The Cincinnati Reds lead the list of teams the Notebook is keeping its eye on in Week 6. The Reds have hung in with St. Louis, and is 3.5 games off the pace in the NL Central. They host the Cards in a weekend series on the Ohio River, the second time they'll get St. Loo in their own backyard. And Cincinnati starts the week with a winnable series in Pittsburgh. If Dusty Baker's club is going to be a serious player for the division title, I'd like to see that 3.5 number shrink this week. Other stories to watch include...
*The Cubs have played so poorly and seem in such chaos, they're on the verge of being written out of the list of contenders. They host Florida and Pittsburgh this week and absolutely need to stop the bleeding. At minimum, they need to go 4-2 and start chipping away, while their 5.5 game deficit is still manageable.
*In the NL West,
there's some big showdowns. Surprising San Diego still clings to a half-game lead over San Francisco and starts the week with three games in Pac Bell. Even though Los Angeles is sub-.500, they're only 4.5 games back and face a critical week, with road trips to Arizona and then to San Diego. The schedule favors the Giants this week, as they close it with a home set against the lowly Astros. It's all lined up for Frisco to step into first place.
*Philadelphia holds a two-game lead in the East on the Mets and those surprising Washington Nationals.. It's a test week for the Nats, who start in Queens to play the Mets and then go to Colorado. Let's see if this week starts their slide. Florida is five back, with a weekend home series against New York offering a chance to get a little traction.
In the American League, the West has a similar situation to its NL counterpart, with head-to-head matchups in a packed race. Coming off the momentum of
Dallas Braden's perfect game, Oakland is one game back, but now must go to Texas and Anaheim. Prior to the A's arrival in town, the Angels have to host Tampa. At 4.5 back, LAA has to hold firm in the early part of the week and push upward on the weekend.
Seattle's struggles have gone unchronicled here in the Notebook so far, but the Mariners are 5.5 back and playing very poorly. They go to Baltimore for an early week series between two teams who want to show they're better than how they've played thus far. Those of us who live in Baltimore and have argued the Orioles are going to turn their season around have a key stretch ahead. Baltimore hosts Cleveland on the weekend, then has Kansas City in town in the early part of Week 7. If they can't make a move in these three series', you aren't going to convince a frustrated fan base that the competitiveness of the AL East is your problem. And as far as Seattle goes, if they can't rebound against a
team playing .281 baseball, when exactly do they intend to?
The American League is almost more interesting this week at the bottom than at the top. In addition to the games above, Kansas City goes for its first series' win with home matchups against Cleveland and Chicago. But if you're interested in watching good teams, the top of the AL Central is where to look. Detroit has a very big week. Trailing Minnesota by 3.5 games, they host the Yankees & Red Sox. Big crowds and big games make for good times in the Motor City. And the Twins go to the Bronx this weekend in the most marquee matchup of the week.
I'll be off as usual on Tuesday and back on Wednesday. The midweek reports this week will focus on the top of the AL Central, as we explore Minnesota and Detroit in a little more detail.