This Week in the National League - July 5

As the divisional races continue, the members of the National League are licking their collective wounds from the goring they took at the hands of the Junior Circuit in their interleague rivalry match-ups, with pain received in both quantity and quality.

The National League teams can sigh in relief that Interleague Play is done for the season. The Colorado Rockies were the one team that did the National League proud. They posted an impressive 11-4 record against their American League opponents. The only other team with a winning record was the 8-7 San Francisco Giants. In the East, at least the Florida Marlins managed a 9-9 record. And in the Central, well, we just don't want to talk about how the National League performed against their counterparts from the American League. But it's all over. The All-Star break is fast approaching, which means the trade deadline is also right around the corner. This is the time of the year that the rumor mill gets crazy, and it's starting already. Who will be sellers? Who will be buyers? Will anything big happen before the All-Star break? We'll find out soon enough. Until then, here's the latest and greatest from around the league…


East Division


New York Mets (49-34)

Pedro Martinez missed his scheduled start on Monday due to a sore hip, and it's still not clear if he'll be making another appearance before the All-Star break. The news comes as the Mets are in a bit of a slide, dropping six of their last eight games. With Carlos Beltran and NL Player of the Month David Wright continuing to hit on all cylinders, the Mets will be just fine with or without Pedro.


Philadelphia Phillies (38-44)

Mike Lieberthal isn't expected back from the disabled list until after the All-Star break after reportedly feeling pain while running the bases. To add to the Phillies woes behind the plate, Sal Fasano was also placed on the disabled list with a knee injury. As a result the Phils recalled Carlos Ruiz, though Chris Coste figures to get most of the time behind the plate leading up to Lieberthal's return. Starting pitcher Jon Lieber could come off the DL and make his first start on Friday or Saturday. Lieber has been out of commission since May 29, and the Phils can use his ability to soak up innings and provide opportunities to bring home some Ws.


Florida Marlins (35-45)

After an amazing run through June, which did put the Marlins back in the playoff hunt, the big fish from South Florida have dropped their first four games in July. Starting pitcher Josh Johnson and second baseman Dan Uggla were honored with co-Rookie of the Month awards for their impressive performances in June. Johnson went 3-1 in four starts in June and only gave up five earned runs. Uggla was held hitless in just four games in June, while knocking seven home runs and driving in 15 runs.


Washington Nationals (37-48)

Tony Armas Jr. tossed a reported painless bullpen session on July 2 and could be activated for a start this week. With starting pitcher Shawn Hill landing on the DL with elbow soreness, the Nationals could definitely use Armas back in the rotation, especially if he pitches as well as he did earlier in the season. With Hill landing on the DL, the Nats did activate Pedro Astacio, who looked solid in his first start of the season Monday when he lasted 5.0 innings, kept the Marlins to just one run, and gave up just three hits in earning the victory.


Atlanta Braves (36-48)

Chris Reitsma landed on the 15-day DL with ulnar neuritis, which has been causing numbness in his throwing arm. The news isn't good for the Atlanta reliever, who could be done for the season if surgery is required to remedy the situation. And it doesn't get any better for the struggling Braves… Chipper Jones had an MRI done on his sore right foot, which revealed a partial tear, which could also land Jones on the DL.



Central Division


St. Louis Cardinals (45-37)

The Cardinals have been left scratching their heads lately. They're not playing the type of baseball their fans have become accustomed to the past few years. Arguably the best team in the National League, the Redbirds had a rough time at home against their cross-state, I-70 rivals the Royals this weekend. The Cards dropped the first two in extra innings against the MLB-cellar dwellers before salvaging the final game of the series, which almost got away from them as well. On the bright side, Jim Edmonds is in the middle of a six-game hitting streak, where he is starting to show some power again, and Scott Rolen continues to drive the ball and maintain a batting average over .330. And though he struggled this past week, Jason Isringhausen looked solid against the Braves late Tuesday night retiring four straight for his 25th save.


Cincinnati Reds (44-40)

Last time the Reds caught up with the Cards and took first place, they're stint at the top was so short-lived that they were behind St. Louis by four games within a week. The caught the Cards again, but the Reds have dropped their last four. Todd Coffey, who has taken over as the team closer, has suffered two losses in his last three appearances – the most recent came Monday when he gave up four hits and two runs without retiring a single batter against the Brewers. But how about Ken Griffey Jr.? The veteran is entertaining fans like he's 21 all over again. He's crushed six home runs in his last eight games.


