This Week in the National League - Week 10

Superman comes across some kryptonite. One team reaches 20 games above .500; and a couple others flirt with 10. Some seemingly down and out veterans reemerge as stars again. A .229 hitter earns Player of the Week honors. A college kid gets drafted by the worst team in baseball and prepares to make more money than the oil companies.

And an old-timer shows he's got plenty left in the tank and reaches a milestone we might not see for a long time. Those are the highlights. Here's the latest and greatest from around the National League.

East Division

Philadelphia Phillies (33-23) – Despite cranking four home runs off Johan Santana, the Phils still couldn't muster a win against the Mets on Tuesday. Still they remain 10 games above .500. They did split a four-game set with the Dodgers over the weekend, though. In the opener on Thursday, Cole Hamels tossed a five-hit complete game shutout to remind the Dodgers who the defending Champions were. On a troublesome note, Brad Lidge has started to indicate his knee isn't feeling quite right, finally providing a potential root cause to his poor performance. Lidge blew two saves against the Dodgers Saturday and Sunday. Had he not, the Phils might have swept. Is Ryan Madson going to get the tap on the shoulder?

New York Mets (31-25) – The Mets only managed to take two of three against Washington this weekend. Some might view that as a disappointment. David Wright has been on a tear lately, though. He has knocked out four multi-hit games in his last five, including a four-hit game Friday against the Nationals. In that span he's lifted his average 27 points to a hefty .348. Livan Hernandez is also on a tear. He improved to 5-1 in seven starts after beating Washington Sunday with 7.0 innings of four-hit, shutout work.

Atlanta Braves (29-28) – The Braves were blanked in back-to-back games Friday and Saturday against the Brewers, but have rebounded to win three straight one-run contests. Derek Lowe earned win number seven Tuesday night allowing just three runs over 7.0 innings. Chipper Jones, who turned 37 years young this past April, is up to his old tricks. He has 14 hits and 14 RBI in his last eight games raising his batting average to .335 and his RBI total to 31. He also has three home runs in that span giving him eight for the season.

Florida Marlins (29-31) – Rookie Sean West got to face Randy Johnson, who was pitching on short rest, on Monday. West was going for his first MLB win; Johnson was going for win number 301. West got the best of Johnson and the Giants. The rookie tossed 8.0 strong innings of two-hit, shutout ball en route to leading the Marlins to a 4-0 win. Jorge Cantu, who was off to a blazing start to the season, has just one home run since May 6th, and his batting average, which peaked at .365 at the end of April is down to just .274.

Washington Nationals (15-41) – The Nationals already have 41 losses. They are approaching 20 games back in the East Division's standings. Yet they still got some exciting news when they drafted San Diego State's flamethrower of a pitcher, Steven Strasburg, first overall in the 2009 draft. With uber-agent Scott Boras serving as Strasburg's hired gun, the Nationals might have to sell the farm to sign the phenom.

Central Division

Milwaukee Brewers (33-25) – With back-to-back shutouts in Atlanta, the Brewers improved to 10 games above .500, but have dropped two since. Yovani Gallardo tossed 8.0 scoreless innings Friday, and Jeff Suppan followed him on Saturday with 5.1 shutout innings. Prince Fielder has four home runs and 9 RBI in his past 10 games bringing his season totals to 15 and 54. And with four consecutive multi-hit games, the big first baseman has also lifted his batting average up to .294.

Chicago Cubs (29-26) – The Cubs have pieced together a few tough wins and are managing to hang with the division-leading Brewers. Ted Lilly is quietly emerging as the club's Mr. Durable. With Tuesday's win against Houston, Lilly leads the team with seven wins, 78.0 innings pitched, and a 3.00 ERA. Carlos Zambrano finally cooled his jets and pitched a gem against Cincinnati Friday night holding the Reds to just two hits and no runs over 6.2 innings.

