After Brewers tried and failed, Cardinals take their crack at the Cubs
Tom Fluegge/US Presswire
By Mark Simon, ESPN ResearchThe pennant races are really heating up, and this weekend boasts a handful of meaningful series.
"SUNDAY NIGHT BASEBALL"
|• Cardinals at Cubs, 8:05 p.m. ET, ESPN|
Best series• Cardinals at Cubs This series basically represents a last-gasp hope for the Cardinals as far as the division title is concerned. To gain ground--significant ground--they'll also have to beat Carlos Zambrano on Saturday. The Cubs' ace has an eight-game winning streak against the Cardinals, the longest by a Cubs pitcher in nearly 90 years.
|Carlos Zambrano vs. Cardinals, since 2005|
Best pitching matchup• Red Sox (Daisuke Matsuzaka) at White Sox (Jose Contreras), Saturday 7:05 p.m. ET Jose Contreras returns from the disabled list and makes his first start since July 13. He'll do so against the team that has caused him the most trouble in his career. In nine career starts against the Red Sox, Contreras is 3-5 with a 9.12 ERA. He will be opposed by Daisuke Matsuzaka. While walks continue to be an issue for Matsuzaka--he has allowed 23 walks in his last 41 2/3 innings--he's fought through them, managing a 4-1 record with a 2.38 ERA in his last seven starts.
Best of the restPhillies slugger Ryan Howard has unbelievably bad numbers against the Pirates, whom he'll face this weekend. Howard is a .114 career hitter against Pittsburgh, with 34 strikeouts in 70 at-bats. He'll start the weekend against Paul Maholm, and hopefully for him, start the process of changing his fortunes against the Pirates.
|Worst batting average vs. Pirates in expansion Era (since '61), with minimum 70 PA|
|Chris Short (pitcher)||.046|
|Dennis Martinez (pitcher)||.103|
|Steve Rogers (pitcher)||.105|
|Kevin Gross (pitcher)||.113|
|Dave Roberts (pitcher)||.114|
RANGERS COULD MAKE BIG MOVE
By Steve Phillips, ESPNI think it's probably time we start noticing the Texas Rangers. Because if the Yankees are in the race for the playoffs, then so are the Rangers. The one thing to keep in mind during this waiver period is the team with the lesser record gets first crack at any players on waivers. The Yankees need starting pitching; so do the Rangers. Therefore, the Rangers could use their position in the standings as an advantage in improving their team or, at the very least, they could use it to prevent the Yankees from improving their team.
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Analysts: John Kruk,
|7 p.m. ET
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Analysts: John Kruk, Buster Olney,
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SPORTSNATION: ALL-TIME FRANCHISE PLAYERS
"Baseball Tonight" wants to hear from you. Click here to vote for the all-time franchise players for all 30 big league teams.When deciding on the greatest Blue Jays player of all-time, "Baseball Tonight" went with Carlos Delgado. SportsNation, however, chose Joe Carter. Watch "Baseball Tonight" on Friday at 10 p.m. ET to see who is selected from the Astros (.45s). On Saturday, the all-time greatest from the Nationals (Expos) will be revealed on the midnight edition of "Baseball Tonight" and the Cubs' greatest will be announced on Sunday's 7 p.m. "Baseball Tonight."
ANOTHER CG FOR CC
THURSDAY'S NOTEWORTHY PERFORMANCES
|• Mike Mussina scattered eight hits in seven innings against the Rangers, and did not allow a run as the Yankees picked up a 3-0 road win.||BAD|
|• The Mets bullpen cost Johan Santana a shot at another win, giving up a 3-2 lead in the top of the ninth (the Mets would win on David Wright's 2-run, walkoff homer in the next half-inning). According to the Elias Sports Bureau, it was the sixth time the Mets bullpen blew a possible win for Santana.||UGLY|
|• The Phillies were beaten, 3-0, by the Marlins. It was the seventh time this season the Phillies have been shut out. They were shut out six times over the two previous seasons combined.|
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
THIS DATE IN MLB HISTORY (AUGUST 8)
• 1988: In the first scheduled night game ever at Wrigley Field, the Cubs played host to the Phillies. The game never became official because it was rained out in the third inning.• 1998: At age 41, the Twins' Paul Molitor became the fifth player in major league history to have at least 3,000 hits and 500 steals. His 5-for-5 performance and his 500th stolen base got him into company with Ty Cobb (4,191 hits, 892 steals), Honus Wagner (3,415, 722), Eddie Collins (3,315, 744) and Lou Brock (3,023, 938) as the only players to accomplish this milestone.