This Week in the National League

Our weekly feature on player and team happenings across Major League Baseball's Senior Circuit. This week's story includes a look back at interleague play and two division races where clear leaders have emerged.

The National League got the early upper hand in Interleague play this past weekend going 22-20. The weekend was full of intense rivalries, huge comebacks, and even one big bench clearing brawl. As another week passes, the Mets and Cardinals begin to solidify their positions as clear favorites in the East and Central. Out West, it's anyone's ballgame. So let's get to it:


East Division


New York Mets (27-17)

In 28 at-bats, the pitching trio of Brian Bannister, Tom Glavine, and Darren Oliver are hitting .400 with five extra-base hits and six RBI. Glavine even has four walks to his credit. Carlos Beltran may only be hitting .252, but he has a .387 on base percentage compliments of 27 walks of his own. Oh, and that walk-off homer in the 16th inning earlier this morning sure makes a slumping average easily forgettable.


Philadelphia Phillies (23-21)

Bobby Abreu appears to be heating up. The slugger lifted his average from .257 to .290 in just the past week. His biggest output of the week came Sunday against Boston when he hit a triple and a homer while racking up five RBI. And how about the job Tom Gordon is doing? Ol' Flash has 13 saves while boasting a 1.45 ERA and a snap, cracklin' 0.91 WHIP.


Atlanta Braves (23-23)

Hot hitting catcher Brian McCann was listed as day-to-day after spraining his ankle on a collision at the plate. Andruw Jones' homer draught continues. He hasn't gone yard since May 3. But John Smoltz is up to his old tricks. He's 3-0 in his last four starts and has lowered his ERA from 4.05 to 3.12.


Washington Nationals (17-29)

In a matter of 11 games Nick Johnson has seen his batting average sink from .318 to .280. Alfonso Soriano is starting to get his stroke working, though. Soriano hit three homers last week and has pitchers noticing him now – he walked six times in three games. Livan Hernandez, who struggled big time to start the season, might just be finding his groove. The big hurler tossed 7.0 innings in each of his last two starts and gave up just three earned runs in posting a 1-1 record during those games.


Florida Marlins (13-31)

Florida might have been struggling, but anytime a club gets to face the Cubs, anything can happen. The Marlins have pulled out the first two games of a three-game set with those lovable losers; the second of which came on a Mike Jacobs walk-off two-run single in the ninth inning Tuesday night. But even with a two-game winning streak, the club is 18 games below the equator. Shortstop Hanley Ramirez continues to be on a tear, both with his glove and his bat. He made a phenomenal diving stop to start a double play Monday night and is hitting .340 in that leadoff spot.



Central Division


St. Louis Cardinals (30-16)

The Cardinals are doing their thing again. Winning series after series and beating the snot out of the teams like the Marlins and Royals that, on paper, they should beat the snot out of. Albert Pujols is leading the charge with his MLB-leading 54 RBI and 22 home runs. It's scary to think that he's only got 47 hits this season (only is a word used with caution considering his .315 batting average). But that means half the time he puts the ball in play safely it leaves the park… unreal! Scott Rolen, Pujols' protection, is hitting .311, but he has just four home runs and 22 RBI, so why are pitchers still tossing last season's MVP anything close to the plate? This week also brought about the much awaited season debut of Anthony Reyes. The star pitcher didn't disappoint, hurling 5.2 innings of two-hit, shutout ball.


Cincinnati Reds (27-19)

It's such a shame that Ken Griffey Jr. hasn't been able to stay healthy all these years. We've really missed out on something special. Griffey has returned to his healthy 21-year-old form this week, hitting three home runs and driving in 11 runs. Add in a seven-inning, one-run performance by Bronson Arroyo for his sixth win and the Reds are still chugging along in the NL Central race.


