News and notes from around the Central:
- There's still no certainty that injured Cardinals outfielder Matt Holliday will be able to return before the end of the season, but the swelling in his injured hand has gone down considerably in the last couple days and he's been cleared to swing a bat off a tee.
- The Reds confirmed on Tuesday what's been suspected since right-hander Johnny Cueto left his last start with a strain in the lat behind his pitching shoulder: Cueto won't pitch again this season. Cueto says he feels fine, but the team doctor told him to shut it down.
- Pirates infielder Pedro Alvarez has struggled through a forgettable 2011 -- he's hitting .189 with four homers in 67 games and has battled injuries throughout the year -- and he says he needs to take a couple weeks off before he considers going to the Dominican Republic to play winter ball.
- Cubs third baseman Aramis Ramirez had to exit yesterday's loss to the Brewers with a strained quad, and since the Cubs head to the road to finish the year, it's possible Ramirez has played his last home game for Chicago. From the sounds of it, Ramirez certainly thinks it was.
- Astros starter Bud Norris had to leave yesterday's game against the Reds in the third inning after experiencing discomfort in his throwing shoulder. Norris said he felt the shoulder "catch" on a pitch to Paul Janish, and it's unclear if he'll make his last start of the season.
- Milwaukee took advantage of some suspect Cub defense and used some timely hitting in a four-run third inning that led to an easy 5-1 win -- and a magic number of 3 -- in Chicago. Our recap is here.
St. Louis went back and forth all night with New York, but the Cards got the last laugh in a six-run seventh inning to thump the Mets, 11-6, at Busch Stadium. The Mets were clinging to a 6-5 lead in the seventh, having chased Edwin Jackson from the game after five innings and having scored the go ahead run in the seventh on a bases-loaded walk, but things came hideously unraveled with two down in the bottom of the frame: Al Pujols singled and so did Lance Berkman, and David Freese worked Josh Stinson for a walk. Tim Byrdak then relieved Stinson and all hell broke loose: Ryan Theriot hit a pinch-hit ground-rule double that plated two, and, after an intentional pass to Yadier Molina, Adron Chambers cleared the bases with a triple that turned this one into a laugher.
- Cincinnati busted out of its malaise on offense with a 6-4 victory over Houston at Great American Ballpark. The Reds got three runs in the second inning on Devin Mesoraco's two-run homer and Dave Sappelt's RBI single, then added two more in the fourth on Jay Bruce's 2-RBI single after J.D. Martinez had cut the lead to 3-2 with a two-run homer in the top of the third. Chris Johnson homered for the 'Stros in the eighth to once again trim the margin to one, but Brandon Phillips got the run right back with a solo homer of his own in the bottom of the inning. CoCo Cordero gave up a hit in the ninth inning but escaped without further incident for his 34th save.
Pittsburgh did the Crew a big favor by beating Arizona, 5-3, at Chase Field. Charlie Morton held the Snakes scoreless for six innings, but he needed 106 pitches to do so and handed a 3-0 (courtesy of RBI doubles from Neil Walker and Ryan Doumit and a solo homer from Pedro Alvarez) to the Bucs bullpen in the seventh. The D-backs got a run back in the seventh when Willie Bloomquist drove in Gerardo Parra, but Derrek Lee staked the Pirates to a 5-1 lead with a two-run bomb in the top of the eighth. The Snakes got two more runs back in the bottom of the inning -- run-scoring singles by Ryan Robert and Bloomquist -- but Joel Hanrahan put Arizona down in order in the ninth for his 39th save.
Your updated NL Central standings for September 21:
|W||L||GB||Last 10||Streak||Elimination #
On tap for today:
- The Crew and Cubs wrap up their season series at 1:20 p.m. CDT at Wrigley Field, when Randy Wolf (13-9, 3.45) faces Matt Garza (8-10, 3.51).
- The Cardinals look to beat up on the Mets' woeful pitching again at 7:15 p.m. CDT. Jaime Garcia (12-7, 3.59) takes on Chris Schwinden (0-2, 5.40) in this one.
- The Reds and Astros conclude their series with an early 11:35 a.m. CDT start at Great American Ballpark. It's Bronson Arroyo (8-12, 5.34) against Wandy Rodriguez (11-10, 3.55) in the finale.
- The Pirates and Diamondbacks also have a matinee affair to close their series, as Ross Ohlendorf (1-2, 6.62) battles Wade Miley (3-2, 4.24) at 2:40 p.m. CDT.