This Week in the National League – April 25

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

The Central Division is going to be a battle this season, no doubt. But home field isn't looking too advantageous for those clubs this season. Five of the six teams in the Central have losing records at home through the first three and a half weeks of the season. It's early and it's tough to make sense of this, but one thing is for sure: every game counts. Those tough losses at home, even in April really hurt in a playoff race down the stretch. But that's not all that's going on in the National League these days, so let's get right to the latest and greatest from around the clubhouses.

East Division

New York Mets (13-6) - Carlos Beltran won NL Player of the Week honors batting at a .448 clip, which included two four-hit games and nine RBIs. Young starting pitcher John Maine continues to build on that impressive playoff performance last fall, beginning the 2007 season with a 3-0 record in his first four starts. The right-hander won two games last week, tossing 14.2 innings and only giving up three runs while striking out 12. All in all, it was a solid week for the Mets, despite losing two of three to the Braves, sparked with some controversy as one fan was arrested in New York for allegedly shining a high-powered flashlight at the Atlanta players, trying to distract them on the field.

Atlanta Braves (13-7) - Chipper Jones turned 35 years young Tuesday. Despite celebrating his birthday with a dismal 1-for-6 performance and leaving seven on base, he's still rocking the baseball with his bat. Chipper is hitting .308 this season with six home runs and 11 RBIs. But it's been Jeff Francoeur leading the run production, as he's already sitting with a team-high 24. Starting pitcher Tim Hudson, who now boasts a 0.62 ERA, has continued his dominance this season tossing an eight-inning, shutout gem against the Mets for this third win of the season.

Florida Marlins (9-11) - After giving up 10 hits and eight runs to the Mets in his first loss this season, Dontrelle Willis bounced back with his fourth win. The high-kicking pitcher needed some offense, though, as he gave up five runs to the Braves. Despite his 4-1 record, his ERA is up to 5.28. Hot-hitting shortstop Hanley Ramirez has been one of the Marlins producing runs for Willis. Ramirez is showing he's got all the tools to be the next Jose Reyes. Ramirez has opened the season with a .371 batting average, three home runs, and six stolen bases.

Philadelphia Phillies (8-11) - Cole Hamels struck out 15 en route to a complete-game victory against the Reds Saturday. The Phils are starting to show some life, and Aaron Rowand has been a big part of it. The widely popular center fielder has hit safely in 22 of 25 games and currently has a 12-game hitting streak and a .264 batting average.

Washington Nationals (6-14) - Brian Schneider has been in a funk to start this season. The catcher who made a name for himself during the World Baseball Classic last year is hitting just .169. Relief pitcher Jesus Colome has been a bright spot for the Nationals, though. He's picked up two wins out of the bullpen and has a solid 1.80 ERA in 15 innings pitched this season.

Central Division

Milwaukee Brewers (13-7) - In a division most are predicting to be completely up for grabs, the Milwaukee Brewers are exploding out of the gates. Chris Capuano, who has pitched well in the first half of the past two seasons, is 3-0 to start the year. Big contract pitcher Jeff Suppan also won his third game of the season, pitching 8.0 shutout innings against the Cubs and dropping his ERA to 2.97. Shortstop J.J. Hardy has been hot as of late and showing power. He's cracked five home runs in his last six games and tallied up 10 RBIs.

Cincinnati Reds (10-10) - Ken Griffey Jr. returned to the lineup Tuesday night for the Reds and blasted his 564th career home run to move into sole position of 10th place all time. Aaron Harang started the same game and earned his third win of the season. Harang hasn't been the strongest pitcher for the Reds to start the season, though. Kyle Lohse has pitched into the seventh inning in each of his four starts, but only has a 1-0 record to show for it. His 1.91 ERA and 1.02 WHIP, however, speak for themselves.

