Billy-Ball Daily: 2007-9-27

9/27/2007
Billy-Ball Daily
Bill Chuck (Billy-Ball his own self)

Billy-Ball – From the diamond to your desktop…

Subscribe to Billy-Ball – it’s free – www.billy-ball.com

The only spin here is on my screwball

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Top of the 1st
LET’S GO ANGELS IN THE OUTFIELD
I can’t tell you how much I appreciate the addition of Jerry Malitz, Senior, National Correspondent for Billy-Ball.com. He writes something that I don’t have to write.

No, that’s not it! He writes something that I love to read and I love that.

For his recent work he has been promoted on the staff from Jimmy Olsen to Lois Lane.

Jerry brings us another way to relax today with a significantly different slant.

Enjoy…

(A)Musing from The Cheap Seats
LET’S GO ANGELS IN THE OUTFIELD

The major league playoffs are soon upon us and so are many games of predictions. But what if there was a new game in town, one that pitted make-believe teams against each other? How about the New York Subways against the Los Angeles Freeways. Let the two teams be comprised of players who put on the uniforms of both the New York Yankees and the New York Mets against a team of players who wore the Dodgers blue and also got to wear a cap with that silly halo of the Angels (just who are they trying to butter up with that anyhow?).

Of course one of the teams has had a major identity problem. The Angels without moving cities have been called the Los Angeles Angels, the California Angels, the Anaheim Angels, and now they are the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. I am not sure if this is a marketing stroke of genius or a blatant case of disrespect for the city of Anaheim and it’s 342,000 residents. Regardless this city rivalry is a match waiting to happen and here are the teams who will be fighting it out on our imaginary field of dreams.

Well over 100 players have been both a Yankee and a Met and here is your starting lineup.
1B – John Olerud – He of the helmet in the field and the .295 lifetime B.A.
2B – Willie Randolph – A graduate of my alma mater Samuel J. Tilden H.S. Damn that Rutherford B. Hayes and the Republican Congress of 1876 during their first steal of a presidential election.
SS – Tony Fernandez – A .288 lifetime B.A. with 246 stolen bases.
3B – Robin Ventura – 294 Home runs and a playoff grand slam turned single.
OF – Daryl Strawberry – 335 Home runs, and a son who starred in basketball for the Maryland Terps.
OF – Rickey Henderson – A Christmas baby with 297 home runs and 1406 stolen bases.
OF – Gene Woodling – Old school. Started playing in 1943 and compiled a .284 B.A.
C – Yogi – He needs no last name since he is the only Hall of Famer on this team and he still does AFLAC commercials.
SP – Dwight Gooden – 194 wins and some extracurricular medicinal habits.
RP – Jeff Reardon – 367 career saves and the first pitcher in Major League Baseball history to have 40 saves in a season in both the American and National Leagues.

Over 80 players have donned the Dodgers blue and Angels Halo. Here is ther team.
1B – Bill Buckner – The New Yorkers insisted that he be on this team despite his .289 B.A.
2B – Billy Grabarkewitz – Known as Grabs. What else is necessary to know.
SS – Bobby Valentine – Ralph Branca’s son-in-law just has to be on this team.
3B – Ken McMullen – 156 home runs and a stint with the Washington Senators.
OF – Tommy Davis – A .294 B.A. and a single season record of 153 RBI’s for the Dodgers. He went to Boys H.S. in Brooklyn a rival of Tilden’s. Boo.
OF – Willie Davis – 398 Stolen bases and a .279 B.A but no relation to Tommy.
OF – Devon White – 208 home runs, 348 steals and not a member of the Jamaican bobsled team.
C – Jim Torborg – The only two teams he played for. A .214 B.A. and 10 of 11 losing seasons as a manager.
SP – Don Sutton – A Hall of Famer with 324 wins negated by being an announcer for the 2007 Washington Nationals.
RP – Jim Brewer – A nasty screwball and a lifetime ERA of 3.07

What do you think?

