This Week in the National League: ‘08 Week 23

The rosters have expanded and September baseball is underway. We get a chance to see not just which contenders have what it takes to make it to October, but also to get a look at the stars of tomorrow. With less than a month of baseball left in the season and the NFL kicking off this weekend, October is so near we can smell it. Ah, but it's still so far away.

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

East Division

New York Mets (78-61) - The Mets have been playing some solid baseball as the push for October heats up. They pulled out a tough one in Milwaukee 6-5 in 10 innings Tuesday night. David Wright broke into the century mark this past week in RBI, and as he sits with 103; he might just make a run at that 116 mark he set in 2006.

Philadelphia Phillies (76-63) - Jimmy Rollins is heating up at the right time of the year. He's had a disappointing season after that MVP year in 2007, but Rollins has 10 RBI in his last nine games at a time when his team needs him most. Brad Lidge continues to get it done as the club's closer. The former Astro is a perfect 33-for-33 this season.

Florida Marlins (70-69) - The Marlins are still in the NL East championship hunt. They're hanging around and are a solid win streak in September away from making things really interesting. But they haven't been able to string together a long series of wins. Starting pitcher Ricky Nolasco has been doing his part. He's 13-7 on the season and hasn't given up more than three earned runs in any of his last seven starts.
Atlanta Braves (60-79) - After being swept by Washington and falling 20 games under .500 with another loss on Monday, the Braves bats came to life. They scored 16 and held the Marlins to just 14 runs, which was good enough for the "W". Though eight different Braves had RBI in the game, catcher Brian McCann did not. Still he had a pair of hits, bringing his average to .298. And his 23 home runs this year is just one shy of his career best in 2006.

Washington Nationals (53-86) - The Nationals made this column finally eat crow. They rattled off seven straight wins this past week before being shut out by Cole Hamels and the Phils on Tuesday night. Kudos to Tim Redding, who posted two wins in the week and improved his record to 10-8 on the year.

Central Division

Chicago Cubs (85-54) - The Cubs hit a season-high 35 games above .500 on Friday and have dropped four straight since, including two to Philly and two to the Astros. They had opportunities late in the games, but failed to come through with a knockout punch. Aramis Ramirez may have had a hot bat of late, but he committed three errors in Tuesday night's game. Carlos Zambrano has just one win in his last six starts and has seen his ERA rise from 2.76 to 3.58.

Milwaukee Brewers (80-58) - Milwaukee has put some distance between themselves and the Cardinals for the NL Wild Card, but a divisional race in the East could make both the Mets and Phillies contenders. C.C. Sabathia continues to dominate NL pitching. He tossed another complete game shutout on Sunday, giving up just one infield hit that Brewers coaches and fans are in an uproar about. They feel it should have been scored an error; thus giving Sabathia a no-hitter. He is 9-0 in 11 starts with a 1.43 ERA since joining the Brewers, and he's gone the distance six times.

St. Louis Cardinals (75-64) - The Cardinals dropped four straight, including three over the weekend to the Astros, and have given the Brewers some breathing room. This following some fireworks between the two clubs where some said the Cards might just be a sleeping giant that had been awakened. Ryan Ludwick continues his tear, though. The Cards slugger is just one RBI from 100. Few folks out there saw this coming in 2008.

Houston Astros (73-66) - The Astros are one of the hottest teams in baseball and are creeping back into the playoff picture. Roy Oswalt was as good as he gets on Labor Day, shutting the Cubs out and giving up just four hits over 8.1 innings. Since coming off the DL in late July, he is 6-1 in eight starts and hasn't given up more than four earned runs in any of those games.

Cincinnati Reds (61-77) - After sweeping the Giants in Cincinnati over the weekend, the Reds squared off with their fellow Central cellar dwellers. Aaron Harang took the mound Tuesday and lost for the 15th time this season, compared to just four wins. His 5.27 ERA is a point and a half higher than it's been the past two seasons. All we can do is shrug our shoulders and shake our heads.

Pittsburgh Pirates (58-79) - Freddy Sanchez won the NL batting title his rookie season in 2006 with a .344 clip. He had a bit of a down sophomore season with a .304 average. In 2008, Sanchez is batting .257. What does 2009 hold?

West Division

Arizona Diamondbacks (70-68) - The Diamondbacks managed just one win in a key, three-game weekend set against the Dodgers. Still they are hanging on to the division lead, where it seems the team that can stay above .500 might just take the crown. In 19 games as a D'Back, Adam Dunn has three home runs, 12 RBI, and a decent .275 batting average.

Los Angeles Dodgers (69-70) - The Dodgers snapped that losing streak and rattled off four straight wins. James Loney, who is sporting a 13-game hitting streak, leads the team with a .307 batting average and 76 RBI.

Colorado Rockies (66-74) - Jorge De La Rosa has made four consecutive quality starts. He pitched 7.0 strong shutout innings against San Francisco Tuesday, earning him his third win in four starts and eighth on the year. Matt Holliday, who had 137 RBI last season, has just 78 in 2008.

San Francisco Giants (59-79) - Tim Lincecum is 4-0 in his last seven starts and hasn't given up more than two runs in any such game. As poor a season as the Giants have had, he definitely deserves consideration for NL Cy Young Award honors.

San Diego Padres (53-85) - The Padres, Nationals, and Mariners appear to be in a dogfight not to finish with the worst record in baseball. With the September call-ups here, look for the Padres to test out some of their young talent.

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