News and notes from around the Central:
- New Cardinal Edwin Jackson was forced out of yesterday's win over the Rockies in the sixth inning after apparently injuring his hamstring on a pitch to Ty Wigginton. For now, the Cardinals are calling the injury a "severe hamstring cramp," which sounds an awful lot like a strain to me.
- Dontrelle Willis has been a welcome addition to the Reds' rotation, but it seems that Cincinnati might have to do without Willis for a while: the left-hander had to exit yesterday's loss to the Padres with what's described as "soreness in the left forearm." Willis says he thinks a few days off will do the trick, but it sounds to me like a terrifying precursor to elbow troubles.
- Pirates third baseman Pedro Alvarez was tearing things up in AAA on a rehab assignment, but he's scuffled since returning to the big-league club. That has Pirates GM Neal Huntington debating whether to send Alvarez back to AAA to straighten out his wing (story is in the sidebar).
- In case you were chained in the crawl space and missed the excitement over the weekend, here's your Cliff's Notes version of the latest Carlos Zambrano adventure: after getting torched early and often by the Braves, Big Knucklehead decided to zing two pitches under Chipper Jones's chin. That prompted an ejection, and Z alighted to the clubhouse, where he cleaned out his locker and told people he was retiring, which caused Jim Hendry to squeal in delight: "REALLY? We accept your retirement papers and wish you well at Del Boca Vista!" But Z (or Z's agent) realized how much money he'd be leaving on the table by retiring, so Z decided not to go down that path. Still: the tantrum landed Zambrano on the disqualified list, and Casey Coleman is getting the call from AAA Iowa to take Z's spot in the rotation.
- The Astros are still waiting for former Brave Jordan Schafer to make his debut in Houston, and the centerfielder took batting practice for the first time since breaking his finger on July 27. But Schafer reported swelling in his finger after the session, and it's unclear when (or if) he'll go on a minor-league rehab assignment.
- Nyjermania ran wild on Chris Resop in the 10th and Milwaukee swept Pittsburgh out of town with a 2-1, extra-inning win. Our recap is here.
- The Cardinals lost a game in the standings over the weekend, but St. Louis kept its deficit at five games with a 6-2 win over Colorado on Sunday night. The Rockies jumped on Edwin Jackson for two runs in the first on Mark Ellis's solo homer and Troy Tulowitzki's RBI single, but the Cards answered right back with four runs in the first: Al Pujols homered to score Rafael Furcal, David Freese doubled in Matt Holliday, and Yadier Molina added an RBI double of his own. Jackson wasn't sharp -- 5.1 IP, eight hits and three walks with just four strikeouts -- but his 'pen picked him up in a big way: five Cardinal relivers held the Rockies to two hits the rest of the way, and Fernando Salas set Colorado down in order in the ninth to end it.
Cincinnati couldn't finish off the sweep of San Diego, dropping a 7-3 decision to the Padres at Great American Ballpark. San Diego got four runs in the third inning against Dontrelle Willis (on a pair of RBI singles, a wild pitch, and an RBI groundout), but Jay Bruce pulled the Reds within one with a three-run blast to right field in the bottom of the fourth. But the Padres tacked on single runs in the seventh, eight, and ninth innings, and Heath Bell slammed the door on Cincinnati with a three-up, three-down ninth inning.
Chicago took two of three from Atlanta thanks to a 6-5 nailbiter over the Braves on Sunday afternoon. The Cubs found themselves down 4-0 after five innings, but Chicago got off the mat with four runs in the sixth -- sac fly by Carlos Pena, two-RBI single by Tyler Colvin, and a wild pitch that scored Alfonso Soriano -- and then, after the Braves got an unearned run in ths sixth, Pena put the Cubs in the lead with a two-run homer in the seventh, his 23rd of the year. That was enough of a cushion for Jeff Samardzija, Sean Marshall, and Carlos Marmol, who held the Braves hitless over the last three innings.
Houston lost a baseball game. Ho-hum. The Dodgers used a four-run sixth inning to blow open a 3-0 contest, and Hiroki Kuroda held the Astros to five hits over seven innings while fanning six as Los Angeles blitzed the Astros, 7-0, at Dodger Stadium.
Your updated standings for August 15:
The Wild Card race looks like this right now:
On tap for tonight:
- The Crew welcomes the Dodgers to town to kick off a four-game series at 7:10 p.m. CDT tonight. Randy Wolf (9-8, 3.48) faces fellow lefty Ted Lilly (7-12, 4.71) in the opener.
- The Cardinals take to the road to battle the slumping Pirates at 6:05 p.m. CDT. Jake Westbrook (9-6, 4.74) is on the bump for the Cards, while James McDonald (7-6, 4.24) gets the call for the Bucs.
- The Cubs look to take their fifth series in a row, and they've got the right team on the schedule to do it: the Baby Bears face the Astros tonight, with Rodrigo Lopez (3-3, 4.78) facing Henry Sosa (0-1, 6.00) in game one.
- Cincinnati has the day off.