Notes: Still a shot in the mild West

Notes: Still a shot in the mild West

MILWAUKEE -- Inexplicable. Mind-boggling. How else to explain the unexplainable woebegone National League West division, where seemingly everybody's losing but everybody -- well, not Colorado -- still has a shot at winning it all?

Giants skipper Felipe Alou, for all his half-century of baseball, just shakes his head and spreads his hands in a "who knows?" gesture.

Then he took a shot at it and nailed the reason.

"To me, it's bad baseball," said Alou. "The team has enough talent to be a lot better -- I'm talking about everybody, I'm talking about us. I don't know where all of that came from. I know injuries are part of that. But it's hard to believe."

Here's the San Diego Padres atop the West but at 51-51. Hey, San Francisco's opponent here is 50-52 and 14 games out in the NL Central, while the Giants came into Thursday's game 14 games below .500 but still theoretically in the hunt.

"Sooner or later, the best team is going to win the division," said Alou. "What I'm looking at is if you brought in Kansas City (38-63) and Tampa Bay (36-66), they'll be in the race here on this side of the world. They'd be hoping to be in the playoffs. Colorado's in the race."

Slight exaggeration, of course, but it's a comical division even if no one's laughing.

"It's going to change," said Alou. "We should have won three games in Chicago and we fell short against St. Louis and Atlanta. We can't seem to get over the hump."

The Giants have also lost a worst-in-baseball 30 games at home, which Alou also finds perplexing.

"The Giants have been such a good team since [SBC] Park opened, so why all of a sudden we're not winning at home?" asked Alou.

No answers or cure is available so far.

Grissom in left: Marquis Grissom laughed after being asked when was the last time he played left field. "Fresno" was the response -- during his recent Triple-A rehab from a left hamstring strain.

Actually, it was Aug. 31, 2002, at Houston while with Los Angeles, but Grissom hadn't played left for the Giants ... until Thursday night against the Brewers.

"I didn't want to get Ellie [Jason Ellison] out of [center]," Alou explained of the hot-hitting outfielder, batting .361 with five RBIs over his last 11 games. Ellison had the game-winning single at Chicago two games ago.

Grissom says he doesn't mind.

"I'm a ballplayer, and I can play left, right, center -- and in softball I could play right-center, center, rover -- it don't matter," said Grissom, who played left while with the Dodgers in 2000 and 2001.

"It's different; the balls off left-handed bats, they go up and down different, but I'll take fly balls early and get ready to play," said the 38-year-old Grissom.

"They pretty much told me I'm in left today," said the veteran. "I said, 'OK.'"

Correia in 'pen: Kevin Correia had made four starts for the Giants this season and was supposedly slated to throw Friday at Miller Park, but that spot has been taken by veteran Kirk Rueter.

"I have no idea -- they haven't told me anything, absolutely nothing," said Correia, who walked the lone batter he faced Wednesday against the Cubs in the ninth and took the loss.

"I have to prepare differently," said the 24-year-old Correia, who has pitched in relief 15 times with the Giants. "One day I'm a starter and the next day I'm in the bullpen ... there's different stuff to do when you're starting, knowing you'll throw in five days. I have to take it day-by-day."

Correia was to back up Thursday starter Brad Hennessey in case of early problems.

On a streak: Rookie Ellison has played outstanding defense this season while batting .280 with four homers and 23 RBIs. He's expected to supplant Grissom in center for keeps next season and, in a sense, already has.

"As a hitter you're going to have bad times and good times -- you have to try to stay consistent," said Ellison, rated second among NL freshmen in runs (46), hits (84) and total bases (118) while leading the pack with 18 doubles.

"You get a good pitch and out over the plate -- they make mistakes like everybody," said Ellison, who is having success but also gaining invaluable playing time.

"I never expected to have over 300 at-bats at this time of year, so it's been a very good learning experience for me and a good year so far. I can't complain."

On deck: Veteran southpaw Rueter (2-7, 5.73 ERA) returns to the rotation after being sent to relief following a July 4 defeat. In his last bullpen outing, he gave up eight runs on eight hits over 3 1/3 innings vs. the Marlins in a 16-4 defeat.

Rich Draper is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.