A Final Duel.

I'll Take Burr, +160.

I’m headed down to see the Phillies game tonight.  As luck would have it, the Phillies have decided to give Chase Utley his first day off and the hometown crew will have 2010 darling, but soon to be pariah Wilson Valdez manning 2nd base.  I don’t go to the games to see Utley, though.  I go to watch Ben Francisco seed rain clouds with his pop ups.  I kid.  The good news is, Roy Halladay takes the ball for the Phils and he has pretty good recent history against the Reds.   He might need to have his best stuff as the Reds counter with Travis Wood.  Wood’s 5.17 ERA may look enticing, but he nearly threw a perfect game against the Phillies in his last start in Philadelphia.  Maybe that was beginner’s luck, but most pitchers that handcuff this line up continue to do it time and again.

Wood is pitching the next to last game in the murderous stretch of 20-straight against winning teams and division leaders. The quality of the opposing pitching has contributed to the Phillies offensive struggles and tonight is probably the last real tough test before a break this weekend when the Phils see the likes of Chris Capuano and Ryan Howard whipping boy, Mike Pelfrey.  The good old Mets.

A lot has been made of how the Phillies pitchers are handling the lack of run support in recent weeks.  This is something that not all pitchers handle with aplomb.  Edinson Volquez recently had a little blow up about Cincy’s offense, and they have one of the best lineups in the league.  For the most part the Phillies pitchers have handled the lack of runs very well.  I think there was maybe a game or two during the stretch that they got let off the hook, because the offense was the trendy thing to bemoan, but they certainly aren’t complaining and the body language looks pretty good.  I think Halladay is the most prepared to deal with such situations.  He seems to run into more opposing aces.  He was pitching the night Wood almost threw the perfect game, for example, and you can usually trust him to trade zeros.

The Phillies are 8-10 in the first 18 of this stretch.  Before it started, I said that anything over .500 would be acceptable and find the Phillies still in first place.  Well, they’ve lost the chance to win 11, but if they finish out the Reds series with a couple of wins, they can even their mark and will remain in first place.  Not a bad ending all things considered. The pressure to get that started on the right foot will rest on Halladay tonight.  I think we might be in line for one more pitcher’s duel.

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Random question of the day:  How many home dates do you think a football team could sell out in a year?  Assuming players were physically capable of playing much more often, how many home games do you think the Eagles could sell out in a season?  I’m asking because while I know football is way more popular than baseball, it is still pretty amazing what the Phillies are doing in attendance, especially in the current market.  How many people go to Eagles games each year counting the pre-season?  Around 600,000?  The Phillies charge more than 3 million through the gates, and I just wonder if people would have that kind of dedication and tolerance for football.  I’m just saying that it’s pretty amazing to me that 45,000 people make it down there every night, even with the team doing so well.

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MLB Under of the Day:

I could not help the Padres last night.  Extra innings and still they compiled 2 runs on 2 hits.  Hey, it’s a nice stadium.  Their inability to score leveled my record to 1-1.  I think the obvious choice would be to take the Phils game tonight, but I don’t want to attach any type of stink to that in any direction.  So,

Today’s Selection:  Oakland vs. Anaheim Under 7.0

I really didn’t realize that Chicago/Texas was a day game.  No one will believe that, but it’s true.  No worries.  Cahill is lights out and Reggie Jackson could probably hit clean-up for Oakland right now.  Ring it up.

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Ten Best Pitchers In Baseball at THIS MINUTE (apologies to Josh Johnson)*.

  1. Roy Halladay
  2. Josh Beckett
  3. Tim Lincecum
  4. Justin Verlander
  5. Jered Weaver
  6. Felix Hernandez
  7. Jaime Garcia
  8. Jair Jurrgens
  9. Michael Pineda
  10. Cole Hamels

*If I was picking a guy to win a big game tonight, these are the first 10 guys off my board, and obviously Johnson is on the DL.

Blurbs.

If Bonds Was Still Skinny, This Would be a Big Story.

Barry Bonds has donated money to pay for the education of Bryan Stow’s children.   For those of you that don’t remember, Stow was the Giants fan who was brutally beaten outside of Dodger stadium on opening day.  I found this news at a blog, where they were in disbelief that most outlets chose to bury or completely ignore the story.  Of the big sports websites I visit, only Sporting News has any mention of Bonds’s good deed.  It says something about the negative aura around Bonds, because Stow is still big news.  His family has filed suit against the Dodgers and that makes ESPN etc, but the story of Barry’s charity comes out at a slow trickle.  I don’t need to know that Bonds did this, but it is interesting to see the coverage, because if it was Albert Pujols doing this, Rick Reilly already would have written 5,000 words worth of heavy-handed jokes.  Barry Bonds?  More like Savings Bonds.

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Can I say now that on the day of Oprah’s last show that I never really understood why she was so popular.  I understand that she’s famous, but the power she wields is pretty incredible.  She has an army of followers that do whatever she says. Buy this product.  Read this book.  And, everyone would just fall into line.  Is there anyone else out there who could tell people to read a book and then it would immediately sell millions of copies?  Less people would be in Obama’s book club.  I don’t think we’ll ever see anything like Oprah again.  She was the talk show equivalent of the barons who built massive fortunes at the dawn of the industrial age when monopolies were all the rage. Oprah had the monopoly on afternoon TV, and things are too fragmented now for it to ever happen again.

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So, the Heat are going to win the title?  Is that where we’re at?  I want to say that it isn’t frustrating, but it is so frustrating. Mostly, because I don’t think Miami fans deserve another title.  Frauds.  The lot of them.  I was thinking about this watching the NHL playoffs as well.  I thought, if the Lightning, the gosh darn Tampa Bay Lightning (in one of the worst pro sports cities of all-time) win a second Stanley Cup in a short period of time while the Flyers fumble it away every year…that would just be the ultimate insult.  Tampa’s chances have dwindled significantly, but the Heat look to be going all the way.  This Dirk thing can’t last, right?

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As someone who once wrote the Final Four of Pork, I feel obligated to pass on the information that the USDA has lowered the recommended temperature for pork from 160 degrees to 145 degrees.  Essentially, they are telling you that you won’t get pig flu if your chops are pink in the middle.  Of course, gourmands and chefs across the globe have been eating their pork this way for years.  To them and all new converts, I say, please cook my pork all the way through.  I happen to believe that you can cook a piece of pork through and still have it be obscenely juicy and delicious.  I can’t get past the look of pink pork.  And, the texture too.  It’s not for me.  And, how I hate the disdain of people who think I am missing out on something so great.  I happen to think you can make a really good medium-well burger too.  It’s a fact.  I don’t like the centers of my pork or burgers to be mush.  I don’t care what Bobby Flay says.  Steaks?  Ok.  everything else?  Cook that noise.