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BEHIND THE LINES

It looks good for Cubs as season winds down

July 22, 2007|Bob Mieszerski | Times Staff Writer

Analyzing odds for upcoming games and events.

The Angels aren't the only team that has seen a once-commanding lead in its division shrink.

Milwaukee, which flew out of the gate and opened a sizable advantage on its five rivals in the National League Central, has been struggling in recent weeks, enabling streaking Chicago to climb to within 2 1/2 games.

The way they began the season, it did not seem possible the Cubs would seriously challenge the Brewers in 2007.

A very bad team in 2006, the Cubs started the new campaign as if nothing had changed.

They were fundamentally unsound, had serious bullpen issues, were fighting among themselves and the most compelling reason to watch any of their games was to see a possible outburst by Manager Lou Piniella.

But since the beginning of June, Chicago has been the hottest team in the National League. Even with a loss to Arizona on Saturday, the Cubs have won 19 of 25.

Whether the Cubs stay this hot remains to be seen, but the schedule is favorable.

After they finish their series with the Diamondbacks today, the Cubs will have 65 games left.

Thirty-five of those games are against Cincinnati, Houston, St. Louis and Pittsburgh, the four teams behind them in the Central and all having losing records.

They have three games left against Milwaukee. The Cubs, who have won seven of 12 against the division leaders, will host the Brewers on Aug. 28-30.

Aside from their series with the Brewers, the Cubs play only four other teams who are currently above .500. After today, they have 14 games left with the Dodgers, Rockies, Diamondbacks and Mets.

Another major league team that has been on something of a mini-roll is Kansas City.

Given how things have gone in the last decade or so for a once-proud franchise, a winning month -- or even half a month -- is something to celebrate. The Royals won eight of their first 14 in July, including taking two of three recently from the Red Sox at Fenway Park.

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bob.mieszerski@latimes.com

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