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TOM VERDUCCI
May 15, 2006
Despite using Barry Bonds in all but six of their first 32 games, the Giants (15-17) could not play winning baseball over the first five weeks. In the bizarre world of the National League, however, that wasn't nearly as strange as the fact that the Reds and the Rockies were in first place at week's end. Stranger still was the upside-down act of the Braves, who with last Saturday's loss to the Mets fell nine games out of first place for the first time since August 1993. Though they beat New York on Sunday, the Braves faced a steep climb to extend their run of 14 straight division titles. � After taking two of three over the weekend, David Wright (below) and the Mets had won or split 10 of 11 series, while allowing the second-fewest runs in the league. And the second-place Phillies, themselves four games ahead of Atlanta, ended the week on their first eight-game winning streak in 15 years. One fifth of the way through the season, here are the other surprising developments that rival the Braves' plight.
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May 15, 2006

In Other News ...

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STAYING POWER: Good, at least in terms of keeping up with the rock-solid White Sox into the second half. The toughest staff in the league to hit (.230) can't be dismissed.

Rockie on a Roll

Brad Hawpe (pronounced hop) is the most unfamiliar name on the early-season leader boards. At week's end the Rockies rightfielder ranked third in the NL in hits (39), third in batting (.348), fifth in slugging (.643) and sixth in on-base percentage (.434)--not bad for an 11th-round draft pick in 2000 out of LSU who hit .259 in 410 big league at bats entering this season and is older than Albert Pujols. (Hawpe turns 27 next month, Pujols next January.)

"He has tremendous raw power, and coming up [through the system] he has always hit wherever he's been," Colorado G.M. Dan O'Dowd says of Hawpe (above), a .306 hitter in the minors. "Like all young players, I'm sure there will come a time when he struggles, but it's not like he's been hot for two weeks. This is five weeks now. I don't think it's a fluke."

Hawpe also helped Colorado to a 19-13 start, good for first place in the NL West. One reason to take the Rockies a little more seriously (other than the weak division they play in): They have performed well on the road, sweeping two series away from Coors Field, one more than they did in their previous 112 road series.

STAYING POWER: Fair. Hawpe may not be the next Derrek Lee, but he appears to be at least a solid supporting player whose .446 road average proves that he's not Coors Field--dependent.

Armed Forces Vets

The 10 winningest active pitchers were a combined 37--14 at week's end. In order of career wins they are the Cubs' Greg Maddux, the Mets' Tom Glavine, the Yankees' Randy Johnson, the Red Sox' David Wells, the Yankees' Mike Mussina (above), the Mariners' Jamie Moyer, the Mets' Pedro Martinez, the Red Sox' Curt Schilling, the Tigers' Kenny Rogers and the Braves' John Smoltz. And that group doesn't even include Roger Clemens, the winningest pitcher alive, who might soon decide to pitch again for the Astros, Yankees, Red Sox or Rangers, all of whom are fiercely recruiting the 43-year-old righthander.

Of this season's top seven strikeout pitchers, four were among the aforementioned 10: Schilling, Mussina, Martinez and the lefty Glavine, who is finding new success with his curveball and a changeup he daringly throws on the inside corner to righties.

"They've all learned that sometimes less is more, in terms of velocity," Giants pitcher Matt Morris says. "That takes tremendous confidence in your ability to execute, because the rest of us tend to think, If I get beat on a pitch, I at least better be putting maximum effort behind it."

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