This Week in the National League – Week Seven

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

Of all professional sports, baseball has to be the strangest when it comes to predictability. It seems like almost every day some play happens that people swear they've never seen before. But more notably, in the game of baseball, things can just turn on a dime, be it for a team or a player, be it for the better or the worse. A guy can be red hot at the plate and then go 0-for the next week. A pitcher can seem unhittable and then get destroyed in the ninth inning. A batter can look like he's literally sick at the plate, and the next day he can be hitting that baseball like it's a beach ball. As much as we use statistics to try to notice trends and see if the past can predict the future, the one trend we can see without a doubt is that with each pitch, each at-bat, each game, each season, new opportunities constantly appear to dismiss rough patches in the past or be humbled by how difficult it is to relive past moments of glory. And that's why we watch it, why we love it, and why guys like Roger Clemens can't get enough of it.

East Division


Atlanta Braves (25-14) - Just like that, the Braves are back on top of the National League; at least for now. They activated closer Bob Wickman from the disabled list Tuesday. Prior to his injury, he had blown his last two save opportunities, which paved the way for both Mike Gonzalez and Rafael Soriano to earn two and five saves, respectively. Right fielder Jeff Francoeur continues to give Braves fans hope that he might just live up to the potential they all saw in 2005 when he hit .300 with 14 home runs in 70 games. Francoeur leads the team with 30 RBI, and courtesy of a monster week with three multi-hit games. He's currently batting .296.


New York Mets (24-14) - The Mets sent a message to the Brewers, taking two of three this weekend and reminding them that they are the reigning regular season champs of the National League. After a shaky postseason, Billy Wagner has erased doubts of his ability to bounce back in 2007. Wagner is perfect in nine save opportunities and has a brutal 0.56 ERA, having given up just one earned run in 15 appearances. But for the Mets to get back to that form that dominated the NL last year, they definitely need David Wright to get back on track. The third baseman struggled at the plate against the Cardinals in the NLCS last October, and his .276 batting average, four home runs, and 17 RBI are far off the pace he set the past two seasons.


Philadelphia Phillies (19-20) - Brett Myers has some nasty stuff and seems to be enjoying his new role as closer. In 32.0 innings this season he has 43 strikeouts. And in Tom Gordon's absence he's saved four games. Despite blowing his first save Tuesday night, he managed to hold things together and earn the win. In Ryan Howard's absence, it's been Chase Utley to step up and become the run producer and giving the Phils some life. Utley already has 33 RBI on the season and has driven in at least one run in eight of his last 10 games.
Florida Marlins (17-22) - You could say second baseman Dan Uggla is going to be a star someday in Major League Baseball, but he's already there. Uggla cranked two long balls and drove in four to bring his season totals to 8 and 25, respectively. Reborn Aaron Boone, who has been seeing some more action as of late in place of an injured Mike Jacobs and a slumping Miguel Cabrera, drove in three runs Tuesday. In the game, Sergio Mitre tossed 7.2 innings, giving up just two earned runs, earning his first win of the season, and lowering his ERA to 2.18.


Washington Nationals (13-26) - After getting pounded for a month and losing a number of tough games, the Nationals decided to stick it to someone. It was the visiting Florida Marlins this past weekend. Nats fans had something to cheer for as their club swept the big Fish out of town and followed it up by winning the first of a three game set with Atlanta. Christian Guzman is fresh off the DL and has a six-game hitting streak going. And it was Jason Bergmann who outdueled John Smoltz Monday, earning his first win by tossing 8.0 innings and giving up just two hits and one run to the mighty Braves offense.


Central Division


Milwaukee Brewers (25-14) - The Brew Crew are tops in baseball with 50 home runs as a team. Who's leading that charge? None other than J.J. Hardy. The once-promising shortstop who fell off the radar last season due to injury, is crushing the ball this season. He's batting .325 with 12 home runs and 37 RBI. He belted four long balls this past week, including a grand salami Saturday. Starting pitcher Chris Capuano finally had a rough outing, but it took the Mets to get to him. Capuano faced that formidable lineup at Shea Stadium Sunday, lasting just four innings and giving up four earned runs in his first loss on the year.


Houston Astros (19-19) - Just like that, Carlos Lee is batting .336 and putting the hurt on opposing pitchers. Tuesday night, he inflicted his wrath on Matt Morris and the Giants pitching staff unleashing a 4-for-4 night at the plate, including two home runs. He now has 37 RBI. Relief pitcher Chad Qualls appears to be one of those scavengers this season. In just 18 games this season, he's managed to pick up four Ws already.


