Mets starter Bobby Parnell started strong, but a tough Cubs line-up was too much for the young right hander, who gave up a grand slam home run to Jake Fox in the fifth inning as an otherwise light-hitting Cubs line-up took down the New Yorkers 11-4 at Wrigley on Saturday. To make matters worse, the loss was televised to a national audience as a part of theÂ Major LeagueÂ Game of the Week. It’s been a tough month for the New Yorkers, hit by injuries, demoralized by the surge of the division-leading Phillies — and now by rumors that the owners of the ballclub may have to sell. And was a tough game forÂ Parnell, just 24, and one of the Mets new young hurlers and bright hopes for the future.
The Cubs, who are themselves struggling, may have suddenly found new life in the NL Central, though the St. Louis Cardinals had as decisive win over the Nats as the Cubs had over the Mets. After the game, Parnell admitted that his confidence “is up and down.” Even so, there is great hope for Parnell, who Mets fans hope can fill a badly needed hole in the rotation for next year. If there was good news in the game, it is that newly acquired Jeff Francoeur continues to swing a fiery bat — going 2 for 4 against the Cubbies. The Mets take on the Cubs again tomorrow before heading to Colorado for a three game series against the Rockies. They will return to New York on September 4. For more news on the Mets, be sure to check out The Real Dirty Mets Blog — which covers everything you’d ever want to know about The New York Mets.
* * *
What Jake Fox did to the New York Mets, Matt Holiday did to the Washington Nationals â€“ but this time, Holliday had the courtesy not to make his home run a grand slam. Holliday hit a three run third inning home run against Washington starter Craig Stammen to power the Cardinals to a 9-4 Cardinals win at Busch Stadium on Saturday night. After taking two of three from the stammering Cubs, the Nationals have lost their first two to the Cardinals, helping to dampen the teamâ€™s hopes that they might overtake the Royals and Padres for worst team honors in major league baseball. In addition to Stammenâ€™s problems, the Natsâ€™ bats went silent: for although the Nationals threatened to catch the Cardinals in any one of three frames, the team left runners stranded when they needed them most: Elijah Dukes struck out with the bases loaded in the seventh â€“ just one instance of a lack of clutch hitting in an otherwise powerful line-up.
Other clubs problems were on display in St. Louis: the Nats last place defense was emphasized (Cristian Guzman booted an easy ground at short, which opened the floodgates for Hollidayâ€™s heroism), the bullpen looked unusually shaky (Jorge Sosa gave up two runs in only one inning of work), and the team now officially misses an out-for-the-season Nyjer Morgan: the team left 15 on base and stole no bases. The Nats will face the Cards one more time (a blessing, when you think about it) before heading to San Diego to take on the Padres. To read all about the Nats and their problems in St. Louis, be sure to log onto Centerfield Gate. It will give all the news about the team and the glorious future of the Washington Nationals.
* * *
The teams of the N.L. East have not been doing so well lately: the Mets have been struggling against the Cubs in Chicago, the Nationals have looked terrible in St. Louis. Certainly, the Florida Marlins â€“ seeing the Phillies just ahead of them in the standings, and knowing the playoffs are looming, can do something to salvage a successful season. But not so. On Saturday night at home in Miami (and in front of a crowd anticipating a run-for-the pennant win), with success on the horizon, the Marlins failed to gain ground in the NL East, dropping its third straight game to the Friars. But this time the culprit was not pitching, it was hitting. The final score, 7-4, told the story: pitcher Ricky Nolasco (5.1 innings, 3 earned runs) was respectable and held the Marlins in the game. Then too, the four runs scored by the Marlins hitters should have been enough, but it just wasnâ€™t. The Marlins could only muster six hits against a Padres staff that was mediocre at best: Wade LeBlanc, with a less than stellar 9.58 ERA on the season held Floridaâ€™s best lumbermen to total of four hits in six innings â€“ the best outing of his entire career, while San Diegoâ€™s relievers (Russell, Gregerson and Bell) were lights-out.
The Marlins have now dropped three straight to the Padres, one of the worst teams in baseball. In the clubhouse after the game, the frustration with the evening â€“ and with the series â€“ was palpable.â€™ Every team we play is dangerous,â€ Marlins manager Fredi Gonzalez said. “I don’t look at the records, I don’t. We’ve got to win ballgames. If you get caught up looking at records and thinking you can look beyond teams, you will get disappointed. You’re going to get humbled real quickly.” Ricky Nolasco refused to be pessimistic: “Those are things that are going to happen. Now, tomorrow is a must-win. We’ve got to get it rolling to be able to give ourselves a chance. We can’t sit here and just hang our heads and be frustrated about it. We’ve got to do something about it, get the game tomorrow. The season is not over yet.” Donâ€™t forget to check up on the Marlins, and their tussle today and tomorrow against the Padres at FishGuts.
* * *
It seems that the only time an N.L. East team plays well enough to win, these days, is when it plays another N.L. East team. At least in this case, the much anticipated Atlanta Braves-Philadelphia Phillies rivalry didnâ€™t disappoint. In what was billed as a major duel of top notch pitchers and tough sluggers, the two major competitors in the N.L. East came out swinging on Saturday, with Atlanta ending up on top in another rain-sodden contest in Philadelphia by a score of 9-1. By the time this one was done, Atlanta had taught the otherwise soon to be immortal Cliff Lee (5-0 since he joined the Phillies from the Cleveland something-or-others) that he was now in the National League: and that Matt Diaz (3-5, one home run), Garret Anderson (3-4, one home run), Yunel Escobar (2-4, one home run) and Chipper Jones (1-5, one home run) were not going to allow him (or those who relieved him) to go 6-0. Or allow the people of Philadelphia to believe that their path to the division crown would be without any bumps.
Lee was not about to issue excuses for his outing â€“ which was hardly a disaster. Even so: “I went and watched basically every hit I gave up and they were all right down the middle,” Lee said. “It’s hard to get good results when you’re throwing pitches belt high and down the middle of the plate. That’s basically what happened. I feel good about throwing strikes, working ahead and not walking people, but I put myself in positions to put them away and I missed up and down the middle. If you consistently do that, that’s what’s going to happen.” The Bravesâ€™ win was not without its blemishes, a talisman perhaps of the troubles it must surmount if it is to catch the Phillies: Derek Lowe pitched well, but he gave up eight hits. And Atlanta must still somehow crawl over a seven game Phillie lead in the east, a not impossible task, but one that is becoming more and more difficult with each passing game. To read more about the Phillies, be sure to check out Phillies Phandom Blog â€“ and for more on the challenges facing the Braves, be sure to click on to Braves Baseball Blog.