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Buckling down

With trading deadline behind us, the real work lies ahead

Click here for more on this story
Posted: Friday August 03, 2001 12:32 PM
  Ichiro Ichiro is only batting.267 since the All-Star Game, but he's hit in 11 of his last 12 games. AP

By John Donovan,

OK. Enough of that trading nonsense. Let's see where everyone is ...

All right, San Francisco, hold on. You had a nice week, didn't you? All full of yourself, eh? Big Cat indeed.

Seattle ... you're right, you're right. Why mess with success? Hey, you Cubs there. Still with us? Good for you. Good for baseball.

Boston, Cleveland, Minnesota, Anaheim, keep up now. You too, Philly, Houston, St. Louis and Arizona. Where's Los Angeles? Oh, right there in front. Now that's nice.

Quiet down, Oakland.

We've had our first halves now. We've done the trading thing. There are just nine more weekends in this season. Time to buckle down.

You little Indians. You have a test this weekend. Ready for it? Same for you, Philly. Blow this and it could be a long summer for you. Hey, you Yankees. Think you know it all? Same for you, Boston. Better watch out this weekend.

Here's This Weekend in Baseball. Check out the grading curve.

Four balls, remember, are the maximum a series can get.

On the road, the M's are an 18-wheeler doing 90

Seattle Mariners
Team Page | Schedule 
Cleveland Indians
Team Page | Schedule 

Let's roll this slowly off the tongue, shall we?

The Mariners ... have not lost a series ... on the road ... all ... season ... long.

Again. Seattle. Not lost a series. On the road. All ... season ... long.

Hasn't happened.

You have to figure that, sooner or later, it will. The Mariners will slip, someone else will put together a couple of decent pitching performances and that will be that. Unfortunately, the part about putting together a couple of decent pitching performances kind of eliminates Cleveland these days.

Yes, the Indians can hit the ball with the best of them (Jim Thome has 34 homers and 90 RBIs, Juan Gonzalez 27 and 95), but their pitching has been pretty crummy. For an example, check out Thursday's 17-4 pounding by the A's, the worst beating the Tribe has endured at Jacobs Field since it opened in 1994.

Their 4.79 post-break ERA is in the bottom half of the AL, which makes their 12-10 post-break record even more amazing. But you know how many of those wins have come against teams with winning records? Two. They've mostly beaten up on the Tigers and the White Sox. (To be fair, the White Sox have been hovering around .500, and the Indians have beaten them four times since the break.)

The Mariners ... well, they're the Mariners. Winning at a .722 clip, they throw up solid pitching every day and have not seen a significant slump at the plate yet this season. They have cooled off a little -- they're hitting .274 after the break, and were hitting .283 before it -- but it hasn't been enough to notice.

Jamie Moyer (11-5, 4.17) goes for the M's on Friday against Bartolo Colon (10-7, 4.39), the M's Freddy Garcia (12-3, 3.31) vs. Dave Burba (9-8, 6.21) on Saturday and Aaron Sele (12-3, 3.41) goes Sunday for the M's against whoever the Tribe decides to wheel out there. Seattle's Paul Abbott (11-2, 4.01) vs. Charles Nagy (4-4, 5.91) are scheduled for Monday.

Compare the records and ERAs there. See how they win?

Though the M's haven't lost a road series this season, they have split three times. Oakland and Texas halved four-game series with the M's, while Kansas City took one of two in July.

Can Cleveland solve the M's? One tip for the Indians: Look at what Minnesota did against Seattle. Then try to do the opposite.

Philadelphia Phillies at San Francisco Giants, Friday-Sunday

A SF treat: Philly mignon

We knew the Giants would get hot. Now they're just a game out of the NL West lead after winning their eighth straight Thursday night. They haven't lost since Andres Galarraga joined the team. But enough about them. Have the Phils seen the worst? They lost three straight games last week by giving up three straight walk-off homers. They trail the Braves by two games. They are 9-12 since the break. Is this any way to win a pennant? Ace Omar Daal (10-3, 4.52) goes against the Giants' Russ Ortiz (12-6, 3.42) Friday.

Chicago Cubs at Los Angeles Dodgers, Friday-Sunday

Getting there's one thing, staying's another

This one is the tale of two unexpected division leaders just trying to hang on. Since the Dodgers took over the NL West lead by a half-game after the games of July 27, they are 1-4. Yet they still lead the division by a half-game. Such is the NL West, which is either too close to call or too mediocre to care about. In the Central, the Cubs seem to be able to keep everyone off them (they've been by themselves in first place in the NL Central every day since May 29). But for how long? Friday night's duel between Kerry Wood (9-6, 3.64) and L.A.'s Chan-Ho Park (11-6, 2.85) should be a beauty. The Cubs' Julian Tavarez (8-6, 5.83) and L.A. newcomer James Baldwin (7-5, 4.43) meet Saturday. Then Sunday, it's L.A.'s Eric Gagne (4-4, 4.99) against Jon Lieber (14-5, 3.46).

