This Week in the National League

This week's happenings include a return to Interleague Play, and the American League has been thumping the National League so far. It hasn't been pretty. Some final scores have even looked of the football variety rather than a Major League Baseball tally.

This week's happenings include a return to Interleague Play, and the American League has been thumping the National League so far. It hasn't been pretty. Some final scores have even looked of the football variety rather than a Major League Baseball tally. But I guess those things can happen in the land of the designated hitter. Nonetheless, here's the latest and greatest from around the league:


East Division


New York Mets (44-26)

The Mets are putting up pitching and hitting numbers like the Braves used to, and consequently are running away with the division. Xavier Nady came off the disabled list on Sunday. In his second game back on Monday, he hit two long balls and had three RBI. Welcome back! And if you can remember the closing disasters that the Mets ‘pen generated last season, take note of how appreciated Billy Wagner is. The fireballer hasn't given up a single run in 12 appearances since May 20.


Philadelphia Phillies (35-36)

Ryan Howard continues to hit the ball, raising his batting average to .298, but he had a seven game draught where he only drove in one run and was skunked in the home run department. He quickly made up for that in his performance Sunday and Tuesday, which included five hits, all for extra bases and three of where were home runs, and 11 fat RBI. Seven of those RBI came Tuesday night against the Yankees. You know George Steinbrenner's got to be looking for ways to get him in a Yankee uniform.


Florida Marlins (30-37)

Until about ten days ago, the Marlins were hanging around the cellar of the National League. All of a sudden, all those youngsters have realized they've got the tools to play at the big league level and they're showing the world. The Marlins are riding a nine game winning streak and have passed both Atlanta and Washington in the standings. During this streak they have outscored their opponents 43-18. Even Brian Moehler, who has been the weakest regular starting pitcher, earned two wins during the streak where he pitched 7.0 innings and gave up just two runs in each of his two starts. And one of the surprises with the bat has been Dan Uggla, who has four home runs and eight RBI during the streak.


Washington Nationals (32-41)

The Nationals have been quite the ho-hum team most of the season. The past week or so hasn't been different. Though shortstop Royce Clayton has never been a big offensive producer, his numbers are down this season, hitting just .250 with 17 RBI. The same can be said for Livan Hernandez's pitching. The so-called ace of the Nationals staff dropped his third straight start on Tuesday lasting just 1.2 innings and giving up eight hits and six runs at Fenway Park.


Atlanta Braves (30-41)

Behind an eight-game losing streak, the Braves have sunken to the NL East cellar and lost Chris Reitsma, John Thomson, and Brian Jordan to the 15-day disabled list this week. For the first time in a very, very long time, the Braves might actually be sellers this season. John Smoltz, who is reportedly open to trade possibilities, is 0-3 in his last five starts. Think he'd be willing to return to that lights-out closer role for some team in contention for the playoffs?


Central Division


St. Louis Cardinals (42-27)

Even without Albert Pujols, the Cardinals are doing their thing and maintaining their lead in the NL Central. Pujols is reportedly expected to return next week, but there is little he could have done to prevent the disaster that struck the Cardinals on Tuesday evening. The defending World Champion Chicago White Sox took on the Redbirds and pounded them by a final score of 20-6. Mark Mulder had a 1-0 lead entering the third inning, but the struggling lefty who is in a contract year mustered just one out in the inning before getting yanked. He gave up nine runs and watched his ERA soar to 6.09. Sidney Ponson who came on in relief a bit later in the game gave up six runs himself in just 1.0 innings of work. On the bright side, though, it's just one game. With Scott Rolen's batting average hovering in the .340s and .350s, when Pujols returns, the Cards might just put up a 20-spot on some team.


Cincinnati Reds (38-33)

Bronson Arroyo crossed the century mark in innings pitched with a complete game victory on Sunday against the Mets. His ERA currently sits at 2.47 and hasn't seen the light of 3.xx since April 26, when he pitched 8.0 shutout innings and dropped it to 2.34. David Ross, who continues to get starts at catcher, continues to mash the ball to the tune of a .337 batting average.


