Catbird Seat: A one-loss week puts the Braves atop the Hit List if not the National League East. They briefly touch a mark ten games above .500, their best of the year. Tommy Hanson (7.0 3 1 1 2 14) strikes out a fortnight in Houston to bring his career ERA to 3.02 after 413 2/3 innings. Jonny Venters and his two runs allowed continue to put stress on local thesauruses. The team's secret is clearly the pitching, which sports a collective 2.98 ERA and a 2.8 K/BB ratio, and not the hitting, which has a collective .698 OPS.
Copy Niner Over: Oho! Pitching you say? The Phillies keep the Braves at bay with some nifty starts of their own. Cole Hamels (8.0 6 0 0 0 9) now nestles in second place (2.72) on the SIERA leaderboard right between Roy Halladay (2.61) and Cliff Lee (2.74). Halladay, ever the gamer, more than keeps his distance (7.0 6 0 0 0 9) ahead of Hamels. The Phillies manage to put some runs on the board (4.2 per game), something they had overlooked the week before. Let it be said the pitchers have done their part to help in that department as well.
The Best Fan in Baseball: The Cardinals lose solo hold of first place as they are swept by the Brewers in a series in which they score only six total runs. Albert Pujols (.227/.292/.500) has another funky week and Chris Carpenter (6.0 5 5 5 2 4) gets touched up by the Brewers' big bats. All that's fine, though, since injured pitcher Adam Wainwrightdeclares the team the cream of the NL Central. While Wainwright still hopes to pitch in October, his teammates have work to do yet to get there.
And For Their Next Trick . . . : The Giants come out even in a week in which Tim Lincecum (4.0 7 7 7 4 1) has his worst start of the year. That's the kind of wizardry you might expect from recent call-up Brandon Crawford if not the entire Giants offense. It's little surprise, then, that the Giants now own a streak of two weeks during which they do not score more than five runs. As long as that Vogelsong still plays (6.0 8 2 2 3 6), the Giants keep on dancing.
Losing With Style: The best sub-.500 team in baseball posts a losing week but does not lose much Hit List ground. Part of the reason is the number of close games they play—they played just one this week decided by more than two runs and have played 21 one-run games on the year—and part of that is the bump they get in the move from vanilla won-loss record to its third-order cousin. At least Carlos Gonzalez gets his act together; the week raises his season line from .249/.320/.408 to .278/.342/.449 and he tallies five extra base hits. But concerns about Ubaldo Jimenez (5.1 11 7 2 1 2) and the rest of the pitching staff remain.
Cairo Time: During a week in which the Reds allow just 2.7 runs per game, they manage to win just four out of seven. Part of that is lumpy run-scoring: they put up 8 twice on the week but score just 14 runs in the other five contests. That makes tough-luck losers out of Edinson Volquez (6.0 5 2 2 3 5)—who has struggled most in the first inning of games—and Travis Wood (8.0 11 2 2 3 4). Jose Arredondo (3 ER in 1.0 IP) is the goat for now, as he records two losses in three relief appearances on the week. Thank goodness for Miguel Cairo, whose grand slam led the team to at least one convincing victory on the week.
Snake Pun: A month removed from a 15-22 start, the Diamondbacks have since gone 22-8 to put themselves in NL West contention. Hit List isn't crazy about their success, and their third-order winning percentage is just .508, but darn it if they aren't an exciting team. They score 4.7 runs per game and start pitchers who make disaster starts in which they hit home runs (Zach Duke, 4.2 13 7 7 1 4 but with a two-run job off Ricky Nolasco). Josh Collmenter's miracle run (5.0 4 0 0 2 4) continues, and who doesn't enjoy a good Daniel Hudson K/BB festival (6.0 8 1 1 1 3 7)? Well, the Marlins, I guess.
