This Week in the National League – Week 13

The lucky 13th report in Pete Khazen's regular season weekly trip around Major League Baseball's senior circuit in 2007. During June, the pack continues to pull more tightly together.

I heard a statistic the other day that put some things into perspective. The season at the plate Chicago Cub Hack Wilson had in 1930 was unreal. He batted .356, set an NL record with 56 home runs, which stood until the 1998 race, and drove home an utterly ridiculous 191 runs - a record which still stands today. I've always known about that amazing season, but I learned something new about those stats that floored me even more. Wilson also set the record for most RBI in a month that August, when he hit a whopping 55.

 

Here we are almost three months into the season, close to the halfway point, and there are just five players in the NL with 55 or more RBI, and just 13 players in all of baseball. To add to the perspective, if you didn't know, Wilson stood just 5-foot-6 tall with a size six shoe, but he reportedly had an 18" neck and a muscle-filled 195-pound frame. One thing I can guarantee is that in the days Wilson played, there was no "clear" and there certainly was no "cream".

 

And now for the latest and greatest from around the league:


East Division

New York Mets (42-33) - The Mets have maintained their position atop the NL East, but they continue to sputter winning only seven games thus far in June, and that includes a three-game streak this past week. Carlos Delgado has been struggling as much as anyone at the plate hitting just .225 this season. In his last 16 games he has just one home run and four RBI, which brings a chorus of boos every time he steps to the plate in New York these days. With the team's recent difficulties winning games, Billy Wagner hasn't seen all that much action. He got three innings of work in against the Cardinals the past two games in extra-inning battles, but he's had just three save opportunities in June, of which he converted two.

 

Philadelphia Phillies (40-36) - Carlos Ruiz stole home Tuesday night and drove in four runs en route to leading the Phils past the Reds. Ryan Howard also homered in the game. He currently has a modest seven-game hit streak, during which he has driven in 10 runs. But as the Phils continue to improve their record and climb the standings, they suffered another blow to their starting rotation. Jon Lieber had to leave his last start prematurely after rupturing a tendon in his ankle. The injury appears severe, and Lieber is out indefinitely as the medical team weighs options, which include surgery.

 

Atlanta Braves (40-38) - There's nothing like playing the Nationals to bring you out of a slump. The Braves had lost five straight, scoring just one measly run in those games against Boston and Detroit, but have bounced back with two wins against the Nationals by the scores of 4-1 and 6-2. Rookie Jarrod Saltalamacchia, gaining popularity for his long name, which crowds the entire back of his jersey, led the charge on Tuesday belting two solo home runs and boosting his batting average to .329. Tim Hudson also benefited from a game against the Nats. After going winless in his past four starts, Hudson earned win number seven pitching 7.0 innings Monday, scattering seven hits, and giving up just one run.

 

Florida Marlins (36-41) - Aaron Boone was mounting a nice little comeback in South Florida, but suffered a setback this week after injuring his left knee and landing on the disabled list. And a trade to acquire Chicago Cubs outfielder Jacque Jones reportedly fell through after the two clubs couldn't come to an agreement on the cash involved in paying Jones' contract. Kevin Gregg has definitely emerged as the club's closer. Gregg has tallied up 14 saves in 14 chances this season and carries a nifty 2.74 ERA.

 

Washington Nationals (32-45) - Dmitri Young continues to be the story in Washington. Given up on by most teams in the league and considered overweight and out of shape by many, Young continues to smack that baseball around like his job depends on it. Wait, his job does depend on it. Young has a 10-game hitting streak going and has been held hitless just twice in June, boosting that batting average to .342. Shortstop Christian Guzman, who was also hitting the ball well with a .329 average, saw his season come to a close this week after undergoing surgery to repair a torn ligament in his thumb.


Central Division

Milwaukee Brewers (45-32) - They faltered for a little while, but the Brewers are back on their game. The crew has the best record in the NL over the last 10 games at 8-2, and increased their lead on all NL Central competitors during that timeframe by at least two games. Impressively, they've managed to win five of their last six games with Prince Fielder cashing in just one home run and three RBI bringing his NL-leading totals to 27 and 62 respectively. The Brewers did lost Chris Capuano for a little while. The starting pitcher strained his groin and landed on the 15-day DL.
 
Chicago Cubs (37-39) - The Cubs had another crazy week. They traded away catcher Michael Barrett to the Padres, swept their cross-town rivals over the weekend, and managed to blow an 8-3 lead against Colorado in the ninth inning of Monday's game only to come back and win 10-9 in the bottom half of the inning. It was a collapse only capable by the Cubs, but somehow, with the help of a two-out error on a routine grounder, the Cubs pulled out the W. Alfonso Soriano has been on a tear and was named NL Player of the Week. He drove in the tying and game-winning runs in that rally Monday night and has four homers and seven RBI on the week. Rookie Mike Fontenot is getting in on the action too. The kid has been calm and collected at the plate going 26-for-67, good for a .388 batting average since getting the call-up. But the Cubs did lose their closer, Ryan Dempster, to the DL with a strained oblique muscle, so it'll be closer-by-committee for a while.

