This Week in the National League – Week 17

The 17th report in Pete Khazen's regular season weekly trip around Major League Baseball's National League in 2007. The trade deadline was relatively quiet across the Senior Circuit.

The trade deadline has come and gone with light traffic across the wires in the National League. It just happened to be that on the same day, two of the league's veterans were heading for major statistical milestones Tuesday evening. So this could have been a blockbuster week to report the latest and greatest from around the league. Instead it's kind of a ho-hum week. Still, another seven days of baseball is in the bag. July is finito. Which means we've got just two months left of regular season baseball left. And if the pressure to deliver in the face of major milestones wasn't enough to scratch your DVR and keep you glued to your live TV, then the race to the playoffs in October surely will.


East Division

 

New York Mets (59-47) - The Mets placed outfielder Carlos Beltran on the DL with a strained abdominal muscle. The injury, which is retroactive to July 25, happens at an inopportune time with the Braves and Phillies breathing down the Mets necks. New York did make a move as the deadline approached, though. With Jose Valentin out with a broken leg, the Mets added second baseman and 2003 World Series Champion Luis Castillo to the roster. But all Mets fans eyes were on Milwaukee Tuesday night as Tom Glavine went for career win number 300. He left the game after six innings with a 2-1 lead, but unfortunately the Brewers played spoilers, coming back and later taking the game from the Mets 4-2 in 13 innings.

 

Philadelphia Phillies (56-50) - The Phils rattled off nine of ten wins before finally falling again to the Cubs Tuesday night. But the club suffered a couple huge losses this past week - physically that is. Chase Utley was batting .336 with 17 home runs and 82 RBI before an inside fastball broke a bone in his hand last week, forcing surgery and knocking him out for at least three weeks. They traded for Tadahito Iguchi from the White Sox to cover for Utley. The club also lost outfielder Shane Victorino (strained calf) and Michael Bourn (sprained ankle), who were combined batting .284 with 12 home runs, 48 RBI, and 50 stolen bases.

 

Atlanta Braves (56-51) - The Braves were the big NL winners in at the trade deadline, cutting a deal for first baseman Mark Teixiera. In a league where there is no excuse not having solid production from your first baseman, the Braves filled that glaring gap at the corner this year. They also added solid relief pitcher Ron Mahay and dealt away catcher and first baseman Jarrod Saltalamacchia and four minor leaguers. With a lineup loaded with power now, if the Braves can only get Andruw Jones to improve on his .215 batting average, this team will be scary down the stretch.

 

Florida Marlins (49-58) – Second-year shortstop Hanley Ramirez is hitting .341 courtesy of seven multi-hit games in his last ten. Since sitting out of the lineup for a few days with a sore shoulder, he is 8-for-17 with a home run, four RBI, and two stolen bases. But Florida faded at the end of July, dropping seven of their last eight games. Starting pitcher Scott Olsen has been roughed up in his last two starts. Loser of both games, Olsen gave up a combined 13 earned runs on 18 hits launching his ERA to 5.53.

 

Washington Nationals (46-60) - The Nationals refused to be sellers at the trade deadline this week and even managed to lock up their lone All-Star, Dmitri Young, with a two-year, $10-million contract extension. They're a far cry from getting back into the playoff race, but they showed the Mets this weekend that they're not just going to lay down for their opponents. The Nats split the four-game series with the division leaders. Chad Cordero has been busy earning three saves after blowing one this week. Cordero now has 22 tallied for the season with a solid 2.60 ERA.


Central Division

 

Milwaukee Brewers (58-49) - The Brewers are hanging on by a thread. Chicago is tailgating them as close as possible these days, and now they've got St. Louis in their rearview mirror. After beating the Cardinals 12-2 in a rain-filled Friday night to open a four-game series with the defending World Champions, the Brewers got smacked to reality losing a double-header on Saturday and dropping the finale Sunday. They blew two big leads against the Redbirds and may have awoken the sleeping giant in the NL. Francisco Cordero showed signs his arm might be tiring after 32 saves, blowing his last two opportunities against the Cardinals and Reds.

 

Chicago Cubs (56-49) - Thanks to the Brewers' slide in July and the Cubs' hot 17-9 record for the month, Chicago is staring down that top spot in the Central. They've worked hard to catch up to the Brewers, and Carlos Zambrano has been the workhorse. Big Z earned his MLB-leading 14th win this week and lowered his ERA to 3.47. He's given up just two runs in his last four outings. As the trade deadline approached, the Cubs were thought to have been active, but they sat quiet. This was in part due to the solid play of outfielder Jacque Jones since the All-Star break. Jones has been on the block for some time, but he's batting .280 since the break and has a .362 batting average with runners in scoring position this year.

