News and notes from around the Central:
- Pittsburgh right-hander Jeff Karstens was named the NL Player of the Week for his stellar start against the Astros last week, when he blanked Houston on five hits and no walks.
- St. Louis centerfielder Colby Rasmus remains a source of debate as we approach the MLB trading deadline: while some Cards fans are ready to throw in the towel on the precocious talent, others think that Rasmus is destined for big things and don't want to see him go.
- It's getting to the point that you have to wonder how much help Scott Rolen is going to be for the Reds the rest of the way: Cincinnati skipper Dusty Baker gave the 36-year-old his second straight day off last night, explaining that Rolen wasn't able to recuperate over the All-Star Break.
- Cubs third baseman Aramis Ramirez has rebounded from a slow start to catch fire in the last month, and he's rocking a .300/.346/.504 line for the season. That makes Ramirez an attractive candidate for a deadline deal, but he says he's not interested in being traded -- not right now, anyway.
- Anthony Castrovince of MLB.com says that if the Astros are honest with themselves about what needs to be done to rebuild their flagging franchise, they'll deal outfielder Hunter Pence before the trading deadline. I remain skeptical.
Milwaukee came tumblin' out of first place, as the Crew dried up like a puddle in the Arizona heat and fell meekly to the D-backs, 3-0. Josh Collmenter blanked the Brewers for eight innings, ceding just three hits and walking no one while striking out seven. If you need more, our recap is here.
Pittsburgh pulled back into first place in the Central courtesy of a 2-0 blanking of Cincinnati at PNC Park. The start of the game was delayed for an hour because of rain, and Pirate starter Charlie Morton got to face five batters before a lightning strike and strong storms halted the game for an hour-and-a-half in the top of the first. But Morton came back strong after the delay, working five innings and giving up no runs and three hits. The Buc bullpen took over from there, and the heavy lifting was done by lefty Tony Watson, who worked 2.2 scoreless, hitless innings. The Pirates got all the offense they needed with a two-run rally in the fourth: Andrew McCutchen drove in Chase d'Arnaud with a groundout to short, and Matt Diaz plated Neil Walker with a sac fly immediately thereafter.
- Chicago somehow claimed a 6-1 win over the Phillies in a game started by Roy Halladay. Actually, the Cubs weren't the biggest challenge for Halladay, though the Baby Bears managed seven hits and three runs off the Phillies ace in just four innings; the main obstacle was the sauna-like conditions at Wrigley Field. After giving up a single to Starlin Castro to open the fifth, a drenched and exhausted Halladay was pulled from the game, and the Cubs tacked on three runs against the Philadelphia bullpen. Rodrigo Lopez, meanwhile, had little issue with the weather, as he held the Phils to one run on five hits in 6.2 innings. Aramis Ramirez hit a solo homer off Halladay in the first inning, and Carlos Pena added his 20th tater in the seventh.
- Houston pulled another late-inning vanishing act, surrendering three runs in the ninth inning and falling to the Nationals, 5-2, at Minute Maid Park. Jordan Lyles worked 8.1 solid innings for the 'Stros, giving up just five hits while striking out six, but he gave up a single, a sac bunt, and an RBI single to Ryan Zimmerman in the ninth to snap the 2-2 tie. Wilton Lopez relieved Lyles but couldn't stop the bleeding, giving up a single, a walk, and a two-RBI single to Laynce Nix to cap the scoring. Jason Marquis worked eight strong inning for the Nats, giving up two runs on six hits while fanning nine.
- St. Louis was idle.
Your updated standings for July 19:
On tap for tonight:
- The Pirates and Reds are back at it at 6:05 p.m. CDT from PNC Park. Game two features Pittsburgh's James McDonald (5-4, 4.43) takes on Mike Leake (8-4, 4.28).
- The Crew continues its series in Arizona with an 8:40 p.m. CDT start against the D-backs. In this one, Yovani Gallardo (10-6, 4.08) faces Barry Enright (1-3, 6.49).
- The Cardinals open a three-game set with the Mets at 6:10 p.m. at Citi Field. Kyle Lohse (8-6, 3.32) is on the bump for the Birds, while the Mets start Dillon Gee (8-3, 3.76).
- The Cubs and Phils resume hostilities at 7:05 p.m. CDT at Wrigley Field, when Matt Garza (4-7, 3.97) battles Cliff Lee (9-6, 2.82).
- The Astros continue their series with the Nats at 7:05 p.m. CDT. Scheduled to start: for the 'Stros, J.A. Happ (3-11, 5.76); for Washington, Jordan Zimmermann (6-7, 2.66).