This Week in the National League: '08 Week 19

August is here already. Less than two months until October. The trade deadline passed with a rash of curious moves as teams prepare for the mad dash to the October finish line.

Here's the latest and greatest from around the National League.

East Division

Philadelphia Phillies (61-51) - The All-Star game was what it was, but do you know that Brad Lidge hasn't blown a single save opportunity this season? He's been lights out and with two saves this past weekend in St. Louis, he may have finally exorcised those Cardinal demons. With that offense and Lidge closing the door, the Phillies are destined to be in the post-season hunt through the end of September.

Florida Marlins (60-53) - Starting pitcher Josh Johnson has only taken the mound five times this season, but the Marlins are 5-0 when he has. With 6.0 scoreless innings on Tuesday against the division-leading Phils, Johnson is now 2-0 in his past two starts. With all the offensive talk about Dan Uggla, Hanley Ramirez, and Mike Jacobs, Jorge Cantu has been flying under the radar with quite an impressive season. The Marlins third baseman has a 13-game hitting streak going. With his .291 average, 19 home runs, and 62 RBI he won't be flying under the radar much longer.

New York Mets (59-53) - Fernando Tatis put up some monster numbers in St. Louis in 1999. How can anyone forget his permanent etch in the baseball record books with two grand slams in the same inning? Prior to this season, Tatis had played in just 28 games since the 2003 campaign, but he's making on heckuva comeback. Thanks to a two-homer night Tuesday, Tatis now has nine long balls on the season and 33 RBI to go along with his .316 batting average over 61 games. Though with the Mets surging back into the hunt, they might suffer a blow this week as closer Billy Wagner is set to have an MRI on his strained forearm and could be headed to the DL.

Atlanta Braves (52-61) - Skip Caray, longtime broadcaster for the Braves, passed away this week leaving the entire organization in mourning. Perhaps preoccupied, the club managed just two runs against the Giants Monday night, but they rebounded nicely with an 11-run outburst on Tuesday. Mike Hampton threw 7.0 solid innings giving up just four hits and two runs en route to his first win of the season.  Kelly Johnson led the offense going 3-for-3 and scoring three runs, while driving one in.

Washington Nationals (42-71) - The Nationals did manage to run off four straight wins this past week, including a sweep of the visiting Reds. The fourth win came Monday when Tim Redding kept the Rockies at bay in Colorado. Redding threw 5.0 innings, and though he got taken for four runs, it was good enough for win number eight on the year.

Central Division

Chicago Cubs (68-46) - The Cubs went into Milwaukee last week up just a game in the standings, and they made a statement. Lou Piniella's crew swept the Brewers in a four game series pushing them 5.0 games back in the division. Alfonso Soriano has been a big part of the Cubs resurgence after letting the lead in the standings slip. Soriano has five home runs and 11 RBI in his last 10 games. The Cubs were also happy to see Kerry Wood come off the DL on Tuesday. Wood pitched in a non-save situation and three one scoreless inning.

Milwaukee Brewers (63-51) - Frustration may have set in with the Brewers. Prince Fielder and pitcher Manny Parra got into a physical altercation in the dugout Monday night during their 6-3 loss to Cincinnati. Tempers boiled over and Fielder lashed out at Parra pushing him once in the chest and once in the face. The club is trying to brush it off, but the clubhouse tension has to be high these days. They did rebound with an 8-1 win Tuesday night against Edinson Volquez, and Fielder knocked a two-run homer in the game.
 
St. Louis Cardinals (63-52) - Jason Isringhausen is the club's closer, but he couldn't get the job done Tuesday night. The troublesome Cardinal bullpen blew another late lead. This time Ron Villone, Isringhausen, and an unfortunate Ryan Franklin who was charged with the blown save, combined to give up a 4-0 lead in the ninth inning. The Cards did rally for the win on Ryan Ludwick's two-run homer in the 11th. One big bit of news for Cards fans: Chris Carpenter made his comeback this week, and in two starts he's tossed 9.0 innings and given up just one run.

Houston Astros (54-58) - Brian Mohler is 3-0 in his last five starts, which included a 5.0-inning, rain-shortened gem against the Cubs Monday where he gave up just four hits and no runs. Carlos Lee continues to crush the ball this second half. Lee has four more homers in his last 10 games to go along with 12 RBI.

Cincinnati Reds (52-62) - When the top batting average from a regular player in your lineup is just .279 (Joey Votto), it's no secret why you're in the hunt for last place in the division. Maybe that's why they let Ken Griffey Jr. join the playoff hunt with the White Sox.

Pittsburgh Pirates (51-62) - In a three-team deal, the Pirates traded away Jason Bay to the Red Sox, giving up yet another solid bat from the National League to the softball lineup-filled American League. Somehow, though, without Bay and Xavier Nady the Pirates managed to take a game from the Cubs over the weekend. How so? By shutting them out. Friday afternoon, Jeff Karstens threw 6.0 shutout innings leading the Pirates to victory.


West Division

Arizona Diamondbacks (59-54) - Brandon Webb earned his league-leading 16th victory Tuesday with a complete game against Pittsburgh. Back on track, Webb is 5-0 in his last eight starts and has lowered his ERA to 2.93.

Los Angeles Dodgers (56-56) - The Dodgers picked up Casey Blake and Manny Ramirez near the trade deadline, and they have welcomed their bats with open arms. In a combined 14 games, the duo has 22 hits included three home runs. Ramirez alone is batting .625 in his first four games as a Dodger.

Colorado Rockies (52-63) - Aaron Cook has easily been the Rockies MVP this season keeping them in the playoff hunt. Cook had 14 wins heading into his start Monday against the beleaguered Nationals, but number 15 wasn't in the cards as Cook gave up seven runs (four earned) on 11 hits over 5.2 innings.

San Francisco Giants (47-65) - For a team that has struggled most of the season and only really remains in the mathematical playoff hunt because they are in the mediocre NL West, the Giants might have a star closer on their hands. Brian Wilson has been a rock star this season. He tallied up another three saves this past week bringing his surprising season total to 31. That 4.26 ERA isn't exactly something to write home about, but I'd bet the Cardinals wouldn't mind having a closer with 31 saves right now.

San Diego Padres (43-70) - Jake Peavy got outdueled by Barry Zito on Saturday dropping his record to 8-7. He still commands a 2.59 ERA, but with the injury earlier this season, things just haven't gone as one would have hoped. Story of the Padres year, I guess.

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


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