This Week in the National League – April 11

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

We're just over a week into the season and a few things are clear and similar to 2006. The league will have some serious parity throughout the season once again. That means more fans will be intrigued longer since most teams will still technically be in the postseason hunt come late August. Most likely the Central Division will be a dog fight between virtually all the teams through August. We're also certain to have some surprises, and unfortunately, key injuries along the way.

Still, even as things become clear, the baseball gods find ways to make us scratch our heads and wonder just when our favorite teams might be playing. Yes, April snow and the new Major League Baseball suspension rules have thrown us for a loop, but don't worry - the games will get played one way or another. Nonetheless, here's the latest and greatest from the action around the Senior Circuit:

East Division

Atlanta Braves (6-1) - Mike Hampton's dreams of a comeback were squashed this week as the veteran lefty needs surgery again and is done for the season. But even without Hampton, the Braves are showing signs that they might just be back for real this season. In two starts, Tim Hudson is 1-0 with a 0.64 ERA and has pitched 7.0 innings in each start having only given up a total of five hits. Though the Braves always find plenty of ways to score runs, Jeff Francoeur is leading the way. The outfielder is batting .310 to start the season and now has nine RBI, courtesy of a five-ribeye day on Tuesday.

Florida Marlins (5-2) - Heading into Tuesday's action, Miguel Cabrera was hitting like pitchers were serving up a beach ball to him. Through his first seven games, he was batting .500 with three home runs and 11 RBIs before an 0-for-4 performance in the Marlins' suspended game Tuesday dropped his average to .429. Dontrelle Willis has gotten off to a hot start. His ERA is solid at 3.0 through two starts and he's posted a 2-0 record as well.

New York Mets (5-2) - Through their first seven games, the Mets pitching staff has a team ERA of 1.92 as they've held opposing hitters to a .206 batting average. Tom Glavine has the worst ERA of the starting pitchers with a 2.38 mark. Tablesetter Jose Reyes is definitely showcasing his speed this early season. He's tallied three triples and three stolen bases already.

Philadelphia Phillies (1-6) - The Phillies have one thing going for them right now - the Nationals are the worst team in the National League. They've lost a number of close ones, including several in the final innings. Ryan Howard is batting just .222 with one home run through his first seven games, and Brett Myers is winless through two starts. So is Cole Hamels. While both starting pitchers have 15 strikeouts to their name and zero wins, Hamels does carry an impressive 1.38 ERA compared to the 6.75 Myers has posted.

Washington Nationals (1-7) - The Nationals have started the season as the worst team in the National League, and they're likely to finish the season there, perhaps on their way to 110 losses. Riddled with injuries, the team just has a lot of hurdles to overcome. But Dmitri Young has proven he can overcome hurdles. The first baseman is seeking rebirth in the nation's capital and is batting .292 with a .912 OPS through the first week of the season.

Central Division

Cincinnati Reds (4-4) - Shortstop Alex Gonzalez is enjoying his new digs in Cincinnati, posting a .391 batting average to lead the club through the first week of the season. David Weathers was looking good at first. He earned the closer spot in Cincy and was golden in his first two save opportunities, but that all fell apart Tuesday as he blew opportunity number three to the Diamondbacks.

St. Louis Cardinals (4-4) - Chris Carpenter is out for a few weeks. His MRI didn't show anything too significant, but he apparently has arthritis and some impingement, which will sideline the staff ace for a few weeks. Kip Wells and Braden Looper have looked solid in trying to pick up the slack for Carpenter. Wells is 1-1 with a 1.38 ERA, while Looper is also 1-1 with a 2.08 ERA courtesy of a two-hit, 7.0-inning performance on Monday. But the Cards offense isn't clicking just yet. The team is batting just .223, and Albert Pujols is at a very un-Albert-like .200 to start the season.