It seems as if the N.Y. squad includes many more household names and characters. Sure there might be a few more drug addicts but it’s not easy playing in the Big Apple. On the other hand the L.A. squad is full of “scrappy” ball players (read: not very good). Perhaps it’s the managers who will make the difference. The Subways get the The Old Perfessor, Casey Stengel who will undoubtedly confuse them. While the Freeways get Mike Scioscia who is more attuned to the modern ballplayer.

Need some more material to make a decision? The New Yorkers have many characters on the bench with Marvelous Marv Thronberry, Ron Swoboda and Phil Linz to provide harmonical musical relief. The best the Angelos can do on the bench to keep the team loose is the prankster Jay Johnstone. He’s not bad but is he a match for a classic Miller Lite commercial star like Marvelous Marv?

It looks like this is a case where the star power of the east coast might prove to be too much for the traditional laid back west coast attitude. How do so many big names end up playing for both the Yankees and the Mets? Pizza and deli that’s all there is to it.
Jerry’s entries can be found in the Billy-Ball.com Bullpen or directly at http://billy-ball.com/AMusings.htm

Top of the 2nd
POST HASTE
As we hurry to the end of the season, we rush to judgment:

AMERICAN LEAGUE EAST
TEAM W L PCT GB
y–Red Sox 94 64 .595 –
y–Yankees 91 67 .576 3
Blue Jays 81 77 .513 13
Orioles 67 91 .424 27
Devil Rays 65 93 .411 29

AMERICAN LEAGUE CENTRAL
TEAM W L PCT GB
x–Indians 94 64 .595 –
Tigers 87 72 .547 7.5
Twins 77 81 .487 17
White Sox 69 89 .437 25
Royals 68 90 .430 26

AMERICAN LEAGUE WEST
TEAM W L PCT GB
x–Angels 92 67 .579 –
Mariners 84 74 .532 7.5
Rangers 75 84 .472 17
A’s 75 84 .472 17

NATIONAL LEAGUE EAST
TEAM W L PCT GB
Mets 87 71 .551 –
Phillies 86 72 .544 1
Braves 83 75 .525 4
e–Nationals 72 87 .453 15.5
e–Marlins 68 90 .430 19

NATIONAL LEAGUE CENTRAL
TEAM W L PCT GB
Cubs 83 75 .525 –
Brewers 81 77 .513 2
e–Cardinals 74 84 .468 9
e–Reds 71 87 .449 12
e–Astros 70 88 .443 13
e–Pirates 68 90 .430 15

NATIONAL LEAGUE WEST
TEAM W L PCT GB
Diamondbacks 88 70 .557 –
Padres 87 71 .551 1
Rockies 86 72 .544 2
e–Dodgers 80 78 .506 8
e–Giants 70 89 .440 18.5

x–clinched the division title
y–clinched a postseason berth
d–mathematically eliminated from winning the division title
e–mathematically eliminated from the postseason

NL KEY GAMES REMAINING:
* Mets (4 home): Cardinals (1), today; Marlins (3), Friday-Sunday.
* Phillies (4 home): Braves (3), today; Nationals (3), Friday-Sunday.
* Diamondbacks (4 away): At Pittsburgh, today; at Colorado, Friday- Sunday.
* Padres (4 away): At Brewers, Thursday-Sunday.
* Rockies (1 away, 3 home): At Dodgers, today; Diamondbacks, Friday-Sunday.

IF THERE IS A TIE:
* If the Rockies tie with Philadelphia or San Diego, Colorado would host a one-game playoff Monday at Coors Field, with the winner advancing to a National League Division Series.
* If the Rockies, Philadelphia and San Diego tie for the wild card, the Phillies, who lost four of seven to the Rockies, would play at San Diego, which went 8-10 against the Rockies, on Monday. The Rockies would play at the home park of the team that wins that game on Tuesday, with the winner advancing.

GAMES OF THE DAY:
* Padres (87-71) at Brewers (81-77)
The Brewers 49-28 record at Miller Park is the best home record in the National League. They are 17-8 in home series this season and have broken the record set last year for single-season wins (48) at Miller Park. Milwaukee last won more than 49 games at home in 1992, going 53-28 at County Stadium.

