1. Brave New World: The Atlanta Braves made a deal on Monday that will shake up the entire order in the National League. In the first (and perhaps only) big deal this trading deadline, Atlanta acquired All Star Mark Teixeira from the Rangers. They gave up phenom catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia, two minor leaguers, and also got a lefty reliever in return from Texas. With this acquisition, the Braves have put together what is probably the league’s best offense. They already had the fifth-most runs in the NL, and now they have a slugger at what has been their weakest position: first base. Teixeira is hitting .297 this year with 49 RBIs in only 78 games. The Braves’ combined first basemen this year, in 106 games, have only 41 RBIs and a .211 average. With Teixeira hitting likely at cleanup now, the Braves have virtually no holes in their lineup. Unless their bullpen is awful (like it has been lately), then the Braves will be a top challenger for the Wild Card, if not the division title.
2. Hotter than Hot: The Cubs have one of the league’s best records since the All Star break, but the Phillies have been even better recently. They have now won 9 out of 10 after beating Chicago 4-1 on Monday. The Phillies, who lead the National League in runs by a mile, won with pitching. Cole Hamels gave up one run and three hits in eight innings, along with eight strikeouts. The ace improved to 12-5 with a 3.50 ERA on the year. Hamels ranks second in the league in strikeouts behind only Jake Peavy. On offense, Aaron Rowand had another great game, with a homer and three RBIs. Rowand is hitting .418 since the All Star break with a ridiculous 1.242 OPS. The Phillies are now three games behind the Mets in the NL East, and 1.5 ahead of the Braves. But they were the only one of the three teams not to make a deal yesterday (Teixeira to the Braves and Luis Castillo to the Mets).
3. The Worst Team in the League: Sometimes there is a close race for the MLB cellar, but this year the Devil Rays are far and away the league’s worst. They won on Monday, becoming the last team to reach the 40-win plateau this year. They have allowed 662 runs, almost 100 more than the next worst (the Rangers, 568). Opponents have hit nearly .300 against them. Amazingly, their offense is above-average, but their pitching is so bad it doesn’t even matter. Recently they traded for Dan Wheeler to help out their atrocious bullpen, which has a 6.51 ERA this year. Wheeler is a good pitcher, but there’s no way he can turn this awful team around.
Player of the Day: Jordan Tata, Tigers: 7 innings, 2 runs, 5 strikeouts in a 5-2 win over Oakland. There were better pitching performances on Monday, but Tata helped end the Tigers’ four game losing streak in his first major league start.