News from around the Central:
- The middle of the Cardinals' lineup was quite a bit leaner yesterday, as St. Louis played without Lance Berkman (wrist) and Matt Holliday (quadriceps). Holliday could be back for tonight's game against the Royals, but it's expected that Berkman is going to take a while longer to recover.
- Let me see if I've got this straight: the Pirates have the Reds' number, with five wins in six games this year. The Reds have the Brewers' number, winning five of six this year and something like 30 of the last 35 games (or something like that. I didn't look it up). And the Brewers have the Pirates' number, winning 685 of the last 700 games vs. Pittsburgh (again: didn't look it up). By the transitive property, shouldn't we be in first place?
- Allow me to be the 485th person to tell you that the Cubs are back in Boston for the first time since the 1918 World Series. I believe the torch-passing ceremony -- where the formerly longest-suffering, insufferable fanbase official hands over the mantle to the current longest-suffering, insufferable fanbase -- is scheduled for Saturday.
- With the Pirates once again languishing under .500 (notwithstanding their two-game sweep of the Reds), a local bar in Pittsburgh has come up with a promotion: if the Pirates lose, the bar takes a nickel off the cost of a pitcher of beer -- and continues adding up the nickels until the end of the season (so 90 losses would decrease the cost of a pitcher by four-and-a-half bucks by the end of the year). The Pirates, to put it mildly, were not amused.
- Former Brewer Bill Hall was benched by the Astros for a couple of days after striking out three times during Monday's loss at Atlanta. Hall was back in the Houston lineup yesterday afternoon, but the time off didn't seem to help: he was 0-3 with a strikeout.
- The Pirates claimed a two-game sweep of the Reds and knocked Cincinnati out of first place in one fell swoop, taking a 5-3 win yesterday afternoon at Great American Ballpark. Pittsburgh was the first team to get to Reds starter Johnny Cueto in 2011, scoring three in the fifth to chase Cueto from the game. Neil Walker doubled and drove in two runs and Ryan Doumit hit a solo homer, his fourth of the year.
- St. Louis is back in first place thanks to a 4-2 win over Houston on Thursday afternoon. Kyle McClellan continued his impressive start to the year, throwing eight innings of five-hit ball and allowing two runs while striking out five. McClellan is now 6-1 with a 3.43 ERA. Allen Craig had three hits for the Redbirds, including a solo homer off J.A. Happ, and Gerald Laird doubled in a pair of runs.
- The Cubs also finished off a two-game sweep with a 5-1 win over the Marlins in Florida. Casey Coleman hasn't been very good in 2011, and he wasn't very good last night -- four hits and five walks in just 5.2 innings -- but he worked out of trouble and his bullpen picked up the slack, giving up a single run over the final 3.1 innings of the game. Marlon Byrd had a two-run homer for Chicago (his third) and Starlin Castro doubled in two runs in the ninth to put the game out of reach.
On tap for today: it's INTERLEAGUE TIME:
- St. Louis travels to Kansas City for a three-game series starting at 7:10 p.m. CDT tonight. Chris Carpenter (1-3, 4.95) starts for the Cards; he'll face lefty Jeff Francis (0-5, 4.83).
- The Reds have an intrastate affair, heading to Cleveland for a three-game set against the Tribe. The Reds start Travis Wood (3-3, 5.01) in game one (starts at 6:05 p.m. CDT), and the Indians send Alex White to the bump (1-0, 3.75).
- Pittsburgh is in Detroit to take on former skipper Jim Leyland's Tigers at 6:05 p.m. CDT tonight. Brad Penny (4-3, 4.11) takes the ball for the Tigers, and the Pirates start righty Jeff Karstens (2-2, 3.62).
- As you already know, the Cubs are in Boston. Game one starts at 6:10 p.m. CDT and features a match up of lefties: Chicago's Doug Davis (0-1, 1.80) faces Boston's Jon Lester (5-1, 3.28).
- The Astros are in Canada for a three-game series against the Toronto Bautistas. First pitch at Rogers Centre is scheduled for 6:07 p.m. CDT, with Houston's Aneury Rodriguez (0-2, 6.26) facing Jo-Jo Reyes (0-3, 4.75).