The Baseball Notebook

May 24, 2010 2:54 PM

Watching Wrigleyville

At the start of the season, the Notebook pegged the Cubs, Phillies and Diamondbacks to win division titles. The former and latter in that group have been big disappointments (at least to me, if not to the rest of the world). All three have interesting weeks ahead, and none more so than the boys from Wrigleyville. The first seven weeks of the season have been chaos on Chicago's north side. Lou Pinellia's sent Carlos Zambrano to the bullpen and called his team out publicly for its poor play. In spite of it all, they're still breathing in the NL Central. Trailing the Cardinals by five games, with the Reds also ahead of them, Week 8 is one that could sink Chicago. It starts with a visit from Joe Torre and the red-hot Dodgers and it ends with their rivals from St. Loo in on the weekend. Against a schedule like this, it's unlikely this is the week that the Cubs mount a comeback. But if they survive the week and are still within five of the lead, we may look at this as the time the patient was stabilized and able to start working on a full recovery. The reader will recall the Notebook said the same thing about Boston prior to its two-game set in the Bronx at this time last week. The Red Sox got a split, held steady and a quick Yankee slump later are suddenly right back in the playoff race. Let's see if it works out the same way in Wrigley.

Arizona has struggled mightily on the mound and are at the bottom of the NL West. But they are within striking distance at 5.5 games, if only they can start passing some teams ahead of them in the immediate future. They have a chance this week when they go to Colorado and San Francisco. Like the Cubs, this is a week that's also fraught with peril. A 2-4 week sets them even further back and 1-5 could spell an early death for the season.

Philadelphia is holding a steady lead in the NL East, but they're coming off a disappointing home series loss against Boston, when Roy Halladay lost the rubber match to Tim Wakefield. All four of their rivals are within five games, and the Phils go on the road against two of them. It starts with a trip to Citi Field to face their hated rival in the Mets. New York is feeling its oats right now, having just beaten Phil Hughes and C.C. Sabathia back-to-back to take two of three from the Yanks. The Mets are also in a spot almost exactly similar to Arizona--only five back, but in the basement, so the Phillies will face a desperate and streaky team that might have given us a sign that a hot streak is about to commence. Over the weekend, Philly then goes south to play the Marlins. It's also a big week for Florida, who begins by hosting surging Atlanta. Bottom line? A big week in the NL East overall and especially for the three-time defending division champs who need to plant their feet and stand firm.

Minnesota has the biggest week in the American League. The Twins are coming off a wild weekend against the Brewers. Saturday's game was a microcosm. Leading 6-2 in the ninth, Minnesota coughed up five runs, then came back to tie and won it in twelve innings. Something more for my friends in Wisconsin to stew about in anticipation of the first Packer-Viking game this fall. The Twins are holding a one-game lead over Detroit right now, but will first host the Yankees and then go to Texas for the weekend. Detroit has an easier week ahead, starting in Seattle and coming home to face Oakland. If we were going to see a reversal at the top in the AL Central, this would be the week. Holding steady would be a win for the Twins.

The Notebook's off on Tuesday. When I come back Wednesday, we'll take a deeper look at the All-Star race among NL catchers, as well as put the undermanned, but still surviving Pirates under the microscope.

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