Remember when the Braves used to own the Nationals? Not so much anymore these days, as Atlanta had lost nine straight games vs. Washington prior to Wednesday night's 4-1 victory over its division rival.
The Braves have now lost six out of their last eight games, and are looking more and more like a 'seller' as the trade deadline approaches at the end of the month. If that's the case, it wouldn't be much of a surprise considering they've already made a number of shrewd deals in recent months to acquire young pitching prospects. Do they have another big move in them?
Miami received both good and bad news on the injury front over the past week. The good is that Jose Fernandez is finally ready to make his 2015 debut Thursday after 13 months rehabbing from Tommy John surgery. The 2013 NL Rookie of the Year is looking to reclaim his spot as one of the best young arms in the game, giving the Marlins what they hope is one of their foundational pieces for a contending team in the coming years.
But as one bright spot enters the picture, another one will be out for a while. Giancarlo Stanton injured his hamate bone in his left hand after taking several awkward swings last Friday night against the Los Angeles Dodgers, and is expected to gone for four-to-six weeks. That's a crushing blow for an already disappointing Marlins club that was expected to contend in the division this year. Without Stanton, who leads the majors in home runs with 27, Miami's lineup lacks considerable thump.
NEW YORK METS
For Mets fans, this past week was all about Steven Matz. The 24-year-old rookie left hander had a memorable big-league debut, earning a win Sunday night against the Cincinnati Reds by tossing 7 2/3 innings of two-run ball and notching six strikeouts. But it wasn't what he did on the mound that had fans buzzing; it was what he did at the plate. Matz went 3-for-4 while driving in four runs -- the most any pitcher has had in his debut in major league history.
But the problem for the Mets is that they desperately need a Matz-ian effort almost every night, as the club is still having trouble scoring. Heading into Thursday's slate of games, New York has been shutout in its last 20 innings, all against the Cubs. The most recent scoring drought pretty much symbolizes a constant theme for a team that believes it has the pitching staff to contend for a division title. But when the offense is ranked 27th in the majors in runs (276), 29th in batting average (.232), 29th in slugging (.359) and 25th in on-base percentage (.297), all the rotation's efforts usually go to waste.
The Phillies made their biggest move of the year earlier week, announcing that Andy MacPhail will be the team president after Pat Gillick steps down at the end of the season. It's clear that by making this move mid-season, the Phils are hoping to give MacPhail time so he can get the lay of the land to see who on the roster (and in the front office) is a keeper and who isn't. Philly fans will have to be patient, as MacPhail has a history of slowly-but-surely rebuilding an organization from the ground up.
Just look at his most recent stop in Baltimore, where he provided a pretty good blueprint for success. When he inherited the Orioles roster in 2007, the team was a perennial doormat in the AL East with little talent to work with. But by the time he left in 2011, he had acquired key pieces (Adam Jones, Chris Tillman, J.J. Hardy and Chris Davis, among others) that would become the foundation for a contender from 2012 onward. That's the type of rebuild the Phillies need right now. The only question is how long the fans will go before they become restless.