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It's Called NL Comedy Central

September 17, 1997|Associated Press

Casey Stengel once said of the comically awful 1962 New York Mets, "Can't anybody here play this game?"

Imagine what Stengel would say of the 1997 NL Central race--baseball's version of a futility stakes. Maybe, "Can't anybody here win this thing?"

Laughingly called the NL Comedy Central, it is the only division where .500 is good enough for first place. Where a big winning streak is two games. Where the contending--or is it pretending?--Pirates may finish without a single player hitting 20 home runs or driving in 75 runs.

The Houston Astros (76-74), despite being only two games over .500 after beating San Diego, 15-3, Tuesday, hold a 3 1/2-game lead over the Pirates (73-78) going into their two-game series tonight in Pittsburgh.

How bad is the so-so Central? The Astros likely will advance into the playoffs, yet they trail Florida by 11 1/2 games in the wild-card race. If they were in the NL East, the Braves would lead them by 17 games.


The Montreal Expos' F.P. Santangelo will undergo arthroscopic surgery on his right knee today and will miss the rest of the season. He was injured Sept. 10 against Pittsburgh while diving head first into second base. . . . New York Met catcher Todd Hundley returned to the lineup after missing five starts with a sore elbow. He left the 3-2 loss to Philadelphia in the sixth because the new brace he was wearing was uncomfortable. . . . Atlanta's Chipper Jones recorded his 40th double of the season against the Giants, giving him a club record. Terry Pendleton hit 39 in 1992. in 1992.

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