This Week in the National League – Week Ten

The tenth report in Pete Khazen's regular season weekly trip around Major League Baseball's senior circuit in 2007. June is bugging some clubs more than others. Could swoons be far behind?

More and more injuries are popping up around the league, which means there are more and more opportunities for new stars to step to our attention. It also means that teams need to find more ways, more individuals, to lean on to win ball games. Nothing comes easy in this 162-game marathon, but even a bad week or month won't completely do you in with this parity-driven National League. That being said, here's the latest and greatest from around clubhouses.


East Division

 

New York Mets (35-21) - It's hard to say what kind of an impact Pedro Martinez would have for the Mets if indeed he did make his way back to the big show after undergoing rotator cuff surgery. But he took the first major step Tuesday, throwing off the mound for the first time since surgery and reportedly feeling good through 31 pitches. The Mets outfield is banged up. Seasoned veterans Moises Alou and Shawn Green were having great seasons hitting .318 and .314 respectively, but both find themselves on the DL. Alou has been there for a while with a strained quadriceps, hopefully rejoining his team in the coming days, but Green figures to be on the DL for at least a 15-day stint with a broken foot. To add to the Mets injury woes, Carlos Beltran has been out since Thursday with a bruised knee, but he returned to the lineup Tuesday with an uneventful 0-for-5 evening.

 

Atlanta Braves (33-26) - Chipper Jones has been out of the Braves lineup with injured wrists, and it looks like he's going to stay on the sidelines for at least a couple more weeks. Starting pitcher Chuck James put together back-to-back solid starts on the road against Milwaukee and Chicago. James led the Braves to two wins, though he only earned the W against the Brewers. In those two starts, he pitched 6.0 innings apiece, striking out a combined 12 batters, and only giving up three total earned runs.

 

Philadelphia Phillies (29-29) - Jimmy Rollins hit nine home runs in April, and hasn't connected for a round-tripper since. Chase Utley continues to show some power. The second baseman homered for his club-leading eleventh bomb of the season and drove in three Tuesday en route to victory. Utley also leads the team in RBI with 47, and his .311 batting average is second only to Aaron Rowand's .322.

 

Florida Marlins (29-31) - Miguel Cabrera left the second game of a double-header Tuesday with a sore hamstring. Second baseman Dan Uggla had been on a tear of late with an eight-game hitting streak, including three home runs and eight RBI. But Uggla was skunked, 0-for-7, in the club's double-header, ending his streak. And don't look now, but infamous pitcher Byung-Hyun Kim is having a little resurgence in South Florida. Kim is 1-0 in his last two starts and has giving up just six hits and one earned run in 12.0 innings of work.

 

Washington Nationals (23-35) - Starting pitcher Shawn Hill, who is 3-3 with a 2.70 ERA and has been on the DL since May 12, got a second opinion on his injured arm and got no bad news. But the pitcher has plenty of history in that arm, so the Nationals will continue to be cautious with him. Dmitri Young had a pair of back-to-back 4-for-4 days at the plate and has boosted his average to .319. Christian Guzman has also been smacking that baseball around lately. In the past week, he's raised his average from .256 to .324.

 

Central Division

 

Milwaukee Brewers (33-26) - Prince Fielder finished the month of May homering in four straight games and earning NL Player of the Month honors. With another jack Monday, he stands atop the NL with 20 home runs this season. Closer Francisco Cordero continues to dominate the opposing batters. Cordero racked four more saves this week, bringing his jaw-dropping total to 22 this season. Oh, and that 0.36 ERA isn't too shabby either.

 

St. Louis Cardinals (25-30) - Just like that the Redbirds are in second place. Granted this is the jam-packed Central Division. Still they're finding ways to win, in a fashion similar to last October. Seldom-feared So Taguchi drove in two game-winning RBI this week, the most recent Tuesday night while pinch-hitting in the bottom of the ninth inning. The Cards did lose Yadier Molina to a fractured wrist this past week, and backup catcher Gary Bennett had to leave the game Tuesday night after getting hit with a pitch in the back of the head.

