Here's a quick glance at what's happening around the National League Central.
Forget about the Big Red Machine. In Cincinnati, they are trying to be the Little Red Wagon. And the Reds' new approach played out perfectly in a 7-0 victory over the Marlins on Tuesday. ''This win united us,'' manager Dusty Baker said. Remember all the preseason talk of the Central being so weak it will be a cakewalk for the Cubs? Well, the Reds are one team that could throw a roadblock into that plan. The Reds have struggled to score runs, and they don't catch the ball particularly well, but their pitching has carried Bakers team. The Reds enter today with the best ERA in the majors at 3.61. The Reds are also the only team in the majors not to have a blown save.
Just as the Cubs were playing last week with a depleted bench, the Cardinals are doing the same. Manager Tony La Russa will risk having a few extra position players in reserve to keep his bullpen at full strength. Meanwhile, that scary crash into the wall only adds to the interesting story that has been the career of the Cards' Rick Ankiel. ''When I hit the ground, I thought there was a chance I broke my neck or my back,'' he said.
The Cubs open a two-game series tonight against the Astros at Minute Maid Park. Something strange is happening with Astros shortstop Miguel Tejada, who was a key figure in the Mitchell Report on performance-enhancing drugs in baseball. Tejada is still searching for his first home run of 2009. The shortstop has gone 168 at-bats without a homer, but he's still batting .297 and leads the Astros with eight doubles, With the feds closely watching a slugger who hit 34 home runs to win the 2002 AL MVP, it makes you wonder why there has been sudden drop in power. Hmm.
The Brewers beat the Pirates for the 17th consecutive time, though this 8-5 victory required a little bit of sweat from Milwaukee. This is the most prolonged beating one team has given another since the Orioles beat the expansion Royals 23 times in a row from May 10, 1969, to Aug. 2, 1970.