This Week in the National League – Week 13

July is here, and some races are definitely tightening up.

We've seen some old veteran pitchers reemerge once again proving their longevity, while the coming of age of some new blood in the league. This marathon race isn't even quite halfway over, so there's still plenty of drama to unfold. Here's the latest and greatest from around the league.


East Division


Philadelphia Phillies (39-35) – The Phils were 10+ games above .500 just a couple weeks ago, but the groin injury to Raul Ibanez has left them hurting for that extra punch. The result: The Phils are just four games better than even money. Ibanez might come back this weekend, but it's still not certain. After losing four straight starts, it looked like we could be witnessing the end of a long and storied career, but Jamie Moyer is turning things around. He's 3-1 in his last four decisions, including wins in his last two starts, both of which were on the road against tough offenses: Tampa and Toronto.


Florida Marlins (41-39) – Though the Marlins got swept by Tampa over the weekend, they're still hot on the trail of the Phillies. Hanley Ramirez has been an RBI machine. In his last nine games, Ramirez has driven in 22 runs (at least one in each game). Starting pitcher Ricky Nolasco has rattled off three wins in his last three starts giving up just three earned runs in 20.0 innings of work.


New York Mets (37-39) – With Carlos Beltran, Carlos Delgado, Jose Reyes, and John Maine all injured, it's no secret that this Mets team is reeling. They have lost five straight, including a three-game sweep at the hands of the Yankees this past weekend where they were outscored 18-3. Fernando Nieve, who has been a young bright spot, was 3-0 before being knocked to reality by the Brewers' 11 hits Tuesday night.


Atlanta Braves (36-40) – It's July and still the Braves don't have a single player on the roster with double-digit home runs. Chipper Jones leads the team with nine. Rookie pitcher Tommy Hanson looks like he might have the kind of stuff that stays in the big leagues. Hanson is 4-0 in five starts and hasn't given up a run in his last three outings. The Braves did add a big name to their lineup in All-Star Nate McLouth after a deal with the Pirates sent the gold glover to Atlanta.


Washington Nationals (22-54) – The Nationals had two solid, potential future stars in Lastings Milledge and Joel Hanrahan, but things just haven't been working out. So they were shipped this past week to Pittsburgh in exchange for Nyjer Morgan and Sean Burnett. Go figure.


Central Division


Milwaukee Brewers (42-35) – Prince Fielder cranked three more home runs this past week bringing his season total to 20 and pushing his RBI count to a whopping 74. He's also hitting .307, which is 25 points above his career average. He's also struck out just three times in his last eight games, which is no small feat in itself. Meanwhile, the Brewers managed to beat Johan Santana and the Mets Tuesday behind Ryan Braun's four home runs and a strong outing from fill-in starter Mike Burns who earned his first major league win.


St. Louis Cardinals (41-38) – The Cardinals made a move to pick up utility player Mark DeRosa from the Indians this past weekend. Since the move, the Cardinals haven't won a game. In a lineup that is struggling, though, opposing pitchers keep taking their chances with Albert Pujols. And he keeps hurting them. Pujols blasted two more home runs Tuesday night against Randy Johnson upping his league-leading total to 30. He's also got 77 RBI. Simply amazing.


Cincinnati Reds (37-38) – The Reds got some good news this week as Edinson Volquez's most recent MRI indicated the inflammation in his elbow was gone. That report game Volquez the green light to begin his comeback trail. There's an outside chance he could start a game before the All-Star break, but it seems unlikely the Reds would chance it. Brandon Phillips has scored nine times and driven in nine runs in his last 10 games. Phillips leads the team with 52 RBI.


Chicago Cubs (36-38) – Up and down and side to side. The Cubs have been all over the map this season, and their inconsistency continues. Yet they are somehow right in the middle of the hunt in what appears to be another weak NL Central. Hitting has been their biggest problem, most recently emphasized by Alfonso Soriano's home run drought since June 7th. And in the most recent clubhouse drama, manager Lou Piniella told Milton Bradley to take his jersey off and go home after Bradley threw a tirade in the Cubs dugout.


Houston Astros (36-39) – Roy Oswalt had his strongest outing of the season, a complete game two-hitter against San Diego Monday night. He gave up just one earned run and moved past the century mark in innings pitched for the season. Lance Berkman is starting to pick things up a bit more. He has four home runs in his last 10 games along with 10 RBI, and during that span he's raised his batting average from .241 to .261. Yes, he's still got a ways to go, but progress is progress.


Pittsburgh Pirates (36-41) – As trade deadlines loom, it's no surprise the Pirates are dealing players around the league. Seems like they do it about as often as any team this time of year. Resurgent staff ace Zach Duke appears staying put, at least for now. Duke has eight wins this season and an impressive 3.13 ERA.


West Division


Los Angeles Dodgers (49-29) – Hey now, hey now, Manny's back! The controversial superstar, Manny Ramirez, should return from his 50-game suspension Friday night. He'll join a team still 20 games above .500 and quite balanced across the field. Andre Ethier has, no doubt, been one of the biggest bats in his absence. In his biggest outburst of the season, Ethier smacked three home runs and had six RBI against the Mariners Friday leading the Dodgers to an 8-2 win.


San Francisco Giants (42-34) – Tim Lincecum pitched another classic gem Monday night. This time it was in St. Louis. Lincecum tossed a complete game, two-hit shutout against the Cardinals. Randy Johnson followed him up with career win number 303. Johnson has now won three straight and five of his last six decisions. Combined with Matt Cain (9-2), the trio might be strong enough to lead a run after the division leading Dodgers.


Colorado Rockies (41-36) – Jason Marquis beat the Dodgers with a complete game, two-hit shutout to win his 10th game of the season. Marquis is known for being a far better performer in the first half of the season than the second, but his 2009 first half has definitely been a nice surprise for the Rockies.


San Diego Padres (34-42) – Adrian Gonzalez, whose performance has fizzled having hit just two home runs since reaching number 22 on June 2nd, had to leave the game Tuesday with a strained right knee. He's been a beacon of light in an otherwise black hole of a lineup. If he's out for any serious time, the Padres are going to have a tough time scoring any runs.


Arizona Diamondbacks (31-46) – Dan Haren has pitched 7+ innings in each of his last nine starts and hasn't given up more than two earned runs in each of his last seven. At 7-5 his record is clearly understating his performance this season. His 2.19 ERA, 113 strikeouts, 0.81 WHIP, and .189 opposing batting average tell the real story. Too bad he's pitching for a cellar dweller.


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