologize to them."
-- Cubs RHP Carlos Zambrano, one day after criticizing Cubs fans for booing him following another poor performance
FORWARD THINKING: WEDNESDAY
Kenny Rogers • White Sox at Tigers, 7:05 p.m. ET: Detroit gets a big a lift as Kenny Rogers (3-2, 5.23) returns to the rotation. The Gambler hasn't pitched since July 25 because of elbow inflammation, but he could be a difference-maker once he shakes off the rust. Gavin Floyd still is a mystery to the South Siders, but he has an opportunity to prove his worth.

Ted Lilly • Dodgers at Cubs, 8:05 p.m. ET (ESPN): Chicago looks to avoid its third straight loss. Ted Lilly (13-7, 3.89) is 0-2 with a 6.55 ERA in his past four starts, but he has pitched pretty well at Wrigley, going 7-5 with a 4.03 ERA and .240 BAA. Eric Stults (1-2, 4.23) takes the bump in place of David Wells, who is serving a suspension for arguing with an umpire while he was with the Padres.

Mark Mulder • Pirates at Cardinals, 8:10 p.m. ET: Mark Mulder (0-0, 0.00) makes his season debut, just in time for the stretch drive. Mulder went 6-7 with a 7.14 ERA last year before undergoing rotator cuff surgery Sept. 12. He was the winningest pitcher this decade prior to being injured. Tony Armas (2-5, 6.75) has shown some life lately after struggling most of the year.

• Wednesday's complete list of probable starters


 

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