This Week in the National League: 2008 Week 9

Some players have found ways to catch fire and keep the flame blazing. Others seem to be having trouble making sparks even with flint in their hands. As we do every Wednesday, here's the latest and greatest from around the National League.

East Division

Florida Marlins (30-21) - Dan Uggla continues to pour it on and give Chase Utley a run for his money as the top offensive producing second baseman, or perhaps even positional player, in the league. Uggla knocked two more dingers this past week bringing his season total to 16 and drove in six more runs improving to 38. And though Scott Olsen may only have four wins and is winless since May 6, he leads the Marlins with a 3.38 ERA. More importantly, the Marlins are 9-2 when Olsen takes the mound.

Philadelphia Phillies (30-24) - After a bit of a cold patch, Utley reminded the National League just how dangerous a hitter he is. He has two home runs and 10 RBI in his past three games. Utley is not the only one catching fire. The entire Phillies team is putting up numbers like they're in a recreational softball league. Ryan Howard is still hitting a dismal .209, but racked up four home runs and 13 RBI this week.

Atlanta Braves (28-24) - It's pretty amazing how quickly a player's batting average can drop when they're hitting at or above .400, which is a big part of the reason why another .400 season is just so highly unlikely. Somehow though, through almost two months of the season, Chipper Jones is still doing it. He hasn't had more than two hits in his past 10 games, but Jones is still batting .418. Amazing. Young starting pitcher Jair Jurrjens is off to a great start to the season. Despite having his shortest outing of the year Monday (4.2 innings), Jurrjens is 5-3 and leads the team with a 2.86 ERA.

New York Mets (24-26) - Manager Willie Randolph had a meeting Monday with Mets owners and general manager Omar Minaya and is still the skipper in New York. The Mets continue to press, and their .250 team batting average is fourth worst in the league. The club might get a boost this coming week, though, as Pedro Martinez is slated to come off the DL and make his second start of the season on Tuesday against the Giants.

Washington Nationals (22-31) - Right fielder Austin Kearns landed on the disabled list last week and had surgery on his elbow. He's expected to be out a minimum of three to four weeks. Fellow outfielder Wily Mo Pena had a resurgence at the end of last season after making the move to Washington from Boston, but he's hitting just .218 with a home run and eight RBI in 33 games this year.

Central Division

Chicago Cubs (31-21) - After blowing back-to-back games against the Pirates, the Cubs returned home to take consecutive victories over the Dodgers by a score of 3-1. Kerry Wood blew another save in the first loss to the Pirates, but manager Lou Piniella is sticking with the fan favorite, and he looked sharp in both outings against L.A., posting two more saves. Aramis Ramirez, who has delivered at least 26 home runs and 92 RBI in each of his past four full seasons with the Cubs, is quietly gaining momentum this season. Ramirez has three home runs in his past eight games and 10 RBI in that same span, which has also boosted his batting average to .304.

St. Louis Cardinals (30-23) - Albert Pujols is as consistently great as they come, but when he faces the Houston Astros he manages to turn it up a notch. There's some history there, and it pretty much dates back to that monstrous homer he cracked off Brad Lidge in Game 5 of the 2004 NLCS. Anyway you slice it, Pujols is a beast against the Astros, and a 4-for-4 showing with a home run was his latest performance against Houston. It wasn't good for a W, though, as the Cards lost 8-2 at home Tuesday night. Pujols will no doubt make the rest of the series interesting; count on it. And if you haven't noticed, 5-1 Todd Wellemeyer has pitched at least five full innings in each of his starts this season and boasts a 3.36 ERA.

Houston Astros (30-23) - Lance Berkman has garnered a lot of attention lately with his tear, but Miguel Tejada has quietly amassed an 11-game hitting streak to maintain his average at .338. If you toss out an 0-for-1, pinch-hit appearance, he's hit safely in 18 straight starts. RBI-machine Carlos Lee is also catching fire. With 10 RBI in his last four games, Lee now has 45, second-best in the NL to Berkman's 46. This trio is the reason why the Astros have caught up to the Cardinals and will likely be a force the entire season.

Milwaukee Brewers (25-27) - Cory Hart has caught fire the past week and half. Over his last 10 games, Hart has five home runs and nine RBI. Julian Tavarez, who was picked up by the Brewers this past week, made his first appearance Tuesday night and pitched a perfect inning in relief, helping the Brewers to a 3-2 comeback win over the Braves.

Pittsburgh Pirates (24-27) - Nate McLouth is having a season to remember. The 26-year-old is playing like an All-Star, no doubt, and he's not showing any signs of slowing down. He's 11-for-22 in his last five games, and that's with an 0-for-5 night Tuesday which lowered his average from .323 to .315. The Pirates continue to flirt with .500, and a large part is due to the bullpen. John Grabow, Tyler Yates, and Damaso Marte have combined for a 10-1 record out of the pen.

Cincinnati Reds (24-28) - Jay Bruce! Jay Bruce! Jay Bruce! The highly-anticipated phenom did get the call-up this week, and he did not disappoint in his debut. The 21-year-old number one pick for the Reds from the 2005 draft went 3-for-3 with a double and two RBI Tuesday night in leading the Reds to a victory over Pittsburgh. Rookie Johnny Cueto, who impressed everyone his first week in the majors, is just 1-5 since his debut victory on April 3.

West Division

Arizona Diamondbacks (30-22) - After going 9-0 to start the season, someone let some air out of Brandon Webb's tires. Webb has dropped his last two starts with the most recent loss coming with an early exit in the fifth inning against the Braves after giving up his 10th hit. Meanwhile, clubhouse leader Eric Byrnes landed on the 15-day disabled list Tuesday with a strained right hamstring.

Los Angeles Dodgers (26-25) - Brad Penny is 0-3 in his last four starts, having given up a combined 24 runs in 23.2 innings. He's not the only veteran disappointing lately for the Dodgers. Andruw Jones underwent knee surgery and will be out 4-6 weeks, while Nomar Garciaparra was moved to the 60-day DL just after he was expected to start a rehabilitation assignment. So it's going to be a youthful season in L.A. Thing is, Joe Torre seemed to fare all right in New York in the ‘90's when he had a handful of young players about whom no one really knew much.

San Francisco Giants (21-31) - If you haven't figured it out yet, Tim Lincecum is the real deal in the National League. He mowed down the Diamondbacks in the desert for his seventh win of the season on Tuesday night and currently ranks second in ERA with a 2.33 mark and first in strikeouts with 76.

Colorado Rockies (20-32) - Aaron Cook, who carries a solid 2.82 ERA, is the lone starting pitcher in Colorado with an ERA under 4.50. Their team ERA is second-worst in the NL at 4.76. No matter how good an offense is, it can't make up for poor pitching in this league, particularly starting pitching.

San Diego Padres (20-33) - Starting pitcher Chris Young landed on the DL after an Albert Pujols line drive broke his nose last Wednesday. Pujols later clipped catcher Josh Bard on a play at the plate that same inning, which injured Bard's ankle and also sent him to the 15-day DL. The Padres bats have come to life a bit, though, following their general manager's comments hinting at a fire sale if things don't change. Adrian Gonzalez, who is a cornerstone for the team, has stepped up his game. Gonzalez has seven home runs in his last 10 games, which has also included 15 RBI.

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