Monday, August 27, 2007

(Meaningful) Baseball In The Nightime: August Surprise

Sometimes you just get lucky. And Mr. Allan H. "Bud" Selig has hit a jackpot this week, as almost every one of the thrilling divisional races in baseball gets clarified by a head-to-head matchup this week.

Everyone knows that the Yankees and Red Sox face off starting tomorrow in the Bronx. The Bombers pretty much need a sweep to get back in it, and good luck with that: Boston sends Josh Beckett, Daisuke Matsuzaka and Curt Schilling to the rubber during the set.

But elsewhere in the bigs, a number of compelling series kick off tonight.

I'll start with the Mets and the Phillies, if only to share this excellent story concerning failed starter/oft-injured closer/wife beater Brett Myers. I consider the line "The Inquirer reporter asked if Myers could spell retarded, and Myers stood up" to be one of the finest sentences in the history of American journalism.

Anyhoo, these two teams are separated by six games in the National League East, although Philly is but a mere three back in the wild card. It's a classic NL fifth-starter-v.-fifth starter battle, with Brian Lawrence (of Fort Collins, yo) going against one of the Durbin brothers (J.D., whose initials actually spell J.A.). Feel the (steak n') cheese on XM 183 and DTV 735.

Breaking news: the Astros just shit-canned their manager and GM, and Cecil Cooper (one of my favorite players from my early childhood) has been named the interim skipper. The delicious irony of this is that the Brewers haven't made the playoffs since 1982, when Coop was one of their stars, and he'll now have the chance to lead a team that might dictate this year's Brewer fortunes. Nutty.

Back in the AL, the Twins and the Indians fire up a fatty at the Jake tonight, also at 5 Mountain, on XM 181 and a couple of DTV stations: 737 (standard def) and 731 (HD). Cleveland leads Detroit in the Central by 2 1/2, while Minnesota is 5 1/2 back in the division and 7 out in the wild card. The Twins have won five straight and send Carlos Silva up against Paul Byrd.

Baseball fans that don't subscribe to the Extra Innings package can tune in to a game with playoff implications tonight as well. Also at 5, on ESPN2 (and XM 176), the Yankees finish their set in Detroit with a reacharound game featuring starters Mike Mussina and Justin Verlander. I'm sure New York is glad to run the Moose out against the Shef-less Tigers as opposed to feeding him to the lions of the hot Boston lineup later in the week. Meanwhile, Verlander got smoked in his last start. He's a kid, what are you going to do?

Later tonight a couple of West Coast games feature postseason intensity and top-notch pitching talent. At 8, the AL West battle royale (with cheese) commences as the first-place Angels invade Safeco Field. The Halos and the Mariners are separated by a pair in the division, while Seattle leads the AL wild card by the same margin. John Lackey toes the slab for Los Anaheim opposite Miguel Batista, who once bought a drink for my wife. Interested observers can find this contest on XM 178, as well as the SD/HD DTV treatment on channels 738 and 731.

Finally, the NL West has its own 1-v.-2 showdown, from Petco Park in San Diego at 8 on XM 186 and DTV 739. The D'Backs, in possession of a 3-game divisional lead, send Livan Hernandez up against the Padres' Jake Peavy. The Friars are the current wild card frontrunners. Drink up, and check back in tomorrow for the eleventh-best Yankees-Red Sox preview on the whole WebNets.