This Week in the National League – Week 21

Two divisional leaders opening up some separation and one rabbit that is possibly running out of gas.

September is fast approaching, which means rosters will be expanding and a lot of new faces will be making their presence known around the league. Will some players we have never heard of before be a difference maker either as a hero, spoiler, or goat over the next 35 days or so. We'll see.

 

Here's the latest and greatest from around the National League.

 

East Division

 

Philadelphia Phillies (73-51) – The Phils are starting to pull away picking up three more games on the Marlins and Braves in their last 10 contests. With 18 RBI in his last 10 games, Ryan Howard broke the century mark yet again. He also added six more home runs to his total, giving him 34 on the season. It always seems that as temperatures begin to cool off, Howard heats up. As for Cliff Lee, well his numbers tell the story. Since the All-Star break, he is 8-0 and has thrown four complete games. Since joining the Phillies, he's 5-0 with a 0.68 ERA. Cha-ching!

 

Florida Marlins (67-59) – Josh Johnson improved to 13-3 on the season without his best stuff. He scattered nine hits and gave up three runs against the Mets, but it was good enough to improve his career record against New York to 7-0. His season ERA remains an impressive 3.04. Hanley Ramirez continues to tear it up. He now has five three-hit games in his last 10, which has boosted his batting average to .365.

 

Atlanta Braves (66-60) – Derek Lowe leads the team with 12 wins, but he also has the worst ERA (4.48) of the starting rotation. He has had a yo-yo season, and after pitching at least into the sixth inning in seven straight contests, Lowe has failed to pitch more than 5.0 innings in his last two outings. Brian McCann, meanwhile, is turning his game up a notch. The star catcher has five home runs and 15 RBI in his last nine games.

 

New York Mets (57-70) – Johan Santana had an MRI done on his elbow, which identified the presence of bone chips. He will undergo season-ending surgery but expects to be back at the onset of the 2010 season. He reportedly had a similar procedure performed back in 2003. It's the bitter icing on a brutally tough season for the Mets.

 

Washington Nationals (45-82) – The Nationals put up a 15-spot Tuesday night to open a three-game series at Wrigley Field and further bury the Cubs with question marks. Josh Willingham led the charge, crushing two home runs and driving in six runs. One thing is clear: these Nationals have too much pride and professionalism to go quietly into that good night.

 

Central Division

 

St. Louis Cardinals (74-54) – The hands-down winners at the trade deadline. The club transformed themselves adding the likes of Mark DeRosa, Julio Lugo, Matt Holliday, and John Smoltz. And now they are on fire, beating up on the weaker competition, as they should be. They are 15-3 in their last 18 games, opening up a 9-game lead on the Cubs. Combined in the last 30 starts for Adam Wainwright, Chris Carpenter, and Joel Pineiro, the Cardinals are 27-3 as a team. And with a 14-3 record and 2.16 ERA, Carp might just be on his way to another Cy Young award.

 

Chicago Cubs (63-61) – Chasing a rabbit, mediocre just isn't good enough. And the Cubs haven't even been that good the past couple weeks. With 40 games remaining, they opened a series with Washington looking to start their engines in a race for the finish. Instead they stalled. Carlos Zambrano got shelled at home giving up eight runs in 4.1 innings of work, and the team got clobbered 15-6. The Cubs still don't have a starting pitcher with 10 wins. Who is leading their pack? Randy Wells, the unknown rookie who is 9-6 with a 2.84 ERA. Interestingly enough, the Cubs have the sixth-best ERA in baseball with a 3.97 mark, but they also have the fourth-worst batting average at .254.

 

Milwaukee Brewers (61-65) – Though reaching 50 home runs again is a big stretch seeing as how Prince Fielder is only at 33, surpassing his career high of 119 RBI is likely. Fielder has 110 already this season. More impressive, though, is that he has found a way to hit for average too. His best mark leading into this season was .288 back in 2007. He's hitting .303 through 125 games this year.

 

Houston Astros (61-65) – In 9-of-10 starts since July 1st, Wandy Rodriguez has given up no more than one run. He did get shelled for 10 on August 14th, but that has been his one recent blemish. A career 4.36 ERA, Rodriguez has been money this season with his 2.82 ERA.

 

Cincinnati Reds (54-71) – Aaron Harang ended another dismal season, this time a bit prematurely, after having an appendectomy this past week. His departure, along with Johnny Cueto's, could open the door for some young talent to shine. Keep an eye out.

 

Pittsburgh Pirates (52-72) – Thanks to a vast list of departures and additions to the Pirates roster, the top RBI man on the books this season is Andy LaRoche. His total? 44.

 

West Division

 

Los Angeles Dodgers (75-52) – With the Rockies hot on their heels, the Dodgers have been looking for some regular offense and consistent pitching. Andre Ethier turned it up a notch Wednesday night belting two home runs and driving in three runs to lead the Dodgers to victory over Colorado. And surprise, surprise, starting pitcher Randy Wolf has poured it on as of late. A 98-84 career pitcher, Wolf has gone 3-0 in his last three starts, and the team is 4-0 in his last four starts.

 

Colorado Rockies (72-55) – On June 3rd after losing to the Astros, the Rockies were 20-32. Since then they have gone 53-23. That's 30 games above .500. Ubaldo Jimemez is 6-0 in his last eight starts. Jason Marquis continues to hold it together and is 2-0 in his lat three starts, having only given up five earned runs in 21.0 innings of work. And well, late-inning heroics help. After giving up three runs to the Giants in the top half of the 14th inning Tuesday night, Ryan Spilborghs hit a walk-off grand slam to cap a 5-run rally for the win. It was the first walk-off grand slam in the Rockies short, but storied, history.

 

San Francisco Giants (69-58) – In 160 games since becoming a Major League Baseball player, Pablo Sandoval has hit 22 home runs, driven home 97 runs, and has a .334 batting average. He just turned 23-years old this month, and he's already a superstar. Fellow young stars, Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain have been struggling a bit lately. The duo has just one win and three losses in 10 starts in August.

 

Arizona Diamondbacks (55-72) – With 35 games remaining, free-swinging slugger Mark Reynolds should have a good shot of cracking the 100-RBI milestone for the first time in his career. He currently has 84. He also has a great chance at shattering his record for strikeouts in a season, set last year at 204. With 170 punchouts already this season, he's on pace to make the walk back to the dugout after hearing strike three 220 times.

 

San Diego Padres (54-74) – In their first six games this past week, the Padres scored just 10 runs. But somehow their offense woke up Wednesday night scoring 12 runs en route to beating the Braves 12-5. Adrian Gonzalez had two RBI, giving him 77 on the season. He also has 34 home runs, which is only two off from his career high set last year. Still he drove home 119 runs in 2008, and thanks to his lack of support, he's not going to come anywhere near that number in 2009.

 

Got questions or comments? Email them to pete@petekhazen.com.


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