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Boston Red Sox at Oakland Athletics, 4 PM ET (game 2)

I couldn't keep my eyes open past 1 AM ET, so I missed the latter innings of this game. Some of what I wrote yesterday came true: the game was decided by the bullpens, the Sox did manage to elevate the ball, and the A's were very patient.

One thing that I did not foresee was the lack of confidence the Sox had in their bullpen, which precipitated leaving Pedro on the mound to face two tough lefthanders even as his pitch count climbed towards 130. Time will tell if his effort has an impact on his next start (assuming the series goes that long).

Today, the Athletics have the edge. Lefthander Barry Zito will attempt to neutralize some of Boston's potent lefthanded bats. Tim Wakefield is an enigma - I don't expect a lot of success for him against a team as disciplined as the A's.

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Okay, first, if you don't subscribe to Lee Sinins' excellent "Around the Majors" daily e-mail report, stop what you're doing -- reading this, I guess -- and go do that. Now, I tell you. NOW! GO!

In today's edition, Sinins includes an item about Mike Hampton; a chart accompanies the item listing the top (bottom?) 10 active pitchers in most strikeouts below the league average.

Here are the names you'll find on that list:
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These park factors are for runs scored. They are derived by looking at the ratio of runs scored per inning at home versus road for batters and pitchers (separately), after which the two results are averaged. The home park factors are then used to determine the road park factors for each team on an inning-by-inning basis. The final factors are arrived at by adjusting so that the league average is exactly 1. They have not been regressed towards the mean.

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The Arizona Fall League is underway out in the American southwest, and the Peoria Javelinas, on whose roster six Jays prospects will be found, got off on the wrong foot with a 10-3 thrashing by the Scottsdale Rafters (scroll down to see boxscore). Much of the damage, unfortunately, was inflicted on Jordan De Jong, who was lit up for 6 runs in just 1/3 of an inning and sports a shiny 162.00 ERA after Day One. Russ Adams had two hits and an RBI, but Dominic Rich went 0-for-3 and Tyrell Godwin failed in a pinch-hitting appearance.

For those waiting expectantly for the end-of-year minor-league reviews, my apologies for the delay -- circumstances beyond my control have hamstrung the project. But I'm confident that we'll have the first of six separate reviews ready to go by this time next week, starting with Pulaski and working our way up to Syracuse. If you'e curious about any prospects in particular, let me know and I'll add them to the review.

Boston Red Sox at Oakland Athletics, 10 PM ET (game 1)

This series is perhaps the hardest to predict because the teams seem so evenly matched. I'm predicting a 5-game series, with a re-match of tonight's pitching matchup.

Because Oakland plays in a pitcher's park, its offence is better than it looks on paper. This is the right sort of offence to attack Pedro with: a high-pitch count generator. As always with Hudson, his success depends on inducing routine ground balls.

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Chicago Cubs at Atlanta Braves, 7 PM ET (game 2)

A must-must-win game for the Braves. Facing Prior in Wrigley in Game 3 down 2-0 would just about spell curtains for the top regular season dog in the National League. If the Braves lose this series, it won't be a big upset in my book. But it will add just a little bit of spice to the "Bobby Cox can't manage in a short series" broth that's been simmering for almost 20 years.

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Florida Marlins at San Francisco Giants, 4 PM ET (Game 2)

It looks like the righthander Ponson will start game 2. The Marlins have very few potent lefthanded bats (even on the bench) and so Ponson is a solid choice. Rueter wouldn't be a bad choice, either: he'd be a good bet to shut off the running game, and it's hard for the Marlins to generate runs in other ways.

It didn't have a large impact on the game, but the automatic walk to Bonds with the bases empty and two outs in the 8th was a bit much. By all means pitch him carefully - at least you'd have a shot at getting the out.

