Here's a quick glance at what's happening around the National League Central.
The Cardinals' new double-play combination continues to be a work in progress. On the same day manager Tony La Russa praised the play of second baseman Skip Schumaker -- using the word ''amazing'' to describe the former outfielder's transition -- he benched veteran shortstop Khalil Greene in favor of rookie Tyler Greene.
Give the Cards credit for playing through their injuries and surviving a bumpy start with their new middle infielders. The Cardinals have been in first place -- or shared the top spot -- every day since the fifth day of the season. They are in a stretch of 14 consecutive games against Central foes, starting off 4-4. The stretch includes a key three-game series that begins tonight against the Brewers and a three-game series against the Cubs next week at Busch Stadium. The Brewers series also kicks off a nine-game homestand for the Cardinals. During this stay in St. Louis, the Cardinals figure to get most -- if not all -- of their four key players back from the disabled list.
Are the Brewers the best team in baseball? Some in Milwaukee are making that statement. Marlins manager Fredi Gonzalez, coming off a tough series with the Brewers, certainly is impressed. ''They're really good,'' Gonzalez said. ''They're a well-balanced club. They got some veterans up and down that lineup, and that bullpen, at least against us, was pretty good with [Trevor] Hoffman at the end of the game.'' After a rough starter, the Brewers are getting the best performance from a rotation in the majors, the bullpen has been steady and the offense has been clicking. All in all, a nice combination.
The Reds have also gotten off to a nice start and dropped a half-game out of first place because they were idle Thursday. Everything seems to be clicking in Cincinnati, and give manager Dusty Baker credit for making the most of the speed he has with the Reds. ''We've got to get as far away from .500 as we can and take our chances,'' Baker said. ''We've got a long way to go. We've looked pretty good, but we have a long way to go.'' Here's a nicely done breakdown of why things have gone so well early. One big key: The Reds aren't afraid to go from first to third on a single. They lead the majors in that category.