San Diego is 40-37 on the road, making them one of five NL teams with a winning road record. The Padres are scheduled to start Jack Cassel, Greg Maddux, Chris Young and Brett Tomko in Milwaukee. But if they are in a must-win situation Sunday, the Padres will start Jake Peavy on three days’ rest.

Probable starters:
* RHP Jack Cassel (1-1, 4.00 ERA) – Has never faced the Brewers.
o Cassel will be making his fourth start for the Padres and in his most recent outing gave up three runs on six hits in 2 1/3 innings against the Rockies. But in the start before that, Cassel shut out the Pirates on eight hits over six innings.
* RHP Yovani Gallardo (9-4, 3.59 ERA) – Jason Lane (0-for-1) is the only Padre he has faced.
o Gallardo, 21, is the fourth-youngest player in the National League. He is 5-1 at home this season and 2-0 in his past three starts with a 0.86 ERA. His velocity tops out at 93-94 mph.

* Braves at Phillies
Probable starters:
Braves
* RHP John Smoltz, 14-7, 2.95 ERA: Is 2-1 with a 2.38 ERA in five starts this month, including Saturday when he allowed two runs and two hits in eight innings against Milwaukee and left with the score tied 2-2 before Atlanta won 4-3 in 11 innings. . . . His ERA is the lowest it has been since July 28 (2.84). . . . He has faced the Phillies once this year, on April 2 at Citizens Bank Park, and allowed three runs in six innings in Atlanta’s 5-3, 10-inning win. The Braves are 18-13 in his starts. . . . He has overmatched Philadelphia’s Pat Burrell, who is 2-for-25 with 13 strikeouts against Smoltz.
* RHP Kyle Kendrick, 9-4, 3.83 ERA: He is 6-1 with a 3.69 ERA in 10 starts at hitter-friendly Citizens Bank Park. . . . He was knocked out in the fourth inning Sept. 12 against the visiting Rockies when Garrett Atkins lined a ball off his right knee, but in subsequent starts at St. Louis and at Washington, he has allowed four runs (three earned) in 12 innings. . . . His only loss in seven starts since Aug. 15 was the Sept. 12 game when he gave up four runs in three innings in what became a 12-0 Rockies romp. . . . Left-handed hitters are batting .330 against Kendrick, 97 points higher than right-handers.

THE BILLY-BALL-BIG-PICTURE
With the Yankees clinching at least a Wild Card spot, all four AL playoff teams have been determined before any spot in the NL is clinched. Eight teams are still in the running for NL playoff berths. The Padres still have a shot at the West title and have a one-game edge on Philadelphia and Colorado in the wild-card race. But the Brewers almost have to sweep the Padres to keep their NL Central hopes alive.

Here’s an interesting take on the Rockies, guided by Tracy Ringolsby – The Rockies are closer to wild-card leader San Diego than they are to NL West division leader Arizona, but they control their destiny on the NL West title while the wild card will require some help.
The Rockies don’t play San Diego again, so they can’t stop the Padres from winning their final four games. They need help from Milwaukee, which starts a four-game series with the Padres tonight at Miller Park.
The Rockies don’t play Philadelphia again, so they have to rely on Atlanta today or Washington during the weekend to knock off the Phillies.
But the Rockies will play Arizona, which after finishing a series in Pittsburgh this afternoon will be at Coors Field for the final three games of the regular season starting Friday night.

COMPUTING MAGIC NUMBERS
Here’s one way: Take the number of games yet to be played, add one, then subtract the number of games ahead in the loss column of the standings from the closest opponent.

Here’s another: Games In A Season plus 1 minus Wins minus Losses by Second-Place Team. Because Games plus 1 should equal 163 in all instances, it can be summed up as:

163 – Wins – Losses By Second-Place Team

Before the season starts, every team has a magic number of 163. That would be 162 games plus 1, with 0 wins and 0 losses by the second-place team.