Chicago Cubs (18-19) - The Cubs will always find creative ways to lose games and make their fans and manager pull their hair out. After going up early 4-0 on the Mets Monday night, the Cubs were locked with their opponent in a 4-4 tie. That is until the bottom of the ninth inning when Michael Wuertz gave up a two-out single to Jose Reyes, a walk to Endy Chavez, an intentional, yes a bases-loaded intentional walk to Carlos Beltran, and then a game-winning unintentional walk to Carlos Delgado. That's the Cubs for you, though. On the bright side, Daryle Ward started Tuesday for Derrek Lee, who's nursing an injured neck, and went 2-for-4 with two RBI boosting his average to .348 in 23 at-bats.


Pittsburgh Pirates (17-21) - Tom Gorzelanny did it again. He continues to impress, and Monday night brought his latest display. He worked 7.0 solid innings of shutout ball against the Marlins and cruised to his fifth win of the season. He was helped by last season NL batting champ, Freddy Sanchez, who is starting to catch fire again. Sanchez has three multi-hit games in the past week, including a four-hit evening at the park Monday.


St. Louis Cardinals (16-21) - Braden Looper started his career in St. Louis in 1998. After several seasons as a reliever with the Marlins and Mets, he found himself back in St. Louis where he won a World Series ring. Now, in his tenth MLB season, he's taking on the starting pitcher role and kicking butt. After a 7.0-inning, shutout win against the Padres Saturday, Looper is 5-2 with a 2.29 ERA and by far the best starting pitcher on the Cardinals staff. David Eckstein, who garnered World Series MVP honors last Fall, has been struggling at the plate this year with a batting average in the low .200s, but he did have a three-hit night Monday, which could be an indication he's getting ready to break from this funk. 


Cincinnati Reds (16-24) - Ken Griffey Jr. was named NL player of the week cranking out 10 hits, including three home runs, and a league-high nine RBI. Too bad the Reds just keep losing. They've dropped 11 of their last 13. Aaron Harang gave his best effort to snap their latest four-game skid, by tossing 9.0 innings of two-hit, one-run ball against the Padres. The team didn't give him enough run support in the first nine innings of the game, but Harang's effort was solid enough to position the team for a much-needed 2-1 victory in extra innings. David Weathers ended up pitching the final three innings to earn his first win of the season.

West Division


Los Angeles Dodgers (24-16) - Randy Wolf had his best outing of the season against Cincinnati last Friday. The veteran lefthander tossed 7.0 innings, giving up just four hits and shutting out the Reds offense. He improved to 4-3 on the season and lowered his ERA to a respectable 3.94. Leadoff man Rafael Furcal was hitting just .218 as of that game Friday. Since then he's collected 14 hits in four games, including four hits in his last three. Just like that, he's boosted his average to .297.


San Diego Padres (21-19) - Jake Peavy pitched 7.0 innings, holding the Cardinals to three hits and shutting them out en route to his fifth victory on Friday night. Justin Germano followed up that performance with his own three-hit, seven-inning performance against the Cards for his first win in three years. And to continue with their pitching dominance, Greg Maddux went the distance for the first time in two years Monday night. The Professor needed just 96 pitches to dazzle the Reds and take home career win number 336.


Arizona Diamondbacks (21-19) - Randy Johnson visited Colorado Tuesday night, where pitchers tend to get eaten alive, especially struggling power pitchers. But the Big Unit had his best outing of the season and earned his first win, lasting 6.0 innings, giving up just one hit, and striking out nine Rockies. Third baseman Chad Tracy hit 27 home runs in 2005 and 20 in 2006, but through 30 games in 2007 he's got just one dinger to his name - though he is batting a sharp .310 at the plate.


San Francisco Giants (19-19) - Armando Benitez hasn't earned a save since April 26, but he has managed to lose a game since then, and he suffered a blown save opportunity Tuesday night against the Astros. Highly-touted pitching prospect Tim Lincecum got lit up in his MLB debut on May 6 but bounced back with seven strong innings on the road against Colorado for his first win of his career. Omar Vizquel, who batted .295 last season with 24 stolen bases, is hitting just .259 this year and has swiped just three bags.


Colorado Rockies (16-23) - Veteran outfielder Steve Finley is seeing everyday action in center for the Rockies, but has managed just a .182 batting average, and that's up from the .160 he was hitting on May 2. Jason Hirsh lost that game against Randy Johnson despite pitching 8.0 innings and giving up just three runs. Hirsh currently has a 3.99 ERA, which is tops for the Rockies starting pitching staff.


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