The pennant races are heating up so it’s time to take a look around the National Leauge at the division leaders.
National League East
The Philadelphia Phillies have all but decided this division with a 8.5 game lead over the Atlanta Braves. In last night’s contest against the Los Angeles Dodgers, Cliff Lee did what he does best – dominate – and he added a homerun of his own for good measure. In eight shut out innings, Lee gave up only four hits, struck out 10, walked two and won his twelfth game of the season in a 2-1 win over the Dodgers. That is eight times this season Lee has struck out 10 or more batters. Lee has also had eight starts in which he has held his opponents scoreless. He also smacked a homer over the right field wall making him the first Phillies pitcher to hit two homeruns in one season since Randy Wolf did it in 2004. During the current roadtrip, the Phillies are 8-1 in their last 9 games. A win tonight will complete a sweep of the Dodgers. The Phillies are 36 games over .500.
The Phillies open a three game set against the Washington Nationals at home this weekend before welcoming the Diamondbacks to Philadelphia next week. The Diamondbacks are currently trailing the division NL West leading San Francisco Giants by half a game.
National League Central
The once four team race in the NL Central has now become a two team race after both the Pittsburgh Pirates (10 games back) and the Cincinnati Reds (11 games back) have imploded following a good run by both teams for the division lead.
The Brewers extended their lead to four games over the Cardinals after a ten inning win over St. Louis 5-3 yesterday. Casey McGhee hit the go ahead RBI double in the top of the 10thto give the Brewers the lead for good. Corey Hart returned from the DL, sending a scorching two run homer into the centerfield seats in the third inning. John Axford worked the 10thinning, extending the club record for consecutive saves to 30. Cardinals starter, Edwin Jackson went six innings, allowing three runs on six hits. The Brewers are 12-1 in their last 13 games. The two clubs finish up the three game series tomorrow before they return home for a seven game stretch against the Pirates and Dodgers. The Cardinals open up a three game homestand against the Rockies this weekend before traveling to Pittsburgh on Monday.
National League West
The surprising Arizona Diamondbacks have come out of nowhere to win 10 of their last 16, pulling them to within a half game behind the division leading Giants. Last night, the D’backs rallied from a 7-1 deficiet to beat the Houston Astros 11-9 in the third of a four game series that will finish up tonight. It is the second time this year that the Astros have had a six run lead over the D’backs only to lose the game. After a rough start by Jason Marquis, Micah Owings was able to hold the Astros scoreless in the fifth and sixth before allowing a run in the seventh. His performance was good enough to give Owings his sixth win of the season. Justin Upton had a big night, going 3-for-5 including a homerun, 4 RBI and scoring three runs. The D’backs host the NY Mets this weekend before traveling to Philadelphia on Tuesday.
The division leading San Francisco Giants won 6-0 over the Pittsburgh Pirates in yesterday’s contest, splitting the first two games of the three game series that they will finish up tonight. The Giant’s Aubrey Huff is hitting .308 since the All Star Break and went 3-for-4 last night, including an RBI double and a solo blast into right field. Huff is currently batting clean up in the absence of slugger Carlos Beltran who is sidelined with a wrist strain and is day to day. Chris Stewart hit his first major league homerun in the fifth inning. The Giants’ Madison Bumgarner struck out seven in seven shutout innings and allowed only four hits while issuing one walk. Bumgarner improved his season record to 7-11 with a 3.53 ERA. This weekend, the Giants open a three game series at home against the Mets before traveling to Atlanta on Monday to take on the Braves in a four game contest.