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by Phil Bencomo
Perhaps I'm just being cynical, but isn't it fitting that the Brewers lose six consecutive games, and the Cubs only gain a game and a half in the standings?
The Brew Crew, finally having hit a wall after a too-good-to-be-true start, doesn't look much like the class of the NL Central anymore. After beating up on poor teams for much of the season their record against sub-.500 teams is 22-9 the Brewers have been overmatched against the real top dogs in the NL.
The Dodgers (29-21) took two of three, and then the Crew was swept out of San Diego (29-21). Atlanta, riding high in the East at 29-22, has already taken the first game of three from Milwaukee. Not surprisingly, the Brewers are 6-14 against supra-.500 teams.
And yet, the Brewers still look poised to take the Central. The Astros have lost eight in a row, and Pittsburgh, of all teams, sits in third, half a game behind the Cubs. As for St. Louis and Cincinnati... It'll take a miracle to turn them around.
And then there are the enigmatic Cubs. With three teams within half a game of first place in the West, and Atlanta only four back in the East, it's safe to say the Wild Card will not come from the Central. The Cubs' only path to the postseason is through a division title, something that is looking increasingly doubtful after the last week of play. The Brewers lose six in a week and the Cubs go 2-5. If the bullpen (or the offense with runners in scoring position) had any competence at all, the Cubs could easily have gone 5-2 and moved within two games of first.
But Bob Howry, Scott Eyre and company continue to blow leads and fans' gaskets. But perhaps most infuriating is the Eyre-Piniella relationship. Eyre's been terrible since the season began, and yet Piniella remains convinced that the lefty just needs more work to straighten things out:
Though Piniella has a history of having little patience for relievers who frustrate him, he had a long, friendly conversation with Eyre before the game Monday.
''He told me today he is going to try to get me in there more when he can,'' Eyre said. ''Lou told me, 'I've seen your numbers, you can pitch.'
How many more games does Eyre have to lose before something is done? Hendry and Piniella didn't hesitate to send Neil Cotts down to AAA with an ERA nearly half of Eyre's. I'm dumbfounded.