This Week in the National League: ‘08 Week 17

The All-Star break is finished and the clubs are back at it. The trading block is heating up as are the divisional races. Who knows what October holds for the National League? Right now, all bets are off.

East Division

Philadelphia Phillies (54-46) - Opening a big, three-game set with the surging Mets, the Phillies rallied for six runs in the ninth inning Tuesday to edge New York 8-6 and reclaim the division lead. Jimmy Rollins doubled home two runs following So Taguchi's pinch-hit, two-run double. Closer Brad Lidge gave up a run in the ninth, but stifled the Mets attempt at a comeback for his second save since the All-Star game loss.

New York Mets (53-47) - Don't let that All-Star game fool you. Since Billy Wagner gave up that tying run he's 2-for-2 in save opportunities and hasn't given up a hit. In his last outing on Sunday he struck out the side for the save. He wasn't used in the ninth inning blowup Tuesday, though. Wagner has been dealing with muscle spasms in his shoulder and is listed as day-to-day.
Florida Marlins (53-47) - After being blanked Monday 4-0 by the Braves, starting pitcher Rich VandenHurk led the Marlins in reversing the score on Atlanta Tuesday. VandenHurk has bounced back and forth from the minor leagues and made best on his latest stint in the bigs. He pitched five no-hit innings and struck out seven. He was assisted by three other Marlins pitchers in completing the shutout.

Atlanta Braves (47-53) - The Braves dropped two of three to Washington in the first series following the All-Star break. More noticeably, they gave up 29 runs to the limp Nationals offense. Jorge Campillo looked impressive in his second straight start, tossing 7.0 innings of shutout, two-hit baseball en route to improving his record to 5-4 and his ERA to 2.83.

Washington Nationals (38-62) - The Nationals lone All-Star Cristian Guzman picked up a two-year, $16 million contract extension. He's hitting .310 this season and has been the lone consistent bright spot for Washington.

Central Division

Chicago Cubs (58-42) - The Cubs sent eight players to the All-Star game and have been in a funk offensively ever since. Their lone win in five contests since the midsummer break came on Sunday when Ryan Dempster pitched a gem and the Cubs beat the Astros 9-0. The Cubs are now 21-30 on the road and 37-12 at home, where they return this weekend for a series with the Marlins. Kerry Wood, who has been dealing with a blister on his throwing hand, hasn't pitched in real action since July 11. The club is avoiding the DL and hopes to have him back later this week.

Milwaukee Brewers (57-43) - Milwaukee is making their case known. On fire since the C.C. Sabathia trade, the Brew Crew is firing on all cylinders. They came from behind to take the first two games in a key matchup with the Cardinals, thus leapfrogging them in the standings. And they have Sabathia and Ben Sheets going for the final two games of the series. Bill Hall got the Cardinals twice with game winning home runs in both games.

St. Louis Cardinals (57-45) - With back-to-back, late-inning losses, the Cardinals bullpen is now responsible for 22 of the team's 45 losses. That's no small potatoes. Neither is the production from Troy Glaus as of late. Dating back to the weekend before the break, Glaus has five home runs and 11 RBI in eight games. He's also lifted his batting average 28 points in that time.

Cincinnati Reds (49-53) - The Reds continue to flirt with that .500 mark, which makes you wonder if Dusty Baker might just have some magic pixie dust primed for a sprinkle and a second half run. Francisco Cordero isn't helping matters as of late. The Reds closer has pitched in four games since the break, three of them save opportunities, and he was rocked twice, losing the game both times.
Pittsburgh Pirates (46-54) - After a major down year in 2007 having only hit 21 home runs and driven in 84 runs with a .247 average, Jason Bay has been quiet in the media. He is having a decent bounce back year, more in line with what the masses expected from him. Bay has 20 home runs, 57 RBI, and a .289 batting average through 98 games.

Houston Astros (46-54) - As the summer kicks in, so does Carlos Lee. The Astros outfielder has raised his batting average 30 points to .306 since the first official day of summer thanks to 10 multi-hit games in July alone. And though Roy Oswalt landed on the 15-day DL, the Astros are still trying to stay in the playoff hunt. The cellar dwellers picked up San Diego's veteran pitcher Randy Wolf in exchange for a minor leaguer.

West Division

Arizona Diamondbacks (50-50) - The Big Unit Randy Johnson has had 14 career starts against the Chicago Cubs, the latest coming Monday night. He's now 13-0 against those lovable losers. He outdueled Rich Harden to win his third straight and improve his record to 7-7. With 291 career wins, he's just 9 shy of 300. That might be tough to reach in 2008, but the way he's throwing, I wouldn't bet against him.

Los Angeles Dodgers (49-51) - Two games in Colorado and the Dodgers pitching staff has given up 20 runs. Thanks to a 16-run outburst on Monday, the Dodgers did manage a win in those two games. They scored eight runs in the first inning alone. James Loney, the club's leading hitter with a .300 average, led the way with three hits and five RBI.

Colorado Rockies (44-58) - There have been lots of trade rumors surrounding the big bats on the Rockies squad. But folks, in this mediocre division, they're just seven games back. Remember last September? With three more homers and seven RBI in his last five games, Matt Holliday is batting .340 with 17 long balls and 58 RBI.

San Francisco Giants (41-58) - Despite having two of baseball's exciting young starting pitchers anchoring their staff in Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain, the Giants threw in the 2008 towel and traded away Ray Durham to the Brewers. It's almost August and the club still doesn't have a hitter with double-digit home runs. Aaron Rowand and John Bowker lead the team with nine.

San Diego Padres (38-63) - As bad as the San Diego offense has been, Adrian Gonzalez has 22 home runs and 74 RBI. Too bad he won't be playing for a playoff spot come September; he would be a lot of fun to watch down the stretch.

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