This Week in the National League – Week 19

August is nearly half over, which means we only have about six weeks left in this season. Now is not the time to deal with injuries. This is the stretch where you need to get healthy, and do it fast.

The September call-ups aren't here yet, so as teams struggle to find ways to compete and win with key players on the DL, the next two weeks become arguably a more important stretch than even the first few weeks in September when rosters expand. Here's the latest and greatest from around the National League.


East Division


Philadelphia Phillies (64-48) – With Pedro Martinez making his debut start for the Phils, that World Champion killer lineup made sure to make the veteran pitcher and three-time Cy Young Award winner comfortable on the mound. The Phils opened up a 12-1 lead through the first four frames against the Cubs Wednesday night, helping Martinez cruise to that first win while back in the saddle. No surprise here, but his debut did not arrive without drama. Jamie Moyer was demoted to the bullpen to make room in the rotation for Martinez, and the ageless wonder, who currently leads the staff in wins with 10 was not very happy about his new role.


Florida Marlins (60-54) – After getting swept by Washington (yes, Washington), the Marlins bounced right back with a five-game winning streak that started with a three-game sweep of the Phillies on the road. Talk about up and down. Reliever Brian Sanches was charged with a blown save against the Nationals but bounced back to earn two wins and a hold in his next three appearances. In 29 games, Sanches has thrown 33.2 innings and boasts a mighty impressive 1.07 ERA. Hanley Ramirez, who had just one RBI in that series against Washington, has poured it on since then, driving home nine in his last five games.


Atlanta Braves (60-54) – Still very much in the hunt, the Braves aren't going away. Good pitching will do that for a team. Atlanta has won seven of their last eight games, including a three-game sweep against the Dodgers this past weekend. Javier Vazquez has won five straight decisions, and the Braves haven't lost the last seven times he has taken the mound. He leads the team with 155.1 innings pitched and a 2.90 ERA. Garret Anderson continues to be a bit of a disappointment, but on Wednesday he did connect for his first home run in August.


New York Mets (53-61) – Double-digit games behind the Phillies, the hits keep rolling for the Mets. Carlos Delgado's battle back from hip surgery hit another bump in the road as the star first baseman has been diagnosed now with a strained oblique. To date, the Mets top home run producer remains Gary Sheffield with just 10. This has just not been the season Mets fans were expecting.


Washington Nationals (40-74) – Perhaps inspired to turn the page, the Nationals haven't been a pushover as of late. Washington won eight straight games, including sweeps of Florida and Arizona, before dropping their last two against an equally hot Braves team. At the beginning of the stretch, Mike MacDougal saved five of six games, including earning saves on four consecutive days. With four blasts in the last nine games, Adam Dunn has 30 home runs on the year and is on pace for another 40-home-run season. What's most impressive is that his .281 batting average is 31 points above his career average.


Central Division


St. Louis Cardinals (64-52) – The Redbirds have been beating up on the likes of Pittsburgh and Cincinnati this week, as they would be expected to. The result is that they have opened up a four-and-a-half game lead on the Cubs in the standings. Chris Carpenter is, without a doubt, back to his old self. He has won his last seven decisions, has a 2.27 ERA, and has pitched at least 7.0 innings in all but one of his last eight starts. Adam Wainwright is 5-2 in his last eight starts, but he has given up just eight earned runs in those games and has racked up 61.0 innings during that span. Meanwhile, Albert Pujols has four home runs and 10 RBI in his last eight games. His 102 RBI now gives him 100+ RBI in his first nine seasons in the bigs. His reward? A showdown with Shaquille O'Neal in a baseball skills competition.


Chicago Cubs (58-55) – Up. Down. Up. Back down. The Cubs are sliding again, losing five straight to Colorado and Philadelphia having given up 44 runs to their opponents. The club remains without a single 10-game winner in their rotation in part thanks to injuries. Carlos Zambrano went back on the DL with back spasms, and Jeff Samardzija, who got his first start Wednesday, was roughed up by Philly as he got to watch a seasoned pro like Pedro work the mound. Two bright spots have been the young bats of Jake Fox and Jeff Baker. Fox has eight home runs and 30 RBI in 131 at-bats, while Baker is batting .309 in 55 at-bats.