Houston Astros (9-10) - Lance Berkman continues to carry an uncharacteristically low batting average at .214, but he is showing signs of life. Berkman hit is second home run of the season Tuesday night and has hit safely in six of his last seven games. Berkman isn't the only veteran trying to figure things out. Woody Williams has really struggled this season. In five starts he is 0-3 with a 5.90 ERA.

Pittsburgh Pirates (8-10) - Tom Gorzelanny continues to make his name known around the league. He put his 2-0 record on the line while on the road against the high-powered Dodgers offense and pitched 6.0 solid innings, giving up just three runs and earning his third win of the season. Jose Bautista is also making his presence felt. He's leading the club with a .313 batting average and also has an 11-game hitting streak. But it was Paul Maholm who garnered the spotlight Tuesday night, when he pitched his first complete game of the year, giving up just three singles against the Astros and facing just 29 batters. The win Tuesday was just the first for the Pirates at home this season as they're off to a 1-4 start at PNC Park.

St. Louis Cardinals (8-11) - After a historic inaugural season at the new Busch Stadium, the defending champions are having their own problems at home and have managed just one victory in eight games in front of their red-clad fans. Their woes at home didn't keep the Cardinals from taking two of three on the road at Wrigley Field this past weekend. The series ended with the wind blowing out at the Friendly Confines, and Scott Rolen and Albert Pujols took full advantage. They both hit monster home runs in the game helping their club to victory, and Rolen had his first five-hit game of his career.

Chicago Cubs (7-13) - Derrek Lee is batting .367 but has yet to go yard this season, and the Cubs too have had their woes at home finding new ways to lose games daily. Even Rich Hill, who has been the brightest spot in the Cubs clubhouse, saw his perfect 3-0 start to the season come to an end with his first loss Tuesday night at the hands of the first-place Brewers. Jason Marquis and Michael Barrett did give the Cubs some punch against the Cards this past weekend. Barrett showed manager Lou Piniella it wasn't wise to sit him on Friday and not even let him pinch hit. How did he do that? He went out and rocked the Cards pitching Saturday and Sunday, smacking two home runs and driving in five runs in the final two games of the series. Jason Marquis silenced his St. Louis critics, at least for now, blanking his former team over 7.0 innings on Saturday.

West Division

Los Angeles Dodgers (13-7) - Randy Wolf has recorded Ws in each of his last three starts, including a powerful win against the Pirates where he punched out 10 Bucs and held them to one run over 6.0 innings Friday. Veteran second baseman Jeff Kent has been tearing up opposing pitching the past week. Kent rattled off four multi-hit games in a row and has boosted his average to a team-high .328.

San Diego Padres (12-8) - Adrian Gonzalez ripped his sixth homer of the season Tuesday night and boosted his team-high RBI total to 20 for the year. Teammate Khalil Greene is also on fire. The Padres shortstop extended his hitting streak to nine games with a 4-for-5 performance Tuesday night, which helped David Wells earn his first win of the season.

San Francisco Giants (10-8) - The Giants are on fire with a six-game winning streak, and veteran pitcher Matt Morris appears reborn this season. Morris has given up just six earned runs in 25.1 innings this season and boasts a 3-0 record. During this streak, Armando Benitez has reemerged as the club's closer, saving three games and bringing his total to five this year.

Arizona Diamondbacks (10-11) - Randy Johnson made his debut Tuesday night at home against the Padres and got rocked silly. He struck out seven, but gave up six runs on six hits and four walks - definitely not his best stuff. Orlando Hudson continues to be a pleasant surprise for the D'Backs. The second baseman is now hitting in the three spot and has a .354 batting average and team-high 17 RBIs.

Colorado Rockies (8-13) - Matt Holliday is doing what he does best; hit the snot out of the ball. Holliday is batting .388 and ran off three consecutive three-hit games this week. And though Todd Helton's power numbers aren't through the roof anymore, he's hitting a solid .333 and is continuing to build his case for potential mid-season suitors. Despite the Rockies offensive talent, they're still short on pitching as evidenced by ace pitcher Jeff Francis, who is 1-2 this season with a 6.46 ERA.

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