 

St. Louis Cardinals (50-53) - The Cards were down, but definitely not out. And now they're in the midst of a playoff race again. After dropping two games to the Cubs, Albert Pujols and the Redbird bats woke up. They've won five of their last six and are nearing the .500 mark once again. Starting pitcher Anthony Reyes got the call-up to pitch in the double-header Saturday after a horrendous 0-10 start to the season sent him down to the minors. He gave the Cards hope, tossing 6.0 innings against the Brewers, only giving up two runs and earning his first win of the year. Pujols had been slumping, but has busted out of that funk with authority, driving in 11 runs in the past six games.

 

Houston Astros (46-60) - Realizing they're likely out of the race, the Astros were sellers at the trade deadline. They dealt away Morgan Ensberg to San Diego for a player to be named later and filled their hole at third base with Tampa Bay's Ty Wigginton, who was added to the roster via a trade that sent Dan Wheeler to the lost land of the Devil Rays.

 

Cincinnati Reds (45-62) - The Reds caught a little fire, dug themselves out of the cellar, and then dropped three straight. David Weathers earned his 20th save, and managed to blow the opportunity for his 21st, but his teammates picked him up with great defense and a ninth inning rally to give him his second win of the season. The club also activated infielder Mark Bellhorn from their Triple-A affiliate this week.

 

Pittsburgh Pirates (42-62) - Bottomline, the Pirates have been brutal the second half of July going just 2-14 after the break.  But the Buccos managed to land one of the trade deadline's more coveted pitchers, Matt Morris. The deal seemed a bit strange coming from a team without the big budget to handle Morris' contract nor the talent to compete for a playoff spot. Could this be a preliminary move prior to waiver-enhanced deal? I guess we'll see.


West Division

 

Arizona Diamondbacks (59-49) - Arizona leads the western pack this week. Winners of nine of their last 10 games, the D'Backs are red hot as the summer heats up. Brandon Webb definitely fits into that category. Last year's Cy Young Award winner has taken his past two starts with back-to-back 7.0-inning, shutout performances. Though the offense continues to be fueled by Eric Byrnes, who leads the team in most offensive categories, it's been Chris Young with the even hotter stick. Young has four home runs in his past six games and now leads Arizona with 19 this season.

 

Los Angeles Dodgers (57-49) - Brad Penny is starting to show signs he's human as August hits us. After a string of games where Penny didn't give up more than a single run in each, he's surrendered three earned runs in each of his last three starts and suffered his first loss Tuesday night since May 18. Jeff Kent leads the Dodgers in hitting with a .305 average and plays host to his former teammate, Barry Bonds as he approaches Hank Aaron's home run record. The Dodgers did finally part with Wilson Betemit, sending the youngster to the Yankees after a year in LA proved unproductive.

 

San Diego Padres (56-49) - The Padres picked up Morgan Ensberg and Rob Mackowiak. They also fired their hitting coach, Merv Rettenmund and replaced him with Wally Joyner. The Padres are batting a league-worst .243 and are desperate to bring their hitting halfway to their quality of pitching. Starting pitcher Jake Peavy finally got back to form after four consecutive decisions in the loss column. He earned his tenth win against Houston on Friday, pitching 7.0 innings and only giving up one run while striking out eight.

 

Colorado Rockies (54-51) - The Rockies are very much in the playoff hunt as we enter August. Aaron Cook has won his last three starts, including a complete game, seven-hitter against San Diego last Wednesday. And, well, Matt Holliday continues to hammer the baseball in Colorado. In a rain-shortened six-game homestand this past week, Holliday smashed four home runs and tallied 10 RBI.

 

San Francisco Giants (46-58) - Barry Bonds is stuck on 754 career home runs. The pressure is mounting as the crowds and the flash bulbs follow him around the league. He couldn't write the record books in San Francisco, so the show hits the road with a stop in Los Angeles and then in San Diego. It's just too bad the Giants aren't in the playoff race. To tell the story of how their season is going, all you need to do is look at the team leader is saves this year. It's Armando Benitez, who hasn't been with the club since May 31.

 

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


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