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Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Down to the Wire

Well, the Cubs are right now sitting one-half game out in the Wild Card race with a record of 83-66. The Giants have played one more game and are 84-66. The Astros remain a game back at 83-67. Here are the remaining schedules:

Cubs
9/21 Pittsburg (68-81)
9/22 Pittsburg
9/23 Pittsburg
9/24 New York (65-85)
9/25 New York
9/26 New York
9/27 Cincinnati (68-81)
9/28 Cincinnati
9/29 Cincinnati
9/30 Cincinnati
10/1 Atlanta (88-62)
10/2 Atlanta
10/3 Atlanta

Giants
6/21 Houston (83-67)
6/22 Houston
6/23 Houston
6/24 Los Angeles (86-63)
6/25 Los Angeles
6/26 Los Angeles
6/27 Off day
6/28 San Diego (80-70)
6/29 San Diego
6/30 San Diego
10/1 Los Angeles
10/2 Los Angeles
10/3 Los Angeles

There is no doubt when considering strength of schedule that the Cubs should come out on top. Further to their advantage is that the Giants play the Astros three games this week which means that either the Astros will be nearly out of it or the Giants and Astros will both have about 68 losses. After the Giants the Astros finish with Milwaukee, St. Louis, and Colorado. Either way, the Cubs have their destiny in their hands. Last September the Cubs went 19-8 to come from behind to nudge the Astros. This season they've gone 11-6 but have won 7 of the last 9.

With Mark Prior's nice outing yesterday here's hoping for two and half uninterrupted times through the rotation. Matt Clement has been more than shaky his last 5 outings since his 13 strikeout performance against the Brewers on August 24th. Kerry Wood takes the mound tonight in Pittsburg. He pitched decently against the Reds last time out going 7 innings and giving up 4 earned runs, striking out 9. He'll be facing Josh Fogg, who pitched very well against the Cubs last time out shutting them out in 6+ innings before his bullpen let him down. The Cubs have a history of scoring early on the Pirates this season (they're 10-5 against the Pirates so far) so we'll see if they can jump in front tonight.

Would anyone have believed what Niefi Perez has done? He's still the worst offensive player imaginable but in a small sample he's hitting .373 (19 for 51) with 4 doubles and 2 homeruns and has played a very solid shortstop. Dusty continues to bat him second but it hasn't hurt the Cubs yet.

And of course the Cubs have clinched back-to-back winning seasons for the first time since 1971-1972. This year will also mark the first time since 1997 that Sammy Sosa will not lead the time in OPS. Aramis Ramirez (.950), Moises Alou (.921), and Derek Lee (.896), are all ahead of Sammy at .863.

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