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Rockies send message: Who needs pitching?


The first-place Colorado Rockies are turning conventional baseball wisdom squarely on its ear, reasserting themselves at the top of the National League West standings this week on the strength of an explosive lineup while the pitching-rich Los Angeles Dodgers were being thrown for a series of tough losses.

The Rockies rocked and rolled to a 6-1 week, though their pitching staff allowed 45 runs, or 6.4 per game. They did it by scoring 60 runs (8.6 per game) and making the quality of their pitching largely irrelevant. The Dodgers, meanwhile, allowed only runs in a five-game stretch but won just once to slip five games out of first place.

NL Central

St. Louis Cardinals left-hander Danny Jackson became the latest pitcher to prove the adage, "You can't lose them all." Jackson pitched a four-hitter against the Florida Marlins (does that count?) on Friday to end a nine-game losing streak that dated to Aug. 3, 1994. The victory was part of a five-game Cardinals winning streak, which hadn't happened in a while, either. The streak ended yesterday with a 6-0 loss. . . . The week didn't start out well for the Houston Astros, who gave up 27 runs in a three-game series against the Rockies, but they came back to take four of five from the San Diego Padres and pulled within five games of the first-place Cincinnati Reds. . . . Comeback team of the week: The Chicago Cubs appeared to be dead in the water a week ago, but they went 6-1 against the hapless New York Mets and hard-luck Philadelphia Phillies to inch back toward the top of the standings.

NL East

It was a classy move on the part of Atlanta Braves pitcher Greg Maddux to recommend that Japanese pitching sensation Hideo Nomo start tomorrow night's All-Star Game for the NL. Maddux has been forced out of the game with a slight groin strain, so he deferred to Nomo, who leads the NL in strikeouts and has become one of the major attractions of 1995. The decision belongs to NL manager Felipe Alou, but it would be another big step in the globalization of Major League Baseball. It also would be a nice touch at a time when relations between the United States and Japan have been strained by trade problems. . . . Bad team of the week: The Phillies remain in a virtual free fall, even though they played a seemingly soft schedule last week. They went 1-6, with all but one of those games against the Cubs and Pittsburgh Pirates. In little more than two weeks, they have turned a five-game division lead into a four-game deficit.

AL West

The more that Juan Gonzalez swings the bat, the more obvious it appears that the Texas Rangers will run away with the AL West in the second half. Gonzalez, who was sidelined for several weeks early in the year, has 12 home runs and 33 RBIs in the 33 games since his return. . . . The California Angels have scored more runs and continue to get big performances from several starting pitchers, but that has not been enough to keep JTC the Rangers at arm's length. Bad sign. . . . The Seattle Mariners are expected to give former Orioles pitcher Bob Milacki a chance win a job in their starting rotation. Milacki was acquired from the Kansas City Royals for struggling Dave Fleming, who had been demoted to Triple-A Tacoma on Thursday.

AL Central

It has to be discouraging to be the Kansas City Royals right now. They entered a series with the first-place Cleveland Indians two weeks ago with a chance to turn the division into a two-team race, but have stumbled so badly that a division title now appears to be out of the question. The important thing is to right themselves while they still are in excellent position to compete for the league's wild-card berth. They are just four games behind the team (Texas) with the best second-place record in the AL. . . . The Minnesota Twins didn't exactly endear themselves to local fans when they traded away Rick Aguilera and Scott Erickson last week, but it was the right thing to do from a business standpoint.

AL East

The Boston Red Sox solved a big problem when they put Aguilera in their bullpen, but they still have to find a way to get to him. He never figured in Saturday's come-from-ahead defeat because the game got away from setup men Rheal Cormier and Stan Belinda. The loss was the 14th suffered by the bullpen this year -- that represents nearly half of the club's defeats. Belinda can be forgiven, however. The setback was his first in eight decisions. . . . When is somebody going to tell the Detroit Tigers that they aren't a legitimate contender? They opened the week with five straight victories to pull within three games of the first-place Red Sox. The leader of the pack has been veteran pitcher David Wells, who registered his sixth straight victory Friday night.

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