This Week in the National League - Week 6

Does one player really make all the difference? That question is currently being played out in Los Angeles.

One can argue that truly great teams can win in the face of adversity and overcome the most daunting of obstacles. New stars step up. Good managers find the right situations for their players to succeed. And regardless of what happens along the way, some teams just find ways to win. To battle through those tough spats when superstars are on the DL… or facing suspension. The fact remains, however, that the baseball season is a marathon. It's not a sprint, by any means. The faces on a team and the structure of a starting rotation can be night and day when comparing April to October. And anything can happen in between. With that all in mind, here's the latest and greatest from around the league.

East Division

New York Mets (18-14) – With a sweep of Pittsburgh over the weekend, the Mets have vaulted into first place in the division. In fact, their lone loss in their past five games came when Johan Santana took the mound on Monday and got beat by Derek Lowe and the Braves. Go figure. Santana fell to 4-2 with a 0.78 ERA, but at least the starting pitching staff is beginning to perform a bit better. One area of concern, however, is Carlos Delgado who is nursing an injured hip. He is currently batting .298 with four home runs and 23 RBI.

Philadelphia Phillies (16-14) – It's one of the rarest and most exciting plays in baseball. If you're lucky it happens once a year that a MLB player steals home. Jason Werth did it Tuesday night against the Dodgers. What's more impressive he did it after stealing second and third. You would have thought the Dodgers would have paid some attention to him. In total he swiped four bags and helped lead the Phillies to a 5-3 win. The Phils need more aggressiveness on the basepaths if they're going to hang with opponents. Currently Brett Myers leads the entire starting staff with a 4.81 ERA.

Florida Marlins (17-16) – Jorge Cantu's 32 RBI is second only to Albert Pujols' 34. Cantu hasn't been the only Marlin on fire offensively. Hanley Ramirez has knocked out 13 hits in his last five games bringing his total to 41 on the season, which is good for a 62 point jump to a .357 batting average.

Atlanta Braves (16-17) – Derek Lowe improved to 5-1 after beating Santana on Monday. That's his fourth straight win in as many starts. The Braves continue to be slow as molasses on the bases, though. Not a single player has more than one stolen base this season, and as a team they are only 7-for-13.

Washington Nationals (10-21) – The Nationals have managed just 10 wins so far this season, but they have the top "positive" story going in the league. Ryan Zimmerman has an active 30-game hit streak. His .364 batting average is better than their .323 win percentage. Since the second game of the season on April 7th, the Nationals star has hit safely game after game, including 15 multi-hit games.

Central Division

St. Louis Cardinals (20-13) – The Cards have had a rough week. They dropped two of three in Cincinnati and opener of a three-game set in Pittsburgh. Their offense has fizzled a bit, and now it looks like Ryan Ludwick might very well land on the DL after straining his hamstring chasing down a fly ball in Tuesday night's game. Closer Ryan Franklin was unscored upon until Sunday. He blew his first save of the season giving up two home runs in the ninth inning against the Reds, but held on to earn his first win of the season. He hasn't had a chance to get back on the horse since.

Milwaukee Brewers (19-14) – The Brewers took two of three at home against the Cubs this weekend, starting the series off with a come-from-behind, 3-2 win on Friday. Prince Fielder is starting to connect more often. The slugger has four home runs in his last nine games, including two on Tuesday against Florida. He also has 11 RBI during that span, giving him 29 on the season.

Cincinnati Reds (19-14) – Bronson Arroyo is tied for the NL lead with five wins. Johnny Cueto's 1.59 ERA is second only to Johan Santana. Joey Votto is batting .374. Francisco Cordero has 10 saves. And budding star Jay Bruce already has 10 home runs. Could this be the season Dusty Baker's talented lineup in Cincinnati delivers?

Chicago Cubs (18-14) – Another week, another major injury. Aramis Ramirez dislocated his left shoulder diving for a ball hit down the line and is expected to miss six to eight weeks. No Ramirez. No Carlos Zambrano (hamstring). A day-to-day Derrek Lee (neck). The Cubs have tried to battle through their early season, big money injuries and hang with a competitive division. Milton Bradley is starting to perform having homered twice and driven in six in the past five games. And pressed for some depth and a utility player the Cubbies picked up Ryan Freel this week, hoping he can help spark the offense.

Houston Astros (14-18) – At 30 years old, Wandy Rodriguez might finally be coming into his own. The Astros starting pitcher leads the team in wins (3) and ERA (1.80). He's held opponents to a .208 batting average, and he had arguably his best outing of the year on Friday against San Diego. Rodriguez pitched 8.0 strong shutout innings, striking out seven and walking none en route to the win.

Pittsburgh Pirates (13-19) – Just like that the Pirates went from a winning record to a deep hole at the bottom of the division. The Bucs dropped eight straight prior to their win Tuesday night against the division leading Redbirds. Zach Duke earned his fourth win against three losses holding the Cards to just one run on four hits through 8.0 innings.

West Division

Los Angeles Dodgers (22-12) – On top of the world, the Dodgers looked like the team to beat in the National League heading into Thursday last week. How things change! Manny Ramirez was slapped with a 50-game suspension for testing positive for performance enhancing drugs. As such, the Dodgers have gone 1-4 without Manny. Andre Ethier, who was hitting .317, is batting just .130 since Ramirez's suspension came down, dropping his average to .283.

San Francisco Giants (18-14) – Picking up a head of steam, the Giants capitalized on the Ramirez suspension and took two of three from the Dodgers in L.A. over the weekend, and then rallied for back-to-back wins over the Nationals at home to start this week. Pablo Sandoval has five hits, including a home run and four RBI in his last two games. The Big Unit Randy Johnson is two wins away from career number 300 thanks to another victory on Monday. Johnson is 3-3 on the season, but his 5.89 ERA is a bit worrisome.

Colorado Rockies (13-18) – Talk about ups and downs. Ian Stewart has chalked up backward Ks on the scorecard six times in his last eight at-bats. But he did help lead the Rockies to a 12-1 win on Tuesday cranking a solo home run and a grand slam while taking a break from leaving his bat on his shoulder. Maybe he'll see the benefits of swinging a bit more freely now.

San Diego Padres (13-20) – The Padres have dropped four straight. Brian Giles is still hitting just .161 at the plate, and closer Heath Bell doesn't have a save since April 28th. In fact, he's only pitched twice since then. And both times were in non-save opportunities. That shows you how the Padres past couple weeks have been going.

Arizona Diamondbacks (13-21) – In need of a new skipper the Diamondbacks promoted A.J. Hinch to manage the struggling, injured young squad. Upon his promotion he got word that outfielder Conor Jackson would be going to the DL. Jackson has been battling a cough and other mild symptoms for a while and just hasn't gotten better, raising some concern. He's been tagged as having a "general illness" until a diagnosis can be determined. Stephen Drew was called up in his place after a minor league rehab assignment.

Got questions or comments? Email them to pete@petekhazen.com.

 

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