Webb-Peavy matchup the best of the weekend
AP Photo/Bob Levey
By Mark Simon, ESPN ResearchThis is a weekend in which a lot of the marquee matchups are in the National League, the best of which will come on the West Coast on Sunday afternoon. The top two pitchers in the senior circuit will go head-to-head when Brandon Webb battles Jake Peavy in a matchup of unbeatens. Both pitchers have been virtually unhittable in stretches this season, and considering that Petco Park is the most unfriendly ballpark for offenses in the major leagues, one run may be enough to get a victory.
SUNDAY NIGHT BASEBALL
|• Angels at Tigers, 8:05 p.m. ET, ESPN|
There are other good pairings. In the NL East, the Mets and Braves both find themselves chasing the Marlins, something they didn't expect to be saying at the time of this meeting in New York. The most intriguing matchup will be on Sunday when John Smoltz, who has had his share of good games against the Mets, faces Nelson Figueroa, whose contributions have been unexpected and impressive through his first three starts.
The most interesting series this weekend in the American League might be the Yankees-Indians matchup, especially since it has been an eternity since the Indians beat the Yankees in the regular season. But the Yankees are looking for some serious payback after falling to Cleveland in the postseason last October.
Friday• Cubs (Ryan Dempster) at Nationals (Odalis Perez), 7:35 p.m. ET
Dempster is 6-0 career against the Nationals, the best unbeaten mark of anyone against Washington in Nationals franchise history (since 1969), just ahead of Mike Remlinger, who was 5-0. Dempster is trying to get to 4-0 overall.
• Angels (Ervin Santana) at Tigers (Nate Robertson), 8:05 p.m. ET
Santana is one of several pitchers Friday about whom you would have said it was unlikely that they'd be 4-0 this season. He already has two road wins this season, one more than he had in 2007, when he went 1-10 on the road. Opponents are also hitting just .118 against Santana with runners in scoring position this season.
• Blue Jays (A.J. Burnett) at Royals (Zack Greinke), 8:10 p.m. ET
Another unlikely unbeaten, Greinke will try to improve to 4-0 for the Royals. Greinke entered 2008 with a 21-35 career mark, but has so far lived up to the hype he got when he was first recalled in 2004. He's 3-0 with a 1.24 ERA in four starts.
Saturday• Astros (Roy Oswalt) at Cardinals (Adam Wainwright), 1:10 p.m. ET
After going 0-3 with a 9.00 ERA in his first three starts, Oswalt has won his past two starts. Oswalt is 3-0 with a 1.19 ERA in his past six starts against the Cardinals. In five of those six starts, he's allowed one run or fewer.
Albert Pujols has faced Oswalt more than any other hitter has (70 plate appearances). He's one of five hitters with three career home runs against Oswalt along with Derrek Lee, Adam Dunn, Phil Nevin and Aramis Ramirez.
• Diamondbacks (Micah Owings) at Padres (Justin Germano), 3:55 p.m. ET
Owings will try to join Brandon Webb as Diamondbacks starters to win their first five starts. According to Elias, the last time a team had two starters each win their first five starts of a season was the 1998 Rangers -- Rick Helling (6) and Aaron Sele (5). The last National League team was the 1988 Mets -- David Cone (5) and Dwight Gooden (6).
• Rockies (Mark Redman) at Dodgers (Brad Penny), 10:10 p.m. ET
Penny is 7-0 with a 3.05 ERA in his past 11 starts against the Rockies, and 4-0 with a 2.86 ERA in six home starts in that span. Yet, Todd Helton, Matt Holliday and Garrett Atkins are hitting a combined .322 (37-for-115) against him. The key Rockie whom Penny owns is Troy Tulowitzki (1-for-12, two strikeouts).
Sunday• Yankees (Chien-Ming Wang) at Indians (C.C. Sabathia), 1:05 p.m. ET
Sabathia is 1-7 with a 7.13 ERA against the Yankees in the regular season, with six straight losses against them. However (A) Sabathia hasn't faced them in the regular season since 2004 and (B) he beat them in the 2007 ALDS. Of the 38 active pitchers with at least eight starts against the Yankees, Sabathia's ERA is third-worst. Life begins at 50, meanwhile, for Wang, who in his last start became the quickest Yankee to win 50 games (68 decisions). He'll try to beat a team that pummeled him twice in the 2007 postseason.
• Braves (John Smoltz) at Mets (Nelson Figueroa), 1:10 p.m. ET
Smoltz, in his first start since striking out his 3,000th batter, will face the Mets and the active batter he's struck out the most -- David Wright (19 times in 52 plate appearances -- 43 official at-bats). Amazingly for Wright is that he hasn't struck out more than seven times against any other pitcher in the majors.
• Diamondbacks (Brandon Webb) at Padres (Jake Peavy), 4:05 p.m. ET
This will be the matchup of the two best pitchers in the National League. Jake Peavy will try to start 4-0 for the second time in his career. He started 5-0 in 2005. Webb will try to get to 6-0 and improve upon his 16-2 career record in April. The Diamondbacks have won Webb's past seven regular-season starts, dating back to 2007, and nine of his past 10.
BBTN ON THE AIR: SUNDAY
|12:30 p.m. ET
|Host: Karl Ravech
Analysts: John Kruk, Steve Phillips
|7 p.m. ET
|Host: Karl Ravech
Analysts: John Kruk, Steve Phillips, Eric Young
BASEBALL TONIGHT MINUTE: PEAVY VS. WEBB
THURSDAY'S NOTEWORTHY PERFORMANCES
|• Felipe Lopez drove in six runs, including hitting a go-ahead grand slam in the bottom of the sixth inning in the Nationals' 10-5 win over the Mets.||BAD|
|• The Rangers managed just four hits -- three singles -- in their 8-2 loss to the Tigers. The defeat was the Rangers' seventh straight and dropped their record to 7-16, worst in the American League.||UGLY|
|• Francisco Liriano lasted just two outs before being taken out, allowing six runs on five hits in the Twins' 11-2 loss to the A's. After three starts, Liriano is now 0-3 with an 11.32 ERA.|
FANTASY: PREVIEW OF FRIDAY'S GAMES
Tristan Cockcroft examines the pitching matchups in store for the 15 games on Friday's schedule in the American League and National League.
Tristan also looks at current injuries and details player reports that could help shape the way you put together your roster for Friday's games. Daily Notes
FANTASY VS. REALITY: SLUMPING STARS
NEWS AND NOTES
• The two-run homer Lance Berkman hit Thursday was his 1,300th career hit. He's the seventh player in Astros history to reach the mark.
• Mike Cameron joined Triple-A Nashville on Thursday to play the final five games of his 25-game suspension for testing positive for a banned stimulant last season. He is eligible to return to the Brewers on Tuesday.
• Yankees right-handed reliever Brian Bruney had his right foot in a boot Thursday, two days after twisting it covering first base. The Yankees are considering placing him on the disabled list, but will wait until doctors in New York review the results of an MRI.
• Padres catcher Michael Barrett, on the disabled list with a sprained right elbow, can swing a bat and catch in the bullpen but won't be cleared to throw for another seven to 10 days, manager Bud Black said.
• The Rockies acquired minor league pitcher Sean Smith from the Indians to complete the trade that sent infielder Jamey Carroll to the Indians on Dec. 8, 2007.