We hit the mid-season point and are cruising into Fourth of July weekend and the All-Star break in a couple weeks. There have been some surprises, no doubt, but as of late it's the injury bug that is taking its toll. Too often it's the health of a team and their management of injuries that makes the difference in getting to October. We'll see how the second half of the season pans out.
So let's get right to it.
Here's the latest and greatest from around the league.
Philadelphia Phillies (45-39) - Despite a downright ugly .218
batting average, Ryan Howard is tied for the NL lead in RBI with 68 and is among the
league leaders with 20 RBI. I guess he's making those hits count. Another Phil
trying to work out the kinks is Brett Myers, who now finds himself down in the minor leagues after
being sent down this week. Myers started opening day for the Phillies and has
gone 3-9 on the season with a team-worst 5.84 ERA.
Florida Marlins (43-40) - Dan Uggla sprained his left ankle
Saturday and has been out of the Marlins lineup for two straight games. He might
miss out completely on the Washington pitching
staff and could be in danger of also missing the spoils awaiting the power
hitter in Colorado. Hanley Ramirez has been getting in
on the action, though. Ramirez homered in his third straight game Tuesday and
drove in five RBI despite the club losing 9-6 to the
New York Mets
(41-42) - Pitcher
John Maine expressed
that his arm felt tired after suffering the loss to the Cardinals on Monday in a
4.0-inning outing. Though there isn't any serious concern, definitely keep watch
as the Mets try to get back into this divisional race.
Atlanta Braves (40-44) - Halfway through the season,
Chipper Jones is
still flirting with .400, though he had been out of the lineup for the past week
or so dealing with a strain in his quadriceps. He did make his return with a
1-for-3 outing Tuesday night. His season average now sits at .393. Jair Jurrjens continues to be an
anchor for the Braves staff. Jurrjens is 4-0 in his past eight starts, and the
team has won all but one of those games. He leads the staff with a 2.94
Washington Nationals (34-51) -
The Nationals lost two of their bright, young stars to the 15-day DL this past
week. Outfielder Lastings Milledge, who was leading the team with 32 RBI, strained his
groin muscle and landed on the DL. Shawn Hill, who despite having a
1-5 record and 5.83 ERA has shown signs of being a quality big league pitcher,
strained a forearm muscle and is right next to Milledge on the
Chicago Cubs (50-34) - The Cubs have finally taken a
skid this season. After being swept in US Cellular field by the White Sox and
splitting their first two games in San
Francisco, they are just 2-6 in their past eight games.
Despite having the best home record in baseball at 33-10, the Cubs are just
17-24 on the road. After finishing up the series in SF, the club will head to
St. Louis for a
huge mid-season showdown with their division rivals, the Cardinals.
Carlos Zambrano will
be slated to come off the DL and start the opener on the Fourth of July. And
after crushing the ball two weekends ago against the White Sox, Aramis Ramirez was skunked 0-for-13
this past weekend against the same team. He's been on leave from the team to
deal with a family matter, but is expected to return
Louis Cardinals (48-37) - Albert Pujols returned from the DL
last week with a 4-for-4 outing Thursday against the Tigers. After collecting a
pair of hits and RBI in each game Monday and Tuesday, Pujols appears to be back
in mid-season form and isn't being bothered by his calf muscle. Todd Wellemeyer is starting to
struggle a bit, though. The Cards starting pitcher, who was named NL Pitcher of
the Month in May is 0-2 in his past three starts and has seen his ERA rise from
2.92 to 3.86.
Milwaukee Brewers (45-38) - With the Cubs' slide, the
Brewers are right back in the NL Central hunt. A big part of their resurgence
has been the resolution of their closing woes. Salomon Torres appears to be their
answer, perfect in closing out games and nailing down his last 13 opportunities.
In a span of 16 appearances for 16.2 innings, Torres has given up just three
earned runs. Corey Hart looks like he is poised to surpass his 2007 numbers, which
included 24 home runs and 81 RBI. Through 82 games, Hart has 14 home runs and 52
Houston Astros (40-44) - The Lance Berkman watch continues, and
he's a sight to see. The Elvis-looking Astro keeps pounding the baseball. He
added another eight RBI in the past eight games to bring his NL-best total to
68. But the Astros were dealt a blow this past week to any hopes of jumping back
into this race. Staff ace Roy Oswalt strained a hip muscle, and it's still not clear if time
on the DL is necessary or if he'll make his next scheduled start on Saturday.
Pittsburgh Pirates (39-44) - After a red-hot start to the
season, Nate McLouth
has just two home runs since May 30th. His batting average has also dropped more
than 30 points to .282 in that same span. Meanwhile, Freddy Sanchez, who was the NL
batting champ just two years ago, can't seem to find the hole in his swing.
Sanchez is batting a dismal .229 this year in 79 games and has just a .257
Cincinnati Reds (39-46) - Brandon Phillips is starting to
catch fire. With four RBI Tuesday night, the Reds RBI leader has driven home ten
in his past ten games and has 51 on the season. After having one of the worst
pitching starts in recent years where he gave up 10 runs on 11 hits in just one
inning of work against Toronto, Bronson Arroyo bounced back with a
solid 6.0 innings on the road in Cleveland. He gave up just one run and earned
his fifth win of the season.
(42-42) - The
injury bug has set up camp in the D'Backs clubhouse. Eric Byrnes landed back on the DL
with a hamstring strain. His last stint out began the D'Backs slide from their
dominance early in the season. Catcher Chris Snyder also strained a groin
muscle and was placed on the DL. To add to their woes, starting pitcher
Micah Owings has been
dealing with some back pain and is expected to miss his next start, though it's
unclear if a tour on the DL is necessary.
Angeles Dodgers (39-44) - We're past the halfway point of
the season now and the Dodgers are still waiting for their first batter to break
into double digits in home runs. Jeff Kent is closest with nine on the season; just one big swing away
from all that glory. Despite not having much punch, the Dodgers are lingering in
the division battle thanks to a D'Backs team that can't seem to pull things
together and run away with the title. Brad Penny has been on the DL with
mild tendinitis in his arm and could make his return this holiday
San Francisco Giants
Matt Cain pitched
eight shutout innings and struck out 10 Cubs Tuesday night for one of his best
starts of his career. He earned his fifth win of the season and lowered his ERA
to 4.14. Brian Wilson
gave up a run in the ninth inning but managed to hold on to close out his 14th
consecutive save, bringing his season total to an unexpected and impressive
Colorado Rockies (33-51) - Aaron Cook tossed a complete game
shutout Tuesday against the Padres, a day after San Diego scored 15 runs. The Rockies needed the win and it was a great bounce back
after back-to-back losses for Cook. He now has 11 Ws on the season and a solid
3.38 ERA. An interesting note, though, as we pass the halfway point in the
season, with all the firepower on the Rockies
roster, their top home run man, Brad Hawpe, has just 11 long balls.
Diego Padres (33-52) - Seeing Greg Maddux as the team leader in
ERA shouldn't be that surprising. But seeing Maddux hold that spot near the end
of his career with a mark of 4.04 is quite eye-opening with respect to how the
Padres season has been going. The Padres have been a haven for great pitching
the past several seasons, but the staff just isn't getting the job done.
Jake Peavy has a 2.90
ERA in just 13 starts this injury-riddled season, but he's just 1-2 since coming
off the DL and 5-5 on the season.
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