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Helped by another performance by Jose Lima‘s Traveling Home Run
Circus, the Cubs’ Kerry Wood made a successful return last night. He
threw 95 pitches in six innings, allowing a run on three hits and four
walks, striking out four and mixing in a two-run bomb to boot, as the Cubs
won 11-1. It was unquestionably a great night, and while I disagree with
sending him out to pitch the sixth inning with a 10-0 lead, that’s a minor
quibble.

Tuesday was just the next step on the road back for Wood, who now has to
see how his arm responds the day after a major-league start, and
subsequently how it handles the steady work he’ll get from here on out. And
we’re all waiting to see if the conservative handling of Wood will
continue. But for one night, Kerry Wood was the center of the baseball
world again.

Of course, he has some competition for that spot. About three hours after
Wood’s night ended, the Atlanta Braves put the finishing touches on their
15th win in a row–including the first five games of their West Coast
trip–beating the Dodgers 5-3.

As you would expect, the Braves’ rotation has been phenomenal during the
streak–the Braves haven’t allowed more than four runs in a game during
it–but to me, the real key is the offense. The three players the Braves
are using in the top two lineup spots, Quilvio Veras, Andruw
Jones
and Rafael Furcal, all have OBPs of .390 or better. That’s
an immeasurable gain over last year’s Gerald Williams/Bret Boone
combination.

Even with that, the Braves are just 13th in the National League in runs
scored, thanks to a bad start by Brian Jordan and the kidnapping of
Reggie Sanders. Sanders’ playing time has been given to a platoon of
comedian D.L. Hughley and bon vivant Bobby Bonilla. While
Bonilla has played reasonably well, Hughley has posted a woeful 404 OPS and
caused the Braves to step up efforts to find Sanders.

From June 1 through the end of the season, this team will have one of the two or
three best offenses in the league, and it’s all because they finally solved
the OBP problem at the top of the lineup. John Schuerholz deserves a lot of
credit for recognizing and addressing the problem.

In Kansas City, the Royals won yet another game in their final at-bat, this
time on a Carlos Febles single. From memory, this is either the
sixth or seventh time they’ve won like this so far, meaning they’re 7-14 or
so when they don’t leave 20,000 or so people all atwitter. The Royals were
due to get lucky in close games this year, after last year’s disaster, and
I suppose it’s better to be mediocre and entertaining than to be mediocre
and heartbreaking.

"Mediocre and entertaining"…I guess that makes the Royals the
Britney Spears of the American League.

Joe Sheehan can be reached at jsheehan@baseballprospectus.com.