The 14th report in Pete Khazen's regular season weekly trip around Major League Baseball's National League in 2007. The Senior Circuit once again is taking a back seat to the Junior Circuit.
the title for this article has nothing to do with Nell Carter's television show
or those catchy KitKat commercial jingles you can't get out of your head.
Instead, it's about frustration with the National League. The NL has gone
and done it again. Yep, ten straight losses to the American League. There was
fleeting hope in that ninth inning of the All-Star game, but as Maxwell Smart
used to say, the NL "missed it by that much."
so the beat goes on. Whoever makes it to the World Series to represent this
league will have to overcome home field advantage, which once again favors the
American League. Perhaps we are better off with it alternating leagues each year
and allowing ties in exhibition All-Star games.
here's the latest and greatest from around the NL this past, festive, shortened
- Carlos Beltran may be leading the team with 16 home runs and 55 RBI,
but the All-Star starter is hitting just .264. In fact, he's hitting just .152
in July, but he does have a modest five-game hitting streak and has cranked out
six home runs in his last 10 games. Starting pitcher John Maine will look to extend his hot start into the second half of
the season. Maine
is 10-4 after winning his last four starts and dropping his ERA down to
Atlanta Braves (47-42)
- The Braves are hot on the Mets' heels after winning four of their last five
games before the break on a west coast road trip. After a dreadful outing
against the Dodgers on Thursday where he gave up six runs on 10 hits,
Tim Hudson will look to rebound when action gets started up again
Friday against the Pirates. The Braves will need
to have a solid start to the second half with John Smoltz going the way of the DL with inflammation in his right
Philadelphia Phillies (44-44)
- The Phillies were unsung heroes when they rushed out to help the Colorado
grounds crew after a large gust of wind took hold of the tarp during a rain
delay. Unfortunately, Aaron Rowand couldn't come through to earn hero status for the NL
Tuesday night in the All-Star game as he flew out to right field ending the game
with the bases loaded. Chase Utley ended play going into the break on a hot streak, carrying
a five-game hitting streak good enough to boost his team-best batting average to
- Twenty-three year-old shortstop Hanley Ramirez went 10-for-his-last-21 to finish the first half of the
season, boosting his average to .331. Combine that with 14 home runs, 70 runs
scored, and 27 stolen bases, and you've got a production machine. Starting
pitcher Sergio Mitre boasts an impressive 2.85 ERA through 15 starts, but he
doesn't have the record to match. Mitre is just 3-4 on the season with a 1-2
record in his last eight starts.
- The Nationals went down swinging into the break taking the last two games of a
three-game set with the NL Central-leading Milwaukee Brewers. Matt Chico has been dominant through his last three starts, allowing
just one run over 19.0 innings. Ryan Zimmerman has collected five multi-hit games in his last 10, but
his .253 average is still way down from his .281 career
- The Brew Crew has been trying to fend off the surging Cubs and a looming
Cardinals club. After a great first half, the questions ominously loom wondering
if the Brewers will fizzle or stay hot. Losing Bill Hall to the 15-day disabled list due to a high ankle sprain will
make things a little more difficult. Tony Gwynn
Jr. will be looked upon in his absence, and we might just get to
see what he can do with some regular action.
- The Cubs stayed hot, finishing the first half of the season just 4.5 games
behind the Brewers. They could have inched closer, but dropped two of their last
three to the pesky Pirates. Besides consistency in the second half, the Cubs
will need the power to return to Derrek Lee's
bat. He's hitting .330, but the power numbers are way down. He
has only six home runs and a .479 slugging percentage, which is way off the pace
of the 46 home runs and .662 slugging percentage he put up in 2005 when
competing with Albert Pujols for league MVP.
La Russa and his Cardinals proved last year that home field
advantage doesn't mean squat if you just beat the tar out of your opponent.
Interestingly enough, La Russa left Albert Pujols on the bench during the
All-Star game, particularly noticeable when the game was within reach in the
ninth inning. Pujols has struggled as of late in the power department, getting
skunked in the long ball column since June 14, but he put on quite a show at the
Home Run Derby Monday, giving fans hopes his power stroke might be ready to
break out the second half of the season.
Pittsburgh Pirates (40-48)
- Sidelined with irritation in his elbow, starting pitcher Zach
Duke figures to be out several weeks before he can even throw
again. That means more opportunities for youngsters like Shane Youman, who is 2-0 in two starts for the Pirates this season
along with a 3.00 ERA.
Rodriguez pitched his first career complete game, a four-hit
shutout Friday against the New York Mets. It was his second win in a row
following a 7.0-inning, three-hit shutout performance against
Outfielder Luke Scott is just 1-for-24 heading into the break. With a .226
batting average that continues to sink, he's likely to see less and less at-bats
as time goes on.
- The Reds are being eyeballed by most teams in the playoff hunt. They have a
number of seasoned veterans itching to get into a race for October. Ken Griffey
Jr. and Adam Dunn might be prized possessions to watch as the trade deadline
approaches at the end of the month.
- There's no doubt the Padres are in need of a big bat down the stretch - at
least one, for that matter. They're dead last in the NL with a .242 team batting
average and second to last in MLB behind the White Sox (.241). But they have the
best ERA in baseball with a dominating mark of 3.06. The closest to them is the
Oakland Athletics with 3.66. Chris Young is 8-3, just one win behind Jake Peavy who started the Midsummer Classic, but Young entered the
break carrying a better ERA at 2.00 compared to Peavy's 2.19. His stuff has been
so good that he beat out all other competitors in balloting for the final spot
on the NL All-Star roster.
Los Angeles Dodgers (49-40)
- Randy Wolf, who is having his best season since 2003 when he pitched
200 innings and went 16-10, landed on the DL this past week with shoulder
inflammation. He did receive a cortisone shot and is expected back after missing
only a start or two. Juan
Pierre has had a slow first three months to the season. The
speedy outfielder only scored 12 runs in each of the months of May and June, but
he's off to a fast start in July. He's already crossed the plate seven times and
his batting average is .324 for the month.
- Brandon Webb was named to the All-Star team to replace an injured
Fuentes. He's not quite as dominant as he was last year when he
won the Cy Young Award, but he's definitely got potential to break out in the
second half of the season. Closer Jose
Valverde didn't get any save opportunities in the final week
before the break, but he did see action in two games against
He pitched a shutout inning on Friday, but was wild on Sunday walking two and
taking the loss after giving up the winning run. Still, 26 saves with a 2.83 ERA
is mighty impressive.
Matt Holliday has been criticized a bit lately because he's hitting
.379 at home with 10 home runs. He may only have five long balls while visiting
other parks, but last I checked a .301 road batting average wasn't exactly easy
to come by in this league. With Brian Fuentes out, Manny
Corpas appears to be in line for the closer position. He struck
out the side to earn his first save on Saturday.
played host to the 2007 All-Star Game, and soon it could very well play host to
Barry Bonds surpassing Hank
Aaron's record of 755 career home runs. Bonds sits with 751.
Whether he does it at home remains to be seen. The Giants are at home against
the Dodgers for three, then in Chicago
for seven before returning back to San
for a seven-game homestand against Atlanta
With a tough road trip in Dodger Stadium and
following that, the smart money might be on the Nationals series back at
starting August 6. We'll see.
questions or comments? Sound off to firstname.lastname@example.org.