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Game Notes - NL Central
Posted by Stanley Gibson at 8/3/2008 5:12:00 PM
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Chicago Cubs

*You can add another solid outing for Ted Lilly on Saturday against the Pirates at Wrigley. He went 6.1 innings, allowed just one earned run and is now 6-0 with a 3.02 ERA over his last nine starts when tossing six-plus innings. Overall, he has 129 strikeouts compared to just 50 free passes.

*Mark DeRosa is valuable for many reasons, including his position flexibility but his lack of production recently (.195 in July) coupled with Mike Fontenot's recent success have him on the brink of falling.

*Since a one-for-18 stretch, Jimmy Edmonds has hit .345 (10-for-29) with 12 RBI in his last 10 games, including the two-homer, five-RBI performance on Thursday.

*As mentioned in the DeRosa note, Mike Fontenot has been bringing it recently. He is hitting .351 (27-for-77) with a .438 on-base percentage in his last 29 games, dating back to June 19th. One possible problem: of his 49 hits, only two of them are against left-handed pitching.

*Another Cub infielder is making some news as Ryan Theriot is tied for the NL lead with 43 multi-hit games (Jose Reyes). He has 24 hitless games and 32 one-hit games.

Milwaukee Brewers

*After a rough outing last time out for Ben Sheets against the Cubs, he is now 1-3 with a 4.75 ERA (36 IP, 19 ER) over his last six starts. Could this be an early sign of fatigue? I mean, when is the last time Sheets pitched this many innings in a season? The answer is 2004 when he threw 237 innings. He will surpass his 141.1 posted last year with his start today.

*Manny Parra has lost his last two starts with a 6.35 ERA in 11 innings, allowing eight earned runs. Prior to that, he won eight straight decisions with a 2.90 ERA. Just a red flag for you Parra owners as we reach the fantasy trading deadline.

*I thought Solomon Torres couldn't close? Since taking over as closer on May 24th, he has a career-high 21 saves, blowing just two and is 2-2 with a 2.54 ERA during that time. My bet goes towards him having a collapse at some point. DYK: his 363 appearances since 2004 is the most in MLB.

*He ran away with the Rookie of the Year award last year and now Ryan Braun appears headed towards an MVP award in just his second season. Take a gander at these numbers and ranks: 1st in total bases (259), 1st in extra base-hits (63), 2nd in hits (132), 3rd in home runs (29), 4th in triples (6), 5th in RBI (82) and 6th in slugging percentage (.586). Add the fact that the Brewers in the heat of a playoff-berth AND has handled the move to left field admirably he has seven outfield assists and ZERO errors out there.

*Is this what the Brewers envisioned when they added Ray Durham in the trade? He has seven appearances, four starts and hitting .222 (four-for-18) with no homers and no RBI.

*Don't look now but Bill Hall is heating up. Despite owning a .230 overall batting average, Hall is hitting .301 (22-for-73) with four homers and 16 RBI over his last 22 games.

St. Louis Cardinals

*Troy Glaus was no doubt clutch in the month of July. He is up for the "Clutch Player of the Month" award. Of his team leading 22 RBI in the month, 12 of them came in situations that either tied or gave the team the lead. Unfortunately, the last few days of July and the beginning of August haven't been so kind to Glaus, going two-for-19 with no extra base-hits.

*Somehow Braden Looper gets the job done and should be worth a look in all fantasy formats. He doesn't rack up the strikeouts, but he gets wins (10) and keeps the walks down. He is ranked 6th in the National League with just 2.12 walks per nine innings. He has eight zero-walk starts overall and has walked one batter or less in eight of last 10 starts. Last night he allowed two free passes to the Phillies.

*Those of you waiting for Rick Ankiel to return to the lineup, there was a bit of good news last night when Ankiel was called upon to pinch hit in a key situation in the bottom of the ninth acting as the tying-run. While the at-bat wasn't the prettiest thing to watch, it was against Brad Lidge and he should be able to return to patrol centerfield in St. Louis very soon.

*Ryan Ludwick was crazy good Friday night with two homers and going four-for-four it was his fifth multi-homer game of his career and third this season. He hasn't slowed down and the All-Star appears to belong.

