September 23, 2008
With baseball's regular season in its final week, we'll be taking a daily look at the matchups affecting the race for postseason spots. Here's what to watch for tonight.
If you're Javier Vazquez and you hear Ozzie Guillen say that, you respond limply, like so: ''I'm not looking to have to change minds if people feel that way. I won't be paying attention to that. If I do well or if I don't, I'll still go home at the end of my career and be the same person.''
That's probably not the response Guillen was looking for, but he'll find out Vazquez's true response tonight when the White Sox and Twins finally kick off the series that will likely determine the AL Central champion. The outspoken manager obviously wants to light a fire under Vazquez before heading into the Metrodome's Piranha Tank, but only time will tell if that's possible from someone who has all the talent in the world and gets paid like an ace, but never shows much fire past the fifth or sixth inning when he's out on the mound.
Tonight's pitchers: Vazquez (12-14, 4.32 ERA) vs. Scott Baker (9-4, 3.69 ERA) Vazquez is 6-5 in his career against the Twins with a 4.86 ERA.
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2. Braves at Phillies: The Phillies picked up a full game on the Mets last night and now sit 2.5 games ahead in the NL East race. Philadelphia should feel confident considering they've beaten the Braves 14 out of the 16 times the teams have played this year. "I can't remember a team beating us like this," Atlanta's Chipper Jones said.
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3. Cubs at Mets
The Mets catch a break tonight as Lou Piniella decided to push scheduled starter Rich Harden back a couple of days to give him some more rest. Johan Santana and company should — and must — be able to take advantage.
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4. Rays at Orioles (DH)
The Rays' magic number for the AL East title is down to five as they head into a doubleheader tonight in Baltimore. James Shields will be on the hill for Tampa Bay which has to make Joe Maddon feel good. The right-hander dominated the O's last month, earning the win after going seven innings and surrendering just one run.
Tonight's pitchers: Game 1— Shields (13-8, 3.61 ERA) vs. Garrett Olson (9-9, 6.75 ERA
Game 2 — Mitch Talbot (0-0, 12.00 ERA) vs. Alfredo Simon (0-0, 8.10 ERA) Talbot makes his first major league start just one night after seeing David Price do the same. Rays' fans are hoping these two can hold down the rotation for years to come.
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People all over Cleveland are wondering where this team has been all season. The Indians have won seven in a row and send the AL Cy Young Award winner out to the hill tonight in Cliff Lee. The Red Sox are still just one win or Yankees loss away from locking up a post-season berth. If neither happens tonight — New York plays Toronto — things might get a bit more interesting.
Tonight's pitchers: Lee (22-2, 2.41 ERA) vs. Tim Wakefield (9-11, 4.18 ERA) Wakefield was crushed in his last outing, giving up six earned runs over 2 and 1/3 innings to the Rays.
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Well, Brewers, despite playing your worst ball of the season over the last month of the season, you sit just one game back in the Wild Card standings as you head into the final week. In order to get to the playoffs, you have to hope that Prince Fielder will continue his torrid streak at the plate. The slugger has hit .462 over the last week with 3 homers.
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Tonight's pitchers: Volquez (16-6, 3.29 ERA) vs. Wandy Rodriguez (8-6, 3.73 ERA)
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The D-Backs have gotten hot at the right time, having won seven of their last eight to move just two games behind the Dodgers. Arizona starter Randy Johnson has been solid over his last two outings giving up just two earned runs over 13 innings of work.
Tonight's pitchers: Johnson (10-9, 3.99 ERA) vs. Kyle Lohse (14-6, 3.76 ERA)
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Manny has feasted off of Padres pitching during his brief stint in Los Angeles. Over his last five games against the Pads, Ramirez has four home runs and nine RBI.