Webb, Hamels highlights first half's final weekend

Updated: July 10, 2008

AP Photo/Haraz N. Ghanbari

Brandon Webb closes the first half Sunday with a matchup against Cole Hamels

WEEKEND PREVIEW

The first half closes out with intriguing, quality matchups. The top two teams in the American League West, the A's and Angels, get together for a three-game set. Two teams currently first in their National League divisions, the Phillies and Diamondbacks, finish the first half against each other, with a marquee pitching matchup Sunday when Cole Hamels faces Brandon Webb.

"SUNDAY NIGHT BASEBALL"

Rockies at Mets, 8:05 p.m. ET, ESPN

That's not all. The weekend also features Rich Harden's debut with the Cubs on Saturday and a weekend set between the Twins and Tigers, the two closest pursuers to the White Sox in the AL Central. And the first half wraps up Sunday night when the Mets host the Rockies on "Sunday Night Baseball."

Friday

James ShieldsRays (James Shields) at Indians (Cliff Lee), 7:05 p.m. ET
After losing both games to the Yankees, the Rays are in Cleveland to finish the best first half in club history. Before 2008, the Rays (55-36) never registered more than 42 wins at the break. Cliff Lee, coming off the best first half of his career, looks for his 12th win.

Jon GarlandAngels (Jon Garland) at A's (Sean Gallagher), 10:05 p.m. ET
The Angels have taken six of the 10 meetings against the A's so far in 2008. The A's send rookie Sean Gallagher to the mound for his AL debut. Gallagher, one of the keys in the trade that sent Rich Harden to the Cubs earlier in the week, was 3-4 in 10 starts for the Cubs before the trade. Jon Garland, who earned his 100th career win in his most recent start, is only 4-10 in his career against Oakland.

Complete list of pitching probables for Friday's games

Saturday

Rich HardenGiants (Kevin Correia) at Cubs (Rich Harden), 1:05 p.m. ET
CC Sabathia won in his debut with the Brewers. Rich Harden will try to do the same in his debut with the Cubs. His final start with the A's ended in a loss -- his only of the season.

Hiroki KurodaMarlins (Ricky Nolasco) at Dodgers (Hiroki Kuroda), 10:10 p.m. ET
Hiroki Kuroda took a perfect game into the eighth inning in his last start, retiring the first 21 Braves hitters he faced. Kuroda has not allowed a run in three of his past four starts. He gave up six runs in that other start. Quietly, Ricky Nolasco has become Florida's ace, going 8-1 with a 2.93 ERA in his previous 11 starts.

Complete list of pitching probables for Saturday's games

Sunday

Cole HamelsPhillies (Cole Hamels) at Diamondbacks (Brandon Webb ), 1:35 p.m. ET
Cole Hamels has allowed more than three earned runs only once in his past seven outings, resulting in six quality starts. Brandon Webb has already beaten the Phillies once this season, tossing a complete-game six-hitter May 8.

Joe SaundersAngels (Joe Saunders) at A's (Justin Duchscherer), 4:05 p.m. ET
A pair of 10-game winners close out the first half against each other. It's the first time in 2008 that two 10-game winners will go head-to-head. Joe Saunders is already 2-0 against the A's this season, holding Oakland to a .205 average over 14 1/3 innings. Justin Duchscherer has not allowed more than two runs in any of his past nine starts, going 7-2 with a 1.34 ERA.

Complete list of pitching probables for Sunday's games

Past Baseball Tonight Clubhouses: July 9 | July 8 | July 7 | July 6 | July 3 | July 2

NEWS AND NOTES

Justin Morneau • Not only did Justin Morneau post a 5-for-5 day against the Tigers, but teammate Denard Span contributed a 4-for-4 day to account for nine of the Twins' 15 hits in a 7-6 victory over the Tigers.

Barry Zito • Barry Zito snuck away with a no-decision against the Mets, avoiding his 13th defeat of the season. Had he lost, Zito would have been the first pitcher since 2003 to be tagged with 13 losses in the first half. In 2003, both Mike Maroth and Jeremy Bonderman entered the All-Star break with 13 losses.

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BBTN ON THE AIR: SATURDAY

TIME WHO'S ON?
9:30 p.m. ET
ESPN
Host: Dari Nowkhah
Analysts: Chris Singleton, Tim Kurkjian
12 a.m. ET
ESPN
Host: Dari Nowkhah
Analysts: Chris Singleton, Tim Kurkjian

BBTN ON THE AIR: SUNDAY

TIME WHO'S ON?
12:30 p.m. ET
ESPN
Host: Karl Ravech
Analysts: John Kruk, Chris Singleton
7 p.m. ET
ESPN
Host: Karl Ravech
Analysts: John Kruk, Chris Singleton

BBTN MINUTE: RAYS' BATS GO COLD

UNDER THE RADAR

There are always guys who don't get very much attention. I think the Pirates' Xavier Nady is one. The first couple months of the season, he was nicknamed "The Un-tier" because it seemed like he was always putting his team ahead in close games. He was hitting in a timely fashion and not just in routs. A lot of his hits played pivotal roles in several games' outcomes. I think he's one guy that you look at that's been under the radar so far this season. But when you play in Pittsburgh, for the most part, you're going to stay under the radar.

Another guy I love is Oakland's Mark Ellis. I don't care what his numbers are (for the record, he's hitting .239). They may not jump out at you, but when you look at his defense, his all-around play and some of the big hits he's had -- including that big 12th-inning, game-ending grand slam against the Angels last month -- you have to recognize his ability. He's a guy I played with in 2003, and I just continue to see that he's quietly a good player that, to me, is consistently underrated. Again, he's a great second baseman. He's not a big guy, but he's got pop. He never hits a ton of home runs, but he hits big home runs at big moments.

THURSDAY'S NOTEWORTHY PERFORMANCES

GOOD
Dave BushDave Bush has recorded 20 strikeouts against zero walks his past two starts. He got 13 in eight innings against the Rockies in an 11-1 win.
BAD
Ted Lilly• Cubs pitchers, beginning with starter Ted Lilly, served up seven homers to the Reds in a 12-7 loss against Cincinnati at Wrigley Field.
UGLY
Gary Glover• The Rays were already in trouble when reliever Gary Glover entered. It only got worse, as he gave up five hits and seven runs in 2/3 of an inning against the Indians.

"TAKE ME OUT TO THE BALLGAME"

Ballgame It's the 100th anniversary of baseball's most famous tune, and "Baseball Tonight" has asked nine popular musical artists to record a rendition of the song to be used in a battle of the bands. The field has been trimmed to three. Take a listen and vote on your favorite one. The winner will be announced on July 13.

FANTASY: PREVIEW OF FRIDAY'S GAMES

Tristan Cockcroft examines the pitching matchups in store for the 15 games on Friday's schedule.

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