News and notes from around the Central:
- The Cardinals continue to build towards full strength, as St. Louis activated backup catcher Gerald Laird from the DL and purchased the contract of AAA pitcher P.J. Walters. To make room on the active roster, the Cards optioned first baseman Mark Hamilton and pitcher Brandon Dickson to Memphis.
- Pirates manager Clint Hurdle and San Francisco skipper Bruce Bochy have exchanged unpleasantries in the media over the last few days, with Hurdle blasting Bochy for failing to name Bucs center-fielder Andrew McCutchen to the NL All-Star squad and Bochy responding that Hurdle should have lobbied for his player before the team was selected, not after.
- The Reds shuffled the deck before the series opener in Milwaukee, banishing Opening Day starter Edinson Volquez to the minors for the second time this year and summoning top prospect Zack Cozart to replace Paul Janish at shortstop.
- Injured Cubs starter Carlos Zambrano, who's been sidelined by a back injury for the last week, will head to Single A Peoria for a rehab start today. If there aren't any issues, Zambrano could return to Chicago's rotation in another week.
- Astro shortstop Angel Sanchez got his fourth straight at third base last night as Houston skipper Brad Mills continues to search for ways to inject life in Houston's offense.
- It took a while to get the game in when rains forced a 60-minute delay to start the game and then interrupted the contest for another 50 minutes in the sixth inning, but when the skies cleared the Diamondbacks claimed a 4-1 decision over St. Louis at Busch Stadium. Joe Saunders stymied the Cards for five innings, walking four but holding the Redbirds to one hit, and four Snake relievers combined to cover the final four innings, limiting St. Louis to two hits and one run the rest of the way. Justin Upton clubbed a two-run shot off of Kyle McClellan when play resumed in the sixth inning, and David Hernandez picked up his sixth save with a scoreless ninth.
- Thanks to a three-run tracer off the bat of All-Star Rickie Weeks and some nifty tightrope work by Chris Narveson, LaTroy Hawkins, and John Axford, Milwaukee nipped Cincinnati, 5-4, at Miller Park. Our recap is here.
- Chicago somehow rallied from an 8-0, sixth-inning deficit to snag an improbable 10-9 victory over the Nationals in Washington. Matt Garza put the Cubs in the big early hole when the Nats pushed across seven runs in the third inning; for the game, Garza went 2.0 innings, giving up seven runs (six earned, but the unearned run came on Garza's own error, so there's that) on eight hits and a walk. But the Cubs got off the mat with a six-run sixth inning rally, powered by a two-out, two-run double by Darwin Barney and a pinch-hit, three-run jack by Blake DeWitt. The Cubs got two more in the seventh on Carlos Pena's 19th homer and then scored the winning run when Barney doubled in Tony Campana in the top of the ninth.
- The "something's gotta give" battle in Miami, featuring the moribund Astros and scuffling Marlins, went in Florida's favor in game one, as the Fish blanked Houston, 5-0. Florida's Brad Hand worked seven innings, holding the Astros to two hits and three walks while striking out four, and picked up his first win of the season for his efforts. On the other side of the coin, J.A. Happ's forgettable season continued, as the Houston lefty lasted just 5.2 innings, giving up all five Florida runs while walking seven and striking out eight. Mike Stanton homered for the Marlins and drove in two, and Logan Morrison went 2-4 and drove in two.
- Pittsburgh had the day off.
Your updated standings for July 8:
On tap for tonight:
- St. Louis continues it series with the Snakes at 7:15 p.m. CDT at Busch Stadium. In game two, Kyle Lohse (8-5, 2.97) faces Ian Kennedy (8-3, 3.38).
- The Crew and Reds are back at it at 7:10 p.m. CDT at Miller Park, with Zack Greinke (7-3, 5.66) trying to get back on track against Mike Leake (8-4, 4.03).
- The Cubs travel to Pittsburgh for a three-game series with the Bucs that begins at 6:05 p.m. CDT tonight. Rodrigo Lopez (1-3, 3.91) gets another start for the Baby Bears, while James McDonald (5-4, 4.40) gets the call for the Pirates.
- Houston and the Marlins play game two of their series at 6:10 p.m. CDT at Sun Life Stadium, when Jordan Lyles (0-3, 4.17) takes on Javier Vazquez (4-8, 5.64).