When the magic number is 1, that means the team has clinched at least a tie for the championship. Once it reaches zero, the team has won the title.

AL EAST
x-Red Sox 2
AL CENTRAL
x-Indians Won division
AL WEST
x-Angels Won division
NL EAST
Mets 4
NL CENTRAL
Cubs 3
NL WEST
D-backs 4
x-clinched playoff spot

AL EAST
RED SOX
So, my good friend and accountant Greg Condon reads my piece about my declaration about being a baseballaholic yesterday and in response takes me to the ballgame. We sit in what some have described as “the best seats in the house,” two rows behind the Red Sox dugout and I see a very relaxed Boston team beat up an Oakland team, that clearly didn’t really bother to show up, 11-6. At times the noise was deafening, not from the roaring crowd but the loud “ka-chings” for each of Mike Lowell’s five RBI. This man is going to clean up this off-season as he enters free-agency.

The weather was a sweaty 93 degrees which is ideal for many of the hometowners. David Ortiz loves this weather and went 3-4 but didn’t drive anybody home leaving him trailing Lowell (116) by two RBI for the team lead. Lowell now holds the team record for RBIs by a third baseman surpassing Butch Hobson’s 112 in 1977. Lowell increased his batting average to a career-best .326 and has avoided his usual second-half slump.

Then there’s Manny Ramirez as cleanup hitter. Manny returned from missing 24 games with a strained oblique went 4-for-5 in his first two games back. I am telling you, someday, many years from now, Manny will be lying in his death bed, getting the last rites and before the priest is done, this aged feeble shell of a man will get up and stroke a single to center.

Jon Lester had a season-high nine strikeouts in 4 1/3 innings but allowed five runs. He is 6-0 in his last 14 starts starting on Aug. 13, 2006, but his ERA in that span is 5.54 and looks to me like an unlikely candidate to make the post-season roster.
Red Sox outfielder Coco Crisp was unable to play because of an inner ear infection. This is bad for Coco, but good for the Red Sox as Jacoby Ellsbury played in his place. Ellsbury singled and has hit safely in 21 of his 22 games since being recalled on Sept. 1 from Triple-A Pawtucket. He has reached base in 26 straight games. Now if only J.D. Drew could come down with the same affliction.

Greg, thanks for a terrific evening at Fenway.

If you would like your name and business mentioned in Billy-Ball….Well, I’ll let you fill in the rest.

YANKEES
* I’ll admit, I didn’t believe this day would come this season. The New York Yankees clinched their 13th straight postseason appearance, beating the Tampa Bay Devil Rays 12-4 to assure themselves of at least a wild-card berth in the playoffs. Chien-Ming Wang (19-7), who became the first Yankees pitcher to win at least 19 games in consecutive seasons since Tommy John won 21 in 1979 and 22 in 1980. Maybe someday Wang will have a surgery named after him. Wang, who has won six of his last seven decisions, allowed two runs and seven hits in six innings. Derek Jeter and Robinson Cano homered.
* The victory, New York’s 15th in 20 games, eliminated defending AL champion Detroit from postseason contention.
* New York’s streak of nine consecutive AL East titles is likely to end, but I don’t think you will hear any complaints from this team after they came back from the depths to reach the post-season.
* New York was 21-29 before play on May 30 and has gone 70-38 since then.
* The Yankees have made the playoffs every year since 1995, and their streak of 13 consecutive trips is one shy of the record set by the Atlanta Braves from 1991-2005.
* Yankees manager Joe Torre met with Steinbrenner and other Yankees officials, including general manager Brian Cashman, over lunch earlier in the day. They discussed a variety of topics, but not the manager’s future. Torre is in the final year of his contract.
* Roger Clemens will remain in Florida to continue his rehab program for a strained left hamstring when the team leaves St. Petersburg to close out the regular season at Baltimore. Clemens should be ready to pitch next week.

