First Down

SATURDAY’S BEST BET ON TELEVISION

For the first time in a while, the United States looked strong on Day 1. Now the underdogs try to keep it going in the Ryder Cup. 8 a.m., Chs. 4, 11

ON WASHINGTONTIMES.COM » AN EXCERPT FROM D1SCOURSE

Just got not one, not two, but three e-mails from Maryland’s media relations department about credential abuse.

And this is probably why. (Links to eBay auction of Maryland media pass.)

Of course, we media folk are not supposed to sell our credentials to the highest bidder. And at least in this case, it’s buy-it-now.

Nonetheless, this is a new one to me. And it makes me wonder whether a sideline pass to watch Maryland and Eastern Michigan is worth $100. (At least the seller had the decency to waive the shipping for a small blue piece of paper).

Of course, the same seller managed to score $200 for a pair of passes to last week’s game against California, so there’s obviously a cottage industry at work. Also obvious: Some member of the media (or someone connected with someone in the media) is being naughty.

- Patrick Stevens

TWT FIVE » REASONS THE PHILLIES WILL WIN THE NL EAST

1. Better starting pitching - The Phillies have three guys who have pitched tremendously down the stretch in Brett Myers, Jamie Moyer and Cole Hamels. Fourth starter Joe Blanton is no slouch, and fifth man J.A. Happ just pitched six innings of scoreless ball Wednesday.

2. Brad Lidge - Many people thought he was done, but the Phillies took a chance in acquiring the fireball reliever from Houston. He is 38-for-38 in save opportunities, and the Phillies are undefeated when they lead after eight innings.

3. Ryan Howard - The big man has been a beast for Philadelphia in the last month. He came into Friday night’s game batting .379 with eight home runs and 24 RBI in September.

4. Easier schedule - Both the Mets and Phillies have series against the Marlins and Braves. But the Mets also have a four-game set against the Cubs, while the Phillies finish with three against the lowly Nationals.

5. Pedro Martinez - It’s easy to assume that getting two starts down the stretch from Pedro would be a good thing. But the Mets starter is just 2-2 with a 5.47 ERA in his last six outings.

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