Florida Marlins at St. Louis Cardinals, Friday-Sunday

Wanted: A little positive momentum

Mark McGwire -- remember that guy? -- has been swinging a mean bat as of late, but we're still waiting on that lights-out streak from the Cards. They're an OK 11-9 since the break. But OK is not going to make the postseason. The best matchup of the weekend (it's a four-game set, with a doubleheader on Friday) may be Brad Penny (7-5, 3.88 ERA) against Matt Morris (12-7, 3.17) on Friday. Sunday, it's Ryan Dempster (12-9, 5.98) against Darryl Kile (11-7, 2.97). McGwire has three hits in six at-bats against Dempster. Two of them are home runs.

Anaheim Angels at New York Yankees, Friday-Monday:

It's like Christopher Lloyd is hanging around somewhere

You have to give the Angels credit for sticking with it. Awful seasons by Tim Salmon and Darin Erstad aside, the Angels are a season-high four games above .500 and not to be ignored in the wild-card race (they enter the weekend five games behind Minnesota). The Halos are coming off a sweep in Boston, so what's Yankee Stadium to them? A ginger Roger Clemens (15-1, 3.58 ERA) is supposed to go Saturday for the New Yorkers.

Kansas City Royals at Minnesota Twins, Friday-Sunday

Maybe they're just playing 'possum

The Twins are hurting. Hurting big time. They were 12-15 in July and are just 6-15 since the break. But here's the kicker. After Twins newcomer Rick Reed stopped the Blue Jays on Thursday and the A's pummeled the Indians, the Twins are just a half-game back. A half-game! And this weekend, they have their big three (Brad Radke, Eric Milton and Joe Mays) going. What a country.

Texas Rangers at Boston Red Sox, Friday-Monday
We never thought we'd be saying this but ... look out for Texas. The Rangers are fresh off their first series win in Yankee Stadium in nearly eight years. Texas went 17-10 in July (we double-checked!). The Rangers' 4.56 ERA last month was middle-of-the-AL-road, which is good for Texas. And they hit .286, third in the AL. Meanwhile, the Red Sox are just 1-3 since Nomar Garciaparra's return. We don't believe in curses. But just in case -- you know where we can get any eye of newt?

Oakland Athletics at Detroit Tigers, Friday-Monday
In the race for the AL wild card -- man, there's a prize you'd want to stick in the team trophy case, eh? "Look, we finished not first!" -- Oakland is a major factor. The best team in the majors in July (19-8, 2.81 ERA), the A's are playing better than Boston and Minnesota, the two teams ahead of them in the wild-card standings. And, yes, there are wild-card standings.

Atlanta Braves at Milwaukee Brewers, Friday-Sunday
As strange as these Braves look nowadays, some things never change. They lead baseball with a 3.63 ERA and, again, they're poised to snag another NL East title. Now they get the Brewers, who beat Florida on Thursday, but that makes them ... lemme see, add one, carry the ... OK. That makes them winners in three of their last 18. Talk about contraction.

Montreal Expos at Houston Astros, Friday-Sunday
The 'Pos and the 'Stros. Our question: What the heck happened to that awesome Houston hitting? Since a 17-11 win over St. Louis on July 18, the 'stros have averaged just 3.6 runs per game. And that's with a 12-spot and an 8-spot thrown in. In that 15-game span, they've been held to three runs or fewer 10 times. As they say in Houston, that dog ain't huntin'.

New York Mets at Arizona Diamondbacks, Friday-Sunday
The Mets are still the saddest-hitting team in the majors (.248). Things won't get any easier this weekend. Al Leiter (6-8, 3.20 ERA) takes on the Big Unit (13-5, 2.36) on Friday, Glendon Rusch (6-6, 4.60) gets Curt Schilling (15-5, 3.09) on Sunday.

Baltimore Orioles at Toronto Blue Jays, Friday-Sunday
The Jays were 12-15 with a 4.28 ERA in June, then went 11-16 with a 5.31 ERA in July. This month, they have series with Seattle, Oakland, Anaheim, Minnesota and the Yankees. Enjoy the weekend guests, guys.

Tampa Bay Devil Rays at Chicago White Sox, Friday-Monday
The Devil Rays were praised at the trade deadline for doing what they set out to do. Which is get younger. And worse. Same thing. If there's a franchise with less hope this side of Montreal, we don't want to see it.

Cincinnati Reds at San Diego Padres, Friday-Sunday
The radical Reds have a new formula for winning. First, try to trade the entire team. If that doesn't work, trade anyone you can. Get nothing in return. Doesn't matter. Next, let your superstar complain until everyone's upset. Hit a lot of homers. Win six in a row. Beautiful.

Pittsburgh Pirates at Colorado Rockies, Friday-Sunday
If you lived in Denver and you had the inexplicable urge to go see the local team play, why would you pick this series? Two reasons come to mind. 1. A reasonable chance to win. 2. Decent seats.

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