Chief's baseball:Distracting transactions

With solid swatters like Padilla, Eldred, Casto and Maxwell all in a producing mode along with former Mariner Mike Morse, all-star second baseman Seth Bynum and Triple-A veteran Mike Vento, the Chiefs can expect to plate plenty of runs down the stretch.

But pitching is the key to winning. A lineup that scores five or six runs a game isn't worth much if the pitchers routinely allow seven or eight runs in the same game.

And, having lost big guns like Sosa, Collin Balester, Craig Stammen and Garrett Mock to D.C., pitching remains a huge question mark for the Chiefs.

The team's ace-by-default is Mexican right-hander Marco Estrada, 5-4 with an unenviable 4.34 ERA. He leads the staff with 75 strikeouts as compared to 24 walks over 93 innings. The rotation also includes 22-year-old righty Shairon Martis (4.68 ERA), lefties Ross Detwiler (3.18) and Horacio Ramirez (5.67), and 6-foot-7 right-hander Andrew Kown (3.70).

Pitching is key

Pitching coach Rich Gale, manager Tim Foli and catchers Gus Molina and Johnatan Solano must light a fire under those starters ASAP. Same goes for the Chiefs equally shaky bullpen with veterans such as southpaw Dave Williams and right-hander Saul Rivera plus rookie righties Josh Wilkie and Zech Zinicola.

If these under-achieving hurlers can be transformed into champions over the next couple weeks, the Chiefs will finally have a chance to vie for the Governor's Cup once again.

Home games are scheduled Aug. 11-15 against Toledo and Rochester, 18-19 against Buffalo, 22-25 against Durham, 28-29 against Lehigh Valley.

The division race could be decided here Aug. 30-31 and Sept. 1 with games against first-place Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. The Chiefs conclude the 2009 home season Sept. 6-7 against the Pawtucket Red Sox.

Alliance Bank Stadium is located on Syracuse's North Side, just east the Regional Market. Ticket prices range between $4 and $10; parking costs $4 per vehicle; 474-7833; syracusechiefs.com.

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