The All Star game has come and gone, with the AL winning home field advantage once again for the 13th straight season. Now it is time for the players to rejoin their teams, and take the field once again with their sights set on a playoff push. Today we look into an annually exciting race out of the National League East.
Here we are with 2 and a half months left in the season and not much has changed atop the NL East standings all season. The red hot Phillies, 10 games over .500 and fresh off the signing of Pedro Martinez to a 1 year, 1 million dollar deal lead the division by 4 games over the 2nd place Florida Marlins. The Phils have relied on their bats to carry them through the season and so far it has paid off, but do they have the pitching depth to continue this run? With a streaky team in a streaky division a little consistency is exactly what will be needed to keep control of the division.
The Marlins, playing much better baseball of late then they were during the earlier stages of the season, seem to finally have their rotation working like they wanted, with Josh Johnson leading the way, that man will most likely be a star in this league one day. The problem remains in the bullpen for the Fish, as they have no true threat coming out in relief to make life easier for them. The bats have been good but inconsistent at best, and can someone please tell me why Emilio Bonifacio is still starting? There is a big series between the Marlins and Phillies to start things off, and this could have a large impact on the state of the division going forward. Can the Marlins bring the phillies (9-1 in their last 10) back down to earth, or will they continue their hot streak and run away from their nearest counterparts? If the Marlins take the series, which they can do if they finally find a way to start hitting Philadelphia pitchers, look for things to get interesting sooner than later, but it will be up to the Florida bull pen to keep them in this race for the long term.
Next we head over to Atlanta where the braves find themselves 6 games out of first and heading into a series with the Mets at home. Recently just before the break the Braves and Mets got together for a rare trade between the two rivals, swapping outfielders Jeff Francouer to the Mets in exchange for Ryan church. Both teams looking for a spark swapped players with nearly the same stats this year to try and get things going. For the braves, they are looking for the offense needed to stay in this race. 3 Games under .500 they are not out of this yet, as i mentioned before this is a very streaky division. They look to drop the Mets further down the ladder while slowly crawling back toward the .500 mark to respectability town. They have traded out aged stars for youth this year and look to make an impact and get back to their winning ways, and the longer they hang around the more dangerous they will become. I wouldnt want to see them close in my rear view mirror coming down the stretch if im the aging Phillies, as their youth may benefit them in the long run. Look to this weeks series with the Mets to give us an idea of where this race could be going and just who is better off right now.
Next we have the Mets, a team that has been plagued by injuries all season long and are just looking to stay afloat until the likes of Carlos Delgado, Carlos Beltran, Jose Reyes, John Maine, and JJ Putz can return later in the month and early into august so they can make one last ditch effort to get into the fall classic. Its been a rough season for Mets fans basically watching the Brooklyn Cyclones take the field each night but the addition of Jeff Francouer in the outfield gives them some youth and a decent bat to rally around. The first man off the DL was Oliver Perez, the notoriously inconsistent pitcher with lights out potential, (he must have something if they threw $36 million at him this off season to stick around) who had a win in his first outing and looks to finally become the Ollie the Mets thought they were getting this offseason. Pitching has been a major concern for the Mets as they struggle to put up runs for support the only man who seems to be able to handle it is Johan Santana, and even he has shown signs of mortality lately. Look for the Mets to be in the market for a starting pitcher as they make their push in August and September and try to get things rolling. Reyes and Delgado have been seen working out lately and if the Mets can manage to pull off a few wins in the short term, they may have a chance to get back in this thing, but not unless they can really pull a 180 and change the way things are going down at Citi Field. They will also need some help from the Phillies, who will have to do their best Mets impression of 2007 and 2008 to let everyone back into the thick of things. Dropping 3 to Atlanta this week would almost certainly make that mountain impossible to climb for the Cyclon.. I mean Mets and they will have to show up and gain some momentum and give K-Rod the opportunity to get on the field, as he has become more and more of a rare sighting these days.
Also I hear theres a team down in Washington somewhere? Poor Manny Acta, it couldnt have been ALL your fault. In the end I see the Marlins fading, Pitching really is the key for them and its just not on their roster, the braves will hang around but i cant see them coming out on top. I expect a push from the Mets with the return of their players but i dont believe it will be enough for them to overcome the hole they have already dug for themselves. Its looking like another Phillies division victory (as much as it pains me to say that) unless they fall off their winning ways and invite the rest of the division back in to play. Only time will tell and I for one am looking forward to sitting back and watching all of this go down.
