This Week in the National League: 2008 Week 7

The National League is up and down, and all around. Anything can and will change on a dime. Here's the latest and greatest from around the league.

East Division


Florida Marlins (23-16) – Second baseman Dan Uggla is one of the hottest hitters in the NL right now. He's batting .294 on the season, but thanks to five home runs and 10 RBI in just the past week, he has 12 long balls and 29 RBI on the season already. The Marlins have also been red hot. Despite dropping their past two games against Cincinnati, they won seven straight prior to that and emerged atop the division.


Philadelphia Phillies (22-18) - MVP shortstop Jimmy Rollins is back in the lineup for the Phils, which is great news for everyone. Rollins had three hits, including a double and home run in his return, but has just one hit in three games since. Pat Burrell has cooled off as of late. He hit eight home runs in April, but has just one in May, and that was back on May 2. He also has just one RBI since May 4.


New York Mets (20-17) - Ryan Church's shoulders don't seem to be getting tired. He's carrying the Mets team this early season. With a home run and four RBI on Tuesday, he now has eight and 30, respectively, on the season to go with his team-high .324 batting average. John Maine is finding his groove, too, just as predicted a few weeks ago. Maine has strung together four wins in four consecutive starts. His ERA is an impressive 2.81 to start this season, and he now carries a 5-2 record.


Atlanta Braves (19-19) - Atlanta is just 1-9 in games decided by one run this season. They finally pulled out a squeaker with a 5-4 win over San Diego on May 8, but they have since dropped two one-run games. And the Braves infirmary continues to grow, which isn't helping matters. The most recently checked in is Mark Teixeira, who is dealing with back spasms and is listed as day-to-day. In the past week, Chipper Jones' early season rampage has slowed down. He's still hitting .415, but he has just two RBI and no home runs in the past week.


Washington Nationals (16-24) - Starting pitcher John Lannan might just be a player worth keeping an eye on. It's tough to do well as a Nationals starter, but Lannan is holding his own. He's 3-4 to start the year after losing Tuesday to the Mets, but he's shown decent big league stuff and has a respectable 3.74 ERA.


Central Division


Chicago Cubs (23-16) - After losing four consecutive series against Washington, Milwaukee, St. Louis, and Cincinnati, the Cubs managed to sweep the best team in the NL, the Arizona Diamondbacks. Ted Lilly, who had a very shaky start to the season, is 3-1 in his last four starts and has lowered his ERA from a dismal 9.16 to 5.24. Alfonso Soriano is starting to heat up as well. Soriano has homered in back-to-back games and has five RBI in the last four games he started. The Cubs could be looking to take a gamble and join forces with one of their old nemeses. By the time you read this, recently released Jim Edmonds should clear waivers and could be in a Cubs uniform.


Houston Astros (22-17) – Quietly, with solid pitching and a whole lotta offense, the Houston Astros are winning games. Lance Berkman has monster stats again with a .393 average, 13 home runs, and 38 RBI. And though Shawn Chacon might not have a single win or loss under his belt in eight starts, he's pitched 6.0 innings in all but one game and the Astros have won four of his last five starts. His 3.53 ERA leads the team.


St. Louis Cardinals (23-18) - A week ago this article raved about the Cards bullpen. This week, the bullpen, particularly the closer role, is a huge question mark. Jason Isringhausen has stepped aside opening the door perhaps for Ryan Franklin and Russ Springer. Izzy's role with the Cards going forward is anyone's guess. A few weeks ago we saw another befuddled former closer fall apart in Derrick Turnbow. He's now pitching in the minors. Of all the pleasant surprises in the Cards lineup this season, though, the nicest has been that of Ryan Ludwick. The outfielder continues to mash the ball, even though he's still not playing every day. Ludwick blasted four home runs this past week and is hitting .336 on the season.


Milwaukee Brewers (20-19) - Eric Gagne was removed from the closer's role and then reinserted Tuesday when he picked up save number 10 for the Brewers. Gagne has struggled as indicated by his 6.27 ERA and three blown saves. One guy that is clearly not struggling is sophomore sensation Ryan Braun. He's had at least two hits in each of his last five games, including back-to-back games where he cranked two home runs in each. His batting average is up to .294 from .257 and now has nine home runs and 29 RBI on the year.


Pittsburgh Pirates (19-20) - With an extra inning win Tuesday night in St. Louis, the Pirates are just one game below .500. A big part of their success has been closer Matt Capps, who's getting the job done in 2008. Capps is 8-for-8 in save opportunities and has a solid 2.55 ERA. Meanwhile, Adam LaRoche is starting to pick up his game at the plate. LaRoche has five RBI in the past three games, and despite an awful April that yielded just five RBI total, he has 11 already in May.


Cincinnati Reds (17-23) - Edinson Volquez is the top, head-scratching story in the NL this year. Out of nowhere, Volquez has been virtually unhittable. He won his sixth game Tuesday and boasts a ridiculous 1.14 ERA.  The Reds are struggling to keep pace in the division. In an intriguing move by manager Dusty Baker, Bronson Arroyo has been called to pitch on three days rest on Wednesday. Go figure.

West Division


Arizona Diamondbacks (24-15) - After being swept by the Cubs this past weekend, the Diamondbacks got back to their winning ways on Tuesday. Randy Johnson gave up four runs on nine hits over 5.0 innings, but it was good enough for the win and to improve his record to 3-1. First baseman Conor Jackson is really delivering this season. Jackson is batting .331 with 31 RBI.
Los Angeles Dodgers (19-19) – Shortstop Rafael Furcal, who was off to a blazingly hot start to the season, landed on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to May 6 with a lower back strain. The woes don't end there for manager Joe Torre. He has to deal with the dilemma that is Andruw Jones and his ginormous salary. Jones is set to make roughly $14.7 million and change this season, but his .170 batting average, one home run, and five RBI probably aren't even worth the change.


San Francisco Giants (16-23) - Matt Cain looked solid Tuesday night, tossing 8.0 strong innings against a formidable Houston lineup and giving up just two runs on four hits. The win was just Cain's second this season, but since May has begun, he's pitched into the seventh inning of all three starts.


Colorado Rockies (15-24) - Staff ace Jeff Francis has derailed and can't seem to get back on the tracks. Francis is 0-4 after losing again Tuesday night, and thanks to eight earned runs on 13 hits, his ERA now sits at an imposing 6.27. Pitching isn't the primary problem for the Rockies. Scoring has been. And though the heart of the order is hitting well above .300, the table isn't being set. Willy Taveras is hitting just .244 and his on-base percentage is a mere .318, down considerably from .320 and .367 a year ago.


San Diego Padres (15-25) - Dissatisfied with is performance, the Padres released Jim Edmonds last week. But the Padres lack of hitting isn't the only problem. Almost always solid in recent years, their bullpen has been rough this season. Combined, the bullpen has a record of 2-14. Ouch!


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