Houston Astros (36-35)

Roger Clemens will get his first start of the season Thursday night in Houston. Chris Burke, who struggled with some shoulder problems just weeks ago, is on fire. He's gone 15-for-35 in his last 10 games raising his batting average to .325. Lance Berkman is also up to his old tricks, going 15-for-37 in that same timeframe while driving in 16 runs to bring his RBI total to 63.


Milwaukee Brewers (36-37)

The Brewers look like they're going to dance with .500 all season long. Rookie sensation Prince Fielder's .295 batting average continues to lead the team regulars in hitting, and his 14 home runs and 40 RBI aren't too shabby either. Chris Capuano racked up 12 Ks while giving up only two runs in 7.0 innings on Friday en route to earning his seventh win.


Chicago Cubs (27-43)

The Cubs sank to a new low, dropping six in a row last week in back-to-back sweeps in the Friendly Confines to the Astros and the Tigers. The sixth loss came on Father's Day, which brought the much-anticipated return of Mark Prior. After one inning, he and the Cubs were down 6-0. The injury-riddled pitcher didn't make it out of the fourth inning, lasting just 3.2 innings, giving up seven earned runs on seven hits, four of which were long balls. Most notably, though, Prior's fastball was lucky to occasionally clock 92 m.p.h. on the radar gun, a significant difference from the 95-96 he regularly hit in recent years. All of a sudden that trade for Miguel Tejada looks like it would have been a wise one. To add to the Cubs woes, Kerry Wood pitched in what seems like his 1,000th simulated game, and after struggling there is chatter that he could be done for the season. Oh yeah, and Michael Barrett's 10-game suspension was upheld by the league and began on Monday night.


Pittsburgh Pirates (26-46)

The Pirates have hit their own six-game skid keeping the Cubs out of the National League cellar. Kip Wells came off the disabled list and pitched on Tuesday for his first game of the season. But he lasted just 3.1 innings and gave up six runs in losing to the lowly Royals. Despite the team's woes, Freddy Sanchez continues to put up multi-hit games. He's got 24 such games, including six of his last ten.


West Division


San Diego Padres (37-33)

The Padres lead a jam-packed NL West for the time being. Speedster and perennial base-swiper Dave Roberts landed on the disabled list with a knee contusion. His .295 batting average and 19 stolen bases was tops of the San Diego regulars. Adrian Gonzalez is starting to rip the ball, though. He's knocked three solo home runs in his last four games.


Los Angeles Dodgers (36-34)

Nomar Garciaparra's .363 batting average must have the Cubs scratching their heads. With Eric Gagne out of the picture, it looks like the Dodgers are going to lean on Takashi Saito to close out games instead of Danys Baez. Saito has posted 45 strikeouts in 34.1 innings and has given up just one run since May 4.


Arizona Diamondbacks (36-35)

The D'Backs continue to slide. They've dropped 13 of their last 15 games and are reeling. Brandon Webb is 0-2 in his last four games, but he's been plagued by lack of offense more than his own demise. In those four games Webb gave up just nine runs and maintains a 2.37 season-long ERA. It doesn't help that Luis Gonzalez is hitting just .263 with 5 home runs and 31 RBI. It really makes you scratch your head and wonder where that 57-home-run season came in 2001 when the Diamondbacks were crowned World Champs.


Colorado Rockies (36-35)

Matt Holliday is starting to shape up to be one of the best hitters in the league. He continues to shine, and with a .352 batting average, 15 home runs, and 52 RBI he's taken over Todd Helton's role as the top producer in Colorado. Jason Jennings is starting to heat up. He went 2-0 last week pitching 15.0 innings without giving up a single earned run.


San Francisco Giants (36-36)

Moises Alou is finally coming back down to earth. In his last eight games Alou has seen his batting average drop from .375 to .311, not that a .311 mark is anything to complain about. Jason Schmidt is also coming back down to earth. After being sky-high following two starts where he posted a 2-0 record with 26 total strikeouts, Schmidt has gone 0-1 in his last two outings and managed just 11 Ks.


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