This Week in the National League – Week 20

Come-from-behind wins, the waiver wire, fabulous pennant race pickups, and post-concussion symptoms. This has been a busy week. Here's the latest and greatest from around the National League.

East Division


Philadelphia Phillies (68-49) – With three consecutive wins, all of which involved the opposition scoring just one run per game, the Phillies are approaching the 20-game above .500 mark again. Cliff Lee has been fabulous since putting on that Phils jersey. He's 4-0 with a 0.82 ERA and 34 strikeouts. Just this past Wednesday night he went the distance tossing a two-hitter and beating Dan Haren. Ryan Howard had been on fire, leading the Phillies during this recent streak. Not only did he knock a three-run homer out against Haren, but he has six home runs in his last seven games with 12 RBI.


Florida Marlins (64-56) – Hanley Ramirez was hitting .340 just 13 games ago. He's managed to add 18 points to his batting average since then. That's not easy when you are already getting a hit more than once in every three at-bats. In that span he had 11 multi-hit games and added 13 RBI to his total of 82. The Marlins are very much in the playoff hunt, and with the prospect of starting pitcher Anibal Sanchez coming back this week, Florida is starting to look intriguing again.


Atlanta Braves (63-57) – The Braves just don't score a whole lot of runs. Brian McCann is leading the team in RBI and he has driven in just 61 runs. It is likely that the Braves will end the season without a 100-RBI man. Meanwhile, Nate McLouth, who had been helping out the team offense, landed on the 15-day disabled list with a strained left hamstring.


New York Mets (56-64) – Amidst their disabled list woes, David Wright was leading the Mets in batting average, RBI, runs, and stolen bases. Now Wright joins many of his fellow teammates on the DL with post-concussion symptoms. And what a difference a year makes! Francisco Rodriguez saved 62 games last season for the Angels. He's saved just 26 this season, and in the past month he has blown two save opportunities and suffered two losses raising his ERA from 2.06 to 3.27.


Washington Nationals (43-77) – The Nationals win streak was cracked last week, stopping it at eight. They dropped three straight and then went on to take three in a row against Cincinnati. After going 0-2 in his first four starts, rookie pitcher J.D. Martin settled in for back-to-back wins against Arizona and Cincinnati. His stats aren't stellar striking out just two batters over 11 innings of work in those two games, but he was effective scattering 11 hits and only giving up one earned run.


Central Division


St. Louis Cardinals (69-53) – Like what we seem to see year after year, the Cardinals keep winning and finding players that thrive in their uniform. Since joining the Cardinals 23 games ago, Matt Holliday is hitting .430 with five home runs and 22 RBI in 93 at-bats. That's almost half his production in Oakland in a quarter of the time. The Cards are hoping to strike gold again with John Smoltz. St. Louis picked up the 42-year-old likely Hall of Famer with plans to fill their number five spot in the rotation. If that doesn't work out all that well, Smoltz could move into the setup role.


Chicago Cubs (61-57) – Chasing a red hot Cardinals team, the Cubs just don't seem to have the stamina. And lately they've been running out of gas in the ninth inning. Kevin Gregg was the club's closer, but he has gone 0-3 with three blown saves this month. His most recent flop came in San Diego Monday night when he blew a 1-0 lead, giving up four runs in the ninth inning for the loss. Manager Lou Piniella demoted Gregg and put setup man Carlos Marmol in the closer role. Marmol has four blown saves of his own this season, and though he has 67 strikeouts in 56.1 innings of work, he also has 52 walks. Can the Cub fans' tickers handle Marmol in the closer role?


Milwaukee Brewers (58-62) – With four straight losses, the Brewers are now four games under .500. They managed to get swept by the lowly Pirates in a three game set this week. And they traded away Bill Hall to the Mariners. In 2006 Hall hit 35 home runs and scored 101 runs earning a monster contract, but that one season turned out to be the blip in his career. In two and a half seasons since then he has just 35 total home runs, and in 76 games this season, Hall was hitting just .201.


Houston Astros (58-62) – It doesn't happen often in Houston, but it looks like the Astros are packing it in. The club traded away catcher Ivan Rodriquez to the Texas Rangers giving the sign that a playoff berth might very well be out of reach for the club this season. Miguel Tejada, meanwhile, has fallen into a bit of a slump. He was hitless in six straight games before having an RBI double in Wednesday's contest against Florida.


Cincinnati Reds (50-69) – The Reds have lost five straight games. At the All-Star break they were just three games under .500 and very much in the playoff picture. Just over a month later and an 8-24 stretch, the club finds themselves with a 50-69 record. Aaron Harang is 6-14 with a 4.35 ERA. Johnny Cueto has lost six straight decisions and is 8-10 on the season with a 4.61 ERA. And Bronson Arroyo, who leads the team with 11 wins, is 3-6 in his last 10 starts. That pretty much tells the story.


Pittsburgh Pirates (49-70) – With a sweep of Milwaukee, the Pirates host the Reds this weekend with hopes of getting out of the cellar and locking their Ohio-based neighbors there for good. Starting pitcher Ross Ohlendorf has quietly amassed a solid season. He's 11-8 with a 4.15 ERA, and he's 3-0 in his last four starts.


West Division


Los Angeles Dodgers (71-50) – The Dodgers are 4-8 in their last 12 games and just lost two of three to the NL Central leading Cardinals. Starting pitcher Hiroki Kuroda went on the DL with post-concussion syndrome after being hit in the head with a line drive. To help in their pitching rotation, the club did sign veteran starter Vicente Padilla, who was released by the Rangers this week.


Colorado Rockies (67-53) – Throughout his career Jason Marquis has been known to be a great first-half pitcher that tends to fade late in the season. Marquis has gone 2-2 since the All-Star break and is now 13-8. His career high in wins is 15, which he set in 2004 with St. Louis. Carlos Gonzalez is also having a career year, granted this is only his second season in the bigs. Gonzalez homered again Wednesday, making it his fourth straight game with a round-tripper, and sixth long ball in his last eight games.


San Francisco Giants (66-54) – Matt Cain has lasted at least 7.0 innings in each of his last four starts, but he is 0-2 during that span. He still maintains a 12-4 record with a 2.49 ERA. And Tim Lincecum is winless in his last three starts getting a no-decision in each. Though he was touched up by Cincinnati in the last game for five runs in 6.0 innings, Lincecum's 12-3 record has been unchanged since August 1.


Arizona Diamondbacks (54-67) – Back on July 18, Dan Haren faced his former team, the St. Louis Cardinals, and pitched a gem lowering his ERA under two to 1.96. Since then he's going 2-3 and has given up 23 earned runs in his last seven starts pushing his ERA up to a still impressive 2.74.


San Diego Padres (51-71) – Sunday evening, Heath Bell and the Padres blew a 5-4 lead in a rain-delayed game against the Cardinals to lose 7-5. But both Bell and the club bounced back against the Cubs. The scored four runs in the ninth inning Monday to rally for a 4-1 victory, with Bell earning the win, and then held on to a 6-3 win Tuesday, with Bell earning the save.


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