Thursday, March 20, 2008

NL Notes

As we come to the finish of Season 1, here's what to watch for in the last 30 games (or so) in the National League:

1. Will the Traffic let up? The surprising Trenton Traffic have surprisingly vaulted to the top of the league. Can they maintain their hold on the #1 seed? They're on a 4-game losing streak, allowing the Montreal Maroons to close to within 2 games; Houston and Salem aren't far behind. If they really struggle, it's possible that Norfolk could catch them for the division lead. Stunned elation has given way to cautious optimism on the banks of the Delaware River.

2. The other dark horse team: Fargo was another team expected to rebuild this season; they find themselves in wild-card contention. This team is proof that pitching wins- they have the best ERA in the National League. They are currently 1 game back of division rival Cincinnati. Can they pull off the improbable playoff berth?

3. Despair in the Snake Pit: Fargo has been hot in recent weeks, and the Arizona Diamondbacks have been riding the elevator the other way. They have struggled lately, not helped by the loss of future ace Hippolito Pujols. Pujols was having a very good rookie season, going 11-7 with a 3.42 ERA before needing elbow surgery. Can the D-Backs, currently 3 out of a playoff spot with 3 teams ahead of them, overcome it all and make the postseason?

4. From AAA to Cy Young? Dwight Salmon of Salem began the year in AAA. Now he's in Cy Young contention in the majors. Salem called him up after 5 starts in the minors (putting up an uninspiring 5.18 ERA) and he proceeded to retire ML batters with little mercy. He has a 10-1 record since being called up with a 1.61 ERA and at one point had a 42 2/3 scoreless inning streak (oddly enough, the last run before the streak and the run to end the streak both came on wild pitches). Salmon and ace David Dunwoody have the Sacrifices leading the NL West by 6 games ove Arizona and will be a tough tandem to face in the playoffs.

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