Posted: Friday September 29, 2006 12:05PM; Updated: Saturday September 30, 2006 1:44AM
San Francisco's Matt Cain is 7-5 with a 3.07 ERA since the All-Star break.
Milwaukee at St. Louis, 1:20 p.m. Whatever happens tonight, the Cardinals can end Saturday's game with at least a share of first place in the NL Central. One problem: St. Louis faces Ben Sheets, who has come back after missing nearly three months of this season and posted a 2.54 ERA over his past 49 2/3 innings. Jeff Suppan (4.18 ERA) is the scheduled starter for St. Louis.
Philadelphia at Florida, 1:20 p.m. Even if the Phillies finally end a game on time, they'll still be up late waiting for that Los Angeles-San Francisco result to come in from the West Coast. This matchup begins about 12 hours after that one figures to end. Randy Wolf (5.24 ERA) pitches against one of those many surprising Marlins, 22-year-old Scott Olsen (3.97 ERA).
Los Angeles at San Francisco, 4:15 p.m. Perhaps by this time, the Dodgers will have clinched the wild card -- two Phillies losses or a Phillies loss and a Dodgers victory will have done it. Even so, you still might see Greg Maddux pitch on three days' rest, if San Diego remains within reach for the NL West title. (It will be interesting to see if the Dodgers are content to settle for the wild card and face the Pedro Martinez-less Mets in the first round of the playoffs, rather than a team like the red-hot Astros.) Maddux (4.26 ERA) lives off low-pitch innings these days, because he rarely has any effectiveness past his 80th pitch of the game -- assuming he even stays in that long. Matt Cain (4.09 ERA) would be the one to try to take the master down.
San Diego at Arizona, 4:15 p.m. Most Padres fans will like this matchup of David Wells against the Diamondbacks' Edgar Gonzalez -- although the 23-year-old Gonzalez, who has a 6.79 career ERA, seems to have figured something out of late. In 21 September innings, his ERA is 1.71. He has allowed four runs, on four solo homers. Still, put it this way -- if the Padres don't have things wrapped up by Saturday evening, they're not going to like what's coming Sunday.
Houston at Atlanta, 7:05 p.m. Remember that bit about the Astros wanting to take advantage of Clemens' start in the opener of this series? That was because Houston is scheduled to follow Clemens with Matt Albers: 15 career innings, 6.00 ERA. Albers last started Sept. 19, which was the last time the Astros lost a game. On the other hand, Braves starter Lance Cormier (5.78 career ERA) doesn't inspire fear. Again, no matter what has transpired to his point, this game will count.
Cincinnati at Pittsburgh, 7:05 p.m. St. Louis and Houston enter the weekend with 81 wins. This could be the game that gives the Reds their 81st and send the NL Central into a true three-for-all. Sound far-fetched? Maybe, though with Bronson Arroyo (3.27 ERA, fourth in the NL) following Harang, Cincinnati can boast the best Friday-Saturday starting combo among the division's contenders. In three of his past five starts, Arroyo has allowed zero earned runs. However, Paul Maholm (4.76 ERA) pitched in a Pittsburgh victory over the Reds on Sept. 9, allowing three runs in six innings.