Chicago Sun-Times
with sports reporters Chris De Luca and Gordon Wittenmyer

NL Central Watch: Hoffman making a difference for Brewers

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Here's a quick glance at what's happening around the National League Central.

The Cubs finally get a day off today after a grueling stretch of 20 games in 20 days. They went 10-10 over that span. Not bad considering their recent run of injuries. The Brewers also completed a 20-20 stretch Sunday. They went 14-6 over that same span.

A big difference for the Brewers has been the work of closer Trevor Hoffman, their big offseason acquisition who opened the season on the disabled list because of a straight right oblique. Hoffman has given the Brewers a big boost, turning a bullpen that was a liability into a strength now that everyone is in their projected roles.

Before Hoffman made his season debut on April 27, the Brewers were 8-10. They have gone 10-4 since, and Hoffman is 5-for-5 in save chances and has yet to allow a run. In six innings, he has allowed three hits, struck out seven and walked none. Remember, despite some solid starting pitching, the Brewers got off to a slow start mainly because their bullpen was a mess. Since losing their first four series, the Brewers have gone unbeaten in series play, going 5-0-2, including their just-concluded series against the Cubs.

The Brewers will gladly accept their 14-6 run over that 20-games-in-20-days marathon.

Cardinals ace Adam Wainwright is 3-1 with a 4.35 ERA, almost a point higher than his career 3.48 ERA entering the season. But Wainwright believes he uncovered a flaw in his delivery while studying video with Chris Carpenter. ''I finally, absolutely know what I can do to pitch better,'' Wainwright said. In this same notebook, we learn that Carpenter is progressing nicely in his rehab work.

So much for the Pirates' 11-7 start that was backed by solid pitching. They have lost eight straight and 12 of their last 13, Pittsburgh's worst stretch under manager John Russell and the team's worst since a 13-game losing streak under Jim Tracy from June 15-28, 2006. ''We've got guys pitching great, then having one or two bad innings,'' first baseman Adam LaRoche. ''And it's all contagious, both ways. At the beginning of the year, it was all working in our favor.''

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This page contains a single entry by Chris De Luca published on May 11, 2009 10:48 AM.

Plop, plop, fizz, fizz -- no relief was the previous entry in this blog.

Cubs rookie Scales keeps impressing as hitting streak reaches 6 is the next entry in this blog.

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