I was conversating with a friend last week about the National League and opined that if I were a National League team I would be most scared of playing the Phillies in October. Yes their pitching is tee-ballish but the rest of the NL isn't exactly overflowing with Spahn and Sain. Everyone's praying for rain in the Senior Circuit and no one can flood the scoreboard quicker than the Phillies. That clearly worries the Mets. They lost to their division rivals for the 12th time in 18 meetings this season at Shea on Sunday and were so unnerved by their opponents that they made six errors in the 10-6 loss. That followed Saturday's 5-3 loss which was filled with baserunning errors by the division leaders who watched their lead drop to three and a half games during the sweep. There may not be much to worry about, the last Phillie sweep led to some of the best Mets play of the season and Philly isn't guaranteed anything more than 13 regular season games, but you don't want to find a team that has your number in a short series. Like, say, the NLCS.
- Jason Marquis is probably feeling like the smartest kid in town this morning. He threw six and a third innings of one-run ball and beat the team he left after last season, the Cardinals, 4-2 to keep the Cubs a game ahead of the Brewers in the NL Central. Matt Murton struck the big blow for the Cubbies, a three-run homer that made it 10 straight games with a longball for the Wrigleymen, and the rookie catcher Geovany Soto had four hits. Mark Mulder had his third poor start since coming off the disabled list for the Cards who are now seven games back and officially waiting for next year.
- Back in Chicago, Jim Thome joined the 500 home run club in dramatic fashion. He hit a two-run, walk-off homer to beat the Angels 9-7 and join the esteemed group with the fourth-fewest at-bats of any new member. That still doesn't make him a Hall of Famer in my mind but we celebrate his accomplishments nonetheless.
- Jake Peavy is going to be your National League Cy Young winner and if you had any doubt about that just check out his performance on Sunday. 10 strikeouts, one walk and one run over seven-plus innings of a 5-1 victory against the Giants that kept the Padres a game and a half up on the Phillies for the Wild Card. It completed a three game sweep of their former manager Bruce Bochy's club and dropped Peavy's ERA to 2.39. Peavy's 18 wins are the most in the National League while his ERA is the best in all of baseball as are his 255 strikeouts.
- The Texas Rangers and Oakland A's don't have many tangible things to play for over the next couple of weeks so they are fighting for pride. And I mean fighting! Nick Swisher got beaned by Vicente Padilla in the first inning and since he'd homered in the first three games of the series (and been hit by two other pitches) Swisher wasn't thinking coincidence. He charged the mound, the benches emptied and Padilla got the better of him in the scrap. After that it was the Michael Young show. The Ranger had a career-high seven RBI and the Rangers won the game 11-9.
(AP Photo/Kathy Willens)