This Week in the National League – Week 14

The season's mid-point is here, and the Midsummer Classic is next week in St. Louis. Will this be the year the National League finally wins home field advantage in the World Series? Will this be the year something stupid happens at the All-Star game and that rule gets changed to make it a true exhibition game again?

The trade deadline buzz is also picking up as expected in July, and this year's top prize appears to be Roy Halladay. He, without a doubt, would be a game-changer for any team. Will Halladay end up in the NL? It all remains to be seen. As the final week before the break is played out, here's the latest and greatest from around the National League.


East Division


Philadelphia Phillies (43-38) – Exactly halfway through the season and the defending champs are in first place of their division. Accused of being guilty of hangover syndrome early in the season, the Phils have done just enough to stay afloat the NL East. Unsatisfied, the Phils are apparently looking for more pitching options. But who isn't? Word is they're eyeballing Pedro Martinez, who has been working out in the Dominican Republic. But when you score 22 runs in one game, who needs pitching? After sweeping the battered Mets this past weekend, the Phils celebrated with a 22-run outburst against the Reds Monday, 10 of which were scored in the first inning. Jayson Werth led the pack with a homer and five RBI.


Florida Marlins (43-42) – Hanley Ramirez made the All-Star team and leads the Marlins with a .346 batting average, 60 RBI, and 50 runs scored. But the star shortstop has now missed three straight games thanks to a sore hip flexor. Ricky Nolasco continued his winning ways tossing his second consecutive 8.0-innning game, this time a 12-strikeout shutout against Pittsburgh. He has since improved to 6-6 after a 2-6 start.


Atlanta Braves (40-43) – It's tough to win the NL East when you drop two of three to the Nationals as the Braves did this past weekend. Starting pitcher Derek Lowe, who was red hot with a 6-2 record through mid-May, has gone 1-5 over his last eight starts leaving him at 7-7 with a 4.56 ERA. The Braves woes don't end there. They still are struggling to hit and score runs. At the mid-season point, not a single lineup regular has a .300+ batting average and no one on the roster has 50+ RBI or 10+ home runs.


New York Mets (39-43) – Maybe it's the fact that he's underperforming because the rest of his supporting cast is primarily on the disabled list, but David Wright's power numbers are waaaaay down. He has just five home runs this season; he hit 33 in 2008 and 30 in 2007.  Interestingly enough, he's on pace to collect about the same number of walks, but his strikeouts are up significantly: 84 through 81 games compared to 118 and 115 through 160 games the past two years. Go figure.


Washington Nationals (24-57) – Despite 22 home runs and 59 RBI Adam Dunn was snubbed from the All-Star team. Maybe his big bat just wouldn't be useful in the late innings of a close game. The Nationals did pick up back-to-back 5-3 wins against Atlanta Saturday and Sunday. Mike MacDougal picked up saves in both games. Still the Nationals might find themselves 20+ games back in the standings come the All-Star Break.


Central Division


St. Louis Cardinals (46-39) – The Cards have a big divisional road trip this week heading into their role as hosts for the All-Star game. After three games in Milwaukee they head down I-94 to Chicago for a four-game set with the Cubs, which includes a Sunday double-header thanks to a rain out. Talk about a way to end the first half of the season! The Cards are hanging on to their first place lead. Albert Pujols has been a machine. The All-Star Game's top vote getter is batting .336 and leads all of baseball with 31 home runs and 82 RBI. Adam Wainwright has been on fire as of late. He's pitched into the ninth inning of his last two starts picking up 21 Ks and is 4-1 in his last five decisions.


Milwaukee Brewers (43-40) – Ryan Braun got into trouble by slamming his teammates in the media stating that the starting pitching wasn't good enough after the Cubs took three of four from the Brewers. Yovani Gallardo, who has been the staff ace this season with a 2.95 ERA, has lost three of his last four starts. His most recent loss came Tuesday when Wainwright and the Cardinals shut out the Brewers 5-0.


