The Baseball Notebook

May 31, 2010 11:22 AM

Week 9: What To Watch

If Toronto wants to show they can have staying power in this year's playoff race, Week 9 is their chance to step up and prove it. Tampa Bay and New York both come to the Rogers Centre. The Jays are right now 4.5 back of the Rays, and only a game of off New York's pace for the wild-card, while they sit one game ahead of Boston. So far, Toronto has not played well against Boston and they need these games on their homefield for both intangible reason of confidence and the more important tangible reason of keeping up in the standings. Toronto's fortunes this week are easily the most important story in baseball to be paying attention to.

In the National League, the East and Central have showcase series to kick the week off. Atlanta has closed to within a half-game of Philadelphia and take over the lead starting today in Turner Field. Meanwhile, Cincinnati is now sitting atop the Central by a single game over St. Louis. The Cardinals are coming off winning a weekend series in Wrigley and looking to recapture their April mojo. In both divisions, keep an eye on what happens right after the big series. Atlanta has to go to Los Angeles for the weekend, and in the Central, the Cubs are lurking. At this time last week, the Notebook said Week 8 was a big one for Chicago, with six games against the Dodgers and Cardinals, that they could be buried if they didn't play well. While they lost two of three to St. Loo, they took the series from LAD and kept themselves alive. When you think of how poorly the Cubbies have played in the first eight weeks, it's amazing they are only six out of the lead and five off the wild-card. Even though this week begins a nine-game road trip, the fact they play Pittsburgh, Houston and Milwaukee and succession suggest they could start inching their way up as the teams in front of them tear each other out. It's opportunity time on the North Side.

Tampa Bay and Texas have each started to struggle lately, with the Rangers slipping a half-game behind Oakland in the Weste and the Rays have seen their lead over the rest of East melt away even when the Yankees and Jays aren't playing all that well (5-5 in their last 10 in each case). The Rays & Rangers play this weekend, and each will be tested early. We've noted Tampa's trip north of the border, and the White Sox, fresh off a series win in Tampa get to host Texas.

Minnesota is coming off a very impressive sweep in Texas and their lead on Detroit is sitting at 3.5 games. The schedule for the Twins isn't imposing this week, but West Coast swings are still vulnerable spots. They visit Seattle and Oakland, while the Tigers are home vs. Cleveland then at Kansas City. Let's see if the Tigers can slice into the lead a bit by Sunday night.

The Notebook's off tomorrow. Then on Wednesday, the impact of Kendry Morales' freak injury will be a prominent theme--we'll look more closely at LAA to see what's left, as well as the All-Star race among American League first basemen.

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