This Week in the National League - Week 3

We've only got a couple weeks under our belts but a few things are already clear (not that we didn't probably already know). The Marlins are a talented, young team. The Cubs have a deep, well-paid roster, and Adam Wainwright a man with "True Grit" and the Cardinals will fight them until the end.





The Dodgers remain a different, and much-improved team with Manny Ramirez. And finally, some players are just undeniably overpaid. But there have been some early surprises, such as the impressive Pirates pitching. And that's why we play the season. Anything can and will happen. Here's the latest and greatest from around the league.

East Division

Florida Marlins (11-3) - The Marlins won seven straight but have dropped their last two games having only scored two runs in 18 innings against the Pirates. Dan Uggla is only batting .229, but he does lead the fish with 12 RBI. But the story really has been their pitching staff, which has a team ERA of 3.63. Matt Lindstrom has three saves and setup man Kiko Calero already has four holds thanks to holding opponents to a .048 batting average.

Philadelphia Phillies (6-6) - Left fielder Raul Ibanez is on fire to start the season. He's hitting .375 and has already cranked 5 home runs. The club's pitching staff has been dismal to start the defense of their crown. Not a single starter has an ERA under 5.00 and Brad Lidge finally got touched up for that first blown save in a long time this past Saturday against the Padres.

New York Mets (6-7) - Aside from their catcher, all seven other Mets starting positional players are hitting above .300, yet the club still has a below-.500 win percentage. Carlos Delgado is up to his old tricks leading the club with 14 RBI already this season. Collectively the team has a 3.75 ERA, but the four non-Johan Santana starters all have an ERA above 4.50: Livan Hernandez (4.63), John Maine (7.20), Oliver Perez (7.80), and Mike Pelfrey (8.10). Those starting ERAs don't bode well for the middle relief over the long haul.

Atlanta Braves (6-8) - After a strong start, the Braves were blanked twice by the Pirates over the weekend. They salvaged a win on Sunday with an 11-run outburst, but then dropped the first two games this week against the Nationals. Brian McCann, who has been struggling at the plate hitting just .200, was back in the lineup Tuesday after getting a new contact to correct a problem with blurred vision. Meanwhile Garrett Anderson strained his left quadriceps on Sunday and is day-to-day for the time being.

Washington Nationals (3-10) - Showing some life, the Nationals won their first game on Thursday and have taken the first two games this week against the Braves. Closer John Hanrahan earned back-to-back saves against Atlanta after blowing his first two opportunities against Florida earlier last week. Outfielder Elijah Dukes is making a name for himself early with a .341 batting average and 8 RBI.



Central Division

Chicago Cubs (8-4) - The Cubs and Cards collided for the first time this season and didn't disappoint in three thrilling games over the weekend (the fourth was rained out on Sunday). Alfonso Soriano hit the game-winning home run Friday for his fifth of the season and Aramis Ramirez knocked a walk-off two-run bomb on Saturday. But the Cubs starting pitching has been a bit suspect. Both Ryan Dempster and Carlos Zambrano have struggled with ERAs of 5.00 and 5.21, respectively.

St. Louis Cardinals (9-5) - The Cards are leaning on their big men to score runs, and so far they are producing. Albert Pujols and Ryan Ludwick have both driven in 16 runs, while Chris Duncan has shown signs of rebirth with a .361 batting average and 11 RBI of his own. Adam Wainwright continues to show his big game grit gutting out 6.0 innings against the Cubs Thursday, pitching out of a couple jams, and earning his second win of the season.

Pittsburgh Pirates (8-6) - In the past eight days the Pirates pitching staff have combined for four shutouts. Ross Ohlendorf was the latest to get in on the action. On Monday he tossed 7.0 strong, two-hit shutout innings against the red-hot Marlins en route to his first win of the season. Nate McLouth is out to prove 2008 was no fluke; he's got four home runs and 11 RBI to kickstart the season.

Cincinnati Reds (7-6) - After missing three games with a problem right hand, Jay Bruce returned to the Reds lineup Tuesday hitting a solo home run and an RBI single to account for the Reds only two runs. Meanwhile, Bronson Arroyo continues his hot start, picking up win number three on Monday scattering 9 hits over 7.0 innings of work and only giving up three runs to the Astros.

Houston Astros (5-9) - Wandy Rodriguez is just 1-1 after three starts, but his 1.89 ERA is something to keep an eye on. Lance Berkman, though, still continues to uncharacteristically struggle at the plate and is hitting just .205. That's about half where we expect him this time of the year.

Milwaukee Brewers (4-9) - Ryan Braun emerged from his .222 funk with a five-hit night Tuesday to boost his average to .300. Prince Fielder is still in that funk, though, batting well under his weight at .163 and having knocked just one home run and driven in just seven runs. Jeff Suppan, who got that big contract from the Brewers following his intense showing in the 2006 playoffs is 1-2 with an 8.56 ERA.



West Division

Los Angeles Dodgers (10-4) - The Dodgers rattled off eight straight wins before losing to the Astros Tuesday night. Pre-Manny Ramirez last season they really struggled to score runs and hit for power. That was the case down the stretch in 2008, and it's clearly carried into 2009. Heading into Tuesday the Dodgers ranked first in the NL in runs scored with 82. Chad Billingsley is 3-0 with a 2.84 ERA and closer Jonathan Broxton is a perfect 4-for-4 in save opportunities.

San Diego Padres (9-5) - Adrian Gonzalez's power numbers have gotten bigger and better every season. He cranked 36 long balls and accounted for 111 RBI in 2008. In 2009 he's already launched five home runs and has 11 RBI. Relief pitcher Cla Meredith has emerged as an early bullpen vulture swooping in for three wins in just five appearances thanks in part to a 0.00 ERA and some fantastic timing.

Colorado Rockies (5-8) - After back-to-back 7.0-inning starts and victories against Philadelphia and Chicago, Jason Marquis came back down to earth on Monday when the Diamondbacks tagged him for six runs on nine hits. The Rockies returned the favor Tuesday, in part thanks to Todd Helton who drove in three runs and hit his first home run of the season.

San Francisco Giants (5-8) - Barry Zito is 0-2 with a 10.00 ERA to start the season. Considering he's slotted to make $18.5M this season, that's gotta be tough to swallow. Matt Cain, on the other hand, earned his second win of the season improving to 2-0 with a 2.37 ERA. He'll be making $2.9M in 2009. Hypothetically speaking the Giants could afford six Matt Cains for one Barry Zito and still have some money left over to host a promotional giveaway handing out an order of free garlic fries to any fan in the park.

Arizona Diamondbacks (5-9) - With Brandon Webb on the Disabled List, Dan Haren is trying to keep the D'Backs on track. Unfortunately, he's not getting a lick of run support. Arizona has scored just once for him in three starts, spoiling three gems. His 1.89 ERA doesn't deserve the 0-3 record attached to it. Clubhouse leader Eric Byrnes is batting just .138, but he did homer in Tuesday's game. He's the one that needs to spark the Arizona offense.

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

 

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