Ahh, the long dog days of Summer are finally starting to get interesting again. Now that the All-Star Game has come and gone, it's time to focus on the stretch run in the divisions and the Wild Card race. BTW, St. Louis has an awesome stadium and an excellent view of downtown in the outfield, I hope the new Marlins ballpark will take some hints from the Cards. It's no surprise to me that NL East is as close and muddled as it is. It'll be interesting to see how the rest of the season plays out. Let's go team by team for a little more analysis.
The defending World Series Champs got off to a rather slow start this year yet currently stand five games ahead of the Marlins for first place in the division, after Jamie Moyer stifled the Marlins yet again last night. He is the true definition of a Marlins killer. However, it's quite surprising to see the Phils with such a large lead being that they own one of the worst road records in all of the majors. They have come on strong as of late, winning their last 6. They are undoubtedly powered by their offensive stars: Howard, Utley, Werth and lately Rollins seems to be coming back on. Cole Hamels hasn't been the Cole we saw last season and it will be interesting to see what Pedro can do. As the season wears on, you have to think that the Phils lack of excellent starting pitching will catch up with them, it just seems that their bats will give them enough of a cushion to win the division again.
Currently my Marlins sit in second place and have been a team that is hard to put your finger on. After starting a scorching-hot 11-1, they floundered in May only to recover in June and July to stay in contention. The starting rotation was supposed to be the best in the division at the start of the year, but it hasn't worked out that way. Opening Day starter Ricky Nolasco was sent down to the minors after a horrific start to the season but he seems to have found the '08 Nolasco again. Josh Johnson has emerged as a true "ace" in the NL and should be a bright young spot on this team for years to come. I would bet that most Marlins fans want to see JJ throw the first pitch at the new park in 2012, it's up to management to get them signed. The biggest problem preventing the Marlins from winning the division this year has got to be their inconsistency and Jeremy Hermida. How he still has a spot on this roster is baffling. If the Fish can take the next 3 against Philly, or even 2, I think that keeps the Marlins looking to buy another bat or another reliever at the deadline. If the Marlins offense could turn it on more consistently, I think they're a team to keep your eyes on as the calendar turns to September.
Oddly enough, the Braves sit third in the division, just a game behind the Marlins. Derek Lowe, their main offseason addition has struggled in Atlanta and not been the stud that the Braves were looking for. They have a nice collection of bats in their lineup and Jair Jurrjens has been great, a solid find from wherever he may be from. Honestly, though, I can't see Atlanta challenging for either the Wild Card or the East title as the season wears on. The Phillies and Marlins have been the better teams so far this year, and one has to expect the Mets to turn it on at some point.
Oh poor Smalls. What's going on in Queens these days? The opening of a new and beautiful Citi Field has done nothing but harm the Mets. All of the sudden David Wright can't hit a home run, Santana can't get the run support to win his games and that bullpen that was supposedly the new strength with KRod and Putz back there has been faulty. Yes, the team has been ravaged by injuries and that is why I can't count them out of the race just yet. Delgado, Reyes, and Beltran are the biggest sparks in the Mets lineup and they haven't been on the field much this season. The real question is how far out of it will the Mets be, as they continue their freefall down the division standings, when their three stars return. If they have enough ground to make up, the Mets might just be the team to do it. Personally, I think they're gonna fall too far to stay around.
I think there's a fifth team in the division, but they're not worth my time writing about or yours reading about. I have to agree with Smalls however, and say Poor Manny Acta!! There's no way a manager is going to be successful with that lineup and you gotta feel bad for the guy. Apparently he's a great baseball mind, he just was given a AA team to work with. Zimmerman's 30-something game hit streak and the drafting of San Diego State star pitcher Steven Strasburg are the teams only bright spot in this abysmal season as they will be the last team in the majors to reach 30 wins. Strasburg can't come to D.C. soon enough, if he's coming at all.
The NL East winner will probably be the only team that sneaks into October this year as the West has three teams with better records and SF and Colorado are leading the Wild Card race. Unfortunately, it looks as though the Phillies will be that team. If there is a second team from the East in the playoffs, look for it to be the Fish or the Mets as neither the Braves or Nats have the power or pitching to stave off either team.
this is it,
2 years ago