Chicago Cubs (41-40) – The Tribune Company reportedly has completed the sale of the Cubs to the Ricketts family ending a two-year drama. Aramis Ramirez returned from the DL this past week, and just as the team was getting healthy and starting to play a bit better, the baseball gods woke up and hurled two more lightning bolts their way. In a scene a la Martin Grammatica, Ryan Dempster broke a toe on his foot trying to hurdle the dugout railing in celebration after a Cubs win over the Brewers. He'll be out about a month. Then 2008 Rookie of the Year Geovany Soto suffered an oblique strain before the start of Wednesday's game. The Cubs were poised to make a run for the division lead this weekend against the Cards and now might be limping into the All-Star Break.


Cincinnati Reds (41-41) – In their two games on Sunday and Monday, the Reds lost by a combined score of 32-2: 10-1 to the Cards and 22-1 to the Phils. Ouch! Forget about their arms, the pitching staff must have sore necks after those poundings. Bronson Arroyo who started the season red hot can't seem to right the ship. He's 1-5 in his last seven starts and has lost three straight growing his ERA back up to 5.85. Aaron Harang, who had a terrible 2008, was poised for a nice comeback season, but hasn't won a game since May 25th, going 0-4 in his last eight starts.


Houston Astros (40-42) – The Astros suffered back-to-back shutout losses to the Giants this past weekend before winning the series cap 7-1. They were outscored in the first two games 22-0. Still the Astros pitching isn't looking all that bad overall. Wandy Rodriguez went an entire month without a win, but has gone 2-0 in his last three starts and still has a solid 3.21 ERA. Roy Oswalt has won back-to-back starts and has given up just one earned run in five of his last seven outings.


Pittsburgh Pirates (38-46) – The Pirates lost three straight before beating the Astros Tuesday 6-3 in Houston. Jack Wilson had a home run and three RBI to lead the way. Paul Maholm got the win to improve to 6-4 on the season.


West Division


Los Angeles Dodgers (53-30) – Manny Ramirez got thrown out of Tuesday's game in New York after arguing balls and strikes. From Ramirez's need to take days off and come out of games early, it's apparent he wasn't quite in shape enough to return to the club and be an everyday player. Still the Dodgers remain on fire halfway through the season. And if they land Halladay, look out! Chad Billingsley has been their top starter this season, boasting a 9-4 record and 3.14 ERA, but he hasn't won a game since June 14th, going 0-1 in his last four starts.


San Francisco Giants (46-37) – Just as Randy Johnson was gaining momentum, the 45-year old, lanky lefthander landed on the DL with a shoulder strain. But Barry Zito turned out his best performance of the year on Tuesday when he threw 8.1 shutout innings giving up just four hits. Meanwhile, fellow starters Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain both made the All-Star roster for the NL. Pablo Sandoval, who leads the team with a .328 batting average and 13 home runs is in the running for the final spot on the NL roster.


Colorado Rockies (44-39) – Jason Marquis picked up his MLB-leading 11th win Monday against the Nationals with 8.0 shutout innings. After losing his fifth game of the season, Marquis hasn't given up a run in two starts and 17 innings of work. And in a random statistical event, Alan Embree earned a win without throwing a pitch on Tuesday. He came into a 4-4 game in the eighth inning and picked off Austin Kearns to end the inning before throwing a pitch to the plate. The Rockies scored the eventual winning run in the bottom of the eighth when Clint Barmes hit a sacrifice fly. And so the win goes into the history books.


San Diego Padres (35-48) – Adrian Gonzalez made the NL roster as did teammate and club closer Heath Bell. Gonzalez had a scare with his knee last week, but the slugger got right back on the field. Good news for the Padres and good news for baseball fans as they'll get to see him take on the likes of Pujols, Prince Fielder, and Ryan Howard in the home run derby Monday night. Bell picked up saves 22 and 23 this week. With just one blown save this year, Bell also has a 3-1 record and a tough 1.49 ERA.


Arizona Diamondbacks (35-49) – It is likely that the Diamondbacks become big-time sellers as the trade deadline approaches in an attempt to get some good young talent for their future free agents. Dan Haren and his 2.16 ERA likely aren't going anywhere. Neither are Justin Upton, his .298 batting average, and his 48 RBI. Haren and Upton are the D'Backs future. It's just a shame we can't seem them star on the big stage this October.


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