OFF THE WALL
Players and coaches from Cincinnati and Pittsburgh lambasted the outfield at Chicago's Wrigley Field, likening it to a parking lot and a pasture, and deeming it unsafe for play. "It looks like they had a monster truck rally," Reds outfielder Adam Dunn said. "It's terrible. There's potholes. It's bad. It's unsafe." The field was damaged when a Police concert was held there in July. The Cubs plan to redo the playing surface in the off-season, but that won't help should they get into the playoffs. "If the ball is hit sharply through the infield, it's like walking out there on Sheffield or Waveland Avenue and hitting a baseball out in the middle of the street," Pirates Manager Jim Tracy said. "That's how quickly the ball is moving out there. I don't know what they're going to do."
The schedule-makers haven't set up too much late-season drama with head-to-head matchups between teams fighting for playoff berths. The final week of the season features such matchups as the New York Yankees at Tampa Bay, Arizona at Pittsburgh, the Cubs at Florida and Minnesota at Boston. Final-weekend matchups between San Diego and Milwaukee and Arizona and Colorado are the only series remaining that pit contending teams head-to-head, opening the door for spoilers.
It's a fact
The Red Sox and New York Mets had division leads that were once 14 1/2 and seven games reduced to 1 1/2 last week and are on the verge of the biggest collapses of all time. The 1914 New York Giants hold the record for largest lead lost when they blew a 15-game lead over the Boston Braves. It's also worth mentioning that the 2005 Chicago White Sox led the AL Central by 15 games on Aug. 1, watched Cleveland pull to within 1 1/2 games in late September, and recovered to win the World Series.
ONE UP, ONE DOWN
Who's on the rise, who's
* Up: Ryan Howard, Philadelphia -- He has 42 home runs now, but the way he's going 50 is not out of reach.
* Down: Justin Morneau, Minnesota -- Can someone explain how a 30-home run hitter has only two since July 24?
* Up: Mark DeRosa, Chicago Cubs -- He was nine for 10 in a three-game series against Cincinnati last week.
* Down: Ian Kinsler, Texas -- This guy has had more ups and downs than Otis Elevator this season.
* Up: Josh Fields, Chicago White Sox -- Showing why he is projected to be a 40-home run hitter in the future.
* Down: Scott Spiezio, St. Louis -- Struggling at the plate in his return from substance abuse treatment.
* Up: Derek Jeter, N.Y. Yankees -- Well, A-Rod hasn't been hitting much, so Jeter decided to show up.
* Down: Josh Wilson, Tampa Bay -- He was 0 for 18 with seven strikeouts during one stretch last week.
* Up: Matt Holliday, Colorado -- All of a sudden there's a new name in the mix for the NL MVP award.
* Down: Matt Stairs, Toronto -- What has been a pretty good season has hit the skids in the last week.
* Up: Geovany Soto, Chicago Cubs -- Looks like the Cubs might have found a solution to their Jason Kendall problem.
* Down: A.J. Pierzynski, Chicago White Sox -- He was overworked this season and it's catching up with him.
* Up: Josh Beckett, Boston -- Pretty much locked up the AL Cy Young Award with win No. 20.
* Down: Esteban Loaiza, Dodgers -- Funny how Jeff Kent forgot about poor veteran pitching during his tirade.