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05/24/2005 Archived Entry: "MLB News: NL Roundup 5-24-2005"

MLB News: NL Roundup 5-24-2005, by Norman LeRoy

Marlins, Cardinals win; Gravesí fingers way out of Cincy; Padres 2B Mark Loretta out indefinitely

The two big stories of the day took place off the field, with Cincinnati optioning career saves leader Danny Graves for assignment and the San Diego Padres announcing that all-star second-baseman Mark Loretta requires surgery on his injured right thumb.

Normally people use their thumbs when exiting town, but it was another gesture altogether that led to Danny Graves dismissal from the Cincinnati Reds. The once dependable Graves has struggled this year, collecting ten saves in twelve attempts yet posting a stratospheric 7.76 ERA, and the Queen City fans had completely lost faith in him. The braying fans got to Graves after a disastrous outing on Sunday during which he surrendered five runs in a 9-2 Reds loss to Cleveland; Graves responded to the cursing mass with one particularly well-placed digit, drawing his eight year Cincinnati career to a close. The Reds now have ten days to trade him or place him on waivers. The New York Mets and Chicago Cubs have expressed interest in the thirty-one-year-old right hander, who has recorded 182 saves in a ten-year career.

Reds management is presumably happy to see the back of their erstwhile closer; not so the San Diego suits at the loss of key second-baseman Mark Loretta, especially when the NL West crown seems there for the taking. Loretta, batting .300 through forty games this year, tore a ligament in his thumb executing a head-first slide into first against Atlanta last Tuesday. Dr. Don Sheridan of Scottsdale, Arizona will perform surgery on the dodgy digit on Tuesday. Dr. Sheridan performed the same operation on Loretta following a similar injury four years ago when Loretta was a member of Milwaukee Brewers. Loretta missed 68 games that time, a prospect that must make the blood run cold for the Padres, locked in a tight race for the NL West, 1.5 games behind the Arizona Diamondbacks in second place.

Now, on to the games:
Florida Marlins 5, Philadelphia Phillies 2
Dontrelle Willis (W 8-1) became the NLís first eight-game winner and Carlos Delgado and Miguel Cabrera homered in a key sixth-inning outburst to guide the NL East leading Marlins (25-16) past the Phillies (21-25) at home. Jon Lieber (L 5-4) pitched well for the Philadelphians, carrying a one-run lead into the sixth before succumbing to a familiar affliction for him, the home-run bug. Lieber has allowed fourteen home-runs this year, second-most in the majors, and back-to-back offerings to Delgado and Cabrera sealed his teams defeat on a day when they seemed poised to pick up ground on their division rivals.

The sixth had begun badly for Florida. With one out, Willis and Juan Pierre had laced singles to left, but the rally appeared over when Paul Lo Duca was called out on a base-running violation, bringing up Carlos Delgado with two outs. Lieber had only allowed four hits to that point, but Delgado saw a pitch he liked and blasted it deep into the right-field stands. Miguel Cabrera turned on the beleaguered Philly starterís very next pitch, sending it on an all-expenses-paid one way trip to left, and suddenly, in the span of just two pitches, a 1-0 Phillies lead had become a 4-1 Marlins advantage. The Marlins added a run in the seventh on doubles from Mike Lowell and Alex Gonzalez, and Philadelphia completed the scoring in the eighth on a Bobby Abreau RBI single. Todd Jones worked a scoreless ninth for the Marlins, notching his seventh save in eight opportunities. Willis worked eight innings in victory, allowing 2 runs on seven hits while striking out four and walking two. Lieber was pulled after his shaky sixth, surrendering 4 runs on six hits with no walks and four strike-outs. The Marlins, winners of five straight, have a 1.5 game lead over Atlanta in the NL East and play the second of their three-game set with Philadelphia tonight.

St. Louis Cardinals 4, Pittsburgh Pirates 2
The sixth inning decided the game in this one as well. The Central leading Cards (28-16) were down 1-0 and looking for a spark against the Pirates when Albert Pujols strode to the plate with two on and two out. Pittsburghís Dave Williams (L 4-4) had stifled them thus far, not allowing his first hit until a clean Reggie Sanders single to start the fifth.

Williams had worked out of that jam and seemed set to work out of this one as well when he promptly put all-world Pujols in a 1-2 hole, but Pujols hung tough, fouling off three consecutive pitches, and then blasting a double to the wall in left-field, setting off a chain of events that cost the inexperienced Bucs the game. Left fielder Jason Bay lobbed a weak throw to short-stop Jack Wilson, who looked to second first, realizing just a tick to late that Larry Walker was racing home to score from first. The opportunistic Pujols went to third on Wilsonís futile attempt to cut Walker down at the plate, and when Reggie Sanders followed with an infield single to bring Pujols home the Pirates faulty fielding had surrendered three runs on a sequence of plays that should only have cost them two.

