Around the NL Central: July 20 Edition

News and notes from around the Central:

Yesterday's action:

  • 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:


W L GB Last 10 Streak
Pirates 51 44 -- 7-3 W3
Brewers 52 46 0.5 6-4 W1
Cardinals 50 46 1.5 4-6 L2
Reds 47 50 5.0 4-6 L2
Cubs 39 59 13.5 4-6 L1
Astros 32 65 20.0 3-7 W1


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).
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