Baseball's What-to-Watch Weekend -- CFB Momentum Teams



By Jim Hurley:

Hey, let's start off the day by wishing a happy one-year anniversary to Chicago White Sox LHP Mark Buehrle who tossed a perfect game on July 23, 2009 - and who can ever forget that ninth-inning, top-of-the-fence catch by then-Chisox CF Dewayne Wise in that 5-0 win?

Folks, did you know that Wise's lefty mitt now is in the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown where this weekend the bustling village welcomes into its doors the likes of outfielder Andre Dawson, manager Whitey Herzog and long-time umpire Doug Harvey - so three cheers for those gents but time now to get back to the here-and-now.

Obviously, the Major-League Baseball community is buzzing with trade talk with the deadline set for July 31st and something's telling us that the trigger will be pulled on some big deals this weekend - let's face it, if Houston waits to the very last minute to trade RHP Roy Oswalt or if Washington doesn't make a move to jettison 1B Adam Dunn sooner rather than later, than those two non-contending clubs could be getting seriously short-changed in terms of their return.

Gut feeling is by Monday morning there will have been three of four blockbuster deals plus there might even be a manager or two axed before this weekend is up - yes, we're looking at the New York Mets possibly canning Jerry Manuel and the Pittsburgh Pirates telling John Russell to take a long hike on a short trail.

Do stay tuned, won't you?

Lots more what-to-watch weekend happenings in the world of big-league baseball in just a moment plus there's some College Football goodies too but first this key reminder:

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Let us zip around the "bigs" and see what's really hot to watch this weekend in MLB action ...

The St. Louis Cardinals really charged out of the post-All Star Game break having won their first seven games in a row prior to yesterday's 2-0 loss in 11 innings to the Philadelphia Phillies.

Hey, the Cards' pitching has been nothing short of brilliant as RHP Chris Carpenter has won his two starts after the break (beating the Los Angeles Dodgers and then the aforementioned Phillies) and he'll get a turn in the ESPN Sunday Night game against a Cubs team that followed up the Tuesday announcement that manager Lou Piniella will retire at the end of this 2010 season with a 14-run explosion in a come-from-behind win against Houston.

There's nothing more the Cubs and their long-suffering fans would like more than to put a little dent into the Cardinals' season here this weekend - St. Loo's entering the Friday afternoon series opener at 54-42 and now sporting a 1 ½-game lead over Cincinnati in the National League Central.

St. Louis won't be throwing All-Star Adam Wainwright at the Cubs this weekend - he of the current 25-inning scoreless innings stretch and tiny 1.94 ERA - but it's tough for any Cardinals foe to get excited these days considering St. Louis pitchers had a 1.82 ERA in this recent eight-game home stand and allowed enemy batters to hit just .154 with runners in scoring position.

Heck, if the Cubs can win two-of-three here than the Windy City N.L. fans would have reason to jump for joy - and lest anyone forget that 43-53 teams with huge payrolls don't get to jump for joy all that much ...

Meanwhile, the on-going Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim versus Texas Rangers four-game series rolls on in the Lone Star State where Ron Washington's crew ballooned its lead to 6 full games over the Halos with last night's gritty 3-2 win behind recent acquisition Cliff Lee (9-4, 2.56 ERA). Lee surrendered 2 runs and 5 hits in 8 1/3 innings and received a shaving cream pie from teammates for his performance (now how old is that post-game pie stuff getting already!).

Lee now has gone eight innings in seven straight starts - the last three with the Rangers - and he may be paying off his salary in a hurry as an estimated 8,600 fans bought tickets on the day of the game (a/k/a walk-up tickets) and suddenly his arrival on Texas (56-40) is making this club appear almost a lead-pipe cinch to win the American League West.

Let's just say that if Texas somehow sweeps this four-game set in Arlington, we'll ask for fight referee Arthur Mercante, Jr. to give the Angels a standing 8-count (do you realize that Texas could close out this next-to-last weekend in July with a 9-game lead?).

Betcha didn't realize that Texas now has won 15-of-22 divisional games this season and starters Tommy Hunter, Colby Lewis and C.J. Wilson are a combined 24-11 and they all serve as mere caddies to the aforementioned Lee these days - nice! ...

Here's some other quick-hitters notes in MLB:

In case you missed it, Milwaukee 1B Prince Fielder took over sole possession of NL home run lead with his 24th dinger of the year in Thursday night's 3-2 win at Pittsburgh. Fielder - who only has 46 RBI with that home run lead - has been dangled in front of the San Francisco Giants for weeks now but SF is not budging as GM Brian Sabean continues to hold tight his young starting pitchers. Sorry to say, there won't be a Stephen Strasburg versus Fielder head-to-head showdown this weekend at Miller Park in this three-game series - Strasburg pitched (and won 8-5) at Cincinnati this past Wednesday night ...

