This Week In the National League – Week 11

The eleventh report in Pete Khazen's regular season weekly trip around Major League Baseball's senior circuit in 2007. During June, the pack is pulling tighter through a period of volatile play.

The National League teams appear to be taking on behavioral patterns like the weather in Chicago and St. Louis. They say in both those cities that if you don't like the weather, just wait 10 minutes. Well, if you don't like what your club is doing, just wait 10 minutes. Or a day. Or a week. Yes, things can change in an NL minute around this league. One thing for sure is that this season will be a roller coaster ride to September. You had better lower your shoulder harness and get comfy. It's going to be a bumpy ride.

 

East Division

 

New York Mets (36-27) - The Mets looked as though they were gearing up to dominate the National League once again, but the Detroit Tigers and now the Los Angeles Dodgers have slapped them back to the reality that winning this league is tougher than it may look. Their last win came when Jorge Sosa pitched 8.0 fabulous innings to combine with Billy Wagner in shutting out the Tigers for the first time this year, 3-0 on Friday. Already stricken with injuries, the Mets suffered another setback when outfielder Endy Chavez strained his hamstring and landed on the DL. On the bright spot, Shawn Green returned to the lineup Monday with a pair of hits, an RBI, and even a rare stolen base in his return debut.

 

Atlanta Braves (35-30) - After dropping the first two games against the visiting Cubs, the Braves rallied to win the last two of the four-game series. The series was full of drama as the starting pitching of both staffs struggled tremendously, leaving both bullpens tired. And there was no shortage of beanballs, taunting, and rough slides in the field. Edgar Renteria, who is having a great year batting .325 with 9 home runs and 33 RBI, got hit in the hand of the first inning of Sunday's finale by a Ted Lilly inside fastball. He remained in the game for several innings before leaving with a hand contusion, and he hasn't played since. Right now he's day-to-day. Lance Cormier made his second start this weekend after coming off the DL and lasted just 3.2 innings giving up 4 HRs and 5 runs. Consequently he landed back on the DL with a "tired arm".

 

Philadelphia Phillies (34-31) - Perhaps the White Sox knew what they were doing. Freddy Garcia landed back on the DL with a sore shoulder, and there is a chance he could be done for the season. It's a big setback for the Phils, who had high hopes for their rotation this year. Garcia was just 1-5 with a 5.90 ERA in 11 starts this season. At least Ryan Howard had a good week. He's starting to hit with more power, though his average is still .241. This past week he did crank three home runs and drive in six runs.

 

Florida Marlins (32-33) - Miguel Cabrera was named NL Player of the Week. He tallied up four consecutive multi-hit games and blasted three home runs and seven RBI in those four games. Starting pitcher Sergio Mitre is just 2-2 in ten starts despite a commanding 1.59 ERA. Unfortunately his next start has been pushed back to at least June 15 due to a hamstring injury. Mitre's last game was a 5.0-inning no-decision against the Braves where he gave up just four hits and no runs.

 

Washington Nationals (27-37) - Who said the American League should be able to just beat up on the weaker teams in the NL? The Nationals traveled up to Minnesota and took two of three against the Twins. Levale Speigner outdueled Johan Santana Saturday earning the much deserved win with 6.0 solid innings of two-hit, one-run ball. Ryan Zimmerman, who is starting to produce a bit more as of late, provided the support Speigner needed, hitting a three-run home run off Santana. Zimmerman has hit two homers in the past week and driven in seven runs.


Central Division

 

Milwaukee Brewers (34-30) - Last season was definitely no fluke for the Tigers and Justin Verlander. And they proved that to this year's Cinderella team Monday night when Verlander pitched a no-no against the Brewers, giving Milwaukee their fifth loss in the last seven games. There doesn't appear to be anything stopping Prince Fielder, though. The youngster is leading the NL with 23 home runs thanks to three more this past week, and he's even got his average up to a very respectable .295. Jeff Suppan's pitching has fizzled. He's 2-5 in his past seven starts, and his ERA has crept to 4.04. Still, the Brewers know what they get with him in each start - typically five-plus innings and three to four runs.

 

Chicago Cubs (28-35) - After an ominous week of clubhouse fighting, ejections, and losing, the Cubs played some of their best baseball of the year this week and got back to second place in the division. Alfonso Soriano caught fire and blasted three home runs Friday night against the Braves. His batting average was up to .326, but he's in an 0-for-16 slump since then, which has knocked his average down to .305. Carlos Zambrano has pitched back-to-back gems earning a win against division-leading Milwaukee, and then holding Houston to three hits and one unearned run over 8.0 innings for season win number seven. Zambrano also hit his second home run of the season to help himself out in the 2-1 victory.

