Incidentally, did you know that the day before and the day after the All-Star game are the only two days during the year that a major sport (MLB, NFL, NHL, and NBA) doesn't have a game – how boring can those days be? Anyway, we have a tightening race in the National League Central and a couple jackrabbits starting to run away in the East and West. So here's the latest and greatest from around the league.
Philadelphia Phillies (53-39) – Winners of 10 straight, the Phils have opened up a sizeable lead in the division. The lineup is just packed with talent and when fellows like Raul Ibanez and Jayson Werth continue to outperform great bats like Ryan Howard's and Chase Utley's, well, that's just scary. Ibanez has three home runs and 8 RBI in his last five games. Werth, meanwhile, just continues to be clutch. He cranked a walk-off three run bomb against the Cubs Tuesday night to end a 13-inning pitching duel with a 4-1 Phillies win.
Atlanta Braves (48-46) – Back to .500 the Braves are once again showing some life. Yunel Escobar continues to swing a solid stick. On the year, he's leading the team with a .309 batting average and 53 RBI. But offense is still not all that easy to come by for the Braves. Both Javier Vazquez and Jair Jurrjens have ERAs under 3.00, but combined they are only 15-14.
Florida Marlins (49-47) – Dan Uggla leads the Marlins team with 16 home runs, but his .228 batting average has not been helping a whole lot. He's a lifetime .257 hitter, but that's still 29 points higher than the status quo. Uggla hasn't hit a home run since July 8 or driven home a run since July 9. Leo Nunez, who has been the team's closer for the past few weeks, earned back-to-back saves Monday and Tuesday in matching 3-2 victories over the Padres. Nunez now has six saves on the season.
Chicago Cubs (48-45) – The Cubs are starting to liven up, and they did so immediately following the break by sweeping a four-game series with the Nationals – something they would be expected to do if they are looking to make a run for the playoffs. But then they dropped the first two of a three-game set with a very different opponent, the defending World Champion Phillies. Alfonso Soriano finally pulled out of his slump this past weekend. He knocked home runs in back-to-back games ending a drought that spanned 41 days.
Milwaukee Brewers (48-47) – After dropping 3-of-4 in the ever-tightening NL Central race, the Brewers got a strong performance Tuesday from starting pitcher Braden Looper. The veteran pitcher tossed 7.0 shutout innings en route to blanking the Pirates. He's now won four straight decisions and has a 9-4 record. Prince Fielder continues to hammer the baseball. Since the break he has two home runs and eight RBI in six games.
Cincinnati Reds (44-49) – Brandon Phillips leads the team in batting average (.271), RBI (63), and runs (47), but that didn't stop manager Dusty Baker from benching Phillips Tuesday after he didn't run out a lazy fly ball that fell in play thanks to the blinding Los Angeles sun. Bronson Arroyo, who is as hot and cold as they come, is back on a hot streak. He's won two consecutive starts pitching a total of 16.0 shutout innings.
Pittsburgh Pirates (42-52) – With Nate McLouth gone, the top RBI man on the Pirates roster is Adam LaRoche, but he just has 40. The Pirates might end up the season once again with an individual on the roster topping 100 RBI. Closer Matt Capps, who does have 20 saves this year in 22 chances, hasn't faired so well in non-save opportunities. His 1-5 record and 5.81 overall ERA tells the story.
Los Angeles Dodgers (60-34) – Right back on track. The Dodgers are
picking up after the All-Star break just as they headed into it: winning.
Winners of four in a row against Central Division opponents,
San Francisco Giants (50-43) – Touted during the break as the team to
maybe catch the Dodgers in the second half, the Giants have dropped 4-of-5 and
have scored just nine runs in those five games. Their lone win came Sunday when
Matt Cain took the mound and outpitched
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