Finally, are we gonna be the first folks to say the following:

Carl Pavano for AL Cy Young.

Hey, don't laugh as the Minnesota Twins righty won his seventh consecutive game with Thursday's 5-0 win in Baltimore and now the veteran is 12-6 with a 3.26 ERA. Pavano allowed just five hits to the frustrated and flustered O's - see ejections of manager Juan Samuel, pitching coach Rick Kranitz and 1B Ty Wigginton - and waltzed his way to a complete-game win in the 92-degree heat.

Pavano's next start figures to come Tuesday night in Kansas City and the Royals and KC's David DeJesus could be out then and longer with a sprained thumb suffered while going after a Derek Jeter hit fly ball that turned into an inside-the-park home run in Thursday's 10-4 Yankees win.

The bottom line is if Pavano wins 18 or 19 games this year, he's going to be right at the top of the AL Cy Young list even though he wasn't on the All-Star roster.

Extra, extra: As long as we brought up some Yankees talk, 3B Alex Rodriguez enters the weekend looking for home run #600 and wouldn't it be a kick if he hit it off Royals RHP Kyle Davies (Saturday's scheduled starter in the Bronx). You might recall that Davis surrendered A-Rod's 500th home run back in August of 2007 - wonder if any pitcher has ever been infamous like that should history repeat itself this weekend.

The baseball 'cappers of the Jim Hurley Network are keyed in on three of the biggest games of Friday night! Click here to learn more.


Okay, so maybe it doesn't happen 100 percent of the time but hear us out:

In many years past we have noticed how when teams finish off one year on a nifty pointspread run - a sure sign that they are playing really good football - it carries over the next year in their on-the-field play.

Now, with that in mind, we examine some "Teams to Watch" this year based on their late-season rallies in 2009. It doesn't necessarily mean we believe that the following teams will be playing for a national championship in January 2011 but here's a prediction that they will be pretty good.

Note that here we're checking in on teams from "A" through "M" and we'll wrap up this special report in the next Jim Sez.

AIR FORCE - All hail the Fly Boys who zoomed into the off-season having covered five of their final six games a year ago including that runaway 47-20 win against 5-point favorite Houston in the Armed Forces Bowl. Note that Air Force does have some offensive line questions heading into the 2010 campaign but the defense is better than you think (held 11 of 13 foes to 20 points or less last season) and a win against BYU on Sept. 11th could catapult the Falcons to great heights.

BOWLING GREEN - Maybe this team doesn't jump out at you while coming off a 7-6 SU (straightup) season but keep in mind the Mid-American Conference crew registered a tidy 4-0-1 ATS (against the spread) mark in the final five games of the 2009 season and that included a pointspread "push" in that wild 43-42 loss to 1-point fav Idaho. The B-Gees have one of the best unknown coaches in the land in Dave Clawson and no doubt he's worth a couple of points in Falcon tilts this season.

IOWA STATE - Maybe you consider the Cyclones' three-game spread winning streak that capped off the 2009 season was nothing to write home about but those late-year covers against Big 12 rivals Colorado and at Missouri were important to team morale and ditto for that 14-13 win against 1-point fav Minnesota in last year's Insight Bowl. The 'Clones did get to a bowl game in Year One of the Paul Rhoads Era - the team's first bowl tilt since 2005 - and now I-State has high hopes that its spread offense will continue to bloom behind QB Austen Arnaud.

KANSAS STATE - True, last year's Wildcats didn't make it to a bowl game (finished 6-6 SU) but the Manhattan crew did notch five spread "W's" in its final six games including that rollicking 62-14 triumph over 6-point road favorite Texas A&M. Now that veteran head coach Bill Snyder is getting his legs under him in his second term, the 'Cats figure to play crisper ball on both sides of scrimmage and you might be interested in knowing that there is an "instant revenge" game on Sept. 4th against the visiting UCLA Bruins.

MIDDLE TENNESSEE STATE - Hats off to the Blue Raiders who actually covered their final seven games a year ago including that 42-32 wild/wacky New Orleans Bowl win against 3 ½-point fav Southern Miss. The Sun Belt Conference crew last failed to cover a Las Vegas pointspread back on Oct. 17th - a 27-6 home loss against 4 ½-point favorite Mississippi State - and something tells us Rick Stockstill's club could win double-digit games this year providing it can finally get over the hump and beat archrival Troy (see Oct. 5th).

NOTE: There's plenty more Football News & Notes in the next edition of Jim Sez - so don't miss out!


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