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TOM VERDUCCI'S Three Strikes

SI's lead baseball writer takes you deeper inside the game. This is just a taste of what you'll get online.

1 The Mariners are a mess, cramming a season's worth of fiascoes (and just 14 wins) into 37 games. But what may have set back this club as much as anything was that it made the same mistake the Cubs did last year: counting on Milton Bradley(below) to be a stable, big-time run producer in the middle of the lineup.

2 You would be hard-pressed to find a sorrier display of hitting than the Pirates' output last week, and if you're lucky, you won't. Pittsburgh lost four consecutive games while scoring a total of five runs on 18 hits while batting .148. Worst of all, their sluggers went down hacking as if they wanted to get it over with as quickly as possible. This might be the worst-hitting Pirates team in more than half a century.

3 It may be time to forget everything you've thought about how the American League is so much better than the National League. In a league with no DH, NL teams are averaging more runs per game than the AL, 4.55--4.47.