AL CENTRAL
INDIANS
* Doubleheaders are ugly for players just ask the Cleveland Indians who routed the Mariners, 12-4, in the opener, but lost a key game to Seattle, 3-2 in 10 innings. The opening game completed the Indians home season since the game needed to be moved because of losing an April series to snow.
* In the nightcap, Seattle trailed 2-0 in the 8th on solo home runs by Ryan Garko and Kelly Stoppach. Jose Guillen got Seattle on the board with a sacrifice fly in the 8th then Class AAA call-up Jeff Clement sent the game to extra innings with a two-out, tying homer in the 9th off closer Joe Borowski. It was the second consecutive night and third time in the past three games between these teams that the shaky Cleveland closer has blown a save. Pay attention to that, my friends.
TIGERS
* The Detroit Tigers were eliminated from post-season play last night. Their manager, Jim Leyland, is scheduled to meet with Detroit Tigers president Dave Dombrowski and wants to have his contract extended. “I hope that when I leave Monday, I will be the manager of the Tigers through 2009,” Leyland said. Dombrowski doesn’t expect it to be a problem to agree on a deal.

AL WEST
* Texas defeated the Angels, 16-2.
* Garret Anderson left yesterday’s game with an irritated left knee after making a running catch to end the 1st inning. The Angels said Matthews would be re-evaluated tomorrow.
* The Texas Rangers’ Michael Young’s RBI single in the Rangers thrashing of the Angels was his 200th hit this season. It is the fifth consecutive 200-hit season for Young, who joined Wade Boggs and Ichiro Suzuki as the only players since 1940 to achieve that feat. The four-time All-Star shortstop, who got off to a miserable start this season after signing a new contract, matched Hall of Fame second baseman Charlie Gehringer (1933-37) for the most consecutive 200-hit seasons by a middle infielder. Boggs and Ichiro both had seven straight 200-hit seasons, including this year for Suzuki. Boggs had at least 200 hits from 1983 to 1989.

NL EAST
METS
* I’d like to dedicate the next song to the New York Mets – “Free Fallin'” by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. I can tell you that there will be many a breaking heart if the Mets complete this historic collapse. New York wasted two homers by Carlos Beltran and another from Moises Alou, as they had another pornographic moment blowing another five run lead, losing to Washington, 9-6. Ryan Church homered and drove in four runs for the Nationals, who completed a three-game sweep at Shea Stadium and improved to 5-1 against the Mets in a 10-day span. The Nationals, who began the night with the fewest runs in the majors, scored 57 in their final six games against New York. Joel Hanrahan (5-3) got the win, yielding one run in 1 2-3 innings. Philip Humber made his first major league start and was not effective. Another rookie, Joe Smith (3-2) took the loss.
* New York has dropped six straight home games and nine of 13 overall.
* Because of a sore right foot, Orlando Hernandez hadn’t pitched since he was roughed up by the Braves on Sept. 11, and he had worked only six-plus innings since Aug. 26. But the Mets brought Hernandez in for first relief appearance since October 2005 with the Chicago White Sox. He walked two and struck out two in a scoreless inning. El Duque said his foot was sore after the outing. Now, Hernandez will be used out of the bullpen through the first round of the playoffs — if the Mets get there, Randolph said.
* Alou extended his hitting streak to 30 games. It’s the longest streak by a player on a New York team (including Brooklyn) since Joe DiMaggio’s record run of 56 games in 1941 with the Yankees.
* Moises Alou and Hall of Famer Sam Rice are the only two players in MLB history to have a 30-game hit streak, the majority of which was in September/October for a first-place team. Sam Rice had his in 1924, when the Senators won the World Series.
* Washington (72-87) surpassed last year’s win total, split the season series with the Mets 9-all and clinched a winning record in September for the second consecutive year.
PHILLIES
* The Phillies took advantage of Braves third baseman Chipper Jones’ throwing error to score three unearned runs off Tim Hudson in a 5-2 victory. Starter Kyle Lohse allowed two runs and six hits in seven innings, striking out five and becoming the first Philadelphia starter to go seven innings since Jamie Moyer on Sept. 14.
* Chase Utley’s 19-game hitting streak ended, but he was hit by a pitch for the 24th time this season to lead the majors.
* Adam Eaton won’t take his regularly scheduled turn today against the Braves because in three starts against them he has an 11.20 ERA. Eaton will be pushed back two days to Saturday, when he’ll face Washington, against whom he’s 1-0 with a 5.71 ERA in three starts this year.

