This Week in the National League – Week Eight

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

It's after midnight, and I just got back to St. Louis after an evening road trip about 90 miles away to watch my nieces play in the Illinois high school state soccer tournament. As I began drafting this article, I was excited to see three National League games still in progress - or so I thought. Instead of firing up my MLB.TV to catch a few innings of live baseball, I took a figurative kick in the groin when my hopes were squashed by the reality that the statistical service feeding the Internet news sources must have gotten hung up. While three games appeared to still be in progress, all three games had recaps already posted. The excitement of catching some live west coast baseball was only a tease. This Midwesterner was forced to write in the proverbial silence of baseball highlights in the background... I guess things can be worse.


Nonetheless, here's the latest and greatest from around the league this week, which featured our first taste of interleague play. This week's installment is more of the quick hitter variety as it was late when it was drafted, even for this night owl, and the likelihood of being more delirious in the morning than the Dunkin' Donuts man was all too real.


East Division


New York Mets (28-16) - The Mets battled back from a 5-1 deficit against the Cubs on Thursday to pull out a dramatic win 6-5, and then carried the momentum into the subway series, where they took two of three from the Yankees. Moises Alou landed on the DL retroactive to May 13 with a strained quad. After a disastrous 2006, former Cardinal Jorge Sosa is looking reborn in 2007. He went 13-3 with a 2.55 ERA in 2005, and through three starts this season, he's 3-0 with a 2.25 ERA.


Atlanta Braves (27-18) - Just last week I was touting the Braves' return to the top of the NL. How things change. The club lost four of five before beating the Mets in a big divisional series contest Tuesday. The Braves struggled against Boston, but John Smoltz shut the Red Sox down and out for seven innings en route to a 14-0 pounding. The win gave Smoltz his sixth of the season. Chipper Jones homered in the game and as of Tuesday stands tall with a .307 batting average and 12 home runs. Kelly Johnson was the offensive leader that game, though, driving in five of their 14 runs.
Philadelphia Phillies (22-23) - Starting pitcher Cole Hamels has won four straight outings pitching at least 7.0 innings in each. In his last start against
Milwaukee, Hamels pitched 8.0 innings and struck out 11 Brewers. Outfielder Shane Victorino has been a speed demon on the basepaths. He's tallied 16 swipes already this season.


Florida Marlins (22-23) - The National League was a dismal 18-24 versus the powerhouse American League in this first weekend of interleague play. The Marlins were the lone National League team to sweep their opponent - being able to play that other team in Florida has its benefits. The club did put starting pitcher Ricky Nolasco on the 15-day disabled list with inflammation in his right elbow. Though Dontrelle Willis has struggled this season, he picked up his sixth win and has pitched two straight games lasting at least 6.0 innings and giving up just two earned runs in each, dropping his ERA to 4.86.


Washington Nationals (17-29) - Though the Cardinals have fewer losses, the Nationals did catch the defending World Series champs in wins this week. When Dmitri Young is leading your team in hitting with a .262 batting average, your team is struggling at the plate, to put it mildly. The lone bright spot of the season, young pitcher Shawn Hill, who is 3-3 with a 2.70 ERA, is on the disabled list with a shoulder strain.


Central Division


Milwaukee Brewers (28-18) - Tony Gwynn Jr. is starting to see more regular action, and he's continuing to hit the ball like his old man. Gwynn is batting .345 through his first 55 at-bats. Francisco Cordero continues to be lights out. The Brew Crew closer has 17 saves and a miniscule 0.47 ERA. And in what seems like an occurrence that doesn't happen all too often, Jeff Suppan has earned a decision in each of his ten starts this season, going 6-4 with a 3.49 ERA, tops among the Brewers' starting staff.