 

St. Louis Cardinals (27-34) - After rising back to second place in the division, the Cards dropped four of their last five games. The jury might still be deliberating over Todd Wellemeyer, but the flamethrower has managed a 2-0 record in his three starts wearing a Cardinals uniform. As long has he can keep the walks to a minimum, he's a decent starting pitching option for the Redbirds as they continue to sort out their starting woes. For all those folks who were worried about Albert Pujols, take note that he's got his batting average up to .298, and with a three-homer week has his long ball total up to 15 and RBI count to 40. On a side note, outfielder Preston Wilson had season-ending surgery on his knee this past week.

 

Pittsburgh Pirates (27-37) - Tom Gorzelanny didn't factor into the decisions, but in his past two starts against the Dodgers and Yankees, he pitched into the seventh inning in both games giving up seven total runs. Outfielder Xavier Nady is starting to show some signs of life. Nady has four home runs in the month of June and 10 RBI. He's also lifted his batting average to .288 in that span.

 

Houston Astros (27-37) - In a desperate move to get some life to their starting rotation, the Astros went out and signed veteran Chan Ho Park to a minor league contract Tuesday. Park has pitched in just one game this season, and is more infamous for his performance on April 23, 1999 when he surrendered two grand slams in the same inning against the same batter, the St. Louis Cardinals' Fernando Tatis. Lance Berkman has hit safely in six of his last seven games, but his .251 average is a shell of his .301 career number. And his eight home runs this season puts him way off his 2006 pace when he knocked out 45 long balls.

 

Cincinnati Reds (26-39) - The Reds are winners of four of their last five games, and just like that they are threatening to pull themselves out of the NL Central cellar. Aaron Harang continues to knock out great starts and keep his team competitive. His last outing against Cleveland was a 7.0-inning shutout gem, good for 10 strikeouts, but not good enough for the win. The Reds lost 1-0 and Harang took a no-decision. But there is lots of speculation already flying around regarding trades and the Reds. At the top of the rumor list is Adam Dunn, whose productivity has tapered off a bit this season.

 

West Division

 

San Diego Padres (36-27) - The Padres were on fire until they ran into interleague play this weekend against the Mariners. They've since dropped four straight. In his last two starts, Jake Peavy gave up seven total earned runs. That's more than he had given up in his previous seven starts combined. On last Wednesday night, the Padres did get to celebrate with Trevor Hoffman, who earned his 18th save of the season, and career save number 500. The Padres made a big deal of Hoffman's accomplishment, and considering how valuable that closer role is, it's no surprise the players carried him around on their shoulders in celebration.

 

Los Angeles Dodgers (37-28) - Derek Lowe tossed a complete game on Saturday against Toronto, but it wasn't good enough for the win. Lowe gave up just one run thanks to a solo shot by the professional hitter Matt Stairs, and that was all the Blue Jays needed. But in the big matchup this week with the Mets, the Dodgers have taken the first two of the three-game series. Tuesday night it was the bottom of the order, including starting pitcher Hong-Chih Kuo that got the job done. Kuo earned the W and helped himself capping back-to-back-to-back jacks with Wilson Betemit and Matt Kemp.

 

Arizona Diamondbacks (37-28) - Against the Astros, Mets, and Giants, Brandon Webb had won three straight starts and held his opponents to just two earned runs. The Yankees lineup is a little different. He held his own Tuesday, giving up four runs in 7.0 innings, but the D'Backs lost 4-1. Third baseman Chad Tracy was activated over the weekend. He's 1-for-7 since his return, with the lone hit accounting for the only run Tuesday when Tracy homered against the Yanks.

 

Colorado Rockies (31-33) - Todd Helton has just one home run and two RBI this month but he's still batting .326; he's just not getting enough chances to hit with runners on base. Ryan Spilborghs is trying to make a name for himself with some regular action this week, and he did just that on Sunday against Baltimore. Spilborghs hit two home runs and drove in six runs doubling his season total for the year.

 

San Francisco Giants (30-34) - After a disappointing 2006 campaign, Randy Winn appears to have some things figured out in 2007. He's batting .309 this year compared to that dismal .262 average a year ago. Starting pitcher Matt Morris continues to shine and has that dominant 12-to-6 curveball working again. Morris tossed another complete game Monday against Toronto giving up three runs, earning the win, and improving his record to 7-3 on the season.

 

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


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