This Week in the National League: ‘08 Week 12

Offense alone isn't a winning recipe. Neither is strong pitching, and no offense. Teams are struggling to find the happy, consistent medium. Those that have are thriving.

East Division

Philadelphia Phillies (42-31) - The Phils put up a 20-spot against the Cardinals on Friday night but managed to lose each of the final two games of the series by one run. Ryan Howard was in a slump but has broken out this past week. In a four-game stretch from Friday to Monday, Howard went 9-for-18 with four home runs and 13 RBI.

Florida Marlins (38-33) - After three marginal starts, Andrew Miller has strung together back-to-back gems where he lasted 7.0 innings and held his opponents to just one run in each game. And though Hanley Ramirez, Dan Uggla, and Josh Willingham get a lot of the credit for the offensive punch, Jorge Cantu is showing he can hold his own, as well. Cantu has 14 home runs and 40 RBI to go along with an impressive .506 slugging percentage.

Atlanta Braves (35-37) - Chipper Jones has been dealing with a quadriceps muscle strain and his batting average has dropped from .420 to .400... what a slump, eh? The Braves definitely can't afford to lose Jones. They need all the help they can get, especially on the road, where they have the worst record in baseball at 10-26. Tim Hudson, who suffered Tuesday night's loss, is 7-5 now and hasn't won a start since May 22. In fact, the Braves are 0-5 in his five starts since his last win.

New York Mets (34-36) - Sometimes you just have to wonder. Mets manager Willie Randolph made his way to Los Angeles after a week of speculation that he might lose his job. He led the Mets to a victory on the road against the Angels and then got his walking papers at 3:15 in the morning. It was a controversial move, and Mets fans are in an uproar about how the situation was handled by the front office, namely general manager Omar Minaya. Jerry Manuel replaced Randolph and his Mets were blanked by John Lackey and the Angels in the first night of the post-Randolph era.

Washington Nationals (29-43) - The Nationals traveled to Seattle this past weekend for an interleague battle of the worst both leagues had to offer. The Nationals swept the Mariners leaving no doubt. Catcher Jesus Flores has been a pleasant surprise for the Nationals this season. Flores is batting .311 in 33 games this year and has driven in 25 runs. Just this past weekend in Seattle, he knocked home seven and scored another two.


Central Division

Chicago Cubs (45-26) - The day after the Cards lost Albert Pujols for at least a couple weeks to a strained calf muscle, the Cubs lost Alfonso Soriano, who broke a finger after being hit with a high and tight pitch last Thursday. Soriano will be out around 4-to-6 weeks. Meanwhile, fellow outfielder Reed Johnson made his return to Toronto this weekend. The Jays released Johnson in the offseason, and he's since found his home in a Cubs uniform. He received a warm welcome back from Jays fans and dazzled his supporters by knocking a Roy Halladay pitch for a three-run homer in the second game of the series.

St. Louis Cardinals (42-30) - They lost Pujols on Wednesday night, and in a more frightening scene, the Redbirds lost their catcher Yadier Molina Sunday after a collision at home plate with Philly's Eric Bruntlett. Molina was hit awkwardly on a play at the plate, and though he was precautionarily taken from the field on a spine board, he only suffered a mild concussion and could be back in the lineup before the weekend. The Cards did activate Jason Isringhausen over the weekend. Izzy is expected to work in non-save situations for the time being and tossed a scoreless ninth inning Tuesday against Kansas City.

Milwaukee Brewers (37-33) - Ryan Braun had a pair of homers Tuesday against Toronto and has a three in his past three games to bring him to a season total of 20. He was one of four Brewers to homer in Tuesday's game. Perhaps more impressively, though, starting pitcher Manny Parra pitched seven shutout innings of four-hit baseball en route to his fifth consecutive win and fourth in as many starts.

Pittsburgh Pirates (34-37) - The Bucs leapfrogged the slumping Astros, but they can't seem to get above that .500 mark. One thing for sure is that Nate McLouth continues to find his stride. Those critics waiting for him to fade have been silenced thus far. McLouth continues to hover around .300 with his batting average (now .293) and has already eclipsed his season high of 13 home runs with his team-leading 15. And we still have more than half the season to play.

Houston Astros (33-38) - With all that offense and no consistent pitching, the Astros just aren't getting it done. There is a good chance the trio of Lance Berkman, Miguel Tejada, and Carlos Lee could tally 400 RBI before the season is over. They have 57, 41, and 52 respectively, but even 400 RBI from that ridiculous middle of the order lineup doesn't look like it will be good enough this season alone.

Cincinnati Reds (33-39) - Aaron Harang finally showed signs he might still be that pitcher that has wowed us so many times in recent years. Harang beat the Red Sox Friday by tossing seven solid innings and only giving up one run. But pitching isn't the main problem with the club. The Reds are hitting just .248 as a team, and of their players with more than 150 at-bats, Joey Votto is leading the pack with a .275 batting average.


West Division

Arizona Diamondbacks (37-34) - With a three-game slide under their belt, the Diamondbacks are slipping closer and closer to falling below the .500 level, which would still be good enough for first place in the West at this point. Brandon Webb had his worst outing of the season Tuesday lasting just 3.1 innings against Oakland and giving up seven runs on nine hits and five walks. This club needs its leader, Eric Byrnes back from the disabled list, but a definitive date has yet to be established.

Los Angeles Dodgers (32-38) - Brad Penny has been fighting soreness in his arm and will be getting an MRI this week. He's going to miss at least one start, and perhaps more depending on what the results are. One player that's about as steady as they come is Russell Martin. He's on pace to hit his numbers from last season almost exactly on the head, and he's currently sitting with a .311 batting average compared to the .293 he hit last season.

San Francisco Giants (31-41) - Omar Vizquel is struggling to find his groove. At last father time might just be catching up with the seasoned veteran, who has managed just a .184 batting average through 29 games. Thing is, he's still got a step and he's about as smart a baseball player as they come. Vizquel has talked about wanting to coach one day in the future, and he's going to be a great one. Just this past Friday he caught Oakland napping and pulled off one of the most exciting plays in baseball: he stole home cleanly.

San Diego Padres (31-41) - Greg Maddux hasn't given up more than two runs in each of his last six starts, but the future Hall of Famer has an 0-1 record in that stretch. He's 3-5 on the season with a 3.31 ERA. What does this all mean? It's the sign of a team with no offense. Maybe Houston could use Maddux and reward him for his quality starts with wins.

Colorado Rockies (29-42) - Last year it was Jeff Francis that emerged as the staff ace. With Francis struggling this year, it's been Aaron Cook to step up his game. Cook. He's rattled off four consecutive wins and is 10-3 with a 3.31 ERA this year. But the offense just hasn't been there for Colorado. Matt Holliday and Garrett Atkins are the only two regulars with a batting average above .300 (.318 and .307, respectively), and there isn't a single player on the team with double-digit home runs.

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


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