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May 15, 2006

Given to Fly: Pujols, Cubs might be home run race to watch

The Cincinnati Reds’ powerful offense is no secret The Reds wouldn't be a game out of first place in the NL Central because of their pitching.

Chicago fans should know their Cubs are sitting dead last in runs scored, on-base percentage and OPS — on-base percentage and slugging percentage added together — as well as almost 100 points behind the Milwaukee Brewers in slugging percentage.

The list continues … last in hits and second-worst to the Padres and Pirates in batting average (.247). Khalil Greene’s homer Sunday put the Padres just one behind the Cubs for last place in home runs. Albert Pujols went hitless and made an error in the Cardinals’ loss Sunday, showing he is human. With his 19 home runs, Pujols is gaining quickly on the Cubs’ total of 26.

Of course, the Brewers are leading the league in homers with 56 and OPS at .813. We all knew that would happen.

The Reds’ offense, on the other hand, has been a juggernaut in recent years. But the Cincinnati pitchers got served up for the highest ERA in the league last year.

It is nice to see Austin Kearns back to form this year, and Ken Griffey Jr.’s three-run walk-off blast Friday was exciting. Hope to see more of that this summer.

Since the Cubs are going to be home early this fall, I’d love to see Griffey Jr. playing in late September or October. Will that Reds offense have enough to make up for a below-average pitching staff? The Reds are on pace to score a club-record 886 runs, and a team-record 227 home runs so it could be enough.

The 1999 Reds scored 865 runs and it wasn’t enough to get them in the playoffs. That team won 96 games behind a high-powered offense and a 3.99 earned-run average, but manager Jack McKeon’s team lost to the Mets in a one-game playoff for the wild card.

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