Cincinnati Reds (30-27) – Edinson Volquez landed on the DL with tendonitis in his elbow following his exit from the Cardinals game last week. Fellow young arm Johnny Cueto earned win number six Tuesday night with in a game fueled by some questionable called third strikes. It's his second win in as many starts where he has given up just one earned run, improving his record to 6-3. Francisco Cordero finished off the game Tuesday to earn his first save in just over a week. Cordero is a perfect 15-for-15 in save opportunities this season and boasts a nice 1.38 ERA.

St. Louis Cardinals (31-28) – At the same time that the club's skipper Tony La Russa was fighting a court battle with the social networking site Twitter over someone falsely using his identity, the Cardinals have fallen into an awful slump. The club just hasn't been scoring runs. Only two contests in the past 10 games have produced more than three runs. Their pitching has been solid keeping them in games, but Kyle Lohse landed on the disabled list with a forearm strain putting pressure on the rotation. And the one player who has seemed like Superman, Albert Pujols, well, he is hitless in his last 15 at-bats.

Pittsburgh Pirates (26-32) – The Pirates keep inching back to .500 and then keep falling right back down. In a similar fashion, Zach Duke followed up his stellar performance against the Mets and Johan Santana last week by laying an egg. He gave up 11 hits and six runs in a no-decision against Atlanta where the Pirates lost 7-6.

Houston Astros (25-31) – If the Astros could just figure out what it takes to have early success in a season, they could be dangerous. The club always seems to start off terribly, and then have a great run in the second half to make things interesting. This tendency makes the front office reluctant to unload any talent mid-season. Despite plenty of speculative trade rumors, will Houston unload anyone the likes of Roy Oswalt (just two wins this season), Carlos Lee (38 RBI), or Miguel Tejada (.357 batting average). Plenty of teams would line up for the possibilities of what that kind of talent could add to a playoff run.

West Division

Los Angeles Dodgers (40-20) – Without Manny Ramirez this club is already 20 games above .500. Are they perhaps better off without Manny? That's a tough one, but an interesting argument. There is no doubt that the young talent like James Loney, Matt Kemp, and Andre Ethier are producing this season. But a big surprise has been the rebirth of Juan Pierre, who has stolen the show in Ramirez's absence. Pierre has a .352 batting average, 21 RBI, and 13 stolen bases.

San Francisco Giants (30-27) – Randy Johnson earned win number 300 on Thursday last week holding the Nationals to one unearned run over 6.0 innings. In Johnson's last four starts, the 45-year-old veteran has given up just five earned runs over 22.1 innings. Meanwhile, Edgar Renteria appears to be unable to break out and reverse his declining numbers. The veteran shortstop hit .332 for Atlanta two years ago. Last season he hit just .270, and this year he's been in a funk batting just .254.

San Diego Padres (27-31) – Uh oh! Call it a slump, but Adrian Gonzalez hasn't hit a home run or had an RBI in a week now. Heath Bell, however, did manage to pick up two more saves for the Padres. In the post Trevor Hoffman era, Bell has stepped up big time and leads the majors with 17 saves.

Colorado Rockies (26-32) – The Rockies went to St. Louis for a four-game set this weekend and tore things up, sweeping the Cardinals in their own park. Jason Marquis completed the sweep in a rare St. Louis Monday afternoon game, beating his former club and earning his eighth win of the year by allowing just two runs over 6.2 innings. The Rockies have a six-game winning streak going, all over NL Central teams (Houston and Milwaukee included). Ian Stewart may only be batting .229, but he had five consecutive multi-hit games last week, earning him NL Player of the Week honors. He also had four home runs and 12 RBI in his last seven games.

Arizona Diamondbacks (25-34) - Mark Reynolds continues his hot streak. He's got two more home runs in his last three games, and eight RBI over his last nine games. Jon Garland, who was 14-8 last season with the Angels, is just 4-6 this year. He has lost five of his last six starts, including four in a row. His ERA has climbed to 5.61, more than a point higher than his career mark of 4.52.

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


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