BASEBALL TONIGHT EXTRA
By Mark Simon, ESPN Research
Go figure that the marquee series this weekend will be between the Mets and the Brewers -- two of the top teams in the National League.
The Mets are off to one of their best starts in franchise history and are getting both hitting and pitching that their first manager, Casey Stengel, would call "Amazin'."
We had the Elias Sports Bureau check into teams starting 7-1 or better through eight games, as the Mets have, and discovered that 15 of the last 20 that have done so have gone on to make the postseason.
Meanwhile, you may have heard Carlos Lee say on Thursday's "Baseball Tonight" that this Brewers team believes it can hang right in with the Cardinals in the NL Central. Through nine games, they've shown that capability, winning six, and Milwaukee has to be happy it is getting one of its better pitchers -- Ben Sheets -- back this weekend.
The following is a breakdown of the starting pitchers in the upcoming series:
Friday: Chris Capuano vs. Tom Glavine
Notes: Since joining the Mets, Glavine has struggled against much of the NL East as well as the Brewers. In five starts against Milwaukee since 2003, he's 1-2 with a 6.86 ERA. The Brewers enjoy facing him and playing at Shea Stadium, where they've won nine of their last 12 games. In three games in Flushing in 2005, they scored 26 runs and hit .394.
Saturday: Tomo Ohka vs. Steve Trachsel
Notes: Expect a lengthy, high-scoring game. Ohka is 0-5 in his career at Shea Stadium and hasn't lasted more than four innings in any of his last three starts there. Likewise, in his last three starts, the slow-working Trachsel has allowed the Brewers to hit .357 against him. Look for Jeff Cirillo to get some playing time in one of the first two games of this series. He's a .348 career hitter against Glavine and a .320 career hitter against Trachsel.
Sunday: Ben Sheets vs. Brian Bannister
Notes: The story here is Sheets making his season debut, but Bannister, a rookie, may be a youngster on the rise. In two starts, Bannister, the son of former major leaguer Floyd Bannister, has impressed. Like his dad, he's found the Mets much to his liking in his rookie season. The elder Bannister went 1-1 with an 0.78 ERA in three starts against the Mets during his debut campaign in 1977. The younger Bannister has allowed just five hits in his first 13 innings in his first two outings, both against Washington.
PITCH COUNTS: IS THERE A MAGIC NUMBER?
By Jerry Crasnick, ESPN Insider | Crasnick Archive
Any discussion of pitch counts inevitably leads to remembrances of the good old days, when starters reported to the park ready to go nine and prepared to arm wrestle managers who might get in the way. Gaylord Perry loves to tell the story about how he was working in the 13th inning on an excruciatingly hot day and his manager came to the mound for a visit. "I think I've only got a couple more innings left in me," Perry told him.
St. Louis pitching coach Dave Duncan, who has heard the story firsthand, laughs at the recollection. "Gaylord said he must have thrown 250 pitches that day," Duncan said. That seems absurd until you consider that Perry once turned in a 15-inning effort for Cleveland at age 35.
Times change, and the notion of pitchers throwing forever seems as outdated as artificial turf or life without batting helmets. Dave Smith, founder of the Web site Retrosheet, keeps track of pitch counts over the past 18 years, and shows a drastic decline in how far teams expect their starters to last.
Complete Crasnick column
QUALITY STARTS STILL A QUALITY STAT
By Rob Neyer, ESPN Insider | Neyer Archive
When you hear the term "quality start" while watching a game on the tube, it's often accompanied by a snort of derision. "You can get a quality start," they say, "with a 4.50 ERA." Where's the quality there? Unfortunately, these discussions almost always end exactly in that spot, leaving aside (1) a more nuanced interpretation, and (2) a little credit for the inventor of the statistic: John Lowe, who today writes for the Detroit Free Press.
Complete Neyer column
The Buc stops here
Craig Wilson has been the subject of constant trade speculation over the past several months, but it's unlikely the Pirates will deal the role player, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports.
"[Wilson] doesn't realize what a huge backer he has sitting here," manager Jim Tracy told the newspaper. "I respect him to the nth degree for the way he's handled himself."
Despite being an everyday starter for only one of his six major-league seasons, Wilson has yet to publicly raise the issue of playing time. "You always want to play," Wilson said. "There's no particular guy who doesn't. What is there to do other than wait until you get an opportunity and show what you're capable of?"
More from Rumor Central
Click here to read about all the numbers that stood out from Thursday's games.
The White Sox sweep away the Tigers.
THURSDAY'S NEWS AND NOTES
• The timetable for the return of Padres CF Mike Cameron (side muscle) has been moved up. He'll hit off a tee Friday and might be ready to play in a week, manager Bruce Bochy said.
• A's 1B Dan Johnson is still looking for his first hit of the season. He's 0-for-26.
• The Reds kept CF Ken Griffey Jr. out of the lineup as a precautionary measure after he left Wednesday's game with stiffness
in the back of his right knee.
• Cardinals CF Jim Edmonds, a six-time Gold Glove winner, had the first two-error game of his career. He dropped a drive near the wall and misplayed a single that allowed a second run to score.
• RHP Brandon Backe left the Astros' game against the Giants after only two innings because of a sprained right elbow.