NL CENTRAL
CUBS
* The Chicago Cubs were shut out over the final five and two-thirds innings and lost for the second night in a row to last-place Florida, 7-4.
* Matt Lindstrom (4-4) pitched a perfect inning. With closer Kevin Gregg nursing a sore forearm, Lee Gardner finished for his second save in two chances. Jason Marquis (12-9) lost for the first time since Aug. 26. He allowed five runs, four earned, in five innings.
* “It was a bad ballgame from us,” Cubs manager Lou Piniella said. “We’ve got to play better than that if we want to go forward.”
* The Marlins have won their last nine meetings with the Cubs.
BREWERS
* Milwaukee dropped a key game to St. Louis, 7-3. Albert Pujols hit a 1st inning home run and in the 2nd inning Brad Thompson (8-6) hit Prince Fielder on the right shoulder with a high fastball. In the 8th, Pujols was plunked on the elbow by Brewers reliever Seth McClung, who was ejected along with manager Ned Yost.
* Johnny Estrada has torn cartilage in his left knee and it was thought he was done for the year, but he took batting practice Tuesday and could be available to pinch hit left-handed over the final week. The switch-hitting catcher would not be available to bat right-handed because of pain from finishing on his front leg. “With the tear we’re still kind of waiting to see exactly where he’s at,” manager Ned Yost said in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.
* Pujols’s homer gave him 100 runs batted in for the seventh straight season.
NL WEST
DIAMONDBACKS
* Adam LaRoche drove in three runs with a pair of doubles and Matt Morris pitched effectively over seven innings as the Pirates beat Arizona for the second night in a row, 5-1. Pirates rookie Nyjer Morgan reached base three times, getting a pair of hits and making an excellent catch. Xavier Nady added a solo homer against Livan Hernandez (11-11), who struggled allowing 10 hits and four runs over four-plus innings. Matt Morris (10-11) limited Arizona to one run and six hits in the longest of his 11 starts since being traded to Pittsburgh on July 31.
* Morris is only 1-2 in four starts against Arizona this season but has a 2.48 ERA, losing a 1-0 decision on June 6. Morris, a .228 hitter, had two singles.
* The Pirates were 7-15 in September before the series began.
* Arizona is 4-4 against Pittsburgh this season.
* The Diamondbacks have dropped five of seven road games and has been outscored 18-7 in its last three games.
* With 68 victories, the Pirates are assured of topping their 67-95 records of each of the previous two seasons.

ROCKIES
* What about the Kid Rocks (so aptly named by Dave Krieger in the Rocky Mountain News)? The Rockies won their 10th straight defeating the Dodgers, 2-0. All the scoring came in the 3rd when Yorvit Torrealba doubled with one out and after Josh Fogg fouled off a third- strike bunt, the Rockies got consecutive singles from Kazuo Matsui, Troy Tulowitzki and Matt Holliday.
* Fogg and three relievers combined on the Rockies’ seventh shutout of the season, one short of the club record. The Rockies had eight shutouts in 2001, 2002 and 2006.
* First baseman Todd Helton’s single extended his hitting streak to 10 games. He has reached base in 27 consecutive games.
* They have trailed only once in 59 innings and that was for a half an inning.
* The Rockies have baseball’s best record since the first day of each of the past four months.
* They set a franchise record for wins Sunday with No. 84, climbed 14 games above .500 (86-72) for the first time in franchise history yesterday and with one more win will ensure themselves the best winning percentage in franchise history. They were 77-67 in strike-shortened 1995, a .535 winning percentage, when they claimed the NL wild card for the only postseason appearance in franchise history.

