The Cincinnati Reds have been contending all year, but their recent seven-game winning streak has catapulted them closer to the National League's best record. On the morning of July 6, the Reds were sitting at 44-38 and two games behind the Pirates in the NL Central. Winners of 14 of their last 16 games, they own first place, and sit just a game back of the league-lead Nationals. They're doing it with pitching, led by staff ace Johnny Cueto (12-5, 2.23 ERA). The Reds have allowed three runs or fewer in 10 of the 13 games since the break, adding up to a 2.59 ERA since the All-Star game. Those type of performances have helped Cincinnati offset the absense of Joey Votto's bat, out since mid-July with a torn meniscus.
The Miami Marlins did quite the sell job when attempting to raise support for a new stadium project. The fireworks of opening night, the new uniforms, it was all supposed to add up to a winning formula for a franchise so desperate for an identity. Nabbing Ozzie Guillen and Mark Buerhle from the Windy City, while somehow luring free agent prize Jose Reyes away from the Mets, this was supposed to be a contender. That hasn't happened, and the knee-jerk reaction by front office decision makers have many fans scratching their heads. With Hanley Ramirez being shipped off to Los Angeles, and John Johnson being thrown around in trade talks, Miami has once again pulled off the old bait-and-switch.
Speaking of falling apart, that Astros have lost all hope for a respectable campaign with their current ten-game losing streak. Going 2-23 since June 28, this team not expected to do anything had nonethless gotten off to a decent start. Now trading away two of their better pitchers, the 'Stros has officially waved the white flag. During this slide, the Astros' pitching staff has allowed eight runs or more a half-dozen times already. Wandy Rodriguez (7-9, 3.79 ERA) was dealt Monday to the contending Pirates, while J.A. Happ is now pitching in Toronto after being traded from the Phillies last Friday. Ironically enough, the last two pitchers to win a game for the Astros during the 2-23 skid? Rodriguez and Happ.
With Milwaukee losing seven straight and falling out of the wild-card race, the Zack Greinke watch is on. It is no longer a question of if, but when, and where, the former Cy Young winner gets traded. It's a good bet that Greinke stays in the National League, with clubs like Atlanta and the Dodgers looking for that extra arm. Aramis Ramirez will also get a look-see, but not because the Brewers would be actively shopping him. Fresh off signing a three-year deal in December, the former Cub would provide a reasonable price tag for teams looking to fill a hole. The Yankees would have seemed like a possiblity with Alex Rodriguez sidelined with the broken left hand, but New York is content having Eric Chavez at third.
While AT&T has always been regarded as a pitcher's park, this season's home/road splits have been noticably significant for the Giants. Madison Bumgarner leads the staff with 11 wins, going 7-1 with a 1.89 ERA at home. The numbers fluctuate downward, though, once the left-hander hits the road, ballooning to a 4-5 record and a 4.24 ERA. Barry Zito has identical 4-3 records at home and on the road. But his 3.09 ERA in San Francisco is markedly lower than the 4.40 ERA he's tossing up on the road. Ryan Vogelsong (5-2, 1.41 vs. 3-2, 3.35) and Matt Cain (5-2, 1.96 vs. 5-1, 3.56) are also dominant at home, suggesting that the Giants would do well securing home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.