2009 MLB National League Central Notebook
The weekly managerial watch turns to Houston where the Astros are securely fastened in last place and Cecil Cooper is likely looking over his shoulder.
Not much was expected of this team because it is the oldest squad in baseball with an average age of 30 years. However, to perform to where it is 18-27 and suffering through a season-long seven-game losing streak, is a little worse than expected.
It started with a 1-5 homestand against Milwaukee and Texas and continued with a sloppy performance in Cincinnati, a place where the Astros used to dominate. The Reds swept that 3-game series.
The Astros are 12th in the National League in pitching with a 4.68 ERA and are one of four NL teams with fewer than 10 saves. Also, they have scored the third fewest runs at 193. Only San Diego and San Franciso are worse. When you watch the Astros, you just get the feeling that they are not playing the game with any passion and need a shake-up.
When your staff ace pitcher cannot control his temper, it’s a problem. It's long been the kryptonite of right-hander Carlos Zambrano.
Zambrano was ejected by home plate umpire Mark Carlson in the seventh inning of the May 27 game against Pittsburgh at Wrigley Field. Zambrano covered home plate after throwing a wild pitch. The Pirates' Nyjer Morgan scored but Zambrano thought he had him.
Then he and Carlson bumped during the argument and Zambrano was tossed. However, Zambrano did the really silly thing by giving the same ejection motion toward Carlson. Zambrano then continued to show real maturity by throwing a ball into left field, firing his glove and taking his bat and beating up a water cooler. That's unacceptable.
Baseball suspended Zambrano for six games and reports said he was also fined. Zambrano is not appealing it. He apologized for it and said he should have more control over himself. But he also called it being a competitor -- no, not really.
The growth in center fielder Nate McLouth's game has really been fun for Pirates' fans to watch. McLouth, who is in his fourth full season, has grown into a hitter for both average and power.
He blossomed in 2008 when he hit .276 with a career-high 26 home runs. He also stole 23 bases, also a career high.
This year, the average has slipped to around .260, but the power numbers are on the rise. He leads the team in both home runs (8) and RBIs (31) and is projected to hit 30 home runs and drive in more than 100. And people already know how well he can play the field. He is the National League's Gold Glover winner for 2008.
When you see the Cardinals' pitching staff leading all of baseball in team ERA at 3.58, it's pretty easy to see why. In the last nine games, this team is shutting people down.
The Cardinals climbed back into first place in the division because the ERA over that span is a miniscule 0.88. They have not allowed more than three runs in any of those games.
Right-hander Adam Wainwright has really grown into a bulldog. He's 5-2 with a 3.18 ERA and is averaging nearly 6 2/3 innings per start.
The Reds are making their attempt to host the 2013 All-Star game at the new Gateway Park. An Ohio state senator recently introducted a resolution on the state senate floor in Columbus that urges Major League Baseball to select the Reds as the host of that year's game.
Cincinnati last hosted the game in 1988 when the team played at Riverfront Stadium. But the one of the most memorable moments in All-Star Game history occurred at Riverfront in the 1971 game. The Reds' Pete Rose knocked over Oakland catcher Ray Fosse on a play at the plate. Rose scored the winning run in the National League's 5-4 win. Fosse's career was never the same because of the damage suffered to his shoulder.
There are a couple of reasons why the Brewers are in contention. First, the starting rotation has throw 26 quality starts in its first 47 games. That's really not all that bad.
Second, the team has been very good in close and late situations. The Brewers have outscored the opposition, 22-9, in the ninth inning and are 7-2 in games decided in a team's final at bat. However, they have not been involved in many walk-off games. They are 2-1 in those. In the two wins, they have not needed a home run to pick up the win.
By Kevin Lonnquist
> View all of the 2008 MLB team previews from Pro Baseball Fans