Geronimoooo!: The Marlins barely have time to catch their breath as they find themselves in complete freefall. 30-20 on May 28, the Marlins drop 13 of their next 15 to fall below .500 and to seven games out in the division. They find new and creative ways to lose, like in extra innings, as they did against the Braves in 10, and while scoring five runs, as they did against the Diamondbacks. At some point the team will stop trotting out Javier Vazquez (3.2 7 7 7 3 6), and it could only improve from there. The team does get some good news, though, as Hanley Ramirezgets set to return.
Tricky Dickey: In his last five games, R.A. Dickey goes 32.1 IP with a 2.23 ERA, 24 K, and just 8 BB. He also hits more batters (3) than he gives up home runs (2). Dickey is a good standard-bearer for the Mets, a team that is up and down in roughly equal measure both on the week (4-3) and the year (32-33). The team gets a big boost from the sensational play of Jose Reyes (12 hits on the week) and the return to form of Angel Pagan (8 hits and 3 steals). The great summer debate will revolve around Reyes, who is the constant target of trade talks but may have the most value right where he is.
Three Mcs and One DJ: Somehow the Pirates scrape out a winning week despite averaging just 2.7 runs per game on offense. They win two of those games on the strength of wins by Mcs Cutchen (2.56 ERA out of the bullpen this year) and Donald (6.0 8 2 2 3 2). The third Mc, also named Cutchen, has a 10-hit week to bring his OPS to .879. The Pirates also learn a new phrase, "Maholm" (or is it "mahalo"?), and practice saying it to the Mets (7.0 3 0 0 2 4). At 32-33, the Pirates would probably be in contention for the NL Central title in any other year.
Dee Minus: It just isn't your week when you lose 0-2 one day and 7-9 the next, but that's just what the Dodgers do as they get blanked by Cole Hamels and in the very next game suffer a rare Clayton Kershaw turkey. Many of the team's problems are traced to the bullpen, which owns a 4.77 ERA and 92 BB in 185.2 IP and gives away another couple of winnable games on the week. Dee Gordon, the rookie shortstop, gives one away in his home debut as well as he fails to touch second base on a double-play ball. Meanwhile, Vicente Padilla may be out for the remainder of the season. Whatever you do, don't blame Matt Kemp: he has 11 hits—8 for extra bases—on the week.
High-Water Mark The Nationals hold their opponent to one run or fewer for three straight games for the first time all year, but too bad it was against the Padres in Petco. The team gets a pair of good starts out of Jordan Zimmermann (7.0 5 1 1 1 3 & 7.0 4 0 0 1 10), who is now sporting a 3.81 K/BB to go with his 3.10 ERA. Meanwhile, in 1936, Todd Coffey is a national treasure. Laynce Nix (.294/.400/.412) challenges Seth Smith for the title of most entertaining platoon player.
Never Change, Padres: It is the Padres' misfortune to face the Rockies in consecutive weeks, but dropping three out of four to the Nationals is, as Beck or Led Zeppelin would agree, nobody's fault but your own. So pervasive is the anti-run-scoring force field around the team that they manage to hold the Rockies to one run in Denver thanks to the trio of executioners known as Luebke, Adams, and Bell. The team features a jaw-dropping five relievers with ERAs under 3.00 and at least 25 IP.
Darwin Barney and Friends: The Cubs find themselves in the midst of a brutal stretch in which they face the Cardinals (who sweep them), the Reds (who take two out of three), the Phillies (who take three out of four), the Brewers, and the Yankees. The result is a team that is 3-11 in their last 14 games and now 11 games out of first place. If this team is to do anything, it'll have to start winning some games against stronger teams to reverse the damage already done. At least the team gets some late-inning acrobatics from Darwin Barney.
One Step Forward, Four Steps Back: The Astros win on June 2, then lose four straight. They win on June 8, then lose four straight. They win on Monday, but hope a series at home against the Pirates helps them to avoid repeating recent history. Jordan Lyles throws 111 pitches in his third start, a good one (6.1 8 2 2 2 5) in which he is deprived of a win by—what else?—the Astros' trademark veteran bullpen. Even better, someone thinks moving the team to the AL will make them more competitive! Never mind all that, Astros fans; just sit back, relax, and enjoy the Altuve.