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Series preview and off-day thread

No game today, so loin-girding will be in order for yet another crucial series [yawn...] against the Dodgers in Los Angeles over the weekend. I hope this preview isn't stealing kishi's thunder too much, since he's on Gameday Thread duty after his solid performance against the Cardinals: like Bob Melvin, I stick with the hot hand! And azreous is, I believe, scheduled for the recap tomorrow night, so I get Friday entirely off. But as an off-day topic starter, I want to hear your expectations for these three games: what you want to see happen, what you hope will happen and whether you are - like me - going to be glued to every pitch of every game from now till Sunday. Also worthy of mention:
* The Marlins and their 600 fans
* Rotator-cuff tendinitis for Zambrano: Cubs meltdown imminent?
* Who is/was the best James Bond?

Here are the series match-ups.

Friday:


W-L G GS CG SHO SV BS IP H R ER HR BB K ERA WHIP
2008 - Dan Haren 14-7 28 28 0 0 0 0 186.0 173 72 67 17 30 176 3.24 1.09


W-L G GS CG SHO SV BS IP H R ER HR BB K ERA WHIP
2008 - Derek Lowe 11-11 29 29 1 0 0 0 180.2 177 82 74 14 39 128 3.69 1.20

It's important to get off to a good start in this series, and set the tone. At least we are spared another Webb-Lowe matchup, and that may be for the best as Lowe came out on the winning end when he faced us last week. He has been particularly good at Chavez Ravine, with a 2.64 ERA, but his BABIP there is .249, so that is probably somewhat due to luck. He has been very solid of late, with five quality starts in a row, and an ERA of just 1.87 in that time.

One wonders if the expected second-half slump has hit Haren, though he has alternated between very solid starts and suckitude for the past month. If that keeps up, he should be good for seven innings of two-run ball. In his previous start versus the Dodgers, Haren was hurt by the long-ball, giving up two in the same game for the first time since June 7. Given he's been averaging about one homer per 11 innings, we hope that was a fluke. Edge: even.

Saturday


W-L G GS CG SHO SV BS IP H R ER HR BB K ERA WHIP
2008 - Brandon Webb 19-6 29 29 3 1 0 0 192.0 174 79 68 12 51 160 3.19 1.17


W-L G GS CG SHO SV BS IP H R ER HR BB K ERA WHIP
2008 - Chad Billingsley 13-10 30 28 1 1 0 0 175.2 159 66 61 11 72 177 3.13 1.31

That pesky twentieth win is proving elusive for Webb, who has delivered arguably the worst back-to-back starts of his career, lasting a total of eight innings and allowing fourteen runs. He walked five in 3.1 innings last Sunday [although two were intentional]. Though he and Bob Melvin both say there is absolutely nothing wrong with him physically, Arizona fans would really welcome a solid starting from their ace. He does enjoy pitching in Los Angeles, where he has a 2.72 ERA in eight starts, but that history likely goes out the window this weekend.

Billingsley got the win last Saturday, extending his run of quality starts to eight in a row, with a 2.68 ERA in those 53.2 innings. He has been particularly effective at keeping the ball in the park, allowing only two homers over that time, which has helped restrict opposing hitters to a .676 OPS. This is uncharted territory for him, with the innings thrown a career high, but so far, he has shown little evidence of flagging under the workload. Edge: Dodgers.

Sunday


W-L G GS CG SHO SV BS IP H R ER HR BB K ERA WHIP
2008 - Randy Johnson 10-9 26 26 1 0 0 0 156.0 162 84 73 23 38 156 4.21 1.28


W-L G GS CG SHO SV BS IP H R ER HR BB K ERA WHIP
2008 - Clayton Kershaw 3-5 17 17 0 0 0 0 86.0 89 43 43 9 44 77 4.50 1.55

The Cardinals were homer-happy against the Big Unit, shelling him for four long-balls on Tuesday, tying a career-high. That brought his run of very solid outings to a screeching halt, but even with that poor outing, Johnson has been very good since the All-Star break. Though he only has four wins in his nine starts, Johnson has posted a 2.48 ERA in the second-half, with an impressive K:BB ratio of 61:10. He has the same number of strikeouts as innings pitched this year, a figure bettered by only four NL pitchers, and his K:BB ratio trails only Dan Haren.

Hang on: wasn't Kershaw supposed to have been sent down to the minors? Yep: he was dispatched to Vegas after flopping on August 28, but he didn't appear in a game for them, and was brought back up on September 2, in time for his next start. It was more a roster trick to give the Dodgers and extra bullpen arm for a bit - I think Kershaw just wanted to take in a couple of shows. [Normally, when you're sent down, you have to stay in the minors for ten days, but as the minor-league season was over, that rule didn't apply] He shut out Arizona for six innings on August 1 but, while his last start was solid, it came against the Padres, so I'm not quite inclined to declare him a 300-game winner yet. Edge: Diamondbacks

But it's really close in most of these - and, in any case, the last series went the complete opposite of the way I predicted, with us winning the game I thought we'd lose, and being defeated in games where I expected us to have the edge. So what do I know? It's going to be a fun series, however, and I look forward to it with some anticipation. Let's hope we look back on it with the same warmth.