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Behind the lines

Saunders isn't pitching like any ordinary Joe

May 04, 2008|Lonnie White | Times Staff Writer

On any baseball gambler's list of top money pitchers before the start of the major league season, it would not have been a surprise to see Boston's Josh Beckett and the New York Mets' Johan Santana rank near the top.

Nor would it have been news for the list to include San Diego's Jake Peavy, Cleveland's C.C. Sabathia and Arizona's Brandon Webb.

But the Angels' Joe Saunders? That would have been a reach when you consider that Saunders had only a 15-8 record in 33 career starts before this season.

Yet, Saunders has been cash in the bank for the Angels with a 5-0 record in six starts heading into today's game against Baltimore.

Saunders, who joined Frank Tanana as the only pitchers in team history to go 5-0 in April (and was joined the next night by Ervin Santana), will start against the Orioles' Steve Trachsel (1-3) at Angel Stadium.

The Angels are favorites for today's game and will be riding several positive trends.

Dating to last season, the Angels are 9-2 in Saunders' last 11 starts against a team with a winning record and they are 9-3 in Saunders' last 12 home starts overall.

Then there are the negative trends that Baltimore will bring to the field.

The Orioles are 3-12 in their last 15 games when Trachsel has started against a team with a winning record, and they are 1-7 in Trachsel's last eight road starts.

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After one month of play, Las Vegas oddsmakers have updated numbers on the American League pennant race and the Angels are listed at 9-2, which is behind Boston (2-1) and the Detroit Tigers and New York Yankees (4-1), according to sportsbook.com.

Pro basketball

The Lakers are seven-point favorites against Utah for today's Game 1 at Staples Center, where the Lakers are 4-0 against the spread in their last four home games.

The over/under combined total points scored is 213 points, which is one point lower than both teams' regular-season averages combined at 214. The Lakers averaged 108.9 points and the Jazz 105.1 during the regular season.

The over is 5-2 in the Lakers' last seven home games against a team with a losing road record, and the under is 5-1 in Utah's last six road games.

In the Eastern Conference, Boston is listed as a 14-point home favorite over Atlanta for today's Game 7. The Hawks are 0-4 against the spread in their last four road games. The Celtics are 7-0 against the spread in their last seven games against a team with a losing road record.

Pro hockey

The Pittsburgh Penguins lead the New York Rangers, 3-1, in their best-of-seven series and will host Game 5 today at Mellon Arena. Pittsburgh is 7-1 in its last eight games against a team with a winning record, while New York is 1-5 in its last six conference semifinal games.

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lonnie.white@latimes.com

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