The Cards Chris Carpenter (W 7-2), who had taken a no-hitter into the fifth himself, treated this gift like money in the bank, clamping down on the baby-Bucs and handing his bullpen a 3-1 lead in the eighth. Julian Tavares served up a Jason Bay homer in the eighth to cut the score to 3-2, but the Cards bounced back with one of their own in the home-half when a Rob Mackowiak throwing error brought home Larry Walker with his second run of the game. Jason Isringhausen worked the ninth for his twelfth save in twelve attempts, and the Cardinals preserved their seven-game bulge in the NL Central. Reggie Sanders went 2-for-4 with two RBIís for the Redbirds, while Carpenter gave up one run on four hits in seven innings of work, walking three and striking out six. Williams shined in the loss, allowing three runs on four hits while striking out four against only one free pass. The second game of the three game series takes place tonight.

Cincinnati Reds 5, Washington Nationals 3
The Reds responded to the loss of popular clubhouse presence Danny Graves by pasting hard-luck Nats starter Esteban Loaiza (L 1-3) for five runs in only five innings of work. Loaiza has been sharp all year but has received the second-least run support of any pitcher in the majors. The Nationals, having squandered nearly all of his best outings, couldnít overcome yesterdayís uncharacteristically rough day. Loaiza gave up eleven hits and five runs in only five innings of work, walking two and striking out four. Meanwhile, Reds starter Eric Milton had an uncharacteristically good day. Milton, the league leader in serving up gopher-balls, saw two more leave the yard last night but otherwise hurled a fine game, allowing 3 runsó one earned ó in eight innings on six hits, with two walks and seven strikeouts. Jason LaRue swung the lumber for the Reds, pleasing the home-town throng with a 3-for-4, 2 RBI night that included his second home run of the year. David Weathers got his first save in place of the soon-to-be ex-Red Graves. The win raises Cincinnatiís to 16-28; the Nats drop to 24-21 with the defeat.

Chicago Cubs 4, Houston Astros 1
The Cubs (20-22) squared off against their second rookie pitcher in two games, and squashed youthful dreams yet again. The rookie du jour was Houstonís Wandy Rodriguez (L 0-1), who manned the mound in place of sore-armed Andy Pettite. Rodriguez showed good stuff, striking out six in 5.2 innings, but two home runs doomed his outing. The homers came from Corey Patterson and Jeromy Burnitz, who collided in the outfield in the second but got up off the mat to power the Cubbies to victory. Pattersonís blast to right in the fifth broke up a 1-1 tie, and Burnitzís two-run shot in the sixth produced the games final score. Glendon Rusch (W 3-1) shone for the Cubs, twirling eight 5-hit innings, allowing only one run while striking out six and walking one. Ryan Dempster throttled the punch-less Astros in a perfect ninth to log his third save of the year. The loss drops the Astros to a Central Division-worst 15-29. The two teams tangle in the ivy again tonight.

Atlanta Braves 8, New York Mets 6
Mets starter Kazuhisa Ishii (L 0-3) put his team in a huge hole, and a furious comeback fell apart in the eighth on a disputed call. Ishii gave up seven runs on seven hits and three walks in four disastrous innings, leaving the game with the Mets behind 7-3, much to the delight of the Turner faithful. The Mets clawed back a run on three singles in the sixth, and then loaded the bases with one out and a run home in the eighth with Doug Mientkiewicz standing confidently at the plate. Mientkiewicz sent a weak grounder to first, however, but Mets wunderkind third-sacker David Wright seemed to have broken up the double-play with a ferocious slide into short-stop Rafael Furcal. Umpire Jeff Nelson ruled that Wright had slid out of the base path,though, awarding the double play and scotching the rally. A Chris Woodward home run to lead off the ninth was too little, too late, dropping the Mets record to 23-22. Horacio Ramirez got the win for Atlanta, his third against three defeats, allowing four runs on eight hits in seven innings. Ramirez walked none and struck out two in a solid but unspectacular start. Dan Kolb worked the ninth for his eleventh save as the Braves (25-19) remain in striking distance of the Florida Marlins, 1.5 games behind the King-fish in the NL East.

Milwaukee Brewers 2, Colorado Rockies 1
Chris Capuano (W 4-3) pitched a gem for Milwaukee, allowing only a single unearned run in 8.1 innings as the Brewers improved their record to 21-23, seven games behind St. Louis in the NL Central. Bill Hallís 2-run single in the fourth off Bobby Chacon (L 1-4) provided all the offense Capuano needed in his two walk, six strikeout performance. Ricky Bottalico got the last two outs to earn his second save on the year. The Rockies have been horrendous on the road, dropping 15-of18 after last nightís game. Coloradoís (13-29) woes mounted yet higher when Chacon, perhaps their most dependable starter, had to leave the game following the fourth frame with a sprained right ankle.

Thatís the day that was in the Senior Circuit; now for a quick glance at the wild-card race:

1. San Diego 26 18 .591 -
2. Atlanta 25 19 .568 1.0
3. Los Angeles 23 20 .535 2.5
4. Washington 24 21 .533 2.5
5. NY Mets 23 22 .511 3.5
6. San Fran 21 22 .488 4.5
7. Milwaukee 21 23 .477 5.0
8. Chicago Cubs 20 22 .476 5.0
9. Philadelphia 21 25 .457 6.0
10. Pittsburgh 19 23 .452 6.0

Iíll be back tomorrow to wrap up tonightís action; if you have any comments or suggestions, or just spot the inevitable error, feel free to contact me at . Cheers, and enjoy tonightís games!

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