Pittsburgh Pirates (4-4) - The Bucs activated last season's National League batting champion Freddy Sanchez, which can only help the Pirates lineup. Zach Duke won his first game of the season on Sunday, striking out five and holding the Reds to three runs in 6.0 innings of work.

Milwaukee Brewers (3-4) - Milwaukee baseball fans as getting a special treat this week as the Cleveland Indians are playing the Los Angeles Angels under the cozy roof of Miller Park. With a big snowstorm also hitting Wisconsin, it's a good thing the Brew Crew have that retractable dome. With Kevin Mench slated to cut into Geoff Jenkins playing time, the free-swinging outfielder is full of life this season. Jenkins is batting a team-high .350 with three home runs and eight RBIs. Jeff Suppan hasn't found the same success. Soup signed that big contract in Milwaukee after a phenomenal postseason and is 0-2 with a 4.15 ERA through two starts.

Chicago Cubs (3-5) - The Cubs opened Wrigley Field Monday sporting the new Under Armour signs in the sacred ivy of the outfield walls, and the club is 0-2 in the Friendly Confines to kickstart the season. But the much-hyped Rich Hill had a solid first outing Friday pitching seven innings of one-hit, one-run ball for the W. And Carlos Zambrano went on to redeem himself Saturday earning his first win of the season on the road in Milwaukee striking out six while allowing three runs. The duo of Aramis Ramirez and Derrek Lee have managed to each hit safely in the first eight games of the season. They're not pounding in the runs yet, but they're swinging the bat well.

Houston Astros (3-5) - Lance Berkman is off to a dismal .164 start at the plate, as is Morgan Ensberg, who is a hair better at .217 but doesn't have a home run yet and just one RBI. Roy Oswalt opened the season with his A-game, though. The Astros staff ace is 1-0 in two starts with a 1.08 ERA. Brad Lidge is far from his A-game. In just two appearances Lidge has given up six runs including a blown save and has relinquished his closer role to Dan Wheeler.

West Division

Arizona Diamondbacks (7-2) - You could just tell in the offseason that this Diamondbacks team was going to be fun to follow in 2007. Though he had to pitch out of trouble a couple times, Randy Johnson reportedly looked strong in his second of three minor league starts on the rehab road. Not that the Diamondbacks are struggling without him. Livan Hernandez has thrown 7.0 innings in both starts this season and earned his first win Sunday albeit against the Nationals, who he held to three hits while lowering his ERA to 1.29. Eric Byrnes, who could be headed for a monster season, is batting .343 through the first week of the season with two home runs and seven RBIs.

San Diego Padres (5-3) - We're only a week into the season, but it's got to be a good sign for the Padres for Khalil Greene, a career .256 hitter, to be batting .321 with two homers and four RBIs. And it would appear that staff ace Jake Peavy is back. Through two starts and 13.0 innings of work, Peavy is 1-0 with a 0.69 ERA. Not surprisingly the Padres bullpen has yet to give up a run this season and already has three tallies in the win column - more than the starting staff.

Los Angeles Dodgers (5-3) - With Andre Ethier hitting a dismal .182 this first week, Matt Kemp was getting some regular action and had six hits in his first 14 at-bats. But a separated shoulder will put Kemp on the 15-day DL and likely keep him out even longer. That means the Dodgers will need Ethier to find his swing again, as well as Nomar Garciaparra, whose .164 batting average isn't exactly kickstarting the season.

Colorado Rockies (4-4) - Willy Taveras is struggling to start the season in his new Colorado digs. The center fielder is batting just .190 and has struck out nine times in 21 at-bats. Young righty Jason Hirsh looked solid against the Padres Friday tossing 6.2 innings in a one-hit, one-run performance en route to his first win of the season.

San Francisco Giants (2-6) - The Giants have two wins, and both belong to seasoned veteran Matt Morris, who has an impressive 2.38 ERA to go with his 2-0 record. Closer Armando Benitez has closed out both games for Morris and is two-for-two in save opportunities.

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