Lunch, beer and the NL Central

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Not that anyone back in Chicago cares what I have for lunch or where I go for beers after the game when I’m on the road, but here are two strong recommendations if you’re planning to be in Houston this summer: Try Azuma, a Japanese restaurant with two Houston locations, including one downtown. Great sushi and tempura. In Texas. Really. And for the after-game beers, check out the Flying Saucer on Main Street, about five blocks from the ballpark. Good crowds, even on weekday nights and hundreds of different beers — at just the right chill for those still-80-degree nights.

As for the baseball and the Cubs around here tonight … Howry looking stronger … Jim Edmonds not so much. … and still wondering when we’ll see that first road series win since April 10.

Which brings up a question that might be worth asking again now that we’re almost two months into the season. …

What do you make of the NL Central at this point and who has the juice to stay with the Cubs this season or even knock them off for the division title? Does St. Louis or Houston have enough pitching? Can Milwaukee get enough starts from Sheets and enough finishes from that bullpen? Is Pittsburgh closer to the team that’s 1-8 against the Cubs or 20-16 against the rest of the field? And what about a Cincinnati team that might have as much 1-through-4 starting pitching depth as anyone in the division besides the Cubs — yet is in last place?

And before you go writing off the division as some kind of Comedy Central, consider that every team in the division has a winning record at home and the six teams’ cumulative record outside the division is 77-66 (.538). Only the AL East has a better record outside its division.

So who’s going to give the Cubs the most trouble in the division this year?

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