|Photo by USA Today|
Yes, it's still the Braves in the catbird seat, but after faltering in two losses against the Nationals, the division lead is certainly in doubt. Meanwhile, Tim Hudson reached an important milestone and there seem to be signs of life in Miami.
Atlanta Braves (19-12)
Atlanta's hold on the division has remained fairly constant, with the lead now 2.5 games over the Nationals, who finally broke through early last week with two victories in Atlanta. Evan Gattis has cooled sufficiently and will lose at-bats whenever Brian McCann returns from the DL, and the outfielders not named Justin are showing no signs of perking up just yet, though Jason Heyward could be forgiven, as he is disabled while recovering from an appendectomy.
Andrelton Simmons flashed a bit of power last night, hitting two home runs in a win over Cincinnati, though the real story of the week was starter Tim Hudson, who won his 200th and 201st career games. The milestone victory came at home against Washington and featured another rarity to help mark the occasion: Hudson also homered to help his own cause. In an era with innings limits, pitch counts, and the attendant liberal use of the bullpen, wins by starters -- an imperfect stat to be sure, when measuring value -- are becoming relatively scarce, and only a handful of active starters are within striking distance. It would not be surprising to see 200 victories become the Hall of Fame benchmark that 300 wins currently is.
Player of the Week: Hudson, SP: 2-0, 14.1 IP, 13K, 2.51 ERA, 0.76 WHIP, 1 HR
Miami Marlins (10-23)
Is that a pulse emanating from Miami? The Marlins won three of seven games this week to climb out of absolute last place in the major leagues, breaking double digits in the win column May 5 in a 14-2 beatdown of the Phillies. Perhaps the most impressive part? They did it all without Giancarlo Stanton, who still resides on the disabled list. Leading the charge were 22-and-under sensations Jose Fernandez, who has been much discussed in this space, and Marcell Ozuna, who has not.
Fernandez dazzled after consecutive underwhelming starts, spinning seven innings of no-hit ball against Philadelphia in a 2-0 victory, and Ozuna, an outfielder who made his debut last Tuesday, has sparked the offense in a huge way, batting over .400 since making his debut. Both Fernandez (No. 5) and Ozuna (No. 75) were ranked as top-100 prospects before the season by Baseball America, along with four other Marlins farmhands. Perhaps there's reason for optimism in South Beach after all. Enjoy these kids for the next five and a half years, Marlins fan.
Player of the Weak: Ozuna, OF: 4 R, 1 HR, 4 RBI, .407 AVG
New York Mets (12-16)
Now dangerously close to falling behind the Marlins into last place in the division, which seemed at best improbable a week ago, the Mets have lost seven of nine, and desperately need some balance. Matt Harvey is 4-0 on the season, with a 1.56 ERA; starters not named Matt Harvey are a combined 4-12, with ERAs ranging from 4.34 all the way up to 7.20. David Wright is hitting like his old steady self, batting .313 with five homers and 23 RBI; no other regular is within 30 points of his batting average.
John Buck has continued his fireworks show, leading the team with ten home runs and 29 runs batted in, but an on base percentage under .300 doesn't do anyone any favors. Lucas Duda sports a Jekyll and Hyde stat line, with an OBP of .411 and a batting average of only .250, and six home runs but only ten runs batted in. If he can get some more hits to fall, and if the Mets can put some more runners on for him, that wonky line will straighten itself out -- and New York might win a few more, too.
Player of the Week: Wright, 3B: 6 R, 3 HR, 4 RBI, .353 AVG
Philadelphia Phillies (15-18)
Victims of Miami's small resurgence, Philadelphia is decidedly on the other end of the spectrum: bereft of youth, beset by declining skills on all sides, and with little in the way of help on the horizon (just two top-100 prospects according to BA, No. 89 Jesse Biddle and No. 100 Roman Quinn). Domonic Brown continues his will-he, won't-he breakout season, tying with Chase Utley for the team lead in home runs with six but so far struggling to maintain a batting average above .250.
Delmon Young is back from injury, but aside from bringing down the average age of the lineup slightly, it remains to be seen if he'll be able to make a positive contribution. The rotation continues to underperform, with Kyle Kendrick and Cliff Lee pitching nicely but getting no help from their mates. Roy Halladay, who has been pitching like something is physically wrong with him, has landed on the DL; apparently, something really is.
Player of the Week: Brown, OF: 4 R, 3 HR, 4 RBI, .280 AVG