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MOUND OF INTRIGUE IN PITCHING MATCHUPS

Laughter in Atlanta and history in Houston highlight tonight's pitchers' duels.

Tim Hudson and Mark Mulder, former partners in pranks, may feel as if the joke is on them when they face each other in Atlanta.

Teammates in Oakland the last five years and two of the starring jokesters, Hudson was traded to Atlanta and Mulder was sent to St. Louis after the 2004 season. At 7:30 tonight (TBS), Hudson and Mulder will meet for the first time as opposing pitchers.

Since they're now in the National League, they also hit. They say that sets up the most intriguing -- and potentially hilarious -- part of the matchup.

"We laughed about it and said how this figures," Mulder said. "Who's going to be able to keep a straight face? That might be the hardest part. I know I'm going to start laughing."

Meanwhile, of the thousands of pitchers who have appeared in a major-league game, only 22 have achieved the grand milestone of 300 victories.

Two of those immortals will go head-to-head in Houston when Chicago's Greg Maddux is to face the Astros' Roger Clemens in the first meeting of 300-game winners in the National League in 113 years.

They seem to be the Yin and Yang of pitchers, with Clemens (329 victories) relying on his power arm and Maddux (305) on his control and guile.

"I think we do everything exactly the same," Maddux said. "He just does it at faster speeds."

Around the horn

Pitcher John Rocker, who missed nearly two years after undergoing surgery for a torn rotator cuff, is back with the suburban Long Island Ducks of the independent Atlantic League.

Jennifer Bueno, whose nose was broken last year when she was hit by a chair thrown by Texas reliever Frank Francisco, filed a lawsuit against the pitcher, teammates Doug Brocail and Carlos Almanzar, and the Rangers. The suit seeks damages for battery, assault and negligence.

The Buffalo Bisons game against the Ottawa Lynx was postponed Thursday night because of rain. The teams will play a doubleheader in Ottawa starting at 5:05 tonight.

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