This Week in the National League - June 28

The National League's problems in playing the members of the Junior Circuit have not been confined to St. Louis as many of the NL's best have gone down in flames to their interleague rivals, often in a very un-flattering manner.

There's no need to sugarcoat this… the National League teams have been getting tossed around like a rag doll by their interleague opponents. It's embarrassingly clear that most teams in the American League Central (and based on recent performance, there really is no need to exclude the Royals) can wipe the floor with just about anyone the National League can put up there right now. Here's a novel idea: Screw the "This One Counts" advertising campaign for the All-Star game. If we can't follow suit like the other sports and just have the team with the best record get home field advantage throughout the playoffs, how about we give the honors to the league that wins the most interleague battles?


Thank goodness this nonsense is almost over and the National League can soon return to its mediocrity of head-to-head play without that thing they call the designated hitter. And so, here's the latest and greatest from around the league:


East Division


New York Mets (47-29)

Tom Glavine became the first pitcher in Major League Baseball to earn 11 wins this season, and the Mets just continue to roll. Carlos Beltran is hitting his stride and now has 60 RBI, while David Wright posted another monster week with nine RBI bringing his total to 64. Oh yeah, and how about Jose Reyes? The phenom had three four-hit games this week, including one where he hit for the cycle. Reyes was kept hitless just twice in June and has lifted his average from .246 on June 11 to .297. At least there is one team doing the rest of the National League proud.


Philadelphia Phillies (35-40)

The Phils had to deal with two rainouts this week - one against the Red Sox on Sunday that was made up on Monday and now one on Tuesday against the Orioles that will be made up Thursday. Brett Myers was involved in a domestic altercation where he allegedly hit his wife in the face. The story has been plastered across the media and will undoubtedly affect the team in a negative way as Myers takes a leave of absence through the All-Star break. Jon Lieber is almost ready to return after making his second rehab start, but without Myers the Phils are going to have a rough time trying to hang in the wild card race, let alone try to chase the Mets.


Florida Marlins (34-40)

Look out, Philly. You're next to move into the Marlins rearview mirror. Over their last ten games, the Marlins are the best team in the National League. They dropped two one-run games to the Yankees in New York, but salvaged the last game of the series when recent call-up Anibal Sanchez tossed 5.2 innings of shutout ball and earned his first MLB win. Sanchez will likely get at least one more start. It's really impressive how young talent continues to perform in South Florida. Hyped rookie Jeremy Hermida lifting his average 36 points this week, and is filling the offensive hole left by Dan Uggla's disappearance due to a sore hamstring. Simply put, the Marlins are quickly becoming a team nobody wants to face.


Washington Nationals (33-45)

If there is one thing that is consistent in Washington, it's Alfonso Soriano. He's batting .275 with 24 homers, 51 RBI, and 72 strikeouts. He's also tallied 18 stolen bases. Too bad he's not playing on a team that's very competitive as he tends to up his game on the big stage. Livan Hernandez did have a decent outing Sunday as he earned his sixth win by beating the Orioles behind 6.0 innings of three-hit, three-run ball. Perhaps this glimmer of hope will tempt owners in contention to offer up some prospects to the Nationals for Hernandez.


Atlanta Braves (33-45)

The Braves had an awful run in June, but they're finishing it up with some respect. Chuck James returned from the DL to start Sunday against the Devil Rays, and he tossed a gem - 8.0 shutout innings. On the offensive front, Andruw Jones is starting to drive the ball having knocked two homers in the last week, but Edgar Renteria is slumping and has seen his average drop from the .328 he was hitting in mid-June to the .303 he's bringing home today.


Central Division


St. Louis Cardinals (42-34)

Albert Pujols is back, but the winning ways in St. Louis have vanished. This is the first week since I started writing this column last season that the Cardinals haven't tallied a single win. When your stud rookie pitcher Anthony Reyes tosses a one-hit gem against the defending World Champs and you still lose 1-0, you know things aren't going your way. And then when your overworked closer Jason Isringhausen gets almost a week of rest and blows his first save opportunity, you can't help but scratch your head. And now Mark Mulder, perhaps the team's prime trade bait to beef up the Cardinal outfield, is on the DL with shoulder inflammation. The Cards are opening the door in the Central, but is any team strong enough to break it down?


