News and notes from around the Central:
- Pittsburgh infielder Chase d'Arnaud wrenched his neck sliding into third base in the fourth inning of Monday's 2-0 win over the Reds, and though he said he was feeling better yesterday, Bucs skipper Clint Hurdle decided to hold d'Arnaud out of the lineup as a precautionary measure.
- From the "Don't Try This At Home" files: reports last week indicated that St. Louis infielder Nick Punto was headed back to the DL with a balky right elbow that was making it impossible for him to play in the field. But Punto believes he remedied the issue when he picked up a baseball and "chucked it as hard as [he] could" on Sunday; he says that he felt something -- possibly scar tissue -- "release" in the elbow when he threw the ball, and he feels much better now.
- Reds right-hander Jose Arredondo is on schedule to be activated from the 15-day disabled list on Friday: Arrendondo threw a bullpen session yesterday and looks to have recovered from the strained forearm that landed him on the DL.
- In today's edition of Cubs Rummage Sale 2011: Chicago outfielder Alfonso Soriano has a full no-trade clause as part of his albatross contract, but he says he'd be open to a move to a contender. Whether a contender would be interested in assuming any of the money Soriano is owed -- approximately $61 million -- is another matter.
- Houston dealt second baseman Jeff Keppinger to the Giants for some minor-league flotsam (pitchers Henry Sosa and Jason Stoffel, if you're interested) and summoned AA second baseman Jose Altuve to take Keppinger's spot on the active roster.
- Pittsburgh maintained its advantage in the Central with its second consecutive shut out of Cincinnati, taking a 1-0 whiteknuckler at PNC Park. The Bucs scored the game's only run in the first inning when an Andrew McCutchen groundout scored Josh Harrison, who singled with one out and moved to third on Neil Walker's ground-rule double. James McDonald and three Pirate relievers didn't need any more offense than that, though: McDonald worked 6.1 scoreless innings, scattering four hits and three walks while punching out seven, and Joel Hanrahan notched his 28th save despite some tense moments: Hanrahan gave up a pair of two-out singles in the ninth, but got Jay Bruce to ground out to Walker to end the game.
- Milwaukee busted out the whuppin' sticks in the desert, using three first-innings homers and five total taters (including two (?!?!?) from Yuni Betancourt) to rout the Diamondbacks, 11-3. Our recap is here.
- St. Louis fell 1.5 games behind the Bucs with a 4-2 loss to the Mets at Citi Field. This game was scoreless until the fifth inning, when the Cards got on the board on Kyle Lohse's run-scoring single. But the Mets answered with two runs in their half of the frame, when Angel Pagan doubled in Jose Reyes and Justin Turner, and then tacked on two more in the sixth when Daniel Murphy doubled in Turner and Carlos Beltran. Lance Berkman got one of the runs back with his 26th homer of the year in the seventh, but a budding rally in the eighth was snuffed out when Our Man of Perpetual Respectfulness grounded into 6-3 double play with the bases loaded and one out.
Chicago gave starter Matt Garza a 2-0 lead in the first inning courtesy of a two-run tater by Starlin Castro, and the Cub right-hander made that margin hold up for seven innings. But Garza departed after giving up a leadoff single to Jimmy Rollins in the eighth and Sean Marshall couldn't protect the lead: Marshall gave up a single to Michael Martinez and a two-run double to Chase Utley, and then lost the game in the ninth when he gave up three straight two-out hits: a single to Ben Francisco, another single by Rollins, and a two-run bloop job by Martinez that gave the Phils a two-run cushion. Antonio Bastardo (BASTARDO!) fanned the side in the ninth for his seventh save.
Houston finally figured out how to protect a late lead in a 7-6 win over the Nationals in Houston. The Astros plated six runs in the first four innings of the game, thanks to a two-run homer from Clint Barmes and a four-run rally in the fourth that featured a run-scoring single from Barmes, a two-RBI double from Michael Bourn, and, most shockingly of all, an RBI bunt single from Humberto Quintero. As he's wont to do, Astro starter J.A. Happ nearly gave it all back, working 5.2 innings and giving up five earned runs on seven hits and four walks. But five Houston relievers made the lead hold up, and Mark Melancon worked a scoreless ninth to pick up his eighth save.
Your updated standings for July 20:
On tap for tonight:
- The Pirates and Reds wrap up their series at 11:35 a.m. CDT this morning. The Bucs go for the sweep behind Jeff Karstens (8-4, 2.34), while the Reds send Johnny Cueto (5-3, 2.01) to the bump.
- The Crew continues its series in Arizona at 8:40 p.m. CDT. It's a matchup of lefties as Chris Narveson (6-6, 4.74) faces Joe Saunders (6-8, 3.89).
- The Cardinals and Mets resume their series at 6:10 p.m. CDT, when Kyle McClellan (6-6, 4.24) takes on R.A. Dickey (4-8, 3.70).
- The Cubs and Phils conclude their series at 1:20 p.m. CDT at Wrigley Field. Ryan Dempster (7-6, 4.68) takes the ball for the Baby Bears, while Philadelphia turns to Vance Worley (5-1, 2.15).
- The Astros and Nationals finish their series at 1:05 p.m. CDT at Minute Maid Park. In the finale, Brett Myers (3-10, 4.86) faces Livan Hernandez (5-9, 4.09).