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This charming piece on retiring Yankee Stadium organist Eddie Layton, who started working the Stadium the same year I shuffled onto this mortal coil, just reminds us how great it would be if Skydome had an organist of talent and imagination. I've attended or watched countless games at the Dome, and I've concluded that the organist knows exactly three tunes: "Charge!" "The Addams Family Theme," and "Go Jays Go" (a variation on local favourite "Go Leafs Go"). And that's it. Day after day, over and over ... these three vapid tunes symbolize the Skydome sound as much as the preternatural echo. Isn't Nancy Faust available as a free agent?
When Mike Wilner first rose from the primeval swamp that is Bathurst and Steeles in Toronto 33 years ago, it was far from a foregone conclusion that he would become a fixture in the daily lives of so many Blue Jays fans including many Bauxites. But now, Mike is a familiar voice to many of us, as the studio host of the Blue Jays broadcasts on the FAN radio network, including the FAN 590 in Toronto.
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This entry will be updated as necessary throughout the day.

Minnesota Twins at New York Yankees, 1 PM ET

Today is Minnesota's best shot. They have their ace going, a fireballing lefthander is Yankee Stadium. If Minnesota is to win this series, today figures to be a must win for them (although I thought the same thing in the 2002 ALDS between Anaheim and New York). The key to this game will be Santana's ability to throw strikes to a patient Yankees lineup. If he can walk fewer than 4 batters and go 7 innings, he should be able to limit the damage.

It seems like half the time Mike Mussina is unhittable; the rest of the time you can get 4 or 5 runs off him. Minnesota's lineup isn't very potent, so scoring 3 runs in today's game will more than meet my expectations.

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Chicago Cubs at Atlanta Braves, 8 PM ET

The best offensive team in the National League will face one of the best starting rotations around. The Braves would like to win tonight's game and put the pressure on Zambrano in game 2. The Cubs' best chance to win the series is to take the 3 games Wood and Prior are scheduled to start.

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After four years on the job, including an incredible 116-win season but without any pennants, Pat Gillick resigned today as GM of the Seattle Mariners. He'll remain with the M's as a "consultant," however, and I'd be surprised if he took another GM position at his age. His Seattle tenure probably helped him erase the bad taste from his time in Baltimore, and IMO helped secure his credentials as a worthy Hall of Fame inductee. He served the franchise well, staying competitive without mortgaging the future; a few less injuries to his young pitchers, or maybe picking up Shannon Stewart down the stretch one year, and it all might have played out differently.

So who takes the reins in Seattle? If I were Billy Beane, I'd be checking the fax machine outside Paul DePodesta's office right now.

Florida Marlins at San Francisco Giants, 4 PM ET

This figures to be another great pitchers' duel. Base-stealers have had good success against Jason Schmidt, so look for the Marlins to bunt and steal frequently. Florida manager Jack McKeon has stated he will pitch around Barry Bonds at every opportunity.

Josh Beckett has been lights out the last month, but might become dramatically less effective after 100 pitches. The key for the Giants will be to get the first three hitters on base, so walking Bonds will put great pressure on the defence.

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The Jays' GM will be taking listener calls on The Fan 590 soon. I live downtown, so I don't know the long-distance number to call, but it's 416-870-0590 for those of you in the GTA. If you don't have a radio handy, click the link to get to the station's home page; you'll find a "Listen Live" button there.
The coveted autographed T-shirt (many thanks to Mike H. for the donation, and to J.P. Ricciardi and Carlos Tosca for the autographs) is going to Texas, not Toronto. Congratulations to Scott Lucas on his Nation Builders' 10-1 victory over Billie's Bashers in the two-week final. After a fourth place finish in the regular season, Scott drew a tough playoff assignment, edging Mebion Glyndwr in the first round, then knocking out the regular-season champs, Gashouse Gorillas, in the semi-finals. Snellville Jones' club whomped my Toronto Walrus 9-3 in the bronze-medal matchup, while Spicol's Red Mosquitos won the consolation bracket 8-2 over the Eastern Shore Birds. It was a great first season. There will be no trading until after the World Series, and the rules committee will have a few proposals for all owners to vote on before then.

Feel free to use this thread to discuss how you did in other fantasy leagues this year. For example, Roy Halladay and Carlos Delgado led my team in the AL Roto Junkies 5x5 league to a championship. No T-shirt involved, but I'll be getting a nice cheque. Unfortunately, according to our rules, I can only keep one of my cornerstones next year. It's a tough choice, just like J.P.'s decision. Advice is welcome. There might be an opening in that league next year; e-mail me if interested and I'll forward it to the Commish. The BBFL already has a waiting list, but we're hoping to start a second ZLC league for '04.