Simply put, the NL is the better league
The lack of control and dominance by American League closers also tips the scales in favor of the NL. Kevin Gregg of the Toronto Blue Jays leads the AL in saves (12). Not Mariano Rivera or Jonathan Papelbon but Kevin Gregg. Meanwhile, the Nationals' Matt Capps and the Reds' Francisco Cordero are completely shutting teams down in the end of games. (Ignore the bad outing Cordero had Thursday; those happen to closers.) San Diego hurler Heath Bell is another NL closer excelling in his role (1.00 ERA, 11 saves) for the surprising Padres. American League closers just aren't what they used to be, and the stock is rising on a lot of NL bullpen arms.People will talk about the AL winning (or, in the case of 2002, tying) every All-Star Game since the NL won the 1996 game 6-0. They may mention the American League holding an edge in the season series. But those measures are irrelevant to me. I think the National League has finally stepped out from behind the shadow of the AL to become the more dominant league.
Eduardo Perez is an analyst for "Baseball Tonight."
Baseball Tonight Live
Baseball Tonight analysts, ESPN.com writers and SweetSpot Network bloggers chatted and gave their in-game opinions throughout the day's games -- all in Baseball Tonight Live.
Touch 'Em All
Who went deep? Keep track of all the home runs hit each day on "Baseball Tonight" and the Baseball Tonight Clubhouse page. For more, check out the Home Run Tracker page.
|Joey Votto, CIN||10||ATL||Top 2: 3-1, 2 Outs. Grand Slam.||Hanson|
|Jimmy Rollins, PHI||2||CHC||Bot 6: 3-0, 2 Outs. 2 on.||Dempster|
|Miguel Cabrera, DET||9||OAK||Top 5: 0-0, 1 Out. 1 on.||Mazzaro|
|Jose Bautista, TOR||12||SEA||Top 5: 2-1, 1 Out. 1 on.||Vargas|
|Jhonny Peralta, CLE||3||KC||Bot 6: 3-2, 2 Outs. 1 on.||Hochevar|
Thursday's Best Matchups
Red Sox at Phillies, 7:05 p.m. ET
John Lackey and Cole Hamels come in with similar numbers -- Lackey is 4-2 with a 4.86 ERA; Hamels is 4-2 with a 4.29 ERA. Hamels has won his past two starts; Lackey enters off a loss against the Tigers.
Yankees at Mets, 7:10 p.m. ET
The latest episode in the Javier Vazquez drama. He picked up a win his last time out -- and that was in relief, an appearance lasting one-third of an inning against the Red Sox. He threw four pitches. The Yankees will be hoping for quite a few more in the Subway Series opener.
Giants at A's, 10:05 p.m. ET
Barry Zito faces his old team. Since joining the Giants, Zito (6-1, 2.15 ERA) is 0-3 with a 9.22 ERA against the A's. He has given up 15 runs, 21 hits and 12 walks in 13 2/3 innings over three starts.
BASEBALL TONIGHT ON THE AIR
|10 p.m. ET on ESPN|
Host: Steve Berthiaume|
Analysts: Dave Winfield, Eduardo Perez, Buster Olney
|12 a.m. ET on ESPN2|
Host: Steve Berthiaume|
Analysts: Dave Winfield
That's a long throw
WEB GEMS LEADERBOARD
THURSDAY'S BEST AND WORST
BESTUbaldo Jimenez, RHP, Rockies
Jimenez, of course, already has a no-hitter this season. He didn't quite equal that against the Astros in a win. Instead, he allowed one hit over seven shutout innings, striking out four. The effort lowered his ERA to 0.99 and improved his record to 8-1 on the year.
WORSTFrancisco Cordero, RHP, Reds
The Reds' bullpen did not have a good ninth inning against the Braves. Cincinnati took a 9-3 lead into the ninth and lost. Reds relievers gave up seven runs in the ninth, with Cordero serving up the final blow. Cordero gave up a game-ending grand slam to Brooks Conrad.
One of the big reasons the Chicago Cubs have had success in recent years is third baseman Aramis Ramirez. Ramirez has put up some great seasons ever since he joined the Cubbies in 2003, and has become a key part of their offensive game plan. But this year, he's hitting .167 with a .234 OBP while slugging .280. For six straight seasons, Aramis has posted a weighted on-base average of .380 or greater (.330 is about league average). This season, he's posting a meager wOBA of just .237. So what's wrong with the Cubs slugger?To begin with, Ramirez's strikeouts are way up. Last season, he struck out in 14.1 percent of his at-bats (league average is usually around 19 percent), slightly better than the 15.4 percent mark he's posted over his entire career. This season, Ramirez is taking the walk of shame a whopping 23.1 percent of the time, the highest since his rookie season back in 1998. It is very unusual for a hitter to see such a large increase in strikeout rate from one year to the next.