Temperatures are rising. Trade season is heating up. And it's becoming clear that general consensus is that the road to the October in the National League requires strong pitching, although some teams might be trying to get there with little other than brute force with their bats.
Here's the latest and
greatest from around the league.
Philadelphia Phillies (48-43) - With four straight losses, the
Phillies have given up some ground in the NL East. Still they have one of the
fiercest trios of hitters in the league. Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, and Pat Burrell have a combined 71 home
runs and 200 RBI. If they reach 140 HR and 400 RBI, it's going to be tough to
keep them from reaching the postseason.
Florida Marlins (46-44) - Dan Uggla still remains out of the
lineup and is listed as day-to-day with that sprained ankle. Even without Uggla,
the Marlins managed to score 17 runs on Independence Day at Coors Field. Thing
is, they lost 18-17. If you want some fun, go check out that game's highlights
or read the box score. Center fielder Cody Ross cracked two home runs and
had 15 RBI in that series, tallying five during Friday's
York Mets (46-44) - A little controversy over the
firing of Willie
Randolph and this Mets team is starting to show some signs of
life. Tuesday night was no exception. Starting pitcher Mike Pelfrey pitched seven shutout
innings, giving up just three hits to out-duel the Giants' Tim Lincecum. It was Pelfrey's
fifth consecutive win in as many starts.
Atlanta Braves (43-48) - Even with a sweep at the hands
of the Phils last week, the Braves still are well-within striking distance. So
don't count them out yet, especially with a team leader like Chipper Jones flirting with .400.
Jones is 0-for his last seven at-bats dropping his average to .379, but he had
the clutch game-winning hit that ended the 17-inning marathon with Houston on Sunday.
Jair Jurrjens, who
lost for the first time on July 3 since way back on May 12, got back on track
Tuesday with 6.0 strong innings en route to his ninth victory this
Washington Nationals (34-57) - What can you say? The Nationals
are 14 games back in the division and are approaching a .333 win
percentage. Yes, that's a W only once in every three games. Few things are
working well. One of the bright spots continues to be shortstop Cristian Guzman, who has hit safely
in 26 of his last 28 games and is currently batting .311.
Chicago Cubs (54-36) - Carlos Zambrano made his comeback
off the DL with a solid 6.0-inning, shutout performance to kickoff the weekend
series in St. Louis on the Fourth of July. The Cubs took two of three
against the Redbirds and were one out away from the sweep, but Kerry Wood blew the save Saturday
afternoon. The Cubs made a big move Tuesday to solidify their run for the
postseason. They architected a six-player deal with Oakland to pick up
starting pitcher Rich Harden. The notable names heading out in the deal include
promising pitcher Sean Gallagher and outfielders Matt Murton and Eric Patterson.
Louis Cardinals (51-40) - The Cardinals salvaged that win
against the Cubs with three runs in the ninth inning Saturday afternoon.
Rick Ankiel, who
homered earlier in the game, drove in the tying and winning runs. The win was
the difference between a sweep and being 5.5 games back in the standings.
Getting back on the road Tuesday in Philly, the Cards got solo homers from both
Ankiel and Ryan Ludwick for a 2-0 victory. Joel Piniero led a collective
shutout effort with 6.1 innings of work.
Milwaukee Brewers (50-40) - The day before the Cubs pulled
the trigger on their big move to pick up Harden, the Brewers showed the NL how
serious they were about the postseason hunt when they snagged defending AL Cy
Young Award winner C.C. Sabathia. He walked five batters in his Milwaukee debut Tuesday, but tossed 6.0 innings and
benefited from a Colorado injury and double play in the sixth
inning en route to the victory.
Cincinnati Reds (43-48) - A holiday weekend, four-game
sweep of the Nationals moved the Reds a couple rungs up in the NL Central, but a
trip to Chicago
brought Dusty Baker's
crew back to reality. Aaron Harang continues to be a mystery in 2008. He lasted just 4.1
innings Tuesday at Wrigley Field and gave up six earned runs. His season ERA
stands an uncharacteristic 4.76 and his record is a dismal 3-11. Second baseman
continues to try to keep the Reds competitive with 11 RBI in his last 10
Pittsburgh Pirates (42-47) - With nine more RBI this past
week, the 2008 dream season for Nate McLouth continues. His season total sits at 60 and he just got
named to the NL All-Star team, where he figures to be the Pirates' lone
Houston Astros (41-50) - As the top of the NL Central
just gets stronger and stronger in the pitching department, the Astros continue
to try to win with offense. Problem is, they are the new residents of the
division's cellar. Carlos Lee and Lance Berkman each have a whopping 70 RBI on the season, while
Miguel Tejada and
Hunter Pence have 44
and 41, respectively. But you get a pretty solid dropoff after Pence.
Mark Loretta is the
next biggest run producer and he's only got 25 RBI.
(45-45) - There's
nothing like a game against the Nationals to get you really back on track.
Brandon Webb took the
hill Tuesday and tossed six shutout innings, good enough for his MLB-leading
13th win this season. Outfielder Chris Young, who cracked 32 home
runs last season out of that leadoff position, only has 13 home runs this
season. His doubles count is way up, though; already at 22 after having hit 29
Los Angeles Dodgers
Hiroki Kuroda took a
perfect game into the eighth inning Monday against the Braves, when
Mark Teixeira ended
his bid with a double. Still Kuroda pitched a complete game, one-hit shutout. It
was Kuroda's second complete game shutout in his past four
Francisco Giants (39-51) - Closer Brian Wilson has been a tad bit
shaky lately, but he continues his saving ways. Wilson's ERA may be 4.37, but he has 24 saves
to his name, including 15 consecutive. Meanwhile, infielder Rich Aurilia has had a hot stick at
the plate. He has three home runs and 11 RBI in his past seven
Colorado Rockies (38-53) - Here comes the Matt Holliday we know and love. The
Rockies left fielder has four home runs and 11
RBI in his past five games and continues to carry an impressive batting average
at .344. Aaron Cook
was named to his first All-Star team and had one of his worst outings of the
season Sunday. Cook gave up seven runs on 11 hits in 7.1 innings against the
Marlins. He's now lost three of his last four starts, though he did crowbar in a
complete game shutout on July 1.
San Diego Padres (36-55) - In a
rare batting incident, catcher Michael Barrett fouled a pitch off
his face, fracturing three bones last Wednesday night. It was a scary moment
reminiscent of the line drive off Albert Pujols' bat that broke
pitcher Chris Young's
nose. Barrett will require surgery and is expected to be out at least six weeks.
Hey, but to end on a good note, Jake Peavy looked like his old self Saturday. The Padres' ace pitcher
tossed seven shutout innings of three-hit ball against the D'Backs to win his
first game in four starts.
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