This Week in the National League: '08 Week 18

The non-waiver trade deadline is fast approaching, and we've already seen some deals send National League power to the American League. No wonder why the AL always wins that All-Star Game.

Here's the latest and greatest from around the league:

East Division

New York Mets (58-49) - Here come the Mets! They jumped into first place in the NL East and are gaining strength. They did suffer a bit of bad news this past week, though, as John Maine was forced to leave the game early Monday night with what has been diagnosed as a mild strain to his rotator cuff. The injury doesn't sound too bad, and he might just be able to make his next scheduled start. Meanwhile, Pedro Martinez was reinstated after going on bereavement leave for his father's funeral and is expected to start Friday's game.

Philadelphia Phillies (57-49) – On Tuesday night, Chase Utley hit his first home run since July 7 and accounted for both Phillies runs with the blast. The Phils beat the Nationals 2-1 and Brett Myers earned his first win since May 30th. Oh, and Ryan Howard may have 30 home runs and 94 RBI, but are they really worth his league-leading 138 strikeouts?

Florida Marlins (56-51) - Closer Kevin Gregg has found new life. Just before the All-Star break he blew two save opportunities in Colorado, but has rebounded nicely, converting seven straight and posting a 0.00 ERA over 10.0 innings. Gregg now has 22 saves on the season, on pace to surpass his mark of 32 last year. And his six wins out of the pen aren't too shabby either.

Atlanta Braves (49-57) - The Braves have raised the white flag. Or have they? Chipper Jones finally landed on the DL with his sore hamstring, as did Tim Hudson with his ailing elbow. And the Atlanta front office sent slugger Mark Teixeira packing to the Angels for first baseman Casey Kotchman and a minor league pitcher. Still Atlanta remains just 8.5 games back in the standings.

Washington Nationals (38-68) - By the time you read this, Washington will likely be 20+ games back in the NL East standings. Unfortunately, the only thing really worth taking note from the Nationals these days has to do with whom they are playing.

Central Division

Chicago Cubs (63-44) - After a post All-Star slide locked the Cubs in a mere one-game lead over Milwaukee, the NL Central leaders went a few miles north to take on the Brewers. And they took the first two games of the series. Alfonso Soriano made his comeback, giving the team new life. One of the unsung heroes of late, though, has been utility infielder Mike Fontenot, who had a pinch-hit, base-clearing double Sunday in the Cubs 9-6 comeback win over Florida. Meanwhile, Kerry Wood continues to be plagued by that blister on his throwing hand and landed on the DL, which means the trio of Bob Howry, Carlos Marmol, and newcomer Jeff Samardzija will share responsibilities.

Milwaukee Brewers (60-47) - Milwaukee had to feel good about their chances to leapfrog the Cubs. They swept a four-game series in St. Louis and pulled within one game of the Cubs heading into the start of their four game series with the division leaders. With C.C. Sabathia throwing Monday and Ben Sheets on Tuesday, who wouldn't like their chances? Ah, but defense cost them in the first game as a costly throwing error by Rickie Weeks gave the Cubs two runs. In game two, Sheets just didn't have his best stuff as he gave up 11 hits and six runs over just 5.1 innings of work.

St. Louis Cardinals (60-49) - The Cardinals have scored 31 runs in their last four games, including 20 in their last two at Turner Field. Thanks to their offensive barrage, returning closer Jason Isringhausen hasn't been needed or tested. That time will come, and we'll get a chance to see if Izzy can get back to form and provide the bullpen some life. In their 14-inning marathon against the Mets on Saturday, the Cards hammered out 21 hits, and Albert Pujols went 5-for-8. Pujols is now batting .355 and is once again in contention for the batting title.

Houston Astros (50-56) - Despite the trade rumors, the Astros front office is saying that Miguel Tejada is staying in Houston. The Astros have won four of their last five. Though they are out of the cellar, they still have a bit of climbing to do if they want to get back into the playoff hunt. On a side note, Brandon Backe has been plagued with injuries ever since the Astros 2005 season. After two years with on 13 total starts, Backe has taken the mound 25 times this season and leads the Astros with 123.2 innings pitched.

Pittsburgh Pirates (50-57) - Xavier Nady, who was having a career year batting .330, was traded to the Yankees, sending yet another quality NL bat to the American League. And if you didn't catch it, Nate McLouth made a ridiculous line drive snag on Tuesday night running in full stride towards the center field wall. Maybe Ben Roethlisberger could use another wide receiver option.

Cincinnati Reds (50-58) - Perhaps shaken by his rocky All-Star appearance, Edinson Volquez is 0-1 in two starts since the break. The Reds lost both games, and Volquez didn't last more than 5.0 innings in either contest. If you haven't noticed, since that embarrassing 1.0-inning, 11-hit, 10-run outing in Toronto, Bronson Arroyo is 5-1. He won five straight before suffering the loss in Tuesday's game against Houston.

West Division

Arizona Diamondbacks (54-52) - Arizona got back on track a bit this week sweeping the Giants in a three-game series. Conor Jackson tallied up five consecutive multi-hit games this past week and has boosted his batting average to .320.

Los Angeles Dodgers (53-53) - Matt Kemp has hit safely in all but one game this July and currently has a 16-game hitting streak going, which has lifted his batting average to .294. And no big surprises here. Much like his former teammate in Chicago, Kerry Wood, Nomar Garciaparra looks like he's headed back to the DL. He was injured in Sunday's game against Washington and is dealing with a sprained medial collateral ligament in his knee.

Colorado Rockies (48-60) - The Rockies caught fire after the All-Star Game. Then they ran into... the Pirates? Pittsburgh rained on the Colorado winning streak and took the first two of a three game set. Though many a Colorado hitter are finding their groove, a lesser known name is that of Jeff Baker, who has three home runs and six RBI in the past week.

San Francisco Giants (44-62) - Tim Lincecum struck out 13 D'Backs Saturday in 7.0 innings of work, but his bullpen couldn't hold the lead for him and he got a no-decision. The Barry Bonds-less Giants still don't have a batter on their roster with double digits in home runs.

San Diego Padres (42-66) - Greg Maddux finally notched a win on Monday against Arizona after going winless since May 10th. He's one of many Padres speculated to be in trade discussions. Keep watch.

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