This Week in the National League – Week 25

Week 25 in Pete Khazen's regular season trip around Major League Baseball's National League in 2007 looks at the final push for four playoff spots.

This marathon called the Major League Baseball season began way back in April this year is just days from its finish. Each team in the National League had a legitimate shot at the postseason when it began. Now with less than a week to go it's down to an eight-team race, which is still impressive. Each division remains up for grabs, and the wild card is a complete crapshoot right now. As we head for the finish line, here's the latest and greatest from around the league:


East Division


New York Mets (87-70) - The Mets are hanging on to the division by a thread and also have fallen from having the best record in the NL. They've only won four of their last ten games and have opened the door for the Phillies. John Maine has won just one start since August 15th. The Mets though continue to have a potent offense, led by none other than Moises Alou and his club record 29-game hitting streak. Alou is now batting .345, but he won't have a chance at a batting title with limited at-bats in just 82 games of action.


Philadelphia Phillies (85-72) - Chase Utley has hit safely and scored at least one run in each of the past seven games, and his counterpart on offense, Ryan Howard, continues to mash the ball as well. Howard has three home runs in his past five games and seven RBI. The Phils are alive and well despite losing two in a row. They're currently fighting it out with Atlanta which also remain alive in the playoff hunt.


Atlanta Braves (83-74) - Refusing to concede the playoffs, the Braves continue to make noise. Chipper Jones is eyeing a batting title with a .340 average, two points ahead of Colorado's Matt Holliday as we head to the final games of the season. Jones reached the 100-runs, 100-RBI mark for the first time since 2003. Teammate Edgar Renteria also has a shot at that batting crown. He's maintaining a .333 batting average and is a couple big days at the plate away from catching Jones.


Washington Nationals (71-87) - Washington has been out of the playoff hunt for some time, but they are still making some noise as spoilers. They've won three straight, including one over the Phils and two over the Mets. In those three games Austin Kearns has lit up opposing pitching. Kearns has six hits in 13 at-bats, including two home runs and eight RBI. Shawn Hill, who has been a bright spot in the Nats rotation, is finished for the season. He has a nerve problem in his right forearm and will undergo surgery this offseason.


Florida Marlins (67-90) - Dontrelle Willis has had a rough 2007, but he was dead on Tuesday night against the Cubs. Willis kept the Cubs at bay limiting them to two runs on two hits through eight innings. The performance gave Willis double-digits in the win column for 2007, but 10-15 with a 5.20 ERA is a bit under expectations.


Central Division


Chicago Cubs (83-74) - Thanks to the battling Atlanta Braves, the Cubs put some distance between themselves and the Brewers this past week. The Cubs swept the Pirates to close out their regular season at Wrigley Field. Alfonso Soriano has definitely shown up for the Cubs in September. Soriano has six home runs and 11 RBI in his last 10 games and has his average up around .294. Aramis Ramirez cranked three home runs in two games against the Pirates this weekend, including a two-homer six-RBI day in a wild win on Friday.


Milwaukee Brewers (81-76) - Not giving up, the Brewers returned home on Monday for their final seven games, and they thumped the battered Cardinals in their first two of a three-game series. Prince Fielder has cranked three home runs and driven in seven against the Redbirds in those two games. He now has 50 home runs this season and 119 RBI. Staff ace Ben Sheets through a bullpen session Tuesday, but things are not looking good for his scheduled start on Friday as Sheets continues to have tightness in his hamstring. The Brewers close with four games at home against San Diego, while the Cubs will have three at Cincy after two more in Florida.


St. Louis Cardinals (73-84) - The Cards reign is officially over. Mathematically eliminated, 2007 has been a particularly tough year for the Redbirds with the rash of injuries they've dealt with. Now questions surface regarding the near future of Manager Tony La Russa and General Manager Walt Jocketty. To put the finishing touched on the injury-plagued season, both Yadier Molina and Mark Mulder underwent season-ending surgery this week. Molina had some torn cartilage in his knee taken care of and Mulder had his shoulder scoped to clean up an unhealed portion of his rotator cuff.


Cincinnati Reds (71-86) - The Reds announced that Adam Dunn will have his knee scoped Wednesday morning. His season is done, but he did reach the 40 home run milestone for the fourth consecutive season.


Houston Astros (69-88) - In the battle to avoid the cellar in the Central, Houston passed up the Pirates this week, pushing the Bucs to the bottom of the division. Most notably for the Astros this week, though, was the run-in Brad Lidge had with his nemesis, the Cardinals, once again. Lidge just can't figure those guys out and blew yet another save opportunity against them. Up 3-1 in the ninth, he didn't even record an out as he surrendered three runs to the Redbirds.


Pittsburgh Pirates (67-90) - The Pirates named Neal Huntington their new General Manager this week as they prepare for the future. Hopefully Huntington will be wise enough not to pick up a very expensive veteran pitcher like Matt Morris when his team is essentially buried in the standings. In 10 starts with the Pirates, Morris is 2-4 with a 6.71 ERA. His ability to teach those younger pitchers on the staff better be really good at his price tag.

West Division


Arizona Diamondbacks (88-69) - After losing two straight, the D'Backs are also holding on tightly to a thin lead over the Padres. One of the crazy things about this team's lineup has been their leadoff position. Center fielder Chris Young fills that spot. He's hitting just .239 with a .298 on-base percentage and has only scored 89 runs. But he's leading the club with 32 home runs. Go figure. Brandon Webb continues to do his part for the D'Backs. Webb won again this past week giving up just two runs against the Dodgers en route to win number 17. He should get at least one more start this season, and don't be surprised if he's used over the weekend out of the bullpen, if necessary.


San Diego Padres (86-71) - San Diego was swept by the surging Rockies over the weekend, but are still atop the wild card standings with a win on Tuesday over the Giants. After finishing up with San Francisco on Wednesday, the club travels to Milwaukee to finish out the season. Just about anything can happen in the West, especially with Colorado hosting Arizona for their final games of the year. Jake Peavy got a no-decision in his last start, but only gave up one run on three hits over 7.0 innings pitched. He too could be used out of the bullpen this weekend, if necessary.


Colorado Rockies (85-72) - Look out National League. Here come the Rockies! Colorado has won nine straight on both power and solid pitching. After mopping up the Dodgers this week, they'll get to host the division-leading D'Backs this weekend. The Rockies are just a game off the wild card pace and two out in the division. Matt Holliday has been hot all season long, but he's really doing some damage now. He's got six home runs and 12 RBI in his last 10 games, but he's been day-to-day and missed a couple games as he guts it out down the stretch with a strained oblique muscle. With 36 home runs, 131 RBI, and a .338 batting average, which will compete for the batting crown, Holliday has to be an MVP candidate, regardless of where he plays.


Los Angeles Dodgers (80-77) - Put a fork in them. The Dodgers are done. Unable to live up to high expectations, the Dodgers have no shot at the postseason. The Rockies took four from them this weekend and won again on Tuesday to finish them off. Frustration was apparent as veteran second baseman Jeff Kent decided to spout off negative comments regarding the younger players on the squad and the club's management. Any ideas if Mr. Kent will be returning to LA next year?


San Francisco Giants (70-88) - After milking the Barry Bonds saga for as much cash and attention as possible, the Giants have made it apparent that a divorce is imminent this offseason. Bonds will not be back in San Francisco next year. Maybe Bonds and Kent will re-unite somewhere in the American League.


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