Three up, three down: Greinke key to Dodgers' run
Right-hander 3-0 in August as Los Angeles is on a remarkable 42-9 stretch
UP: Zack Greinke
When Greinke took the mound for the Dodgers on June 22, Los Angeles was at the bottom of the National League West with a 30-42 record and Greinke was 3-2 with a 4.22 ERA in nine starts. That night, however, a transformation began for Greinke and the Dodgers. Greinke went eight innings, giving up four hits and a run in a 6-1 win against the Padres. That started a turnaround for both Greinke and Los Angeles.
The Dodgers are 42-9 since that night. Only two teams have had a better 51-game stretch -- the Cardinals (Aug. 9-Sept. 27, 1942) and Yankees (June 8-Aug. 2, 1941). Both won 43 out of 51 games. That's boosted Los Angeles into first place in the NL West, 7 1/2 games ahead of second-place Arizona. Greinke, meanwhile, has been the hottest pitcher in baseball. He is 3-0 in August, and 8-1 with a 2.22 ERA in 11 starts since that fateful night in San Diego. The Dodgers are 10-1 in those games. Greinke has lowered his season ERA from 4.22 to 3.02.
Life has been a challenge for the Rockies in the Eastern time zone. Colorado arrived in Philadelphia for a four-game series that began on Monday with a 6-19 record playing in the Eastern time zone, 52-48 in all other games. The Rockies won two of three in Cincinnati, in their first visit this season out east. Colorado has lost six of its last seven series, going 2-2 in Washington in the other.
The Rockies were swept in three games at the Mets and Blue Jays, swept in four games at Atlanta and lost both games at Boston. They were 1-2 in Pittsburgh and Baltimore. Colorado has seven games remaining in the Eastern time zone: the four in Philadelphia and then three at Miami this coming weekend. In the midst of a third consecutive three-city trip out east, the Rockies went 1-9 in the last road trip, equaling their worst record for a trip of three or more cities.
UP: Ryne Sandberg
The Hall of Fame second baseman didn't get the best team in baseball to manage, but he finally got his shot when he was named the interim replacement to Charlie Manuel with the Phillies on Friday. Sandberg becomes the eighth Hall of Famer to manage a team since the advent of divisional play in 1969, and only the second out of that group who paid his dues in the Minor Leagues. Sandberg managed six years -- four with the Cubs and two with the Phillies -- and compiled a 439-409 record, including 155-132 in two seasons with the Phils' Triple-A affiliate, Lehigh Valley.
Bob Lemon managed Triple-A Seattle in 1965-66, and Triple-A Vancouver in 1969 before getting his first big league job with the Kansas City Royals in 1970. Dismissed by the Royals after the 1972 season, he went back to the Triple-A level for two more years before return to the big leagues as manager of the Chicago White Sox in 1977. Lemon was a two-time AL Manager of the Year Award winner, and is the only Hall of Fame player to manage a World Series champion (1978 Yankees) since the advent of divisional play.
Sandberg saw the Phillies held scoreless his first 21 innings on the job, the longest for a new manager. The team was 48-48 at the All-Star break, but it is 6-21 since and has gone from 6 1/2 games back of NL East-leading Braves to 21 1/2 back. The Phils are hitting .216 since the break, lowest in the Majors, and have a 5.10 ERA, highest in the NL.
DOWN: Dan Uggla
The Braves' second baseman was placed on the disabled list Tuesday. It's not, however, all bad news. Atlanta is in command in the NL East, so it encouraged Uggla to go ahead and undergo Lasik surgery. By making the move now, Uggla can return in September and make adjustments to his change in vision.
Uggla admitted that using contact lenses wasn't working out because of his astigmatism. He has 21 home runs and 62 walks, but his .186 average is lowest among Major League qualifiers, and he is tied for the second-most strikeouts in the NL with 146. Uggla's .186 average would be the second lowest for a player with at least 20 home runs. Rob Deer has the dubious distinction for the lowest average, hitting .179 with 25 home runs in 1991. The only other players to hit at least 20 home runs with an average below .200 were Carlos Pena, who hit .196 with 28 home runs in 2010, and Mark Reynolds, who hit .198 with 32 homers in 2010.
Cincinnati is finally making a move in the NL Central. The Reds have won seven of their last 10 games, taking advantage of a 2-7 slide for the division-leading Pirates, allowing Cincy to cut its deficit from six games to 2 1/2. And it has been the Reds' pitching staff that is carrying the load.
The Reds are hitting only .208 in their past 10 games, which is 28th among Major League teams in that stretch. The pitching staff, however, has a 1.82 ERA, and Bronson Arroyo is 2-0 with a 0.64 ERA. The biggest flaw came Friday night, when Aroldis Chapman served up a two-out, two-run walk-off home run to Jonathan Lucroy in Milwaukee. Lucroy was 0-for-5 with five strikeouts in his career against Chapman until the lefty decided to try and sneak a two-strike slider past him.
The Pirates, who have ridden their pitching staff to the top of the division, have a 4.71 ERA since Aug. 9, including a 6.66 mark for the rotation. While the Reds are home this week for a four-game visit by Arizona and then three games with Milwaukee, Pittsburgh heads west for three games in San Diego beginning Monday night and then four games at San Francisco. The Bucs are 2-7 on the road against the NL West this year, having hit .197.
DOWN: Starlin Castro
Castro was back in the Cubs' lineup on Sunday, but manager Dale Sveum made a point the day before, yanking Castro from the game against St. Louis after Jon Jay was able to tag up and score on a popup that Castro caught in short left field.
The Cubs are struggling enough without mental lapses. They enter play Monday having lost six of their last seven games despite a 3.94 ERA. The team is hitting only .196 and scored only 16 runs in those seven games. Castro was hitting .174, but it's not all his failure. Castro, Welington Castillo (.174), David DeJesus (.165) and Anthony Rizzo (.083) were hitting a combined .149 and had combined for one RBI in 94 at-bats. They did have 27 combined strikeouts. How bad have things been? The bullpen hasn't even had a save opportunity in the last seven games.
Tracy Ringolsby is a columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.