Player of the week: Brad Penny 

Before faltering in the latter half of 2006, Brad Penny was pitching better than almost any starter in the majors (he opened up 10-2 and, despite his late struggles, still finished with an NL-high 16 wins). This year, Penny is once again dominant through the season’s opening weeks. Entering Saturday’s start, Penny has been untouchable, posting a minuscule 0.89 ERA in racking up a 3-0 record for the first-place Los Angeles Dodgers. Thriving with precise placement, Penny has followed teammate and sinker specialist Derek Lowe’s lead by inducing 34 groundball outs.

BASEBALL STORYLINES

With a 6-4 win over the Washington Nationals on Tuesday, the Atlanta Braves’ John Smoltz moved within one strikeout of the legendary Cy Young for 18th place on the all-time whiff list. While improving to 2-1, Smoltz also moved within five wins of 200, a remarkable feat considering he spent four years as a closer for the Braves. The 39-year-old right-hander, who has spent his entire 19-year career in Atlanta, will look to move past Young this weekend, when the Braves take on the NL East rival New York Mets.

With all eyes on Boston’s Daisuke Matsuzaka for his debut at Fenway Park on April 11, Seattle’s Felix Hernandez stole the show, throwing a one-hit shutout in the Mariners’ 3-0 win. A season removed from battling yearlong injuries that resulted in a disappointing 12-14 mark in 2006, Hernandez has proven why he isconsidered the best young pitcher in baseball. However, he was lifted after the first inning of his start Wednesday due to tightness in his pitching elbow.

KEY SERIES

Yankees at Red Sox (today-Sunday): The Red Sox pitching staff has thrived so far, with Josh Beckett, Curt Schilling and Daisuke Matsuzaka all looking strong in the season’s opening weeks. On the other side, the Yankees’ Mike Mussina, Carl Pavano and Chien-Ming Wang are out with injuries. Can Alex Rodriguez’s hot bat keep the Yanks afloat?

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Staff Report

Staff Report

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A daily newspaper covering San Francisco, San Mateo County and serving Alameda, Marin and Santa Clara counties.
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