This Week in the National League - Week 5

A ridiculous home winning streak, a superstar who might be like no other we've seen before, and some veterans looking to rebound after dismal 2008 campaigns headline the National League. And so, let's checkout the latest and greatest from around the league:

East Division

Philadelphia Phillies (14-11) - The Phillies cruised into St. Louis and swept a two-game series against the NL-leading Cardinals reminding them who the defending World Champions are. Chase Utley was not in the lineup on Tuesday, bothered by a sore foot following being hit by a pitch on Saturday, but he did return to face the Mets on Wednesday. Raul Ibanez continues his hot start to the season. He may have been kept at bay in St. Louis, but he has three home runs and eight RBI in his last eight games.

Florida Marlins (15-13) - Dan Uggla does have four home runs and 18 RBI, but he is struggling at the plate batting just .198. He's not the only one struggling a bit to get the offense going. Speedster Hanley Ramirez has just three stolen bases and has been caught four times. Last year he stole 35 bases, and in 2007 he swiped a whopping 51.

New York Mets (13-13) - Once his ERA hit 9.97, enough was enough for Oliver Perez. And so, the Mets yanked him from the starting rotation. John Maine is starting to piece things together, though. He's gone 6.0 innings in his last two starts and earned wins in both improving his record to 2-2 and lowering his ERA to 5.20 from 7.47. One thing is for sure: If the starters can get the game into Francisco Rodriguez's hands the Mets are in good shape. K-Rod ran off four saves this week and has been the dominant force the Mets paid for.

Atlanta Braves (12-15) - As the month of May begins the Braves are in the midst of a slide dropping four straight. Not a single player on the roster has more than three home runs and only Yunel Escobar has a batting average above .300 (.302) or a .300 batting average. Chipper Jones who flirted with .400 most of last season is having a bit of a rougher go at the plate hitting .295. But then again, it's early and he's only one big week from boosting that average way up.

Washington Nationals (7-18) - Cristian Guzman returned to the lineup April 29th. He only had two hits in his first 18 at-bats back, but has since rattled off three consecutive multi-hit games. When healthy, he's a great contact hitter and is currently batting .397 in 14 games played. Shairon Martis through a complete game against the Cardinals on Saturday improving to 3-0 on the season. His 4.60 ERA isn't all that special, but he's finding ways to win.

Central Division

St. Louis Cardinals (18-10) - Look at the line on Albert Pujols: .364 batting average, 11 home runs, 31 RBI, 28 runs scored, four stolen bases. The man is a beast, and not enough can be said about his continued dominance in the league. The Cardinals had some doubts this spring with the closer position, and even when the season began, but Ryan Franklin is starting to fit that role nicely. Franklin has eight saves already and has yet to give up an earned run through 12.1 innings of work.

Milwaukee Brewers (16-12) - Yovani Gallardo is 3-1 to begin the season, and is 2-0 in his last three starts. He's got a solid 3.02 ERA, and opponents are hitting just .187 against him at the plate. The Brewers have won four straight including Gallardo's start against the Pirates on Monday. If they can just get Jason Kendall (.215) and J.J. Hardy (.209) hitting, they could be battle in the NL Central again.

Chicago Cubs (15-12) - The Cubs injury woes continue. Carlos Zambrano always hustles on the field, and in his attempt to beat out a bunt, strained his left hamstring. The Cubs ace landed on the DL and is expected to miss 2-3 weeks. Rich Harden hasn't exactly been a dominating strikeout pitcher for the Cubs, but the starter has won his past three decisions improving to 3-1 despite his 4.83 season ERA.

Cincinnati Reds (14-13) - Johnny Cueto has given up just two earned runs in his last four starts, but he only has two wins to show for it. Still his 1.65 ERA can't go unnoticed. Neither can Joey Votto's .370 batting average through his first 100 at-bats this season. More of a doubles man with 10 two-baggers, Votto does have three long balls to his name as well for a .560 slugging percentage.

Pittsburgh Pirates (12-15) - Just like that the Bucs have dropped four straight, and eight of their last nine games. The result? A move three positions down in the standings. At least Freddy Sanchez is showing he might have his swing back. After a rough 2008 campaign where he saw his batting average drop 33 points to .271, Sanchez is hitting .321 to open the year and is showing a bit more pop in his bat with a .554 slugging percentage - 130 points higher than his career average.

Houston Astros (11-16) - Lance Berkman still can't seem to get things figured out. Despite hitting safely in six of his last seven games, the sweet-swinging slugger still has managed just a .194 batting average. Meanwhile, staff ace Roy Oswalt still does not have a win under his belt in 2009. He's 0-2 with a 4.26 ERA, though he hasn't factored in a decision in his last five starts.

West Division

Los Angeles Dodgers (21-8) - The Dodgers are a perfect 13-0 at home this season, which is a new MLB record. A big factor in their hot start has been closer Jonathan Broxton. The hard-throwing righty does have one blown save, but he's finished the job eight times and has three wins to his name to go with his 0.64 ERA. Andre Ethier continues to be an RBI machine. He leads the team with 27 and has driven in one run in each of the past five games.

San Francisco Giants (13-13) - After a shaky start, Tim Lincecum is catching a wave and holding steady. He's gone at least 7.0 innings in each of his last four starts and has rattled off three consecutive wins lowering his ERA from 7.56 to 3.05. Bengie Molina has pretty much been the offense for the Giants. Molina's 23 RBI are more than double the next most productive hitters, Aaron Rowand and Edgar Renteria, who both have 11.

San Diego Padres (12-16) - Brian Giles is hitting just .162 with one home run and 14 RBI through 27 games this season. After batting .306 last season, one can only say he's been a disappointment so far. As has Jake Peavy. The staff ace is just 2-4 and has lost three straight decisions. More worrisome is his uncharacteristically high ERA of 4.27.

Arizona Diamondbacks (12-16) - Justin Upton is starting to find his swing. He belted two home runs Wednesday night to lead the D'Backs over San Diego. The 21-year old outfielder has four home runs and 10 RBI in his last eight games. Relief pitcher Tony Pena has shown some good stuff early this year and has been rewarded with three wins. The vulture has given up just two earned runs in 13.2 innings of work.

Colorado Rockies (11-15) - A career .300+ hitter, Todd Helton batted just .264 last year. Well, don't call it a comeback? That swing is back and Helton is putting up multi-hit games like it's in his DNA. He's got a .360 batting average going thanks to a nine-game hit streak. And on a good note for the Rockies, Ubaldo Jimenez won for the first time in five starts Wednesday night. He held the Giants to just one run over 7.0 innings of work.

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


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