Daily Heat: NL mild-card race stalls

Tim Brown
Yahoo! Sports

Daily Heat will post Tuesdays through Fridays for as long as pennant races are sizzling.

That’s quite a wild-card race the National League is conducting – the Mets, Brewers and Astros within three games of each other, all of them coasting through losing streaks of at least three games.

Odalis Perez hasn’t thrown a shutout in six years, but came within six outs of one Tuesday night in Washington, and remember when Jerry Manuel’s most pressing concern was the bullpen? Well, it still is. But, his lineup has scored 13 runs in five games (against such luminous adversaries as Mike Hampton, Jorge Campillo, John Lannan and, yes, Perez), the Mets have lost four of them and now they’ve lost Fernando Tatis for the season. The Mets give the ball to right-hander Brandon Knight, who, at 32, makes the second start of his career Wednesday night in D.C.

The Brewers did the unthinkable in Chicago, losing a CC Sabathia start for the first time. They are scoring fewer than three runs a game in their five-game losing streak, meaning their Monday managerial switch resulted in nothing but the Sveum ol’, Sveum ol’. Crazy, but Sabathia and Ben Sheets haven’t won on consecutive nights since Aug. 8 and 9. Sheets goes Wednesday night in Chicago with an awful lot riding on the outcome. The Brewers on Thursday afternoon get Rich Harden, who hasn’t lost since July and has a 1.80 ERA at Wrigley. A smattering of September batting averages: Mike Cameron .111, Corey Hart .164, Jason Kendall .191, J.J. Hardy .194, Ryan Braun .196. Uh-oh …

After leaving the free-falling Cardinals behind, the Astros have lost three consecutive games while being outscored 16-2. They were no-hit in one (Carlos Zambrano), nearly no-hit in the second (Ted Lilly) and, clear of Cubs pitchers, exploded for a double and three singles in eight innings Tuesday night against Marlins right-hander Chris Volstad. And one more September batting average to consider: Lance Berkman .171.

Spoiler alert: You’re the Minnesota Twins. You’ve lost three games in a row in Baltimore and Cleveland, falling 2½ games behind the White Sox. You’ve lost 15 games in a little more than three weeks. Your lockdown closer (Joe Nathan), in his past seven appearances, has gone blown save, save, blown save/loss, blown save, no decision, no decision, loss.

Then, on a Wednesday night in Cleveland, you draw Cliff Lee. Sigh.

That said, Lee (22-2) last lost on July 6, in Minnesota. In his career, the left-hander is 7-3 against the Twins.

Recount: An entire week ago, my NL MVP was Albert Pujols. After sleeping on it (seven times), a period in which the Cardinals lost six consecutive games and El Hombre drove in three runs, my capricious soul is beginning to lean toward Ryan Howard, who lacks a cool manly-sounding nickname. Howard’s week: four homers, 11 RBI, .455 batting average. And two – just two! – strikeouts. Howard’s September: eight homers, 22 RBI, .396 batting average. And the Phillies have won five in a row.

Will Pitch 4 Hank’s Money: According to some complex economic maneuvering that somehow will kill the last of my 401(k), the Yankees weren’t entirely forthright in negotiations to have taxpayers finance much of their new ballpark.

For one thing, the team apparently told state officials the project would generate 1,000 new jobs. A state assemblyman said Tuesday the more accurate number is 15.

Burning question for Yankees fans: Are Sabathia and Mark Teixeira two of them?

Honey, it’s December: Allowing us keen insight into the mating habits of the indigenous major-league ballplayer, Andre Ethier, Jesse Crain and Jason Bay took time away from their playoffs races this week to witness the birth of their children. The three were captured, tagged and released back into the wild.

Mets bullpen moment of the day: Mike Pelfrey pitched seven strong innings, saving Manuel his nightly blindfolded dart throw. Joe Smith did pitch a scoreless eighth inning in another Mets loss. Bullpen ERA for September: 3.49.

Gentlemen, start your negotiations: Lou Piniella and Cito Gaston have entered into extension talks – the Blue Jays are 45-32 under Gaston, after going 35-39 under John Gibbons – with their clubs, as has Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein.

Still to be resolved: Jim Riggleman in Seattle, Manuel in New York and, of course, Sveum in Milwaukee.

Wednesday night: The Yankees have won 80 games and have 11 remaining. The Rays and Red Sox each have won 89 games. Doesn’t look so good. With that in mind, the Yankees go with Phil Hughes against the White Sox, who, after plenty of deliberation, will start left-hander Clayton Richard over right-hander Lance Broadway. Shouldn’t Broadway have started in New York? Hughes, whose breakout season lasted all of 22 big-league innings, pulls his first start since April. So 2009 semi-officially begins for the Yankees.

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