With power numbers back up and pitching statistics in the tank, there's been a lot of talk this season about the ball being juiced again. There has even been speculation that pitchers enjoyed the benefits of performance enhancing drugs more so in comparison to position players. And that now with stricter testing policies, pitchers may not be using anymore, and that's why their collective performance has dwindled. Whatever it is you might believe, you cannot deny some of the downright impressive pitching performances this week, which give us hope that the National League arms might still win us over and captivate the masses once again on the big stage in October.
With that said, let's get right to the latest and greatest from around the league:
The Mets are clearly the best team in the National League, but their starting pitching is suspect, to put it mildly, when it comes to thinking of playoff scenarios. The Mets suffered a huge blow that made that weakness a harsh reality Monday when Pedro Martinez strained his calf muscle and had a bloody, awful outing giving up six runs in just one inning of work. His status going forward is still unclear and the team seems optimistic, but such an injury is definitely troublesome when you think of the cool nights that will be forthcoming in September and October.
The Phils have definitely not given up on the season, and their thumping of the Mets the first two games of a four-game series has shown they've got plenty of fight left. But it's those close games, not the blowouts that could become worrisome. Why? Well, closer Tom Gordon is reportedly experiencing soreness in his shoulder. He was examined on Tuesday, but no word yet on his prognosis. Gordon, who boasts an impressive 27 saves, blew his last save opportunity on Friday and got the loss in a non-save outing Saturday. He hasn't pitched since. So who's got the hot sticks? Well, the whole club is knocking the ball around like it's batting practice, but leadoff man Jimmy Rollins has shown some pop as of late. He's got four homers in his last five games, which is two more than super-slugger Ryan Howard.
Ten at-bats. Ten hits. That's what Braves outfielder Matt Diaz did this week. He tied a National League record with that output. Unfortunately, his not-so-small feat was dwarfed by Chipper Jones, who happened to rock three long balls in the same game Diaz tied the record. That streak ended in Diaz's last at-bat Monday night, but he's definitely turned some heads. So has Andruw Jones, who was scratched from Tuesday night's lineup with patellar tendonitis.
into Tuesday night's game in
pitcher Pedro Astacio had his best outing of the season Tuesday night,
tossing a complete game shutout against the Atlanta Braves. Austin Kearns
had a double and two RBI, but the former Red has been having a rough time
adjusting to life in the
three-game weekend sweep at the hands of the NL-lowly Pirates, and the Cardinals
are reeling, though they remain in first place in the NL Central Division.
Though many question marks loom, Chris Carpenter is the one sure bet. You
know what you're getting with the Cards staff ace. He was lights out Tuesday
night against the Reds reminding them who the two-time defending division
champions are. Carpenter is humble and quiet, so last season's NL Cy Young
winner used a complete game shutout to speak the language of "not so fast" to
the pesky Reds. With an off-day Monday, Tony La Russa decided to try and
change things up a bit in his starting rotation. Jeff Weaver, who gave up
10 hits and three runs in a loss his last outing, will now pitch the series
finale Thursday against the Reds. Jeff Suppan will get the ball to start
a three-game series against the Cubs in
I think I can. I think I can. I think I can. That sure seems to be the Reds motto as they chase the division-leading Cardinals, but they just can't seem to leapfrog the two-year defending champs. As the Reds continue to fight the good fight to get to the festivities in October, Edwin Encarnacion is clearly one of the team's believers. The third baseman earned NL Player of the Week honors finishing the week Sunday with a 10-game hitting streak that lifted his average to .302. He also smacked four home runs during the period and drove in eight runs. Recently acquired closer Eddie Guardado is also a believer, but he's struggled the past week, blowing two saves and giving up at least one run in each of his last three outings.
disappointed in his lack of production, the Astros waived Preston Wilson
this week, cutting the outfielder loose and paving the way for newcomer Luke Scott, who's batting .438 in 27 games since getting recalled from Triple-A
ball this season.
Chris Capuano is 0-4 in his last six starts, but he looked strong in his last outing Friday against the Braves when he pitched 7.0 innings, giving up just four hits and one run in a no-decision. He'll look to finally add a tally in the win column against the Pirates on Wednesday. Teammate Ben Sheets earned a W on Saturday. It was his first start following the previous Saturday where he left the game against the Cardinals with a strained chest muscle following just one inning of work. Sheets lasted 7.0 innings and struck out eight en route to the win.
lone team remaining in Major League Baseball without a complete game this season
is the Chicago Cubs. With Kerry Wood out most of the season and now
Mark Prior making his way to the DL for the third time this season, this
time with shoulder tendonitis, it may be no surprise that the Cubs haven't
gotten a complete game from one of their starters. After dropping two games in a
row, Carlos Zambrano returned to form and came close Monday night to that
complete game. He tossed 8.0 shutout innings in a win against
of things to come? The Pirates won four straight before losing to
sliding away. After watching the Dodgers surge past them, the Padres are duking
it out in the West with games at home against
tension is definitely heating up in the West. In Monday night's contest between
the D'Backs and
events leading up to the not-so melee between the D'Backs and
With a weekend sweep at the hands of the Dodgers, the Giants are fading out of the divisional race - but not without putting up a fight. Jason Schmidt slugged it out with Greg Maddux on Sunday Night Baseball, as both starters hurled 8.0 scoreless innings, but the Dodgers got the best of the Giants in the tenth inning, leaving Schmidt and the rest of the crew with a bitter taste in their mouths looking up at a 1-0 final score. Perhaps inspired by the duel between Schmidt and Maddux, Brad Hennessey tossed 5.2 innings of two-hit, scoreless baseball and five other Giants pitchers joined in against the Padres collectively producing their own 1-0 victory.
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