Houston Astros (42-42)

After being beat up in Interleague Play, the Astros needed a confidence booster. They got it in the form of a series against the struggling Chicago Cubs. Both Roger Clemens and Andy Pettitte took full advantage of beating up on the Cubs. Clemens earned his first victory of the season, giving up two runs in 5.0 innings of work on Monday evening, and Pettitte followed suit on the Fourth of July tossing 6.0 strong innings of one-run baseball. Lance Berkman is starting to feel the excitement of a playoff run coming in the second half of the season. Berkman has upped his game the past week or so, sporting a nine-game hitting streak that has his average up to .323. Oh, his 24 home runs and 76 RBI definitely have him on pace to contend for National League MVP honors.


Milwaukee Brewers (42-43)

Chris Capuano went 4-0 in five starts during the month of June, but had his worst outing of the season on July 1, when he gave up six runs and 11 hits in just 4.0 innings of work against the Twins. Although, Capuano didn't figure in the decision, the Brewers dropped the game 10-7. The Brewers continue to hover around the .500 mark, which has to be driving general managers looking to boost their club for the second half of the season absolutely crazy. Carlos Lee could end up on the trading block. And why not? The guy mashes the baseball. Lee is batting .286 with 25 home runs and 69 RBI.


Chicago Cubs (30-53)

Juan Pierre has put up five multi-hit games in a row, boosting his batting average from an ugly .255 to a still-ugly .270. But his potential spark and recent play could have GMs drooling in the coming weeks. Ryan Dempster has not joined Pierre in recent success. Dempster went over two weeks without a save opportunity, and it showed as the closer blew two games in three tries this week. The most recent was a demoralizing loss to the White Sox where A.J. Pierzynski capped a two-out rally for the defending World Champs with a three-run blast off a shaken Dempster.


Pittsburgh Pirates (29-56)

In his second full season, Freddy Sanchez is really breaking out and has lifted his batting average to an NL-best .362. His walk-off home run against the White Sox this week also ended that dreadful 13-game losing streak for the Pirates. Jose Bautista is another young star starting to make a name for himself. Bautista has been getting some regular playing time in center field and boasts and eight-game hitting streak, which has lifted his batting average from .219 to .259.


West Division


San Diego Padres (43-40)

With a 1.16 ERA, Trevor Hoffman is the top closer in the NL, but that doesn't even compare to the absolutely ridiculous numbers B.J. Ryan (0.45) and Jonathan Papelbon (0.45) have been putting up for Toronto and Boston. The Padres hold an awful .255 team batting average, which makes catcher Josh Bard stand out like a sore thumb with his .396 batting average. He's been getting way more starts with that hot stick, and even though Mike Piazza got the nod on Tuesday, Bard knocked a pinch-hit single to extend his hitting streak to five games.


Los Angeles Dodgers (43-40)

Rookie left fielder Andre Ethier is becoming a household name on the west coast. He had a four-hit, two-RBI night on Monday and followed it up with another four RBI on Tuesday against the Diamondbacks. He's a big part of the reason the Dodgers are tops in the National League in runs scored. Interestingly enough, they're also the very bottom of the league in home runs, which means they're scoring by getting hits in bunches and driving the gaps. Few are better in the league at making solid contact right now than Nomar Garciaparra, who is sporting a 16-game hit streak and proudly carries a .360 batting average. Heck, Garciaparra even managed to reach base three times Monday with a hit by pitch scoring. Talk about taking, um, three for the team.


Colorado Rockies (43-40)

With five regulars in the lineup hitting over .300, the Rockies just aren't going to disappear from the playoff race this year. Matt Holliday (.340) leads the pack, which includes leadoff man Jamey Carroll (.329), Brad Hawpe (.314), Garrett Atkins (.306), and Todd Helton (.301). When you get performances out of your pitching like what Josh Fogg did Thursday in Seattle, you don't need much offense. Fogg blanked Seattle, tossing a complete game shutout. He earned his sixth win of the season, and third in four starts.


San Francisco Giants (43-41)

Since June 6, when Jason Schmidt tossed that complete game with 16 strikeouts, the Giants ace is 0-2 in his last five starts. Matt Morris continues to pitch well, though. He won his fourth straight on Sunday. During this stretch, he's only given up five earned runs in 30.1 innings pitched.


Arizona Diamondbacks (40-44)

After Brandon Webb went 0-3 in a six-start stretch, he finally produced another gem. Webb capped a three-game sweep of the Oakland Athletics for the D'Backs with a complete game, where he only gave up one run on four hits. Johnny Estrada continues to swing that sweet stick. After hitting .314 in 2004, he took a hiatus with that .261 he posted last season, but Estrada has maintained a consistent average above .300 this year, which is currently at .319.



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