*Yes, it's true, the walking heart-attack Jason Isringhausen is back in the closer's role in St. Louis. He recorded his first save since May 5th on Friday and had gone 21 outings between saves. He needs seven to get to 300 saves in his career.

Houston Astros

*Carlos Zambrano and CC Sabathia aren't the only NL Central pitchers who can stroke it at the plate. Add Brandon Backe to that list. He is one of four pitchers in MLB with 2 homers this season.

*Kaz Matsui is streaking right now. He extended his season-high hit streak to nine games with a 2-for-5 performance last night including his fourth homer of the season. On Friday, he led off the game with a homer for the seventh time in his career. DYK: that lead-off blast was the first in 2008 for Houston. Former Astro Craig Biggio holds the NL record with 53 of them.

*Despite his rank in the top-five overall of most fantasy formats, Lance Berkman is suffering through a power outage unseen before from him. He finished all of July without hitting a home run! That is the first time a calendar month as passed without Berks clearing the wall. His previous draught was 24 games in 2004.

*El Caballo Carlos Lee has been scorching in Berkman's down time. He leads all NL outfielders with 88 RBI this season and his batting .366 in 45 games since June 8th. That is second only to Matt Holliday during that span (.367). He also has 13 homers and 41 RBI in that span.

*Another hot Astro is shortstop Miguel Tejada and apparently he enjoys hitting second in the order. In seven games hitting in that spot he is 12-for-29 (.414) with a homer and five RBI.

Cincinnati Reds

*What a story developing in Cincy with relief pitcher Mike Lincoln who many left for dead after missing three seasons recovering from Tommy John surgery. He is now a candidate for Comeback Player of the Year award honors in the National League. In 42 relief appearances thus far he has a 3.96 ERA and his 19 inning scoreless streak that occurred from June 19th to July 30th set a career-high.

*I still can't figure out how Adam Dunn does it. Year after year you see his frequent 0-for-4's with the occasional home run and drives his owners nuts, but this season is once again on pace for 46 homers and 108 RBI. If he does make it there this year it would be his fifth consecutive season with 40+ homers and fourth in a row with 100+ RBI. In his last 29 games, he is hitting .283 with 14 jacks and 30 RBI and since the All-Star break he is hitting .302 with 6 long flies and 15 batted in.

*Edwin Encarnacion is starting to struggle a little bit. In his last seven games he is just two-for-24 (.083) and dropped his average from .265 to .253.

*If you drafted Brandon Phillips this year, what did you expect numbers-wise? Well, he is on pace for 23 homers, 93RBI and 32 stolen bases. I don't think you expected much more than that. Another solid season for Phillips as he has established himself as a true fantasy stud second baseman. He is hot right now, hitting safely in four of five games, going 6-for-19 in the stretch.

*Remember early this season when Corey Patterson coaxed everybody into believing he might be worth owning in fantasy this year? Well, he had a trip to the minors and just snapped an 0-for-14 slump last night on a bunt single since that time. He is back to where we expected him.

Pittsburgh Pirates

*Before yesterday's start against the Cubs, Paul Maholm has been great, recording 2.76 ERA in 78.1 innings since May 31st. That is second among all NL left-handers behind only one Johan Santana. He struggled against the Cubs, allowing five earned runs in six innings in his most recent start.

*We know how Nate McClouth is doing it with the bat, leading all NL center fielders with 22 homers and 71 RBI, but he also leads all with the glove not having committed an error this season. He is also crossing the plate quite a bit. In his last 24 games, he has 22 runs scored and is on pace to score 123 times this season. Note: Jason Bay led the team last year with just 78!

*Freddy Sanchez, when playing (suffering from some back issues) has been red hot. He is 16-for-41 (.390 batting average) with two doubles, two homers and seven RBI in his 11 games since the break.

*Another surprise offensive story this season is catcher Ryan Doumit who leads all NL catchers with a .339 batting average and a .570 slugging percentage. Even though he is trending down each month in terms of batting average (.356 in April; .333 in May; .333 in June and .317 in July) anytime these numbers start with the number three, it's nothing to sneeze at.

*Tyler Yates recorded his first save of the season on Tuesday and appears as the new temp closer in Pittsburgh after Damaso Marte was dealt with Xavier Nady to the Yankees.

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