Some front runners are starting to fade

Jun 26, 2001 10:51 AM

The 162-game major league baseball schedule is beginning to take its toll on some of the leaders. It’s not a sprint, but a marathon. Minnesota and Philadelphia look like they have hit a wall. The Chicago Cubs and Seattle Mariners are still going strong, with the Mariners in possession of the best record in baseball.

Here’s what to look for the week ending July 1.

Chicago Cubs at Cincinnati Reds: The return of Griffey Jr., Barry Larkin and other wounded makes the Reds a most dangerous club in the second half of the season. Elmer Dessens and Brian Reith give the Cubs a bit of trouble.

Pittsburgh Pirates at Montreal Expos: Both teams are playing out the schedule though there has been improvement. Pittsburgh pitcher Todd Ritchie gets some breaks and a couple of victories in a spirited series. Rookie Troy Mattes returns the favor.

Florida Marlins at Philadelphia Phillies: Florida, making serious inroads in the Phillies lead , is a major threat to take over the league lead. Fine pitching staff continues to haunt Philadelphia. Brad Penny and Chuck Smith try to pitch Florida into first before the fourth of July.

NY. Mets at Atlanta Braves: Braves have New York’s number and will try to extend their mastery in Atlanta. Steve Trachsel and soft throwing Glendon Rusch can’t handle the revitalized Atlanta hitting. Mets slip further behind.

Houston Astros at Milwaukee Brewers: Brewers have roared back into the playoff at the expense of the Chicago Cubs. Jamey Wright and Jimmy Haynes take care of the Astros.

Colorado Rockies at Arizona Diamondbacks: Rockies had all kinds of problems with Arizona at home. Don’t expect to do any better at Arizona. Randy Johnson comes back to beat Colorado. Ditto Curt Schilling.

LA. Dodgers at San Diego Padres: Dodgers have been underachievers of the first order. Padres are everybody’s patsy. Going against Darren Dreifort and with Kevin Brown who will be back for this series.

St. Louis Cardinals at SF. Giants: Home run heroics of Barry Bonds take the spotlight off Cards and Giants run at their respective division leaders. Darryl Kile and Matt Morris grab a couple of wins for the Cardinals and Shawn Estes captures one for the Giants as long as he doesn’t go up against the afore-mentioned duo.

Boston Red Sox at Toronto Blue Jays: Jays gave Sox all kinds of trouble at Boston and will continue their torture in Toronto. Methinks Red Sox pitching staff is running on empty including Pedro Martinez. Taking Toronto versus Hideo Nomo and Martinez.

KC. Royals at Cleveland Indians: Indians taking hold of A.L. Central, making it double tough on Minnesota. Royals playing improved brand of ball. Will cause trouble for al future opponents. Pitchers Paul Byrd and Jeff Suppan are the culprits here for KC.

Tampa Bay Devil Rays at NY Yankees: Yankees love to play under-performing teams, and Devil Rays fit the bill. New York continues to hammer Tampa. Lots of luck if you lay the number.

Detroit Tigers at Minnesota Twins: Tigers twisted Twins tail at Detroit, but don’t expect more of the same in Minny. Brad Radke and rookie Kyle Loshe looking to get Minny back on track, Detroit could start ex-Astro Jose Lima.

Baltimore Orioles at Chicago White Sox: Ever since disgruntled Frank Thomas went down, Sox have been on the upturn. David Wells has been slumping and his return to form would be a big step forward.

Oakland A’s at Texas Rangers: With no place to go, Rangers are left to play the role of spoilers and fill that bill to the hilt in this series. Rob Bell and Darren Oliver are the favorites to do the job here.

Seattle Mariners at Anaheim Angels: The Angels, a thorn in the Mariners side at Seattle, do a similar job in California.