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Sizing Up The Central

Aug. 25, 2003
Aug. 25, 2003

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Aug. 25, 2003

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Sizing Up The Central

The Cubs don't do heartbreakers. They haven't lost a pennant race
by fewer than five games since 1937. If they are to keep that
record intact in the vacuum-packed NL Central--Chicago, St. Louis
and Houston were separated by one game at week's end with fewer
than 40 to go--they'll need to ride young starters Kerry Wood,
Mark Prior and Carlos Zambrano.

This is an article from the Aug. 25, 2003 issue Original Layout

But Wood, 26, has been bothered by a back strain. Zambrano, 22,
has run his innings odometer to 165 1/3--already beyond his pro
high with seven or eight starts remaining. Prior, 22, has been
dominant since returning from a three-week respite to heal a
bruised shoulder suffered during a July 11 baserunning mishap,
but he's already within 15 innings of his total of last season.
If healthy the trio, who are 33-23 with 506 strikeouts in 482
innings, has the stuff to make Chicago a nightmare postseason
opponent.

Though Wade Miller has pitched better in the second half, the
Astros can't match the Cubs' rotation depth. And with Roy Oswalt
nursing another groin strain, Houston lacks a true stopper.

The Cardinals are the most dangerous offensive team of the three,
stocked with young hitters in their prime, including the
magnificent Albert Pujols, who entered this week with a 30-game
hitting streak. St. Louis also has an edge with 14 games left
against the Cubs and the Astros, so it needs less help. However,
the Cards' league-worst 10-21 record in one-run games portends
more trouble for a patchwork pitching staff. The guess from here:
1. Cardinals, 2. Cubs, 3. Astros. --T.V.

CUBS

Games remaining 39
Home/Road 17/22
Games against plus-.500 teams 17

ASTROS

Games remaining 38
Home/Road 22/16
Games against plus-.500 teams 18

CARDINALS

Games remaining 38
Home/Road 22/16
Games against plus-.500 teams 20

HEAD TO HEAD

GAMES
MATCHUP REMAINING SEASON SERIES

Cubs-Astros 3 Cubs lead 8-5
Cubs-Cardinals 8 Cardinals lead 6-3
Astros-Cardinals 6 Astros lead 7-5

COLOR PHOTO: CHUCK SOLOMON Albert Pujols