The trade deadline is looming. It seems the weak are getting weaker and the strong are getting stronger.
Separation is finally forming in
the league of parity, and we're getting a close look at who have been pretenders
and who might really be contenders. Here's the latest and greatest from around
the National League:
Philadelphia Phillies (58-40) –
The Philadelphia Phillies already boast one the most powerful lineups in
baseball and have a comfortable division lead. But they're not getting
complacent. They added Cliff Lee to
their starting rotation trading some prospects to Cleveland for the ace
pitcher. They are currently riding a four-game win streak where they scored 33
runs, seven of which were driven in by Ryan Howard, who just always seems to
kill the Cardinals. On a side note, Jamie Moyer became the Phillies first
10-game winner of the season proving age doesn't matter.
Florida Marlins (52-48) – Florida
took two of three against the Dodgers on the road this past weekend, proving
that they are not a team to be taken lightly during the second half of the
season. Chris Volstad picked up two
wins this past week, including a win over the Dodgers on Sunday, and improved to
8-9 on the season. Staff ace Josh Johnson, who hadn't pitched since the All-Star break, earned a win in his
first start, beating the Dodgers on Friday with a solid 7.0-inning, three-run
Atlanta Braves (51-49) – The Braves
continue to hang around. Their offense is struggling, but their starting
pitching continues to carry the team on their shoulders. Chipper Jones, who flirted with .400
last season and ended up hitting .364, is batting just .289 this season. Nate McLouth, who was acquired from
Pittsburgh earlier in the season, has just six home runs and 18 RBI in 43 games
for the Braves, whereas he had nine home runs and 34 RBI in a 45 game span for
York Mets (48-51) – The Mets have won
four games in a row, outscoring their opponents by a count of 29-9. The mini
streak has fans excited they might be setting up for a second-half run. They'll
need Johan Santana to work his
second half magic like he typically does. In his two starts previous to this
past Friday's, Santana went 7.0 innings shutting his opponents out completely.
Friday was a different story. Houston tagged Santana for five runs on 12 hits
over 6.2 innings. It dropped his record to 11-8 and pushed his ERA back above
3.00 to 3.12.
Washington Nationals (32-68) – Four wins in
a row! 38 total runs scored! That's a big week for the Nationals at the expense
of San Diego and Milwaukee. Josh Willingham led the power surge
with a solo home run Sunday against the Padres and a pair of grand slams against
Monday. Adam Dunn also had two home
runs and nine RBI during the four-game outburst.
St. Louis Cardinals (55-48) – Albert Pujols has been in a bit of a
funk since the All-Star break, but not the rest of the team. The Cards added the
monster bat of Matt Holliday in a
trade that might have sacrificed their future at third base for a two-three
month lease on Holliday. Still, his presence was felt day one with a four-hit
night. Rick Ankiel seems to have
gotten a spark under him with Holliday around seeing as how he might be the odd
man out with Ryan Ludwick and
youngster Colby Rasmus rounding out
the outfield. Ankiel has two home runs, six RBI, and 10 hits in his last five
games. Mark DeRosa, who came over
from Cleveland a
few weeks ago, has also been on fire. DeRosa has six home runs and 10 RBI in his
last eight games.
Chicago Cubs (52-46) – The Cubs
did lose Ted Lilly to the disabled
list this past week due to inflammation in his shoulder, but they continue a
second-half hot streak that has them victorious in 9-of-12 games since the
break. A healthy Aramis Ramirez has
been a big difference maker. Batting .336 overall, A-Ram has three home runs and
10 RBI in his last six games. And Alfonso Soriano, who has been asleep
for a while, has woken up with two home runs and six RBI in his last four games,
including a walk-off grand slam Monday night against Houston.
Houston Astros (51-49) – Continuing to
place good baseball, the Astros might have run into a major snag on Tuesday.
They beat the Cubs 11-6 to snap a three-game losing streak, but they also might
have lost Roy Oswalt who injured his
back and left the game in the second inning. Even with their powerful lineup,
losing their staff ace would make a trip to the post-season tough to accomplish.
Miguel Tejada, who has been leading
the offensive charge all season, had a home run and five RBI
Milwaukee Brewers (49-51) – The
Brewers are in a multi-week slide as evidenced most recently by a three-game
losing streak and the 22 runs they gave up to the Nationals in their last two
games. A deal for C.C. Sabathia last
year at this time was a difference maker to push them into the playoffs, but
such a move might be a stretch this season with their current course. Could they
Cincinnati Reds (45-54) – In the
playoff picture just a couple weeks ago, the Reds are fading quickly. They now
find themselves eight games behind the Cardinals in the Central Division thanks
to a 3-9 record since the All-Star break. Aaron Harang's struggles continue. He's
now lost seven consecutive decisions dropping his record to 5-11. Harang hasn't
won a game since May 25th.
Pittsburgh Pirates (43-57) – The Pirates
have lost four games in a row, scoring a combined four runs. Any hopes for a
breakout season seem dismal once again, which means the Bucs could become
sellers at the trade deadline. All-Star second baseman Freddy Sanchez might fetch Pittsburgh some decent
talent in a deal.
Los Angeles Dodgers (62-38) – The
Dodgers have dropped four of their last five games, including the first two of a
four-game set visiting fellow division leader, the St. Louis Cardinals. Chad Billingsley, who was on fire
earlier in the year, has managed to earn just one win in his last eight starts.
Manny Ramirez has even gone cold. He
drove in eight runs in a four-game span last week, but he hasn't accounted for a
single run in the past four games he's played.
Francisco Giants (54-46) – Tim Lincecum went the distance again on
Monday tossing yet another complete game shutout. This time it was against
young phenom struck out 15, a season high, and he now has 183 Ks on the year.
The Giants closer, Brian Wilson,
made three appearances this past week and pitched three scoreless innings while
picking up two more saves. He has 26 on the season now.
Colorado Rockies (54-46) – After
taking two of three against San Francisco over
the weekend, the Rockies dropped the first two
of a four-game set on the road against the Mets. Aaron Cook continued his winning ways
picking up his seventh straight win on Saturday tossing 7.0 solid innings,
scattering nine hits, but only giving up two runs.
Arizona Diamondbacks (43-58) –
Despite back-to-back shutout wins against Pittsburgh over the weekend, the D'Backs are
headed towards 20+ games back in the NL West divisional standings. With two
shutout wins, you might expect Dan Haren to have started at least one, if not both, of the games. But Haren
didn't. Doug Davis pitched eight
shutout innings en route to a 7-0 win Saturday, and Max Schrezer tossed seven shutout
innings leading Arizona to a 9-0
San Diego Padres (39-62) – Perhaps
they are trying to compete with the Nationals for the worst record in the
National League, but the Padres don't seem to have much punch these days. Adrian Gonzalez has 27 home runs this
season, but just 57 RBI. Folks just aren't getting on base for him to drive them
home. Heath Bell, the other bright
spot on the roster, does have 25 saves this season in 26
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