The New York Mets look to make it two in a row over the Los Angeles Dodgers in their three-game series at Citi Field

Los Angeles Dodgers at New York Mets

Dodgers OF Andre Ethier enters Saturday's game versus the Mets with a 30-game hitting streak

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The Giants come into town for a huge NL West showdown that will go a long way in deciding the divisional race.

San Francisco Giants at San Diego Padres

San Francisco enters this weekend series following a 3-1 loss in Arizona on Wednesday, ending a four-game winning streak and dropping the club two back in the Wild Card race.  “We weren’t under the allusion that we were going to win the rest of the games,” said manager Bruce Bochy.  “There’s some baseball left here.”  Over the last nine games, the starting rotation has posted a 2.54 ERA and seven quality starts.  The Giants have 22 games left on their schedule and are 36-37 on the road this season (+100).  After beginning the year with a 8-19 record against the NL West, the team has bounced back nicely to pick up victories in 19 of its last 29 divisional contests.  San Francisco is an even 12-12 as a road underdog of +100 to +125 (+130) and the total is 11-13 O/U in those games.

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The Padres are sinking fast and today’s opponent has been given new life due to their losing streak.

Colorado Rockies at San Diego Padres

Colorado picked up a 4-3 road victory versus the Padres on Friday night and moved to within 6 1/2 games of the division lead.  The Rockies had dropped three in a row heading into this weekend series, but the club has had great success against San Diego this season.  “What we talked about at the beginning of the season was winning the division,” shortstop Troy Tulowitzki said.  “That’s what gets you into the playoffs the easiest way.”  The team has been led offensively by outfielder Carlos Gonzalez, who is riding an 11-game hitting streak and is hitting .500 with six home runs and 14 RBIs over that stretch.  The team also remains confident heading into the final two games of the series due to a 33-29 all-time mark at Petco Park.  Colorado is 29-24 against the division this season (+140) and the total is 20-32 O/U in those contests.

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The Padres look to bounce back after dropping the first game of a three-game series against the Phillies at Petco Park.

Philadelphia Phillies at San Diego Padres

Philadelphia picked up a 3-2 victory in the series opener over the San Diego Padres last night, as both teams see this matchup as a potential playoff series.  The victory snapped a four-game losing streak and moved the Phillies within two games of the Atlanta Braves in the National League East and into a half-game lead over the San Francisco Giants in the NL Wild Card race.  Overall this season, the club is 31-32 on the road and hitting .254 with 46 home runs and 251 runs scored in 63 games away from Citizens Bank Park.  Philadelphia is 8-6 as a road underdog of +100 to +125 this season (+300) and 36-24 in this situation the past three years (+1,660).  The Phillies are also a solid 53-38 in 2010 against right-handed starters (+500) and the total is 44-45 O/U in those contests.

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The NL West-leading Padres are in for a dog fight on Thursday night.

Houston Astros at San Diego Padres

Houston left Milwaukee with a 5-1 victory on Wednesday afternoon, securing the team’s first month this season in which it didn’t finish at least six games under .500.  The Astros also moved its winning streak to nine straight on Wednesday’s this season.  “It seems like we’re playing better baseball,” reliever Brandon Lyon said after the game.  Houston crossed over the magic four-run barrier against the Brewers, moving its record to 27-11 when scoring four or more runs, which might be tough to do against the league’s best pitching staff coming up.  The Astros are 21-39 against right-handed starters (-940), with the team facing southpaws just 18 times (9-9).

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A pair of first-place teams square off at Petco Park in the opening game of a three-game series.

St. Louis Cardinals at San Diego Padres

St. Louis is set to begin its six-game road trip against the San Diego Padres, after completing a successful 5-2 homestand against Washington, Florida and the Los Angeles Angels (+194).  The Cardinals have produced a 26-19 overall record in large part to their strong pitching staff, raking second in the league with a 3.07 ERA, just behind tonight’s opponent.  The team has an even 11-11 record on the road this season (-240), including an even 3-3 mark against the NL West (-55).  Runs are tough to come by at Petco Park, which places even more pressure on star 1B Albert Pujols to break out of a slump.  The three-time MVP is 3-for-20 in his last six games and doesn’t have an RBI in his last nine.

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I’m very intrigued by tonight’s Big East showdown. Cincinnati has a pretty clear road to the BCS if they beat South Florida, and the Bulls have the same if they win. For South Florida that’s especially surprising because stud QB Matt Grothe is on the sideline for the year. There is all sorts of intrigue in this one – is Cincinnati for real? How about South Florida’s surprisingly stout defense? Can Cincy QB Tony Pike put himself into the heart of the Heisman race with a big performance here? How about Cincy receiver Mardy Gilyard? Do the Bearcats deserve national championship consideration? How much of a joke is the Big East? This is probably the highest profile Thursday night game we have seen yet this year. Last week we saw Nebraska, and Ndamukong Suh made a big leap into the Heisman race thanks to that game, so anything can happen here. I really respect Cincy coach Brian Kelly and tend to think that he has things going in the right direction with this program, so I am hoping for them. It’s a tough team in tough location, though, so it certainly won’t be easy.

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I was very, very disappointed to see the Vikings play last night. I’m so sick of Favre and his whole act that I was really hoping he’d continue to struggle. Hopefully that would lead him to going away faster. Unfortunately, he looked perfectly competent last night. In fact, he looked even a little better than than. He was comfortable and confident, and you could already tell that he was enjoying the concept of having an all-World running back for the first time. I don’t feel nearly as assured now of the ultimate failure of this experiment as I did a while ago, and that disappoints me.

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