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The bottom half

June 01, 2008|Bill Shaikin

Dodgers: If the Dodgers truly are contenders, they ought to show us at the end of the week, when the Chicago Cubs come to town for a four-game series. The Cubs have scored more runs than any team in the major leagues, they have the best record in the National League and they swept the Dodgers at Wrigley Field last week -- but they're 10-13 on the road. This is the time for the Dodgers to shake off their .500 shackles; the four games against the Chicago are the only ones they'll play against a team with a winning record between today and June 24.

Dodgers vs. Chicago Cubs, Thursday through next Sunday at Dodger Stadium.

Angels: The Athletics dumped Dan Haren and Nick Swisher, yet they remain a nasty thorn in the Angels' side. The Angels make their first visit this season to Oakland, where they were held to 19 runs in eight games last season. And look who's back, at least for now: Rich "Oft-Injured" Harden, who is 2-0 with a 3.42 in four starts since the A's most recently activated him, and third baseman Eric Chavez, who made his season debut last week and hit .400 against the Angels last season. The A's and Angels have split four games in Anaheim, with the A's scoring 29 runs in two victories and one run in two losses.

The week ahead

Angels vs. Oakland Athletics, Friday through next Sunday at McAfee Coliseum, Oakland.

Elsewhere: It's 280 miles from Detroit to Chicago, from the showdown of the lost to the showdown for first place. We figured the top two teams in the American League Central would joust next weekend -- in Detroit, where the Tigers play host to the Cleveland Indians. Yet, while the preseason powers wallow in the depths of the division, the White Sox and Minnesota Twins play for first. The Sox feature AL home run leader Carlos Quentin, discarded by the Arizona Diamondbacks last winter. And bonus points if you can name the Twins' rotation minus Johan Santana. Time's up: Nick Blackburn, Livan Hernandez, Glen Perkins, Kevin Slowey -- and the best name of all, Boof Bonser.

Minnesota Twins vs. Chicago White Sox, Friday through next Sunday at U.S. Cellular Field, Chicago.

Minor leaguers of the week

Dodgers: A.J. Ellis, c

It's rare enough to drive in eight runs in one game, but Ellis did it in three innings last Tuesday. He singled in one run in the third inning, doubled in three runs in the fourth and hit a grand slam in the fifth, as triple-A Las Vegas routed Tucson, 23-2. With the Dodgers promoting Danny Ardoin to the major leagues, Ellis could develop into a candidate to back up Russell Martin. Ellis, 27, was selected by Baseball America last season as the Dodgers' best defensive minor league catcher, and he's an on-base monster, with more walks than strikeouts in a minor league career in which he has a .373 on-base percentage. He has never batted above .269, but he's at .316 with a .433 on-base percentage this season, his first at triple A.

Angels: Anthony Norman, of

Norman didn't play much during his senior season at UCLA, in 2006, and no team drafted him. The Angels gave him a shot last year, and he hit .362 to lead the Arizona rookie league. But he was beating up on teenagers newly out of high school and Latin America, so the Class-A California League offers a fairer test of Norman's ability. He's passing with flying colors so far, including a 10-game run from May 19-29 in which he hit .371 for Rancho Cucamonga, with three home runs, eight RBIs and 12 runs. Norman, 23, is hitting .287 and ranks among league leaders in triples, home runs, on-base percentage and slugging percentage.

STATS Corner

It's almost a cliche: The pitcher who would have a winning record if his team had scored a few more runs for him. Take Greg Smith of the A's, who is 3-4 despite a 2.84 ERA. The A's haven't scored more than three runs in any of his last six starts; he'll start today against the Texas Rangers.

But which pitchers win the most with minimal run support? And which pitchers lose despite plenty of run support? These would be statistical overachievers and underachievers.

In this week's STATS Corner, the starting pitchers with the least run support among those with winning records, and the starting pitchers with the most run support among those with losing records, through Wednesday's games, from STATS LLC:

-- Bill Shaikin

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