Houston Astros (56-58) – Seven games back, but still very much in the hunt, Houston just got a lot healthier. Both Lance Berkman and LaTroy Hawkins came off the DL this past week. Hunter Pence got so excited about their presence, he went out and cranked two home runs and had six RBI Wednesday night. Meanwhile, Wandy Rodriguez earned win number 11 on Sunday with 7.0 shutout innings against the Brewers.


Milwaukee Brewers (56-58) – The fire in the Brewers following Prince Fielder's trip to the Dodgers clubhouse has faded a bit. The Brew Crew have dropped four of their last five games. Yovani Gallardo has lost two straight and five of his last seven decisions. Braden Looper, who was on fire for a long while, has also fizzled. The Brewers have won just once in his last four starts, and in those three team losses, Looper gave up at least five runs in each game.


Cincinnati Reds (49-64) – Seemingly a serious contender at the All-Star break, the Reds are now 15 games under .500. Brandon Phillips has the best team batting average that qualifies with enough at-bats, and he's hitting just .264. Johnny Cueto leads the starters in ERA, but his 4.23 is nothing to get excited about. And Bronson Arroyo's 10 wins might seem decent, but he's 2-6 in his last nine starts.


Pittsburgh Pirates (46-68) – It's tough to find familiar names on the Pittsburgh roster these days. Evan Meek, an up-and-coming young relief pitcher, was starting to get noticed, but he landed on the DL this week with a strained oblique muscle. With just 46 wins, though, on the season, and a Washington team that has garnered some energy for a late competitive push, the Pirates might find themselves in the NL cellar before too long.


West Division


Los Angeles Dodgers (69-46) – Matt Kemp has only hit an RBI in four games this month, but he has 16 RBI in those four games. Not coincidentally, the Dodgers have only won one game where Kempf hasn't had an RBI. And though, it probably shouldn't be much of a surprise, Jason Schmidt landed back on the DL with shoulder soreness. Schmidt was 2-2 in four starts this season with a 5.60 ERA. He's only made 10 starts since the 2006 season.


Colorado Rockies (64-51) – Huston Street is no doubt a huge reason behind why the Rockies are contending this year. He has 28 saves in 29 opportunities and a 3-1 record, but thanks to some big Rockies wins he hasn't been given a chance to save a game since August 2nd. Todd Helton meanwhile continues to have a great comeback year. With five consecutive multi-hit games this past week, his batting average is back up to .327.


San Francisco Giants (62-52) – Tim Lincecum hasn't earned a decision in his last two starts, but he did break the 200-strikeout barrier for the second consecutive season. With seven strikeouts in each of his last two starts Lincecum now has 205 totals punchouts this season to go with his 12-3 record and 2.19 ERA. Offseason pickup Juan Uribe was the hero of the day Wednesday as he blasted a game-winning two-run homer in the ninth inning to avoid a sweep against the Dodgers.


Arizona Diamondbacks (52-63) – Justin Upton joined the popular ranks of players on the disabled list with a strained oblique muscle. But that hasn't cooled Mark Reynolds down. If you haven't noticed, and based on the D'Backs performance of late, there's a chance you haven't, Reynolds has been crushing the ball. Left off the All-Star roster, the free-swinging infielder has 36 home runs on the season. He has 11 home runs and 17 RBI in just the past 16 games.


San Diego Padres (49-67) – The Padres are 11-4 over the course of their last 15 games. And they've been scoring a lot of runs. Adrian Gonzalez has four RBI in just his last two games, and on Tuesday he had a perfect 6-for-6 night at the plate. In that one game alone he boosted his batting average from .251 to .262.


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