The last Thursday of the regular season beckons. 12 games are scheduled today and they start at 9:35 am PT and the last goes off at 7:05 pm PT. There will be a little less scoreboard watching in game today as the big games in the NL, where there are still three playoff spots up for grab, are starting at different times throughout the day.
The first big game of the day is at 9:35 am PT and it takes place in Pittsburgh, where Houston, winners of eight straight, tries to keep up its highly improbable, yet highly entertaining run at the Cardinals in the NL Central. Roy Oswalt goes for Houston against Tom Gorzelanny of Pittsburgh. The Astros have used 20 pitchers in their last three game, so Phil Garner would like to see Oswalt put in a lot of innings.
Up next at 12:05 pm PT is a game featuring the wild card leading Dodgers, ahead of Philadelphia by one game and trailing San Diego by one in the West, at Colorado. Brad Penny will pitch against Byung-Hyun Kim. The Dodgers have won 14 of 18 games against Colorado this year.
Although it's not a huge game, the Cincinnati Reds are teetering on the brink of elimination. The Reds really need a win at Florida in a 4:05 pm PT game to keep their hopes alive. Kyle Lohse will face Ricky Nolasco. Actually, the Reds could still lose and stay alive if the Cardinals lose. The Reds trail St. Louis by 3 1/2 games.
Also at 4:05 pm PT, the Phillies play the final game of their series at Washington. Jon Lieber will face Mike O'Connor. The Phillies won a wild 8-7, 14-inning game that featured two blown saves by the bullpen and almost a third.
Teams that can't change their place in the divisional standings are: Baltimore (4th, AL East), Tampa Bay (5th, AL East), White Sox (3rd, AL Central), Cleveland (4th, AL Central), Kansas City (5th, AL Central), Los Angeles of Anaheim (2nd, AL West), Philadelphia (2nd, NL East), Washington (5th, NL East), and Milwaukee (4th, NL Central).
Central leading St. Louis hosts Milwaukee at 5:10 pm PT. The Cardinals lead the Astros by 1 1/2 games and ended a seven-game losing streak with a 4-2 win over the Padres Wednesday. Doug Davis will start for the Brewers against Jason Marquis, who has managed to win 14 games despite an ERA of 5.80.
West leading San Diego starts its final series of the season, a four-game set in Arizona, at 6:40 pm PT. Jake Peavy will take on Miguel Batista. The Padres are 22-50 alltime at Chase Field/Bank One Ball Park. They are 3-3 there this season. Both San Diego and St. Louis have magic numbers of 4. If San Diego wins or St. Louis loses one more game, the #2 slot will be guaranteed to the NL West champion.
As for the American League, the spots are all set and there is just some minor jockeying for position. The Yankees lead the Tigers by one game for best record (which is effectively two games because of tiebreakers). The Tigers lead the Twins by one game (again effectively two games because the of tiebreakers) in the Central. Oakland will be the #3 team as they can't pass up Detroit.
They will also play:
Toronto at Detroit - The Tigers likely weren't expecting a big crowd for a midweek daygame in late September.
Baltimore at Yankees - Chris Gomez has a 17-game hitting streak! 17 games!
Tampa Bay at Cleveland - The Devil Rays won their third road game since July 1 last night at Boston.
Mets at Atlanta - The Braves continue their traditional late season domination of the Mets.
Kansas City at Minnesota - Brad Radke will attempt to keep his right arm attached while the Royals try to avoid loss #100.
Oakland at Los Angeles of Anaheim - The Angels lead the Dodgers by 2 games in their Metro Area battle.