 

St. Louis Cardinals (34-40) - Despite having a starting lineup and rotation that is a shell of the World Championship team from just a handful of months ago, this Cardinals team continues to linger and stay in the hunt. Albert Pujols has walked 14 times in his last 10 games as he refines his eye. It's helped increase his average back around .300, and is a good sign that he'll be feasting on opposing pitching come July. To help their pitching staff, the Cards picked up lefty Mike Maroth from Detroit. He made his St. Louis debut against the Mets Monday tossing 7.1 solid innings and holding New York to just two hits and one run in a no-decision.

 

Pittsburgh Pirates (32-44) - Paul Maholm may already have 10 losses this season, but you'd never have guessed that Tuesday. He pitched 7.2 great innings against Florida, limiting the Marlins to just two runs on three hits. It was Maholm's second win in three starts and the third consecutive outing he has pitched at least seven innings. Adam LaRoche continues to falter at the plate, though. Perceived as a big boost to the Pittsburgh lineup, LaRoche has been a bust thus far. The first baseman is hitting just .211 with eight home runs and 39 RBI. Compare that to the .285 batting average, 32 home runs, and 90 RBI he posted last year and you can understand the disappointment in Pittsburgh.

 

Houston Astros (32-45) - Craig Biggio is just three hits away from that magical number of 3,000. After hitting just .246 last year, Biggio is carrying a .238 average this season, which is a sign that the end might be near. Nonetheless, 3,000 hits is a feat definitely worth celebrating, and the fact that all 3K came with the same team is a rarity in itself. Roy Oswalt is suffering on a team that is struggling. Usually as dependable as they come, Oswalt is just 1-3 in his last eight starts. His 3.55 ERA isn't too high, so perhaps there is hope for a second-half turnaround.

 

Cincinnati Reds (29-48) - Ken Griffey Jr. visited his old stomping ground in Seattle this past weekend and cracked two home runs in the series finale to pass Mark McGwire in the all-time list with 584. Griffey has 21 long balls this season and has been the subject of plenty of trade rumors in recent weeks. The pitching combination of Kyle Lohse and Bronson Arroyo has been far from stellar this season. The twosome have combined for a 5-19 record in 32 starts and both have ERAs over 5.00.

 

West Division

Los Angeles Dodgers (44-33) - With back-to-back wins visiting Arizona to open a four-game set this week, the Dodgers leapt into a half-game lead in the division. Russell Martin has hit safely in his last six games and has six RBI in that span bringing his average to .295 and his team-leading RBI total to 49. Brad Penny continues to lead the starting staff. He tossed another gem Monday against the D'Backs, going 8.0 innings and giving up just one run on four hits. It's the fourth consecutive start he's given up just one run, which has shrunk his season ERA to 2.04.

 

San Diego Padres (43-33) - With arguably the best starting rotation in the NL, the Padres added veteran catcher Michael Barrett via trade this past week. Barrett is a bit better known for his bat than his fielding skills, so it's worth watching his impact on the likes of Jake Peavy and Chris Young. The Padres could use some offensive help. Adrian Gonzalez is leading the team in most offensive categories, but his team-best .282 batting average is definitely an indication that they need more hit-production in the lineup.

 

Arizona Diamondbacks (44-34) - Eric Byrnes is definitely emerging as a star in the NL. All that time behind the camera during the playoffs last October didn't get to his head as he continues to pour it on this season. Byrnes rocked three home runs and drove in seven runs this past week. He's hitting a crisp .312 at the plate. The D'Backs continue to compete for the NL West division title. Randy Johnson, who landed on the DL with a herniated disk in his back, is scheduled to return to the rotation Thursday and looks to give the club a little boost in the four-game series cap against the Dodgers.

 

Colorado Rockies (38-39) - Matt Holliday had a down week striking out 12 times. He was limited to just one home run and six RBI, and his batting average fell from .366 to .349. Some down week, eh? Starting pitcher Rodrigo Lopez ran into a surging Cubs team Tuesday and lost his first game of the season, dropping his record to 4-1. Prior to giving up eight runs to Chicago, he carried a solid 2.93 ERA through eight starts.

 

San Francisco Giants (33-43) - The Giants are ten games under .500 and double-digit games behind the three-team scrum atop the NL West. Yes, San Francisco married Barry Bonds and they're sticking together until home run records do them part. It's clear that the sacrifices this club has made to keep Bonds around to ensure he breaks Hank Aaron's record have been costly. Matt Morris, who has been having a great comeback season, got roughed up by the Yankees Saturday. Morris only gave up four runs, but was tagged for 13 hits in 5.2 innings in a no-decision.

 

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


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