News and notes from around the Central:
- The anticipation continues to build for the Brewers-Cardinals series that kicks off a little after 7:00 p.m. CDT tonight. The Cardinals recognize this series could be a defining one for their season: Lance Berkman says the Cards would be in a deep hole if the Crew took two of three, and Ryan Theriot says the Central is a two-team race now.
- The Pirates are desperate for an infusion of life, and help might be on the way in the form of speedster Jose Tabata, who's been on the DL since June 28 with a strained quad. The Bucs have made plans to give Tabata time in right field during his rehab assignment; the hope is that Tabata can handle the position, which would allow rookie Alex Presley to continue playing left field.
- Brandon Phillips missed his second straight game with the ankle injury he suffered in Saturday's loss to the Cubs. But the Reds second baseman insists he's feeling much better, thank you, and he expects to return to the lineup today.
- Cubs shortstop Starlin Castro batted a torrid .515 last week, clubbing two homers and scoring 10 runs as the Cubs won seven games in a row before falling to the Reds on Sunday. For his efforts, Castro was named the NL Player of the Week on Monday.
- New Houston centerfielder Jordan Schafer is still a ways away from making his debut with his new club, as he continues to rehab from the broken finger he suffered on July 26. But Schafer was able to hit balls off a tee yesterday, and skipper Brad Mills says he expects Schafer to begin a rehab assignment around August 20.
Cincinnati's return to Great American Ballpark didn't cure what ails the Reds: the offense did its part in a 10-7 loss to Colorado, but Homer Bailey and Friends got battered around the park as the Reds dropped 10 games off the pace in the Central. Bailey gave up five earned runs in just three innings; he couldn't protect a 3-0, first-inning lead, giving up a pair of two-run homers to Seth Smith in the second and third innings, respectively, and a run-scoring single before departing after a lengthy rain delay. Things were no better for the Reds relievers: Sam LeCure gave up a two-run shot to Todd Helton, Bill Bray gave up a two-run tater to Carlos Gonzalez, and Nick Masset surrendered a run-scoring double to Mark Ellis. Cincinnati got homers from Jay Bruce (22), Drew Stubbs (15), and Brandon Phillips (11), but it wasn't enough on this night.
- Now that's how you get off the schneid: Pittsburgh rebounded from its devastating 10-game losing streak with an impressive 5-0 win over the Giants in San Francisco. The Bucs jumped on Giants starter Ryan Vogelsong in the first inning, plating a couple of runs on a Neil Walker double and Ryan Ludwick's run-scoring single. Pittsburgh then tacked on another run in the third (bases-loaded walk by Pedro Alvarez) and put the game out of reach with two more in the fifth. That was all the support Charlie Morton needed: the right-hander worked eight shutout innings, scattering six hits (three by Nate Schierholtz) and three walks while striking out four.
Chicago and Washington were washed out by rain. The game will be made up on Thursday at 1:20 p.m. CDT, which had been a scheduled off day for both clubs.
- Houston thumped the Diamondbacks in Phoenix, 9-1. The Astros roughed up Snakes starter Daniel Hudson to the tune of five first-inning runs: J.D. Martinez got the party started with a three-run bomb to right field, and Carlos Corporan doubled in Jimmy Paredes and Clint Barmes with two down. Houston then tacked on two more in the second (Matt Downs had an RBI double and Barmes had a run-scoring infield single), and Wandy Rodriguez rocked the D-backs to sleep, working six scoreless innings and giving up just two hits while fanning five. The only run the Diamondbacks could muster was a Henry Blanco solo homer off of Jeff Fulchino in the seventh.
Milwaukee and St. Louis had the day off.
Your updated standings for August 9:
BONUS STANDINGS for August 9: the Wild Card race looks like this right now:
On tap for tonight:
- The Crew and Cardinals begin a pivotal three-game series at 7:15 p.m. CDT at Busch Stadium. Shaun Marcum (10-3, 3.58) faces Edwin Jackson (8-8, 4.11) in the opener.
- The Reds continue their series against the Rockies at 6:10 p.m. CDT. Scheduled to start: for the Reds, Dontrelle Willis (0-1, 3.41); for the Rockies, Esmil Rogers (5-1, 6.35).
- The Cubs and Nationals try to start their series again at 7:05 p.m. CDT, and because of the rainout, yesterday's scheduled starters -- Matt Garza (5-8, 3.78) and Chien-Ming Wang (0-2, 6.00) are now tonight's scheduled starters.
- The Pirates are back in action against San Francisco at 9:15 p.m. CDT, when James McDonald (7-5, 4.23) does battle with Madison Bumgarner (6-11, 3.71).
- The Astros and D-backs play game two of the series at 8:40 p.m. CDT. Jordan Lyles (1-6, 4.36) tries to pick up his second win against new Diamondback Jason Marquis (8-6, 4.33).