News and notes from around the Central:
- The Pirates have been exceedingly patient with 34-year-old first baseman Lyle Overbay, who's scuffled to an anemic .229/.301/.345 line this season, but that patience is wearing thin: manager Clint Hurdle says that Overbay needs to start producing now if he wants to hang on to his job.
- St. Louis picked up some reinforcements in its recent trade with Toronto, but the Cards lost three more players during yesterday's game against the Astros: catcher Gerald Laird had to leave with an injury to his finger, Nick Punto was pulled in the fourth inning because of an oblique strain, and backup catcher Tony Cruz had to exit after taking a foul ball off the hand.
- After falling on their faces in a four-game sweep at the hands of the Mets, the Reds sit 6.5 games off the pace in the Central. But their recent malaise hasn't dimmed the spirits of owner Bob Castellini, who told reporters that the Reds are still looking to add pieces at the trading deadline.
- The Cubs started the process of disassembling their $130 million mess, sending right fielder Kosuke Fukudome to Cleveland for minor leaguers Abner Abreu and Carlton Smith. And there might be more moves coming for Chicago: in the wake of the Fukudome deal, Aramis Ramirez seemed to indicate he wouldn't stand in the way of a deal to a contender.
- I've lost track of where we stand in the "will they, won't they?" drama surrounding Astro outfielder Hunter Pence: at last check, I believe I said it looked like the Astros were going to hang on to Pence. But now there are new rumblings that the Phillies and Houston are "progressing" towards a trade for Pence.
Milwaukee got another outstanding pitching performance -- this time from Shaun Marcum, LaTroy Hawkins, Frankie Rodriguez, and John Axford -- en route to a 4-2 win over Chicago and a three-game sweep of the Baby Bears. Our recap is here.
Houston split its four-game set with St. Louis thanks to a 5-3 victory at Busch Stadium last night. The Astros found themselves down 3-1 heading into the fourth inning, but Houston plated four runs over the next three innings to grab a two-run lead: Carlos Lee had an RBI single in the fourth and came around to score a couple of batters later on Chris Johnson's sac fly, Jason Bourgeois had an RBI double in the fifth, and Lee capped the scoring with a solo homer in the sixth. The Cards couldn't get any offense going in the last six innings of the game, as Wandy Rodriguez and two Astro relievers held the Cards without a hit from the fourth inning on.
Pittsburgh earned a split in its four-game series with the Braves with a 5-2 victory in Atlanta yesterday afternoon. Kevin Correia, as is his custom, danced out of trouble all day long: the Braves worked him for nine hits and a walk in 6.1 innings, but Correia only gave up two runs (one earned) as he won his 12th game of the year. Correia helped his own cause at the dish with a run-scoring single in the second, but the hitting hero for the Bucs was splendid centerfielder Andrew McCutchen, who drove in three runs with a double in the fifth and a two-run homer in the ninth that put the game out of reach.
Cincinnati is floundering badly: the Reds were swept in a four-game series at Great American Ballpark by the Mets, with New York taking a 10-9 decision yesterday afternoon to complete the pantsing. Trailing 2-1 in the fourth inning, the Mets exploded for four runs -- Lucas Duda had the big blow with a bases-loaded double that scored all three runners -- and then tacked on another four in the fifth inning, when Jason Bay cleared the bases with a 3-RBI double of his own. That was the end for Reds starter Homer Bailey, whose final line was grisly: 4 IP, 12 H, 2 BB, 9 R, 9 ER. Cincinnati rallied with a four-run outburst in the sixth and pulled within a run in the ninth inning on Joey Votto's 16th homer of the year, but Jason Isringhausen set down the next three Reds to notch his fourth save.
Your updated standings for July 29:
On tap for tonight:
- The Crew begins a three-game series with the Astros at Miller Park at 7:10 p.m. CDT. Tonight's matchup features Randy Wolf (6-8, 3.62) and Astro rookie Jordan Lyles (0-5, 4.55).
- The Cardinals take on another NL Central foe when the slumping Cubs visit Busch Stadium at 7:15 p.m. CDT. In game one, Matt Garza (4-7, 3.72) faces new Cardinal Edwin Jackson (7-7, 3.92).
- The Pirates have an intra-state battle against the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park beginning at 6:05 p.m. CDT tonight. Charlie Morton (8-5, 3.69) will have his work cut out for him against Roy Halladay (12-4, 2.55).
- The Reds welcome the Giants to town for a three-game set that kicks off at 6:10 p.m. CDT. Ryan Vogelsong (8-1, 2.10) starts for San Francisco, and he'll be opposed by Dontrelle Willis (0-1, 3.71).