This Week in the National League – April 4

Pete Khazen's initial 2007 regular season jaunt around Major League Baseball's senior circuit.

We're only a few days into the season, but it sure is fun to see our favorite teams back on the diamond playing baseball in our favorite ballparks. There have already been some clutch hits, disappointments, and exciting performances in just a few games. So let's get right to it. Here's the latest and greatest from around the league in these first few games of the 2007 season.

East Division

New York Mets (2-0) - Tom Glavine and Orlando Hernandez might not have the mighty fastball behind them, but they can still mystify opponents as proven once again with two Ws to start the 2007 season on the road against the defending World Champion St. Louis Cardinals. Glavine tossed 6.0 strong innings of one-run ball, while El Duque tossed 7.0. Oh, and that Mets offense is off to a fast start, cracking nine hits and five runs off Chris Carpenter in the season opener Sunday night.

Florida Marlins (2-0) - The South Florida fish have knocked around the Washington Nationals in their first two games of the season. Hanley Ramirez had a 4-for-6 day at the plate and scored four runs Monday. And Miguel Cabrera kick-started the season with an outburst, crushing his first home run Monday and driving in five runs in his first two games.

Atlanta Braves (1-0) - At this pace, Edgar Renteria is going to hit 324 home runs. He smacked two in the opener, crushing the hearts of Phillies fans by knotting the game in the eighth inning and then winning it in the tenth. John Smoltz didn't light up the Phils, but he did scatter eight hits over 6.0 innings, allowing only three runs and striking out seven in the no-decision.

Philadelphia Phillies (0-1) - Only one game of action so far for the Phils in the oh-so-young 2007 season, and it was a heartbreaker. The Phils blew a one run lead in the eighth inning Monday against Atlanta when Renteria hit that blast off starting pitcher Brett Myers. Still, Myers looked sharp pitching 7.2 innings, striking out nine, and only giving up four hits. And though it's only one game, the Phils got at least one hit from all top seven spots in the batting order. Take it for what it's worth.

Washington Nationals (0-2) - As if the Nationals didn't have enough luck going against them heading into the 2007 season, they lost two starters in their first game. Shortstop Christian Guzman strained his left hamstring and center fielder Nook Logan hyperextended his left foot. Both landed on the disabled list. To add to their disappointment, they started the season with two losses, giving up 25 hits and 18 runs to the Marlins.

Central Division

Pittsburgh Pirates (2-0) - Stop the presses! The Pirates won their first two games and stand tall atop the NL Central with the Milwaukee Brewers. Xavier Nady smacked the game-tying home run off Houston's closer Brad Lidge Monday in the ninth inning of the opener, hit his second homer Tuesday, and then drove home the go-ahead run to lead the Pirates to a 2-0 record. Add in two solid saves by closer Salomon Torres and an impressive 11-strikeout pitching performance from Tuesday's starter Ian Snell, and the Pittsburgh fans have started the season on cloud nine.

Milwaukee Brewers (2-0) - We've always known he was capable of magical things on the mound, and Ben Sheets was just that Monday. The Brewers staff ace tossed a complete game, giving up just two hits and one run against a very deep Dodgers lineup. The Brew Crew went on to take the second game of the series courtesy of an impressive showing by the bullpen and a two-run homer by Kevin Mench.

Cincinnati Reds (1-0) - Aaron Harang stayed out of trouble and earned his first win of the season in the Reds home opener against the Cubs. He had plenty of help from Adam Dunn, who rocked two monster home runs off Cubs starter Carlos Zambrano. While Dunn got a loud curtain call, rookie Josh Hamilton did as well. Hamilton stepped to the plate for his first official MLB at-bat after being a former Number One draft pick and dealing with drug addiction, and he received a rousing ovation from the crowd. Hamilton flew out in his first at-bat, but his presence alone was a huge accomplishment.

Chicago Cubs (0-1) - Opening Day came with the announcement that Chicago real estate mogul Sam Zell would be buying the Tribune Company, which owns the Cubs. The Tribune Company then announced plans to sell the club after the 2007 season. And so the season began... Carlos Zambrano didn't have his best stuff, and showed he still can get frazzled on the mound. Big Z didn't like it when Dunn took him yard either time, and in the course of his collective frustrations walked five batters, while only striking out two. The Cubs offense couldn't muster any excitement in their first game, scattering eight hits and leaving five runners in scoring position with two outs.

St. Louis Cardinals (0-2) - Though the Cards raised their World Championship banner, they started the 2007 season far from where 2006 ended by dropping their first two games. Kip Wells did have a solid first outing Tuesday night in a cold and wet Busch Stadium giving up just two earned runs in 6.0 innings of work. The Cardinals offense has been stymied by the Mets pitching so far, particularly due to seven ground ball double plays, but the biggest concern is the state of Chris Carpenter's elbow. He will miss at least one start.

Houston Astros (0-2) - Brad Lidge blew his first save opportunity of the year, spoiling Roy Oswalt's chances at a home opening win. This time it wasn't Albert Pujols who got to Lidge, though. Instead it was Xavier Nady. On the bright side for the Astros, they have a good problem to deal with. Both Jason Lane and Luke Scott could be poised for a highly competitive season in finding time in right field. They each got one start in the Astros first two games and both went 2-for-4 with a home run.

West Division

San Diego Padres (1-0) - That's the old Jake Peavy we know and love. The Padres ace took the hill against the Giants on Opening Day and tossed 6.0 shutout innings en route to the win. Switch-hitting catcher Josh Bard led the offensive attack for Peavy with a 4-for-5 day at the plate.

Arizona Diamondbacks (1-1) - Third baseman Eric Byrnes and second baseman Orlando Hudson each had three-hit, two-RBI performances on Opening Day to lead the D-Backs over the Colorado Rockies. Brandon Webb didn't look quite so Cy Young-ish as he lasted just 5.0 innings after giving up eight hits and five runs in the Mile High city.

Colorado Rockies (1-1) - The Rockies lost the opener to Arizona but bounced back to even the series in game two. After Stephen Drew put the D-Backs up in the eleventh inning of the second game, Troy Tulowitzki tied the game with an RBI-double and scored the winning run on a throwing error. Colorado slugger Matt Holiday did get in on the offensive action, driving in his first run of the season.

San Francisco Giants (0-1) - The Barry Bonds home run watch has begun, but he was skunked with his teammates in the opener by Jake Peavy. Barry Zito suffered his first loss in the start, lasting 5.0 innings and giving up two earned runs as Peavy out-dueled him.

Los Angeles Dodgers (0-2) - Starting the season off with a series against the Brewers, the Dodgers might have been licking their chops. Then they ran into Ben Sheets, who just mowed them down on Opening Day. And it wasn't a good day for Derek Lowe, who managed just 4.0 innings after giving up eight hits and six runs. Though they managed to scatter seven hits in the second game of the series, they didn't have enough for the win. Missing Rafael Furcal to that sprained right ankle has been costly as Juan Pierre hasn't gotten his first Dodger hit yet in that leadoff position and has walked just once.

Got questions or comments? Sound off to pete@petekhazen.com.


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