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eight is enough

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re the cardinals --- see previous 7 days' posts.

while st louis has been going 2-8 over its last 10 games, the kansas city royals have gone 8-2 -- and all 10 games have been against nl central teams. they took 2 of 3 at houston, came home to sweep the pirates and take 2 of 3 from milwaukee, and won last night at cincinnati, coming back from a 5-run deficit. last night, though, was a good night for the nl vs the american league --- the senior circuit went 5-7, well above their recent average. . . . .

the brewers have played the a.l. even this year, 6 up 6 down. they're currently playing the cubs, came back against em in the 9th inning night to close within 4 games of st louis. the brew crew has hovered around .500 all season, are now balanced on that perch but aren't quite that good. aren't nearly that good, actually; they've been outscored by 48 runs this season, which means (pythagoreanally speaking) they "should" be 10 games under .500, at 33-43. (the cardinals have also been lucky -- pythagorean formula has them at 40-36.) milwaukee is dead last in nl pitching, with a 4.95 team era, but they've played the last 2 months without two of their starting pitchers --- tomo okha, who hit the DL after a 2-1, 3.18 start to the season; and ace ben sheets, who has struggled with elbow/shoulder stuff since march and made only 4 starts this year. injured though he was, sheets had a strikeout-walk ratio of 28-1 in his 20 innings . . . . he's been throwing side sessions and may be ready to take a rehab turn or two after the all-star break. milwaukee comes to st louis in early august for three games (the 4th thru 6th); sheets is not likely to be at 100 pct by then, but if he's close --- and if the brewers are in a close race for the division --- i'd expect him to pitch. . . . . a third brew-crew hurler, doug davis, is rounding into form after a terrible start. he walked 44 guys in his first 66 innings (12 starts) and stood 3-4, 5.59 through may 31; this month he has only walked 8 in 31 innings, posted 4 quality starts in 5 outings, and cut most of a run off his era. and their ace, chris capuano, is quietly having an all-star season --- he's 9th in the league in era, tied for 2d in wins, 3d in strikeouts, and 5th in baserunners per inning; he has delivered a quality start in 16 of his 17 appearances.

i considered the brewers to be stl's most dangerous challenger at the start of the season; halfway through, despite all their troubles, they still look capable of mounting a charge. they've won 13 of their last 21 games, the best record in the division over that span; the astros are 10-9, reds 9-14, cards 7-13. if davis keeps pitching well and sheets/okha return healthy, milwaukee could be your 2006 champs.

they have 9 games left with the cardinals, including the final series of the year.

double a debut: blake hawksworth labored through 5 innings in his 1st game for springfield and left with a 2-1 lead, but the springfield bullpen got flamed and he wound up with a no decision. . . . . at memphis, dennis tankersley threw 6 creditable innings but lost on an unearned run.