News and notes from around the Central:
- Pittsburgh is building back to full strength as it continues a nine-game stretch against NL Central foes: though Ronny Cedeno (concussion) and Steve Pearce (partial tear of calf muscle) won't be back in the series against the Reds that starts today, it's possible both could return this weekend when the Bucs face the Cardinals.
- Two weeks after regaining the services of utilityman Nick Punto, the Cardinals may be losing him to the disabled list again: Punto can't play defense without experiencing significant pain in his throwing arm, and though he pinch hit on Sunday, Tony LaRussa says there was "no way" he could allow Punto to play the infield in the game.
- Reds rookie Zack Cozart is rewarding the faith Cincinnati showed in him when he was called up from AAA Louisville ten days ago: Cozart's been stellar with the glove, had a five-game hitting streak to start his career, and clubbed his first homer yesterday.
- You might want to sit down for this: Cryin' Mike Quade (and his new sidekick, Kryin' Kerry Wood) complained about the umpiring after his team dropped a 7-5 decision to the Marlins. (Seriously: this moron realizes that this umpiring crew is going to work his team's games in the future, right?)
- Astros infielder Matt Downs was placed on the paternity list following Houston's game with Pittsburgh on Sunday, and he'll travel to Alabama to join his wife for the birth of their first child. The 'Stros summoned lefty Wesley Wright from AAA Oklahoma City to fill Downs' roster spot.
- The Crew is back in first place after a rollercoaster 4-3 win over the Rockies yesterday afternoon. Shaun Marcum left in the sixth inning with an injury to his neck, but LaTroy Hawkins, Takashi Saito, Frankie Rodriguez, and John Axford nailed down the victory with four solid innings. Our recap is here.
- Cincinnati knocked St. Louis out of first place with a 3-1 victory over the Redbirds on Sunday afternoon. Homer Bailey was on top of his game, working 7.1 innings of three-hit ball and holding the Cards to one run, which came via Lance Berkman's 25th homer on the year, a second inning solo shot. But the Reds plated single runs in the sixth, seventh, and eighth innings, thanks to a wild pitch by Jaime Garcia (which allowed Zack Cozart to scamper home from third), a Ryan Hanigan run-scoring single in the bottom of seven, and Cozart's first homer of the season in the eighth. CoCo Cordero notched his 18th save on the year with an 11-pitch, three-up-three-down ninth inning.
- Pittsburgh stayed on the Brewers' heels with a hard-earned, 7-5 victory over Houston in 11 innings at Minute Maid Park. The Astros knotted the game at four in the bottom of the eighth on a Chris Johnson double, and the game stayed tied until the 11th, when the Bucs scored three times: Brandon Wood opened the frame with a double, Xavier Paul reached on Mark Melancon's fielding error, and Josh Harrison (who pinch-ran for Wood) scored on Humberto Quintero's passed ball. After Alex Presley singled in Paul, the Pirates got their final run when Aneury Rodriguez airmailed the throw to first base on Andrew McCutchen's grounder. The 'Stros got one back in the bottom of the inning on Quintero's first homer of the season, but that was as close as they would get.
- Chicago is now a full 20 games under .500, courtesy of a 7-5 loss at the hands of the Marlins on Sunday afternoon at Wrigley Field. This one looked like a barnburner early, with the Fish and the Baby Bears each tallying three runs in the first inning: Florida got its runs via the long ball, with Greg Dobbs hammering a two-run shot and Hanley Ramirez following with a solo homer, while the Cubs scored on the strength of doubles from Starlin Castro and Aramis Ramirez and a single by Blake DeWitt. But the game calmed down until the eighth inning, when the Fish scored three more times (on a bases-loaded walk by Dobbs and a two-RBI single by Logan Morrison) to claim a 7-4 lead. Ramirez doubled in Castro in the bottom of the eighth, but the Cubs wasted Marlon Byrd's lead off single in the ninth and went quietly against Leo Nunez, who claimed his 26th save of the year.
Your updated standings for July 18:
On tap for tonight:
- The Crew begins a four-game set with the Diamondbacks in Phoenix at 8:40 p.m. CDT. In the opener, Randy Wolf (6-6, 3.65) faces Josh Collmenter (4-5, 2.92).
- The Pirates and Reds begin a three-game series at PNC Park tonight at 6:05 p.m. CDT. Scheduled to start in game one: for the Reds, Dontrelle Willis (0-0, 3.00); for the Bucs, James McDonald (5-4, 4.42).
- The Cubs welcome the NL East-leading Phillies to town for a three-game
bloodbathseries that starts at 7:05 p.m. CDT. In what promises to be a pitcher's duel (cough, cough), Roy Halladay (11-3, 2.45) takes on Rodrigo Lopez (1-2, 4.02).
- The Astros host the Nationals at Minute Maid Park at 7:05 p.m. CDT, when Jordan Lyles (0-4, 4.60) matches up with Jason Marquis (7-4, 4.05).
- St. Louis has the day off.