Webb rises to the occasion once again

Updated: April 22, 2008

Mark J. Rebilas-US PRESSWIRE

Brandon Webb struck out seven in six innings on Tuesday night to earn his fifth win of the season.

ALL ABOUT ACES

Aces were both high and low in the majors Tuesday, as some sizzlers and some fizzlers took to the mound. One game had one of each as red-hot Brandon Webb handed Barry Zito and the Giants another defeat. The results have been nothing but disastrous for Zito and the Giants since he joined the team last season, and it doesn't appear as if it'll get any better anytime soon.

WEDNESDAY NIGHT BASEBALL

Yankees at White Sox, 8:11 p.m. ET, ESPN

The Diamondbacks, meanwhile, considered by many of the Baseball Tonight analysts to be the best team in baseball, can't lose when Webb is on the mound. He's now 5-0. Another sinkerball pitcher, Chien-Ming Wang, also picked up a victory, the 50th of his career.

On the other side of the coin, it was a good night for previously winless hurlers C.C. Sabathia (the 2007 American League Cy Young winner) and Justin Verlander, both of whom escaped their funks with wins for their struggling squads.

MOUND ACES
How they fared:
Pitcher Result Note
Brandon Webb Win over Giants Diamondbacks have won his past 11 regular-season starts
Chien-Ming Wang Win over White Sox Fastest Yankees pitcher to get to 50 wins (68 decisions)
C.C. Sabathia Win over Royals 15-1 win was largest margin of victory for Indians over Royals since 2000
Justin Verlander Win over Rangers Helped by Ramon Santiago's first home run since 2003
John Smoltz Loss to Nationals 16th pitcher to reach 3,000 career strikeouts
Barry Zito Loss to Diamondbacks 0-5 record is the worst start of his career
No-decisions for Jake Peavy (against Astros), Felix Hernandez (against Orioles), Livan Hernandez (against Athletics) and Jeff Francis (against Phillies)

Past Baseball Tonight Clubhouses: April 21 | April 20 | April 17 | April 16 | April 15 | April 14

MATSUZAKA SHOULD CHALLENGE TO WIN 20 GAMES

Last year, I thought Daisuke Matsuzaka would win 15 games (he went 15-12, 4.40 ERA) because he wasn't going to be intimidated on the big stage, and we saw how well he performed in the World Baseball Classic. Plus, Matsuzaka benefited from going to the Red Sox, a team with a great offense and -- as it turned out -- one of the best bullpens in baseball.

One thing I did notice in 2007 was that Matsuzaka shook off catcher Jason Varitek more than, I thought, he should have. Varitek tries to get an at-bat over within three pitches or fewer, and that didn't happen with Matsuzaka. On 1-0 counts -- which in my opinion is the most important count in baseball -- Matsuzaka wasn't able to throw his fastball or slider for strikes. One reason I think he has a chance to win 20 games in 2008 is he has better command of his slider and fastball when he falls behind 1-0 in the count; he also understands he can't use all his pitches in any situation.

Matsuzaka has yet to pitch seven innings in any of his five starts this season, but that's OK. He has a bigger workload over the course of 162 games than he did in Japan. Manager Terry Francona and the Red Sox coaching staff have a better understanding for him now that they've been together for one season. Matsuzaka might not pitch into the seventh or eighth inning, but Boston realizes what's best for him in the long run.

I think the first 54 games of the season are vital for two reasons: It's one-third of the schedule, but it's also a good indicator to a manager as to who he can rely on the rest of the season.

The Red Sox have played 22 games and already Matzuzaka is 4-0 with a 3.14 ERA. His walk total is high right now (17 walks in 28 2/3 innings pitched), but I think he'll be able to cut down on his walks. If he does that, and doesn't run out of steam at the end of the season like he did in 2007, Matsuzaka will challenge to win 20 games in 2008.


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BBTN ON THE AIR: WEDNESDAY

TIME WHO'S ON?
7 p.m. ET
ESPN
Host: Steve Berthiaume
Analysts: John Kruk, Steve Phillips, Peter Gammons
12:20 a.m. ET
ESPN
Host: Steve Berthiaume
Analysts: John Kruk, Steve Phillips

BASEBALL TONIGHT MINUTE: SMOLTZ REAL SPECIAL

TUESDAY'S NOTEWORTHY PERFORMANCES

GOOD
Ronny Cedeno• Filling in for the injured Ryan Theriot, Ronny Cedeno hit a grand slam and drove in five runs in the Cubs' 8-1 win over the Mets. The Cubs are now riding a five-game winning streak.
BAD
White Sox• The White Sox stranded 13 baserunners, including five in the last three innings, in their 9-5 loss to the Yankees.
UGLY
Gil MecheGil Meche gave up eight runs on nine hits in 3 1/3 innings in the Royals' 15-1 loss to the Indians. Meche also allowed two home runs, including a grand slam to Casey Blake, in a five-run fourth inning for the Indians.

FORWARD THINKING: WEDNESDAY

Cole Hamels • Phillies at Brewers, 8:05 p.m. ET: Cole Hamels (2-2, 1.86 ERA) will make the start for the Phillies. He has a .181 batting average against. He'll face Dave Bush (0-3, 7.02 ERA), who will replace Ben Sheets in the Brewers' rotation. Sheets is suffering from tightness in his right triceps.

Daniel Cabrera • Orioles at Mariners, 10:10 p.m. ET: Daniel Cabrera (1-0, 5.16 ERA) will get the ball for the Orioles. He's already allowed five home runs in four starts and has as many walks (14) as strikeouts (14). He'll be opposed by Carlos Silva (3-0, 2.79 ERA), who has pitched seven or more innings in each of his four starts.

Dan Haren • Diamondbacks at Dodgers, 10:10 p.m. ET: Dan Haren (3-0, 1.80 ERA) will get the start for the Diamondbacks. He's allowed more than one earned run in only one of his four starts. He'll face Derek Lowe (1-1, 2.59 ERA), who has a 1.93 ERA in two starts at Dodger Stadium this season.

• Complete pitching probables for Wednesday

FIRST TAKE: CATCHING UP WITH JEFF SAMARDZIJA

FANTASY: PREVIEW OF WEDNESDAY'S GAMES

Sean Allen examines the pitching matchups in store for the 15 games on Wednesday's schedule in the American League and National League.

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