News and notes from around the Central:
- St. Louis outfielder Lance Berkman came back too soon from the rotator cuff strain that kept him out of Monday's game: Berkman started in yesterday's matchup with the Astros but had to leave after grounding out in the fourth inning and aggravating the shoulder injury. Berkman will see a doctor today to determine how long he'll be out.
- The big news around the Central this morning is Pittsburgh's marathon, 19-inning loss to the Braves that ended in the worst possible fashion: on a controversial call at the plate by umpire Jerry Meals. We'll have more on the game below, but let's talk about the game-ending play here: with runners at first and third and one out in the 19th, Atlanta, which was out of position players, had to use pitcher Scott Proctor to hit. Proctor sent a grounder to third baseman Pedro Alvarez, whose throw to the plate beat Julio Lugo by about eight feet. Catcher Mike McKenry applied a swipe tag and everybody -- including Lugo -- concluded Lugo would be called out ... except for Meals, who ruled that McKenry had missed the tag. The Bucs were incensed, the Braves walked off winners, and Meals admitted after the game that he probably blew the call.
- Cincinnati broke up its logjam in left field by trading outfielder Jonny Gomes to the Nationals for a couple of prospects: single-A reliever Chris Manno and AA outfielder/first baseman Bill Rhinehart. Gomes was hitting just .211 this year but had an impressive .336 on-base percentage and 11 homers in 77 games (59 starts).
- It seems there's a nasty flu bug being passed around the Cubs' clubhouse: backup catcher Koyie Hill lost 15 pounds over the weekend after coming down ill, and setup man Kerry Wood didn't make the trip to Milwaukee after he got sick, too.
- It's looking more and more like no one will be able to meet the Astros' demands for outfielder Hunter Pence, but now there are rumblings that Arizona has kicked the tires on Houston lefty Wandy Rodriguez, who has two years and $23 million left on his contract.
- St. Louis claimed sole possession of first place with a 3-1 victory over Houston. The Cards jumped on Astros starter Brett Myers early, notching two runs in the first inning on Albert Pujols' 23rd homer of the year (which was reviewed on replay and respectfully upheld, of course). The Astros got a run back on Carlos Lee's RBI single in the fourth, but David Freese restored the two-run margin with his fifth homer of the year in the sixth inning. Jake Westbrook worked 6 solid innings (seven hits, one run, three strikeouts) to pick up his ninth win on the year.
- The bats went to sleep after Milwaukee and Chicago combined for five runs in the first inning of yesterday's game, and the Crew hung on for a 3-2 victory over the Baby Bears at Miller Park. Recap? Yeah, you got recap.
- Pittsburgh suffered a gut punch loss of the highest order in its 19-inning, 4-3 loss to Atlanta. You know about the (probably) blown call that ended the game, so here's what else happened: the scoring was over by the third inning, as the Pirates got two runs in the first (Neil Walker RBI triple, Pedro Alvarez RBI single) and another in the second (Mike McKenry's second homer of the year) but the Braves answered with three in the third (on Dan Uggla's RBI single and Jason Heyward's 2-RBI single). From there, the teams went scoreless over the next 15.5 innings, with Atlanta using eight pitchers (including reliever Cristhian Martinez, who worked six scoreless innings on two hits and six strikeouts) and the Bucs using seven (including reliever Daniel McCutchen, who was supposed to have the night off, for 5.1 innings). The Pirates had thirteen hits and drew seven walks while striking out 20 times, and the Braves rapped out fifteen hits and drew eleven walks while striking out 13 times. The only silver lining for Pittsburgh after this one? It's not getaway day today, so tonight's contest doesn't start until 6:10 p.m. CDT.
- Cincinnati dropped its second straight game to the Mets, falling 8-6 at Great American Ballpark. The Mets tagged Cincy starter Johnny Cueto for four runs in the first three innings, and Cueto departed after giving up six earned runs in just five innings. Trailing 4-1 in the fifth, the Reds rallied to take the lead with a four-run rally that was fueled by Edgar Renteria's 2-RBI double and Joey Votto's two-run homer, but the advantage was short-lived: the Mets plated two runs in the sixth on Jason Pridie's double and tacked on two more in the seventh on run-scoring singles from Daniel Murphy and Angel Pagan.
Your updated standings for July 27:
On tap for tonight:
- The Cardinals and Astros play game three of their four-game series at 7:15 p.m. CDT, when Chris Carpenter (6-7, 3.73) takes on Bud Norris (5-7, 3.70).
- The Crew and Cubs are back in action at 7:10 p.m. CDT from Miller Park. In game two, Zack Greinke (7-4, 4.84) faces Carlos Zambrano (7-5, 4.70).
- The Pirates and Braves will throw the kitchen sink at each other at 6:10 p.m. CDT, and each team needs a long outing from its starter. The Bucs are counting on Paul Maholm (6-10, 3.26), while the Braves have Jair Jurrjens (12-3, 2.44) on the mound.
- The Reds try to solve the Mets at 6:10 p.m. CDT. Scheduled to start: for the Reds, Bronson Arroyo (7-8, 5.56); for the Mets, Mike Pelfrey (5-9, 4.73).