Houston Astros (21-24) - Rookie outfielder Hunter Pence cracked his way onto the NL map by earning Player of the Week honors. Pence was 13-for-22 (.591) with two home runs and five RBI. Staff ace Roy Oswalt might have met his match in Tim Lincecum. Oswalt faced the raw rookie twice this past week. Despite not giving up a single run in the first match, Oswalt was kept to a no-decision in the Astros loss. Then he was outdueled on Tuesday night for another Astros loss, having given up four runs in 7.0 innings of work.


Chicago Cubs (20-23) - Despite a complete and utter collapse against the Mets in the ninth inning of Thursday afternoon's game, the Cubs managed to bounce back and win two of three against their crosstown rivals, the White Sox. The Cubs and Sox didn't disappoint as the first two games were seesaw battles that both went down to the final innings. Aramis Ramirez has been hot at the plate with five consecutive multi-hit games, which have lifted his average over 30 points to .296. He also has 16 RBI in his last 11 games.


Pittsburgh Pirates (19-25) - Jason Bay is batting a marginal .280, which is a bit down for him, but he's only hit five home runs this season. That's significantly down for him, when you consider that he hit 35 last season and 32 the year before that. Starting pitchers Tom Gorzelanny and Ian Snell definitely have given the Pirates life as they both carry winning records, 5-2 and 4-2, respectively, and both boast ERAs under 3.00 - 2.43 and 2.76.


St. Louis Cardinals (17-25) - Adam Wainwright's sore elbow didn't appear to bother him Tuesday against Pittsburgh as the starting pitcher threw 96 pitches and kept the Pirates to just two runs on nine hits, thus earning his fourth win of the season. David Eckstein, who was really having a tough go early this season, is finding a groove. Eckstein has five multi-hit games in his last seven and has raised his batting average from .207 to .268. He was restored to his customary leadoff position on Tuesday after batting eighth for a period.


Cincinnati Reds (18-28) - Comeback kid Josh Hamilton landed on the 15-day DL after being hospitalized due to a stomach ailment. David Weathers continues to be a bright spot for the struggling Reds. The staff closer earned two saves and a 3.0-inning relief-effort win this past week lowering his ERA to 2.08.


West Division


Los Angeles Dodgers (26-20) - Wilson Betemit and Andy LaRoche haven't panned out just yet at third base, so now recently called-up Tony Abreu might get his chances. Abreu went 0-for-3 in his debut on Tuesday night. But the Dodgers did win that game behind the strong arm of Randy Wolf, who won his third straight outdueling Ben Sheets this time over 7.0 innings and only giving up two runs.


San Diego Padres (25-20) - There is no denying that Jake Peavy is back and setting his sights on being the top pitcher in the NL. Peavy has given up just three runs in his last four outings, strutting his stuff with a 1.63 ERA and 6-1 record. First baseman Adrian Gonzalez has been boosting his power stats this season. He cracked his 11th home run Tuesday and has already driven in 34 runs.


Arizona Diamondbacks (25-22) - Jose Valverde rattled off five saves in the past seven days boosting his total to 17. He hasn't given up a run since May 3, and has surrendered just three hits total in nine 1.0-inning appearances since then. Third baseman Chad Tracy landed on the 15-day DL with a strained rib cage. He was hitting .311 with 14 RBI and just one home run on the season.


San Francisco Giants (23-22) - Randy Winn's 20-game hitting streak was snapped Tuesday night. And it's quite clear that no one wants to pitch to Barry Bonds any more. Bonds has walked at least once in 16 straight games and hasn't hit a home run since May 8. Starting pitcher Matt Morris tossed a complete game, two-hitter good for a 4-1 win against Oakland Sunday, lifting his record to 5-1.


Colorado Rockies (19-27) - Arizona apparently has the scouting report on Todd Helton that all other clubs want. The Diamondbacks held Helton hitless in 11 at-bats and were a big part of the reason his average dropped to .355 this week. Rough life, right? Right fielder Brad Hawpe is picking up some of the slack. Hawpe cranked four home runs this week bringing his season total to five and rounding out his RBI count at 25.


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