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The bottom half

June 22, 2008|Bill Shaikin

Angels vs. Dodgers: The Angels have won nine of the last 11 games against the Dodgers, including two of three last month in Anaheim. Under scouting director Logan White, the Dodgers have spent their top draft pick on a pitcher six years running, and the Angels' success would seem to back him up: The Angels' tentative starters for this series all are top picks: Joe Saunders (first round, 2002), Jered Weaver (first round, 2004) and John Lackey (second round, 1999). The Dodgers are expected to counter with Chad Billingsley (first round, 2003), Hiroki Kuroda ($35-million free agent, 2007) and Derek Lowe ($36-million free agent, 2005).

Angels vs. Dodgers, Friday through next Sunday at Dodger Stadium.

Diamondbacks vs. Red Sox: These could be the games that push the Dodgers toward first place. In April, the Diamondbacks appeared to be the class of the National League. They finished that month 20-8, but they're 19-27 since then, through Friday's games. The Red Sox are 28-8 at home, and they have lost one series at Fenway Park this season -- to the Angels, in April. Monday's matchup could be a classic, and a tribute to gutsy general managers: Dan Haren versus Josh Beckett. Arizona got Haren from the A's for six young players; Boston got Beckett from the Marlins for a prospect who has since emerged as perhaps baseball's best shortstop, Hanley Ramirez.

The week ahead

Arizona Diamondbacks vs. Boston Red Sox, Monday through Wednesday at Fenway Park, Boston.

Cardinals vs. Tigers: The Cardinals beat the Tigers in the 2006 World Series, but neither team got back to the playoffs last season. The Cardinals finished under .500, traded Scott Rolen for Troy Glaus and added Cesar Izturis and Kyle Lohse in free agency. The Tigers finished over .500, then traded for Miguel Cabrera, Edgar Renteria and Dontrelle Willis. But, if the season ended today, St. Louis would be in the playoffs and Detroit would not. There's still time for the Tigers, whose offense is coming to life: They won 10 of 12 games through Thursday, averaging six runs per game in that span.

St. Louis Cardinals vs. Detroit Tigers, Tuesday through Thursday at Comerica Park, Detroit.

Minor leaguers of the week

Dodgers: Steven Johnson, rhp

Johnson started for the East team in the Midwest League All-Star game last week, an honor that reflects his drastic improvement over last season. He was 3-6 with a 4.85 earned-run average at Class-A Great Lakes last year, bothered at times by shoulder tenderness, so the Dodgers sent him back. He's 8-2 with a 2.60 ERA at Great Lakes this season, including a three-start stretch in May in which he pitched 19 2/3 innings without giving up an earned run. Johnson, 20, a 13th-round draft pick in 2005, keeps the ball in the park: In 242 career innings, he has given up 11 home runs.

Angels: Trevor Reckling, lhp

Reckling also pitched in the Midwest League All-Star game, working one inning without giving up a run. That last part was no surprise, since he has not given up a run all month. He has pitched 28 consecutive innings without giving up an earned run, in fact, and he is 4-2 with a 2.35 ERA. He's not a power pitcher -- at least not yet, at 19 -- but he's getting two ground balls for every fly ball. In 73 innings, he has given up two home runs. The Angels selected him in the eighth round last year, so this is his first full season.

-- Bill Shaikin

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