NL East Around the Division: Florida Spotlight

Florida Marlins (32-41; L11)

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Washington Nationals (35-37; L1)

The old saying “Washington is first in war, first in peace and last in the American (now National) League East” is finally disproven. After five straight years of last place finishes, the Nationals rest at fourth place at 35-37. Although their winning percentage of .486 is nothing to be impressed with, the Nats did just recently have an eight game win streak and are 13-6 since May 31. Jayson Werth and Danny Espinosa have been able to keep the Nationals afloat while key bats Adam LaRoche and Ryan Zimmerman were out due to injury. Espinosa is 30-for-90 (.323), with eight home runs and 38 RBIs when runners are on base, while hitting .314 with runners in scoring position. While the Nationals are buried in the division behind Philadelphia by 9.5 games, they are only 4.5 out of the Wild Card race and with Ryan Zimmerman just recently activated from the DL on Tuesday they could see their spot in the standings improve.
 
Atlanta Braves (41-33; W2)
Despite several setbacks including disappointment with an All-Star acquisition and the recent loss some key players to injury, the Atlanta Braves are playing solid ball at 41-33, only 4.5 games out of first and are in first in the Wild Card race. After last year’s Wild Card win, the Braves added Dan Uggla to their lineup and called up rookie first baseman Freddie Freeman. Dan Uggla is slumping majorly hitting .177 with 9 homers and just 21 RBI. The Brave’s young Tommy Hanson was placed on the 15-Day DL due a shoulder injury on June 17 and won’t be expected back until early July. Hanson was having a good year to that point going 8-4 with a 2.48 ERA. The Braves also recently lost Martin Prado and Chipper Jones, two big offensive producers for the team so far. Martin Prado (staph infection) was playing very well, finishing in the top three on the team in almost every major stat category; batting average, runs, homers, RBI, and stolen bases. Prado was hitting .277 with 8 HR, 33 RBI, 36 runs scored, and 2 stolen bases. The Braves find themselves in a very nice spot to be able to compete for a playoff spot but they will need every member of their team to step up and help through this rough patch of injuries.
Philadelphia Phillies (45-28: L1)
As expected, the Phillies are coasting atop the NL East winning 8 of their last 10 at 45-28. The Phillies all around have had constant offensive woes despite Chase Utley’s return to the lineup back on May 23. The Phils rank 10th in offense in the NL with a team batting average of .247 and 8th in the league in team home runs with 61. The little offense that the Phillies do have at this point in the season can be mainly attributed to Placido Polanco and Shane Victorino. Victorino is currently in the top three on the team in batting average, home runs, steals, and runs with a team leading .299 batting average, 8 homers, 42 runs and 11 stolen bases thus far. The Phillies’ pitching has been able to carry the team to this point with Roy Halladay and Cole Hamels both with a league leading 9 wins and Roy Halladay leading the league in strikeouts with 114. Vance Worley, the rookie who has officially replaced Joe Blanton as the fifth starter has had mild success thus far with a 2-1 record and a 3.41 ERA. Obviously the Phillies entered the 2011 season expecting their pitching to do most of the work but if they want continued success down the road the offense will need to step up and relieve a little of the stress from the pitchers
Follow Brady Burkett @BurkettPhillySC.
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