Houston Astros (25-21)

The Astros activated Chris Burke off the disabled list, but he's yet to see any real action. Burke provided a huge spark for the Astros last October, and with Preston Wilson's .244 batting average and .282 on base percentage, they definitely could use a spark. Even Roy Oswalt has faltered, going 0-2 in his last three starts. Brad Lidge appears to be back in closer mode. After three perfect outings in non-save situations, Lidge pitched a solid ninth inning for save number 12 Friday night.


Milwaukee Brewers (23-23)

Chris Capuano has pitched at least 6.0 innings in every start this season and hasn't given up more than three earned runs in an outing. Talk about knowing what you're getting every time he goes to the hill. Rookie Prince Fielder is still carrying a very nice batting average of .328. If this kid learns a little discipline at the plate and gets those strikeouts down from an average of around one a game, he could be scarier than his pops was.


Chicago Cubs (18-27)

The Cubs still can't seem to get it together, even with Kerry Wood back. Wood has been encouraging in his first two starts. He gave up three homers and four runs in 5.0 innings in a debut loss while striking out six. Tuesday night he only gave up two hits and three runs in 5.0 innings of work, but he only struck out three and walked five. He was in line for the win, until Ryan Dempster blew the 4-3 lead in the ninth inning, his second blown save in the last week. The Cubs did cause a stir Saturday against their cross-town rivals when controversial White Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski ran over Michael Barrett on a play at the plate. After Pierzynski slapped the plate and got up, bumping into Barrett, the Cubs catcher did what many players and fans have been secretly hoping for and threw a right cross that connected flush on the chin. A brawl ensued and suspensions are likely forthcoming.


Pittsburgh Pirates (14-32)

Not a single starter on the Pittsburgh staff has an ERA under 4.00. Freddy Sanchez has been a pleasant surprise, though, with his stick. The Pirates infielder is hitting .339 with 21 RBI and has only struck out eight times in 124 at-bats.



West Division


Arizona Diamondbacks (26-19)

It's no secret why Arizona is first in the West. Seven Diamondback regulars are batting over .290 on the season. Eric Byrnes leads the lot with a .325 average. Craig Counsell and Shawn Green are right behind him with .324 and .321. The next four are Johnny Estrada (.308), Chad Tracy (.298), Conor Jackson (.296) and Luis Gonzalez (.292). The team is just playing solid baseball, and that means wins.


Los Angeles Dodgers (26-20)

Willy Aybar got the call-up after looking like he had the big red wiffle ball bat in Triple-A. Well, he's swinging just as fat a stick in the bigs. Aybar is seeing regular time at third base playing for an injured Bill Mueller and is batting .393, including 8 RBI in his last four games. The gamble on Aaron Sele also appears to be paying off for the Dodgers; Sele won his second game in three starts pitching 6.0 strong innings against the Angels giving up just two runs on two hits.


Colorado Rockies (25-21)

Matt Holliday is enjoying playing at Coors Field. He's hitting a balmy .360 with 24 RBI at home compared to .294 and 13 RBI on the road. Teammate Clint Barmes hasn't been as fortunate at home or on the road. Barmes is hitting just .208 after returning from that season-ending injury last year.


San Diego Padres (24-22)

Khalil Greene leads the team with 9 home runs and 31 RBI, but he's hitting just .228. Maybe his team-leading 42 strikeouts has something to do with that. How about that Jake Peavy? He struck out 16 in just 7.0 innings of work Monday against Atlanta, but he gave up two runs in the outing and suffered the loss as the Padres fell 3-1.


San Francisco Giants (24-22)

Barry Bonds finally did it. He cracked number 714, and he did it across the bay in Oakland on Sunday. Despite the good news, the Giants got hit with bad news this week as both Lance Niekro and Todd Worrell landed on the disabled list. Niekro has bursitis in his shoulder and Worrell reportedly has a pinched nerve in his neck. They recalled Brian Wilson from Triple-A Fresno to take Worrell's place. Wilson is a budding star and is definitely one to keep an eye on, especially if Armando Benitez runs into any hard luck.


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