What we're watching – June 24

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– With the Giants already 4-1 against the A’s this season, 301-game
winning Randy Johnson will face one-game winner Gio Gonzalez in
Oakland. Gonzalez, who is filling in for Josh Outman, will be making
his first start of 2009 after pitching in relief twice last month. He’s
1-4 with a 7.59 ERA in seven starts and five relief appearances during
his young career, but he had allowed just one earned run in his last
five starts for Triple-A Sacramento. Johnson beat the A’s earlier this
month by allowing two runs over seven innings. He’s 3-1 with a 2.83 ERA
in his last six starts.

– The Cubs and Tigers lived up to Tuesday’s Game of the Night
billing, with Ryan Raburn hitting a walkoff homer in the bottom of the
ninth to give Detroit a 5-4 victory. There should be another good
matchup tonight, as Rich Harden and Rick Porcello are scheduled to
start. Porcello has won all three of his interleague starts, giving up
five runs — three earned — over 18 2/3 innings in the process. With
right-handers hitting just .190 off him, it’s not going to be easy for
Derrek Lee to extend his hitting streak to 21 games.

– It’s up to Kenshin Kawakami to keep the Braves’ scoreless streak
going after back-to-back shutouts of the Cubs on Monday and the Yankees
last night. Kawakami, who has been part of one shutout this season when
he blanked the Jays for eight innings on May 22, hasn’t allowed more
than three earned runs in any of his last nine starts. The Bombers, now
surely sick of facing pitchers they’ve never seen before, have lost
five of their last six games. Joba Chamberlain will be on the mound as
they try to end the skid.

Game of the Night

Philadelphia vs. Tampa Bay – The series opener in the rematch of
last year’s World Series was over quickly, as the Phillies jumped all
over David Price on their way to a 10-1 win. The Rays will attempt to
bounce back with Matt Garza on the mound, but Garza is winless since
May 16. He’s given up eight homers in his last five starts, which seems
like good news for Ryan Howard and Chase Utley. Joe Blanton, who beat
the Rays in his World Series start last October, is also having
problems with the long ball, with 16 allowed in 76 2/3 innings for the
season. However, he hasn’t taken a loss since May 9.

Kenny Lofton, Carlos Baerga to throw out first pitches in Games 1 and 2

CLEVELAND - OCTOBER 05:  Kenny Lofton #7 of the Cleveland Indians runs to first base against the New York Yankees during Game Two of the American League Divisional Series at Jacobs Field on October 5, 2007 in Cleveland, Ohio.  (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
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Major League Baseball just announced the details for the ceremonial and off-field stuff in connection with Games 1 and 2 of the World Series. The one most people were wondering about was the ceremonial first pitch. Sorry, Charlie Sheen fans. Sorry fans of “Major League” in general. Two real baseball stars are handing first pitch duties: Kenny Lofton before Game 1, Carlos Baerga for Game 2.

Lofton needs no introduction. He should be a Hall of Famer but is criminally overlooked, perhaps because he bounced around to a lot of different clubs. He made his name in Cleveland, however, doing three separate tours with the Indians, leading the AL in stolen bases for five straight years early in his career and putting up a line of .300/.375/.426 in ten seasons on the shores of Lake Erie.

Baerga played for the Tribe between 1990 and 1996 and was, for a time, quite the superstar, even if people don’t talk about him much anymore. His career fell off pretty quickly in that way that often happens for second basemen and/or stars who end up on the Mets, but there was a time when he was perhaps the biggest star on some excellent Indians teams. People had “will Carlos Baerga be a Hall of Famer?” conversations and stuff. The mid-90s were a special time.

Beyond the first pitches, the National Anthem will be sung by Rachel Platten before Game 1 and by the group Locash before Game 2. As I am an old man out of touch with most things, I have no idea who they are, but I am sure their fans are passionate and their renditions of the Anthem will be fine and non-controversial. Fox, MLB and the folks at major record labels are pretty good about that sort of thing and everyone will be especially vigilant in light of what happened with that Canadian tenors group at the All-Star Game. If nothing else, I bet you pick up the check for the Anthem performance after the song, and not before these days.

I guess the White Sox don’t count

CHICAGO - APRIL 04: General Manager Ken Williams of the Chicago White Sox shows off his World Series Championship ring during ceremonies prior to the start of a game against the Cleveland Indians on April 4, 2006 at U.S. Cellular Field in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
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I realize everyone is super excited about the Cubs being in the World Series for the first time since 1945, with the chance to win it for the first time since 1908. But you’d think folks would remember that it’s just the Cubs — and not Chicago as a whole — who have been away from the Fall Classic for so long.

I know their recent struggles makes it seem like a long, long time ago, but the White Sox won the World Series in 2005. They were in the World Series in 1959 too. You wouldn’t know that, though, if you looked at some prominent media outlets:





I understand the impulse to tell the “a whole city is coming together!” story every time stuff like this happens, but there are a lot of White Sox fans in Chicago. A good number of them don’t give a crap about the Cubs. Many even resent them for being the glory franchise in the city in the eyes of many. They certainly don’t feel like there’s a championship drought afoot, and I imagine they’re somewhat cranky about having their team’s glory plastered over like this.