This Week in the National League: '08 Week 20

The divisional races are heating up. It's "put up or shut up" time. Just who's going to show they've got ice in their veins? And who's going to pack it in because they just don't have it? The next few weeks will tell.

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

East Division

Philadelphia Phillies (64-55) - Ryan Howard hit the 100-RBI mark. That's good for the first-place lead in the NL as he's tied with Houston's now-injured Carlos Lee. Howard is also tied with Adam Dunn for the NL home run lead with 32. As for the Phils closer, Brad Lidge has been bothered by his shoulder lately, but he did make himself available on Tuesday should he be needed.

New York Mets (63-56) - The Mets are looking to get back in first place in the NL East. What's a better way to do it than a road trip to Washington and Pittsburgh? Carlos Delgado is a big reason the Mets are back in the hunt. He has quietly picked himself up and has amassed 25 home runs and 73 RBI after a slow start to the season.

Florida Marlins (63-57) - The Marlins have been hot and cold all season long. They can't seem to make up their mind if they really want to go after the division or fade into the sunset. Consistently inconsistent they are, which means they'll be around until late September no doubt. They'll need Dan Uggla's bat, though. He has no home runs and just three RBI since the first of August.

Atlanta Braves (55-63) - First Tim Hudson hit the DL; now Rafael Soriano. The Braves are within mathematical striking distance, but there's just not much they can do with the cards that they are being dealt. As for the Chipper Jones watch, he is playing again. But who knows for how long. He's been plagued by injuries, as well, and at .370 it's going to take an amazing final six weeks to reach .400.

Washington Nationals (44-76) - After winning a doubleheader in Colorado on Thursday, the Nationals have dropped five straight, including four to the Brewers over the weekend. At 44-76, unfortunately a 100-loss season isn't too far-fetched for their first year in their fancy new ballpark.

Central Division

Chicago Cubs (71-47) - Despite a rare shellacking for Carlos Zambrano at the hands of the Cardinals on Saturday, the Cubs still took two of three from the Redbirds. Kerry Wood also made his comeback from his blister problems and his sore back, though he hasn't resumed closing games yet. Jim Edmonds and Reed Johnson continue to be brilliant pickups by the Cubs front office. In addition to their solid defensive play, the combo has 20 home runs and 79 RBI for the Cubs.

Milwaukee Brewers (69-51) - A week ago, Milwaukee was fighting amongst themselves. Since then they are 7-0. A four-game set against Washington helps, not to mention a three-game set against the almost-as-beleaguered San Diego Padres. Ben Sheets tossed yet another complete game shutout on Saturday against the Nationals, good for his 11th win of the season.

St. Louis Cardinals (66-56) - Albert Pujols has a .347 batting average, 24 home runs, and 75 RBI. And it's like no big deal. Do we just come to expect this phenomenal play from him? Thing is the Cardinals really need to get their closer situation figured out to stay in contention both in the divisional race and the wild card. Adam Wainwright is making his way back from the DL and might just be the guy to do it. Rookie Chris Perez seems the current man, though his hold is still tenuous.

Houston Astros (60-59) - Houston is back above .500 with a four-game sweep of the Reds over the weekend, but they took a big blow this past week. Their top offensive producer, Carlos Lee, fractured a finger and will be most likely out for the remainder of the season. Lance Berkman really needs to pick up the slack for Lee. Berkman has just two home runs since July 1, but he did hit a granny on Tuesday, which is a good sign.

Pittsburgh Pirates (54-65) - Paul Maholm is 7-7 with a respectable 3.76 ERA. That's far better than Tom Gorzelanny, who burst onto the scene last year and sits with a similar 6-7 record, but has a whopping 6.57 ERA. Can either Maholm or Gorzelanny actually achieve double digits in wins this season?

Cincinnati Reds (53-67) - Adam Dunn said farewell to Cincy and went packing for a pennant race in the Arizona desert. There aren't any magic tricks in Dusty Baker's bag this first season in Cincinnati.

West Division

Arizona Diamondbacks (61-58) - Adam Dunn's suitcase may bring a whole lotta strikeouts to the D'Backs lineup, but he also brings one heckuva punch. Dunn is tied for the MLB lead with 32 home runs. After rattling off four straight wins in five starts, Dan Haren did suffer his first loss since the Fourth of July when the Braves touched him up for 10 hits and six runs over 5.1 innings on Saturday.

Los Angeles Dodgers (60-59) - Manny, Manny, Manny! Many Ramirez has just been a beast for the Dodgers. What was a weak power division just got a lot stronger with Dunn and Ramirez. In 10 games and 40 at-bats, Ramirez is hitting .475 with four home runs and 13 RBI. Dodger fans probably don't know what to do with all these fireworks.

Colorado Rockies (53-68) - The Rockies missed a golden opportunity to do more than just hang around this past week in the divisional race. They had seven games against the Nationals and Padres, the two worst teams in the NL, and they managed to win just twice. If you're looking for signs of that turnaround, Jeff Francis is going to have to participate. He pitched for the first time in 10 days this past Thursday and got knocked around for five runs by the Nationals. A 3-8 record with a 5.81 ERA just isn't going to cut it.

San Francisco Giants (50-68) - Tim Lincecum had to leave the game early Tuesday after being hit with a line drive in the knee. X-rays were negative, which is a good sign, so the Giants star pitcher should make a swift recovery. He's their future, though, so don't expect the Giants to push him to get back out there too soon.

San Diego Padres (46-73) - Brian Giles vetoed a trade that would have sent the outfielder to the Boston Red Sox. He passed on the opportunity to play in October for a World Series. Giles doesn't exactly have many years left. He either really likes the weather and life he has in San Diego or something else went wrong with this deal.

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


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