Heading down the stretch, fewer than 30 games to play. All it takes is spot in the tournament, and it's anyone's trophy! Here's how we're shaping up...
The Cleveland Cobalts, with their star-studded line-up, hold an 8 game lead over Milwaukee. New acquistion Wil Pote joins sluggers Darren Ferguson (25 HR/85 RBI) , Andy Jacobs (36 and 108), and MVP candidates Roland Soriano (.341/.403/.577) and Art Krause (30 HR/109 RBI). Mariano Padilla leads the pitching staff with 13 wins; new acquisitions Benito Pulido and Alex Estalella join the staff to make a run at securing a division title and first-round bye.
Milwaukee is making their push and are 8 games out. If they fall short of Cleveland, they are still in good shape for a possible wild-card berth. SP Paul Heiseman has been hot and cold coming off his 20-4 season and is 14-12. Rookie sensation Ossie Diaz is 9-6 with a 3.13 ERA, and joins workhorses Stu McCurry and "Don" Juan Bennett to round out a formidable rotation. The offense is built around young gun Sam "We've Got" Bush, who has 25 HR and 101 RBI. Dennis Larson has 52 SB's to go along with his 103 runs scored. Eduardo Aguilar supplies a nice balance of speed and power (19 HR/81 RBI/22 SB)
Colorado is hot and holds a 5 game lead over Helena. The Shock bolstered their staff with 2 solid SP to make their run. All-star Bryan Christiansen and Donte Zoltan have combined to go 6-3 since their arrivals. Those two join Cy Young candidates Rafael Beltre (13-6 and a solid thin-air ERA of 3.82) and Gio "The Hybrid" Hernandez (15-8). The offense is loaded with production from the usual suspects, highlighted by Mark Clarke (.335/.421/.614, 35 HR/117 RBI), and Benito "Blame it On" Rijo (.322, 34 HR/122 RBI). They are joined by ROY candidate CF Felipe Mercado (23 HR 94 RBI) The Shock could be peaking at the right time and make a push for a title and first-round bye.
Helena is only 5 out and is the mix for the Wild Card as well. The money thrown at closer Stump Matheson was well-spent as he has converted 37 of 39 save chances and has helped the Peacemakers become serious contenders. Hersh Glynn leads the offense with 30 HR, 95 RBI and a slash-line of .312/.391/.517, but the pitching is the story here. 21-year old Babe Colin (13-7, 3.61), Valerio Santiago (11-9, 3.53) and Paul Cintron (14-2, 3.73) lead the rotation and can shut down any opponent on any given day. With that pitching staff, long losing streaks just ain't gonna happen!
Both Iowa and Tampa Bay have shared time at the top of the division, and are currently tied. Iowa is, as usual, top in the league in ERA and runs against, led by Cy-Young candidate Clinton Puffer (17-12, 3.75). Puffer's looking to win 20 for the 2nd time in his career. Relief pitcher Carlton Magee made the All-Star team and has thrown 101 effective innings out of the pen, helping to make up for the loss of starter Bruce Mullens, who is lost for the season. (If my math is right, maybe a WS return?) The line-up is solid too, as MVP candidate Sammy Cochrane (.318, 31 HR, 103 RBI), CF Victor Bennett (.370 OBP), and All-star 2B Bob Newson (.282/.391/.387, 27 SB, 96 runs) lead the attack.
Tampa is second in the league in runs against, and has gotten a solid performance from veteran starter Doug "Buck" Rogers (16-4, 4.14 ERA) Closer Alfonso Villafuerte has 42 saves. FA signing Tony Rodriguez has been solid (.294/.395/.549, 33 HR and 88 RBI) and CF Hi Shouse is having a career year (.330/.381/.538, 31 HR, 91 RBI) at the plate as well as in the field, where he hopes to win his second career gold-glove.
Scranton is 5 games up on Louiseville and 8 up on Philadelphia. Scranton's line-up is solid, as it has 5 guys who have 21 HR or more, led by former MVP Pat Dougherty (.330/.401/.626, 41 HR 97 RBI) and catcher Red Westmoreland (.294/.348/.453). The Squirrells too sent a middle relief pitcher to the All-star game in Gene Garcia, who is 8-2 with 6 saves and 3.13 ERA. All-Star and ROY candidate Santo Cerda is 11-9 with 2.52 ERA
The aptly named Louiville Lumber are third in the league in runs scored, led by veteran Sandy Fielder, who transitioned to 2B after spending most of carrer in center. It has worked out, as he is the front-runner to win the Gold-glove there, and he posts a hitting line of .310/.408/.554. 3B Dusty Riggan (53 HR/118 RBI) and OF Santo Soto (41 HR/97 RBI, .295 BA) have been beasts. The Lumber is last in the league in team ERA, however, and their pitching has kept them from maintaining a winning record. Since Scranton has struggled at times too, the Lumber may just have enough to slug their way to the top.
Philly could be a dark horse in this race if they get hot and the teams ahead of them have trouble pulling away. They have a nicely balanced squad with 2nd-year man Virgil Campos having an All-star season with an 11-4 record and 3.35 ERA. 2B Dennis "Green Eggs and" Hammel (.326/28 HR/89 RBI) is the front-runner for the silver-slugger, and gold-glove candidate 3B Max Kelly has been solid at the dish too, with 21 HR and 69 RBI. Donn Jones is in the running for ROY, due to his .280/23 HR/80 RBI production level.
Whoever doesn't win the South is the current front-runner for the top wild-card spot, while New Orleans joins Helena and Milwaukee in the mix for the 2nd spot. Look out for St. Louis too, as a recent hot streak has put them on the radar. New Orleans, who is currently 2 games out of a playoff spot, is getting monster seasons from rookie 3B Herbert Johnstone (32 HR/106 RBI), and catcher Jose Zurbaran (27 HR, .305/.374/.572). Veteran Benji Mangual has been his solid self with 30 HR, .and a 271/.340/.508 line. while playing gold-glove caliber RF. Reliver Tim Sheets has pitched 101 solid innings out of the pen, posting an 11-3 record and a 3.30 ERA.
There should be some good action down the stretch, as another round of divisional games finish the season. Good luck to all!