PADRES
* The Padres knocked out 17 hits for ace Jake Peavy and helped Giants fans bid farewell to Barry B*nds by burying them, 11-3. Triple Crown winner Peavy (19-6) departed after seven innings with the Padres ahead 10-2 and his majors-low ERA at 2.36. Peavy added only one strikeout to his NL-best total. Peavy also went 2-for-4, starting off the six-run 5th with a leadoff single. He now has a career-high 16 hits this season and is batting .229 with seven RBIs. Unless he starts on short rest in Sunday’s season finale, Peavy would be on extra rest going into the playoffs. Josh Bard went 4-for-5 with two doubles, three RBI and three runs scored.
* Ahead by seven runs over the last-place Giants in the 6th inning, Peavy gave B*nds a courtesy fastball with the count 2-0 and two out. “I wanted to try to give Barry his bit of due,” Peavy said. “I have the utmost respect for Barry and was trying to let him have his swings there.” B*nds hit a steroid depleted 390-foot flyout to the warning track in right-center. En route to the dugout, B*nds hugged Peavy near the mound, then pointed acknowledgment to Black, who doffed his cap. One curtain call later, B*nds walked up the stairs to the clubhouse. B*nds said he won’t play at Los Angeles this weekend.
* When the final out was made, the Giants and even Padres pitcher Greg Maddux remained in the dugout to watch about a six-minute video tribute to B*nds but classy to the end, the slugger was already on his way out, his locker completely empty. The Giants then threw autographed baseballs into the stands. With a 39-42 record at home, they were lucky they weren’t thrown back.
* Padres rookie third baseman Kevin Kouzmanoff is hot as of late going 32-for-69 with a .517 on-base percentage while reaching base in 20 straight games.
* The Padres were 14-4 against the Giants.
* The Padres begin a four-game series today in Milwaukee’s Miller Park, where the ability to go deep matters. There have been 199 homers hit at Miller Park this season, including five by the Indians in three April games when snow made it impossible to play in Cleveland. Only Philadelphia’s Citizens Bank Park (230) and Cincinnati’s Great American Ball Park (219) have yielded more home runs.
* San Diego is playing without the injured Mike Cameron, third on the Padres with 21 home runs and the injured and deranged Milton Bradley who hit 11 in 144 at-bats with San Diego. Because of the combination of pitcher- friendly Petco Park and their hitters, the Padres rank ninth in the National League with 162 home runs and their only other players with 15 or more are Adrian Gonzalez (27), Khalil Greene (25) and Kevin Kouzmanoff (17).
* The Brewers lead the majors with 225 home runs and home runs hit at home (115).

Top of the 3rd
THE WINTERS OF OUR DISCONTENT
The commissioner’s office yesterday suspended umpire Mike Winters for the final five games of the regular season, for his role in Sunday’s confrontation with Padres outfielder Milton Bradley. Winters became the first umpire suspended since 2003. It’s understood that Winters will not be selected for the postseason.

“There’s a certain conduct that the umpires are expected to uphold,” said Patrick Courtney, vice president of public relations for Major League Baseball. “The feeling is he crossed that line. You are supposed to defuse these situations.”

Padres first base coach Bobby Meacham, who was the first to confront Winters on Sunday, said he told MLB investigators Winters called Bradley a “(bleeping) piece of (expletive).” Tuesday, Meacham said Winters should apologize to Bradley.

Manager Bud Black evaded questions when asked about his reaction to the suspension. Black said he’s glad investigators are done questioning Padres personnel. As part of the investigation, MLB lawyers contacted Rockies first baseman Todd Helton, who was within earshot of Winters, Bradley and Meacham when tempers flared. But Helton did not discuss the incident with investigators.

Today, Bradley is to undergo season-ending surgery to repair the ligament tear he suffered after falling as Meacham and Black tried to restrain him. Reds team doctor Tim Kremchek is to perform the surgery in Cincinnati.

Winters, 48, has been a major league umpire for the past 17 seasons and worked the World Series last season and in 2002. In 1998, Charlie Hayes, then with the San Francisco Giants, said Winters cursed at him after he argued a call.

