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Around the NL Central: June 20 Edition

News from around the Central:

  • We've made light of the Cardinals' ongoing injury woes this season, but this one could be a game-changer: St. Louis lost first baseman Albert Pujols to a sprained wrist and injured shoulder after Pujols was involved in a collision at first base in the sixth inning of yesterday's contest vs. the Royals. X-rays on the wrist didn't show any fractures, but Pujols will undergo further tests today.
  • The clock is about to run out on the rehab assignment for "injured" Reds reliever Aroldis Chapman: the 30-day time limit on Chapman's rehab expires tomorrow, but it's still not clear whether the Reds will bring the left-hander back to the big league club or option Chapman to AAA Louisville to work through his bouts of erratic pitching.
  • The Pirates' stagnant offense can use all the help it can get, but it doesn't appear that help will be coming from injured third baseman Pedro Alvarez (strained quadriceps), who's currently permitted to engage in only "limited" physical activity at extended spring training.
  • With the Yankees in town to play the Cubs over the weekend, there was some speculation that overgrown infant Carlos Zambrano could be auditioning for a spot in New York's rotation. Big Z downplayed those rumors, though, saying that he wants to stay in Chicago for the long haul.
  • Houston outfielder Hunter Pence was diagnosed with a sprained left elbow, two days after he injured the elbow diving back to first base in Friday's loss to the Dodgers. There was some concern that Pence had torn a ligament, but an MRI showed that the ligaments in the elbow are intact.

  • Yesterday's action:

    • Milwaukee got its third disaster start in four days, as Yovani Gallardo turned in a brutal outing and the Crew got billy-clubbed in Boston, 12-3. Our recap is here.
    • St. Louis reclaimed a share of first place with a 5-4, walk-off win over the Royals at Busch Stadium. Former Brewer Alcides Escobar hit his first homer of the year in the top of the ninth to tie the game at four, but Skip Schumaker -- who was inserted as part of a double switch in the sixth inning -- hit a one-out homer to send the Uptight Citizens home happy. Schumaker's shot made a winner out of Fernando Salas, who blew his second save chance of the year when he surrendered Escobar's homer.
    • Cincinnati salvaged a game in its three-game series with Toronto, as Bronson Arroyo pitched eight effective innings -- five hits, one walk, one earned run, five strikeouts -- and Miguel Cairo hit a go-ahead, two-run homer in the sixth to account for the Reds' offense. Francisco Cordero notched his fifteenth save of the year with a ten-pitch top of the ninth, and Joey Votto had three singles to boost his average to .327.
    • Pittsburgh, on the other hand, couldn't avoid the sweep at the hands of the Indians, as the Tribe got a walk-off win thanks to a three-run, eleventh-inning homer from second baseman Cord Phelps (his first career tater). Pirates starter Jeff Karstens deserved a better fate, as he worked seven innings and gave up two runs on five hits and two walks and struck out four. But the only offense the Bucs could muster came in the top of the first, with Neil Walker singling in a run and Matt Diaz supplying an RBI groundout (but only because you can't assume the double play: Cords threw away the relay on Diaz's tapper to short, which would have been the third out of the inning).
    • The Cubs got to Yankees starter C.C. Sabathia early, plating four runs in the first four innings courtesy of a Jeff Baker RBI groundout and three-run homer off the bat of Alfonso Soriano. But New York chipped away at the lead and eventually roared past Chicago in the last two innings, and when the smoke cleared, Los Yankees had a 10-4 win in the Windy City. Nick Swisher provided the fireworks in the eighth with a three-run bomb off of The Other Chris Carpenter, and the Yankees tacked on three more in the ninth thanks to misplayed flyballs by Baker and Soriano.
    • Houston found itself on the short end of a pitchers' duel in L.A.: Bud Norris worked six innings of one-hit ball, striking out five, but Hiroki Kuroda was up to the task, pitching seven innings of three-hit ball and striking out six, and the Dodgers plated an eighth-inning run off of Wilton Lopez on a Dioner Navarro homer to take a 1-0 victory over the 'Stros at Dodger Stadium. Javy Guerra picked up his second save of the year with a three-up, three-down top of the ninth.

    Your updated standings for June 20:

    W L GB Last 10 Streak
    Brewers 40 33 -- 5-5 L1
    Cardinals 40 33 -- 3-7 W2
    Reds 38 35 2.0 6-4 W1
    Pirates 35 36 4.0 5-5 L3
    Cubs 29 42 10.0 4-6 L2
    Astros 27 46 13.0 3-7 L1


    On tap for today:

    • The Crew takes on another AL East behemoth, as the Tampa Bay Rays invade Miller Park tonight at 7:10 p.m. CDT. Chris Narveson (4-4, 4.48) faces Jeff Niemann (1-4, 5.74) in the opener.
    • The Yankees continue their tour of the NL Central with a three-game series vs. Cincinnati at Great American Ballpark. Game one starts at 6:10 p.m. CDT, with Johnny Cueto (4-2, 2.68) taking on Ivan Nova (6-4, 4.46).
    • The Pirates welcome the Orioles to town at 6:05 p.m. CDT tonight. Scheduled to start: for the Bucs, Charlie Morton (7-3, 3.21); for the O's, Jake Arrieta (8-4, 4.45).
    • The Cubs make the short trek to the south side for a three-game series with the White Sox. Carlos Zambrano (5-4, 4.59) and Gavin Floyd (6-6, 3.94) match up in the opener.
    • The Astros head to Rangers Ballpark in Arlington to face the Rangers at 7:05 p.m. CDT tonight. J.A. Happ (3-8, 4.95) is on the bump for the Astros, while Derek Holland (5-2, 4.78) takes the ball for Texas.
    • St. Louis gets a much-needed day off.