Cincinnati Reds (41-36)

Ken Griffey Jr. hit home run number 550 Tuesday, a mark we all thought he was going to reach five years ago. It was also his 14th homer on the season, and second in as many games. The Reds still dropped the game to the Royals 9-8. It was particularly notable because it demonstrated the weakness of the Reds bullpen, which continues to be an Achilles Heel in their race for the division lead. The game was also another poor outing by Eric Milton, who has returned to his charitable ways by giving up five home runs in his last two starts.


Milwaukee Brewers (39-39)

Another week passes, and the Brewers are once again around the .500 mark. Chris Capuano had a two-start week, and well, he rattled off two Ws – one impressive win against that formidable Detroit club and the other victory came Monday in an 8.0-inning shutout against the Cubs. Carlos Lee has picked up his pace again this week. It's no surprise as he loves to play at Wrigley Field. Lee hit his 24th homer of the season on Monday night and his 25th on Tuesday.


Houston Astros (38-40)

In 11.1 solid innings and two starts Roger Clemens has given up just three earned runs, but he's 0-2 to begin his season. Some things just don't change. The Astros on Tuesday got a taste of the lesson the Cubs and Cardinals learned this past week – that the Detroit Tigers are everything they're cracked up to be this season. On the bright side, Chris Burke continues to get serious playing time, and he's just smoking the baseball with his bat. His eight-game hitting streak was snapped on Tuesday, but he's batting an impressive .313 this season.


Chicago Cubs (28-48)

The Cubs are 0-8 at the not-so Friendly Confines of Wrigley Field this June. Mark Prior's return from the DL has been so-so, although he looked better in his second loss in as many starts. And with injuries to Tony Womack (back spasms) and Freddie Bynum (shoulder), Derrek Lee got the call-up from Triple-A Iowa Saturday night a little earlier than expected. Lee has mustered a few hits, but his timing has been off in his first few games back. It should be no big surprise that Lee and Prior aren't in peak performance shape right now, but if this club doesn't pull out a few Ws soon, the Cubdom faithful are going to be looking for Dusty Baker's head on a platter.


Pittsburgh Pirates (26-52)

If it wasn't for the horrid play of the Pirates, Baker might already be gone. The Bucs have dropped 12 straight. With a lot of high-priced veterans on the squad, Pittsburgh is definitely a prime candidate for a fire sale as July nears. The only seemingly untouchable soul in the lot has to be Jason Bay, whose .290 batting average, 20 home runs, and 56 RBI is such a waste in Pittsburgh.


West Division


San Diego Padres (40-36)

Trevor Hoffman is in his 14th season, and though fears of injury always seem to loom around him, he continues to be nothing but lights out. Hoffman earned save number 19 Tuesday night and dropped his daunting ERA to 1.24 with another scoreless inning. He's a big part of the reason why the Padres are in first place despite a dismal offense. Another big factor has been Scott Linebrink, Hoffman's setup man. He's got 16 holds this season, a 2.52 ERA, and a vulture-like 5-2 record out of the bullpen.


Los Angeles Dodgers (40-37)

Rookie catcher Russell Martin has looked like a veteran behind the plate and with the bat, boasting a .301 batting average. His performance prompted the Dodgers to trade Dioner Navarro to the Tampa Bay Devil Rays in a four-player deal that brought, most notably, lefty-starter Mark Hendrickson to the City of Angels. Hendrickson may only be 4-8 in a D-Rays uniform this season, but his 3.81 ERA is definitely noteworthy, as is the fact that he's pitched into at least the sixth inning of every start this year.


Colorado Rockies (38-38)

Matt Holliday just knows how to hit a baseball. He had two more three-hit games this week, including a three-double performance Tuesday night as the Rockies belted out 18 hits against the Angels. Todd Helton also knows how to hit. And just like riding a bicycle, Helton has shown he's still one of the best hitters in the game the past couple weeks. On June 12, the Rockies first baseman was hitting an uncharacteristic .271. Since then he has posted nine multi-hit games and lifted his average to .311. Was there any doubt?


San Francisco Giants (38-38)

Randy Winn finally had a big game on Tuesday. He went 4-for-5 with a home run and three RBI. Matt Morris, who started the game for the Giants Tuesday, is finally appearing to hit his stride in San Francisco. The veteran pitcher gave up just one unearned run in 8.0 innings of work to win his third consecutive start.


Arizona Diamondbacks (37-40)

At one point the crown jewel of the NL West, the D'Backs have won just three games since June 5 – a 3-18 slide into the cellar. Brandon Webb, who was lighting up the league earlier this season, has dropped his last three decisions. Though he didn't get the loss Tuesday night, he gave up nine hits and seven runs in the no-decision.


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