This Week in the National League: ‘08 Week 21

As we get into those dog days of summer, this is where managers make their money. How they've managed their teams all season pays off these final six weeks. Most critical is how those laboring arms feel for both the starting pitchers nearing 175 or 200 innings, and those bullpen guys surpassing 60 appearances. It's gonna be a fun ride into and through September.

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

East Division

New York Mets (69-57) - With no definite return scheduled for injured Mets closer Billy Wagner, the club went out and added some strength to their bullpen with Luis Ayala. He goes from the last place and the dismal Nationals team to the middle of a pennant race. Not too shabby. Jose Reyes is leading the charge atop the lineup, though. Reyes, who struggled through April and May this season hitting in the mid-.200s has steadily racked up multi-hit game after multi-hit game and has maintained a batting average around .300 since the Fourth of July.

Philadelphia Phillies (67-58) - Brad Lidge, who was sidelined and hadn't earned a save since August 3rd, went back to work this weekend bringing home two saves against the Padres. Lidge also closed out Tuesday's game against the Nationals for his 31st of the season.

Florida Marlins (65-61) - The South Florida fish ran into the Cardinals and Cubs this past week and took a few punches right on the chin, knocking them off the NL East pace a bit. On Friday closer Kevin Gregg blew his first save after running off 11 straight since July 4th. He swiftly bounced back on Saturday, though, earning his 27th save of the year. Shortstop Hanley Ramirez has been quite the source of production lately. He's boosted his on-base percentage 13 points to .393 in his past 10 games, and he's scored eight runs while driving in five.

Atlanta Braves (56-70) - After dropping eight of their last nine games, the Braves have dropped out of the playoff race. Miracles do happen, but it appears as though the Braves ship has sailed. Their lone win came with Mike Hampton on the mound against San Francisco. Hampton improved to 2-1 this year and lowered his ERA to 6.92.

Washington Nationals (44-82) - Eleven straight losses.  25 games back in the NL East.  100 losses here we come! (sigh)

Central Division

Chicago Cubs (77-48) - The Cubs aren't exactly Usain Bolt in the 100m dash at the Olympics, but they are starting to put a little distance between themselves and the rest of the division. Aramis Ramirez is in one of those hot streaks. He has six multi-hit games in his last nine and has nine RBI in his last six games. Relatively new Cubs pitcher Rich Harden continues to shine in his new uni. Harden tossed seven strong shutout innings Tuesday against Cincinnati striking out 10 and lowering his NL ERA to 1.50.
Milwaukee Brewers (72-55) - For whatever reason Manager Ned Yost decided to let C.C. Sabathia throw 130 pitches for a complete game in a 9-3 rout of the Astros on Monday. Sabathia improved to 8-0 as a Brewer. Make of it what you will.

St. Louis Cardinals (70-58) - Ryan Ludwick is as legitimate an MVP candidate as they come. Ludwick continues to be the surprise of the season in the NL. He leads the team with 31 home runs, 93 RBI, and 83 runs scored. Oh, and that .304 batting average isn't exactly bringing him down in the ranks. And if you haven't noticed, the Cards might just have figured out their closer problem. Chris Perez is 4-for-4 since blowing his first opportunity and has nine strikeouts in 6.0 innings of work during that span.

Houston Astros (64-62) - The Astros have been red hot and have pulled themselves back into the playoff hunt. It's a stretch, but they could still get into the fight for the wild card. Ty Wiggington, who took over for Carlos Lee in left field, has been a beast at the plate. Wiggington had a 15-game hit streak broke Tuesday, but he has five home runs and 12 RBI in his last nine games.

Pittsburgh Pirates (57-69) - Catcher Ryan Doumit continues to have a career year at the plate batting .323 this season. Meanwhile Ian Snell is doing what he can to play spoiler. Snell pitched seven shutout innings in St. Louis Tuesday night striking out eight and only giving up four hits en route to his fifth win of the year.

Cincinnati Reds (55-71) - Edinson Volquez pitched back-to-back wins for the first time since the All-Star break. His second win was his most impressive of late, throwing 7.0 strong innings against the Cardinals, holding them to three hits, and shutting them out. His 2.73 ERA is still good for third best in the NL.

West Division

Arizona Diamondbacks (65-60) - Brandon Webb appears to be in that same zone he was in for the first two months of the season. He's rattled off seven straight wins, including Ws in his last five starts.

Los Angeles Dodgers (64-61) - The Dodgers added to their collection of veterans as they continue on a march for October. Greg Maddux returned to Los Angeles thanks to a classy trade on the part of the Padres. And don't look now, but the arrival of Manny Ramirez seems to have had an effect like Roy Hobbs joining the New York Knights. The Dodgers are hitting the baseball. Andre Ethier alone has four home runs in his last five games.

Colorado Rockies (58-69) - Ian Stewart has been an RBI machine the past few days. He has 10 RBI in just his last three games, including a 5-RBI night Tuesday at home against the Dodgers. Brad Hawpe has been hot at the plate too. Hawpe has homered in five of his last eight games and has 12 RBI to boot.

San Francisco Giants (53-73) - Tim Lincecum earned his 13th win on Sunday pitching 7.2 innings against the Braves and giving up just one run on three hits. He struck out 10 giving him double-digit Ks in three of his last five starts.

San Diego Padres (48-77) - After being held without a home run or RBI for a week, Adrian Gonzalez broke out of his mild slump with a four-hit performance Tuesday, including a double and two RBI. He now has 91 runs batting in this season and figured to blow by his career high mark of 100 last year.

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