Jeff Curry/US PRESSWIRE
With one swing Thursday night, Ryan Braun may have altered the fortunes of two teams in the NL Central.
The Cardinals led the Brewers 3-2 heading into the top of the ninth. Ryan Franklin came on to close things out. Ray Durham struck out, J.J. Hardy singled to center and Braun hit a huge blast to center to give Milwaukee a 4-3 lead, which Salomon Torres preserved by striking out the side in the bottom of the ninth for his 19th save.
For Milwaukee, this was immense. It gave them an undefeated seven-game road trip, the longest such trip in franchise history. It gave them eight consecutive wins overall, the organization's longest such streak since 2003. It gave them baseball's first perfect road trip of seven or more games since 2002, and the NL's first since 1999. It helped the team keep pace with the Cubs and distance itself further from the Cards. With CC Sabathia and Ben Sheets at the top of that rotation, this year is it for the Brew Crew. There's an air of momentum that the organization knows won't last beyond this season -- when both of those pitchers will find free-agent pastures green indeed -- so don't be surprised if Milwaukee isn't done yet. They could still deal for another bullpen guy.
For St. Louis, though, the loss might've been even bigger. How can this club give Franklin any more save chances? He lost two of the four games against Milwaukee and has now allowed two runs or more in four of his past eight appearances; he has given up nine runs and four homers in that same span. Granted, he was asked to pitch 1 2/3 innings Thursday night, but his ERA has climbed nearly a full run in July, and his WHIP this month is now 1.97. But can the club go back to Jason Isringhausen and his 6.17 ERA and 1.63 WHIP? Clearly, the team hoped Chris Perez could supply a spark, but that didn't happen, and he's back down in Triple-A. If there's a team that needs to overpay for a guy like Brian Fuentes or George Sherrill, it's officially the Cardinals. They've contended seemingly out of nowhere this year, with a starting rotation patched together with bailing wire and Dave Duncan's sweat. I'm not saying ship off Colby Rasmus. But there are symbolic wins and losses as the dog days of summer progress, and Thursday night was one of those. If St. Louis doesn't right the bullpen soon, a golden opportunity may slip away.What does this mean fantasywise? Well, don't drop Franklin this morning. But be prepared for the possibility that he could wind up in middle relief again eventually. And if you own Sherrill or Fuentes and he winds up in St. Louis, rejoice, because it probably means that guy will stay a closer, where it had been presumed either lefty would wind up a setup man on a contender. Past editions: 7/24: Mussina is for real | 7/23: Hanrahan to close | 7/22: Yanks injuries
Carlos Delgado, Mets
After a terrible first three months of the season, Carlos Delgado has been on fire in July. He drove in two in the ninth to give the Mets the lead, his 17th and 18th RBIs of the month. He's hitting .397 for the month, which has raised his average from .228 on June 30 to .261 today.
Daniel Cabrera, Orioles
The Blue Jays touched up Cabrera for seven earned runs on 11 hits and two walks in five innings. Cabrera has now surrendered 14 runs -- 13 earned -- in his past 10 innings and has surrendered six or more earned runs in four of his past 10 outings. April and May's promise seem long gone by now.
"[The Braves are] 19-26 since the end of May. They haven't even won more than three in a row since Memorial Day. So they look more and more like a team that's about to shake up Deadline Week by dealing away the best player on the market -- Mark Teixeira."
-- Jayson Stark Full Story
• The Rays activated Jason Bartlett (right knee soreness) Thursday night, and he started at shortstop and went 3-for-3. To make room for Bartlett, the team had sent Ben Zobrist to the minors on Wednesday.
• Juan Pierre played in the second game of his rehab with Triple-A Las Vegas last night, and went 1-for-4.
• Rich Hill's struggles in the minors continue: last night pitching for Single-A Daytona, he walked five in five innings, though he did allow just one hit.