If the Commissioner’s Office has deemed Winters culpable, then his punishment is way too light, even if we are talking about Milton Bradley. If an umpire can portray a higher level of behavior than one of baseball’s low life’s, he has no business being in a position of authority.

Top of the 4th
B*NDS B*LL
The ball Barry B*nds hit for his record-breaking 756th home run will be appropriately branded with an asterisk and sent to the Baseball Hall of Fame. Fashion designer Marc Ecko, who bought the ball in an online auction, set up a Web site for fans to vote on the ball’s fate, and Wednesday announced the decision to brand it won out over the other options — sending it to Cooperstown unblemished or launching it into space.

Ecko said he believed the vote to brand the ball showed people thought “this was shrouded in a chapter of baseball history that wasn’t necessarily the clearest it could be.”

Detroit Tigers manager Jim Leyland agreed with a columnist who said he thought the Hall of Fame was disrespecting Bonds for accepting the ball with the asterisk on it and Hall of Fame president Dale Petroskey said accepting the ball did not mean the Hall in Cooperstown, N.Y., endorses the viewpoint that Barry Bonds used drugs.

“This ball wouldn’t be coming to Cooperstown if Marc hadn’t bought it from the fan who caught it and then let the fans have their say,” Petroskey told The Associated Press. “We’re delighted to have the ball. It’s a historic piece of baseball history.”

Hall of Fame officials and Ecko are discussing how to affix the asterisk on the ball. It’s not yet known when the ball will go on display.

Top of the 5th
GOODBYE TO THE DEVILS
Next season, the Tampa Bay Devil Rays will be known simply as “the Rays.” In conjunction will be a new logo and new uniforms, as well as a new web address. But the latter has hit a major glitch…in Seattle.

Ray’s Boathouse, in Ballard, is a Seattle symbol of Northwest cuisine. But nobody refers to Ray’s Boathouse as “the Boathouse,” Ray’s Boathouse is known as “Rays.” And in case you forget, there is a 50-foot “RAY’S” red sign near its front door.

It should come as no surprise that the Devil Ray’s, or the Rays if we look ahead, have a first choice for their web address. That, understandably, is www.rays.com. Now, understandably, Ray’s Boathouse already has that for their website’s URL.

According to Lori Magaro, marketing and public-relations manager for Ray’s, which has been in business since 1939, the restaurant reserved the rays.com address 11 years ago and has been fending off attempts to claim it ever since.

“We obviously could have chosen raysboathouse.com, but most people call us ‘Ray’s.’ It’s short and to the point,” she said.
Raysboathouse.com is currently nothing more than a holding site.

And so what will happen?

“We’re not selling,” Magaro told the St, Petersburg Times. “The headache — are you kidding me? There’s so many things we’d have to change. It’s perfect for us.” “No bargaining.”

“Technically speaking, there haven’t been any direct requests from the Devil Rays I’m aware of,” Magaro said. “We’ve gotten e-mails seeing if we would be willing to sell the domain, but none identifying themselves as being from the Devil Rays.”

Recent publicity over the name-change issue has increased the traffic at rays.com, which is just fine with them. Besides, Magaro tells the Seattle Times, the Ray’s Boathouse people are all Mariners fans.

Now, of course, there is the www.rays.org option. That’s the site of the Renton Area Youth and Family Services (RAYS) which opened in the spring of 1970. Yeah, that’s in the Seattle area as well.
Other options for the soon-to-be-Rays, according to the St. Petersburg Times, are therays.com, raysbaseball.com, and tampabayrays.com.

Top of the 6th
SHRINKAGE
The largest leads held in September by teams that did not finish in first place in their league (or in division, 1969 and later), as compiled by the Elias Sports Bureau. Date of largest lead is listed:
Date Team Lead
Sept. 1, 1938 Pirates 7
Sept. 6, 1934 NY Giants 7
Sept. 4, 1995 Calif. Angels 6