Kemp return to DL will test Dodgers

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Baseball has reached the one third point of its season and the surprises and disappointments continue.

The best teams in baseball have come back to the pack a bit over the past week and only one team starts the week playing .600 or better baseball. And that team, the Los Angeles Dodgers, have dropped 7 of their last 10 games including 6 of the last 7.

Injuries are part of the explanation as star Matt Kemp returned to the DL and is expected to be out until at least the All Star break. And starting pitcher Ted Lilly, off to a strong start, is also out for at least a couple of weeks.

At 33-21 the Dodgers are a game better than the best team in the AL where the Texas Rangers are 32-22 after dropping two of three games this past weekend to AL West rival, the Los Angeles Angels. The Halos have started to play better and are making up ground. Prior to winning the series against the Rangers, the Angels also took 2 of 3 from the New York Yankees.

Another pleasant surprise has been the Chicago White Sox, a team projected to win 74 or 75 games prior to the season. At 31-23 the Pale Hose lead the AL Central, getting strong starting pitching from veteran Jake Peavy and young Chris Sale. The AL Central is also home to the season’s biggest disappointment, the Detroit Tigers.

Expected to cruise through the Division the Tigers went just 25-29 for the first third of the season and ace Justin Verlander has been rather ordinary of late, dropping three straight decisions.

The baseball highlight this past weekend took place at New York’s Citi Field where Johan Santana authored the Mets’ first no hit game in franchise history. Although tainted by a miscalled foul ball in the middle innings that replays showed clearly hitting the foul line, Santana is credited with the Mets’ first no no that took 8,020 games to materialize.

The Mets honored longtime reliever John Franco in their Hall of Fame on a weekend where they took three of four games against the St. Louis Cardinals.

The Santana accomplishment now leaves the San Diego Padres as the only franchise never to have had a pitcher toss a no hitter. Cynics, and bad comedians, might say that the Padres have a bunch of no hitters – called their lineup.

The Padres have long struggled to score runs, especially at home, and they do have the worst record in all of baseball, 18-37. Tied into that on the field record is San Diego being the biggest money burner at the betting windows. Padres backers have lost over 16 net units this season. Right behind are Detroit and the Chicago Cubs, each of whom have lost nearly 15 net units.

The biggest money winners have been the Mets, showing a profit of nearly 12 net units, and the Baltimore Orioles, just more than 11 net units ahead of the game.

Scoring has increased slightly over the past few weeks and teams are now averaging a combined 8½ total runs per game which is right in line with the average for all of 2011.

Yet the lines maker has been almost perfect in evening the OVER / UNDER results. Using closing lines from the LVH, through Sunday there had been 386 OVER and 388 UNDER in addition to 32 pushes and one no-decision.

Interleague play resumes this weekend with five consecutive series that will wrap up regular season play between the leagues on Sunday, June 24.

As noted a couple of weeks ago in the first round of Interleague play this season AL teams went 24-18 against the NL. Of those, 19 went OVER with 21 staying UNDER.

While San Diego will be at Milwaukee in the lone National League series, the other 28 teams will engage in Interleague play. Here’s a look at four of the more interesting Interleague matchups this weekend.

Phils at Orioles: Both teams have actually played better on the road than at home with the Phillies posting a losing record at home. Philly still has the better pitching even with ace Roy Halladay sidelined until at least the All Star break. Lefties Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee have put up solid stats although Lee has suffered from a lack of run support. Despite his solid 3.00 ERA and 1.02 WHIP the Phillies have won just 3 of Lee’s 8 starts.

Hamels has been more fortunate as the Phils have won 9 of his 11 starts even though his stats are remarkably similar to Lee’s (2.81 ERA, 1.04 WHIP). Baltimore’s rotation has been much weaker. Jason Hammel has clearly been their best starter, the clear leader in ERA (3.06), WHIP (1.18), innings per start (6.2) and strikeout to walk ratio (3.1). Baltimore’s offense has been better balanced than Philadelphia’s which has averaged more than a run better on the road (4.8) than at home (3.6).

Potential plays:

• Phillies – 130 or less in starts by Hamels, Lee or Vance Worley.

• Orioles – 140 or less, or as underdogs, against any other Philly starter.

• OVER 9 or lower in games not involving that Philly trio or Baltimore’s Hammel.

• UNDER 8 or higher if Hammel faces Hamels, Lee or Worley.

Mets at Yanks: The Battle for New York, part 1, takes on added significance this season as through a third of the season the Mets have again become relevant. The Yankees have the much better offense, but the Bronx Bombers have struggled all season to deliver with runners in scoring position. The Mets, on the other hand, have gotten timely hitting despite the weaker offensive credentials. The Mets have gotten outstanding starting pitching from Santana and R A Dickey while both Dillon Gee and Jonathan Niese have shown improvement over the past few starts.

The Yankees have not gotten much out of their rotation. Although ace C C Sabathia has been a workhorse, averaging 7.1 innings per start, his stats are rather ordinary. Andy Pettitte’s return from retirement has been better than expected through his first 4 starts but it remains to be seen if he will be able to continue to pitch at his current level.

Potential plays:

• Mets +150 or more in any matchup.

• Mets +120 or more in starts by Dickey or Santana.

• UNDER 9 or higher in any matchup.

• OVER 7½ or lower in any matchup.

Rays at Marlins:Miami has been typical of most teams in scoring more at home than on the road. The Marlins have averaged a solid 4.7 runs per game in their new digs. Tampa Bay is atypical, averaging 4.5 runs per game on the road but just 4.1 rpg at home. Both teams have gotten better than average starting pitching. Tampa Bay’s best starters have been David Price and Jeremy Hellickson. Miami’s top starters have been Anibal Sanchez and Carlos Zambrano.

Potential plays:

• Rays +120 or more not facing Sanchez or Zambrano.

• Rays – 130 or lower in starts by Price or Hellickson against any Miami starter.

• Marlins – 150 or lower in starts by Sanchez or Zambrano not facing Price or Hellickson.

• UNDER 8 or higher in any matchup.

• UNDER 7 or higher if Price or Hellickson oppose Sanchez or Zambrano.

Rangers at Giants::Texas’ 17-11 road record is identical to the Giants’ record at home. The Giants are much more reliant on pitching than on hitting whereas Texas is better balanced, with one of baseball’s most potent offenses and a starting rotation that has performed better than expected although Colby Lewis, the staff‘s ace, has only modest stats other than being amongst the best in baseball with a 6.1 to 1 strikeout to walk ratio.

However, four of the Giants’ five starters have lower ERAs and WHIPs than Lewis. The lone Giants laggard has been two time Cy Young Award winner Tim Lincecum who continues to struggle mightily. The Rangers have performed well for impressive rookie Yu Darvish, winning eight of his 11 starts.

Potential plays:

• Rangers +120 or more against Lincecum or Barry Zito.

• Rangers +150 or more against Matt Cain or Madison Bumgarner.

• Giants – 140 or less in starts by Bumgarner, Cain or Ryan Vogelsong against any Texas starter except Darvish.

• UNDER 8 or higher in any matchup.

• UNDER 7 or higher if Darvish opposes Bumgarner, Cain or Vogelsong.

• OVER 6½ or lower in games not involving Darvish, Bumgarner, Cain or Vogelsong.

About the Author

Andy Iskoe

Owner and author of “The Logical Approach,” Andy Iskoe has been a long time GT columnist, contributing weekly in-season columns on baseball, pro basketball and pro football.

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