 

Pittsburgh Pirates (25-33) - In a division without much muster, this Pirates team is hanging around and keeping in the fight. The club just recalled outfielder Rajai Davis from the minor leagues with hopes of giving the club a little spark. Davis has some wheels and could be a fun player to watch. Starting pitcher Ian Snell continues to be a player to watch as well. Snell tossed 8.0 great innings against the Dodgers giving up just one run and striking out six on his way to earning win number five this year.
 
Chicago Cubs (24-32) - Oh my! On his 26th birthday, Carlos Zambrano got into it with his own catcher Michael Barrett on Friday in the dugout. The fight was broken up without any major damage, but it escalated later during the game in the clubhouse, and Barrett ended up with six stitches in his lip. Both players were fined by the team, and they have reportedly made up and are trying to move forward. This all happened in the middle of a six-game skid. The final loss, which occurred Saturday, apexed with Manager Lou Piniella getting ejected. Did he let some frustrations run over? Or perhaps he tried to take on some attention from his feuding players? Piniella was suspended for four games, and the Cubs won two of three without him. Most notably in the lineup Alfonso Soriano is heating up. He homered in three straight games and went 5-for-5 at the plate Monday night.

 

Houston Astros (24-33) - Hunter Pence, who hit .343 during the month of May, earned NL Rookie of the Month honors. For the season, since getting the call-up in late April, Pence is batting .364 with 23 RBI. And to compete for time in the outfield, the Astros recalled Chris Burke and sent down to the minors Jason Lane. With a rotation that has struggled this season, the Astros welcomed Jason Jennings back from the DL with open arms. Jennings pitched 6.0 solid innings against the Cardinals in a no-decision giving up four runs.

 

Cincinnati Reds (22-37) - Rookie comeback kid Josh Hamilton was activated from the DL Tuesday. One thing that is clear for the Reds is that starting pitcher Bronson Arroyo has been figured out by the rest of the league. Arroyo had a solid first year in the NL last season going 14-11 with a very respectable 3.29 ERA. This season is quite different. Arroyo is 2-6 in 12 starts and has a 4.73 ERA.


West Division

 

San Diego Padres (34-23) - When another team has great pitching, it just doesn't seem fair. There are seven pitchers on the Padres roster with 10 or more starts/appearances and an ERA under 3.00. Of those seven, four, including starting pitcher Jake Peavy, have an ERA under 2.00. Thing is, the Padres are starting to hit the ball this season more. They're in the middle of the MLB pack with 51 team home runs, but that's good for number one in the NL West.

 

Los Angeles Dodgers (35-24) - Jason Schmidt returned from the DL to pitch 6.0 shutout innings of one-hit ball against the now division-leading Padres, but it wasn't good enough for the win as the Padres took the W Tuesday 1-0. Teammate Derek Lowe had a nice two-win week. Lowe pitched well against both Pittsburgh and Washington, inducing ground ball after ground ball improving his record to 6-5. Tony Abreu could be the answer the Dodgers have been looking for at third base. Abreu is hitting .342 in 12 games this season.

 

Arizona Diamondbacks (34-24) - Randy Johnson leapt over Roger Clemens in the all-time strikeout list,moving into second place with 4,605 Ks. Now he's only got 1,110 left to surpass Nolan Ryan. Outfielder Eric Byrnes has hit safely in all but three games since May 1. He's got his batting average up to .314 and currently holds a 12-game hitting streak.

 

San Francisco Giants (27-30) - Barry Bonds didn't start on Tuesday as he is dealing with some pain from shin splints and aching knees. And for those who were worried about Barry Zito, at least for now, there's nothing to worry about. Zito has crushed the competition in his last three starts. And it's not like he faced Washington, Pittsburgh, and Cincinnati. He did it against Houston, New York, and Philly. Zito is 3-0 in his last three starts and has given up just one run during that time thanks to that brutal 12-to-6 curveball.

 

Colorado Rockies (27-31) - Outfielder Steve Finley was designated for assignment, and Brad Hawpe was named NL Player of the Week after hitting .455 with three home runs and eight RBI. Teammate Jeff Francis was also in the running. The Rockies starting pitcher has pitched at least 7.0 innings in each of his past seven starts and is 3-0 in his last three outings having only given up three earned runs.

 

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


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