Nothing predictable about NL West
Last-place L.A. closing gap; first-place D-backs in midst of bizarre streak
DENVER -- Welcome to the wacky National League West.
The Colorado Rockies' rotation -- 29-25 with a 4.43 ERA -- has a lower ERA and better record than the San Francisco Giants (24-29, 4.57).
Yeah, those Giants, whose foundation for claiming World Series championships in two of the last three seasons was their rotation.
Yep, those Rockies, who just a year ago saw their rotation post a 5.81 ERA, ninth highest all time and higher than any team since 1936 other than the 1996 Detroit Tigers (6.38). Colorado's starting staff last year worked fewer innings (765) than any rotation in a non-strike-shortened season in history.
It's a division that entered Saturday with only six games separating the first-place D-backs and last-place Dodgers, the smallest differential in the big leagues, and has seen every team except San Diego spend time in first place.
And it's the Padres who are on a roll, having moved into second place thanks to a 22-game stretch in which they've won 14 games despite the loss of first baseman Yonder Alonso, shortstop Everth Cabrera, center fielder Cameron Maybin and starting pitcher Clayton Richard to the disabled list.
The NL West this year isn't about greatness; it is about opportunity.
And that's been the story of this division in recent years. In the last eight years, the Dodgers have been to the postseason three times, and the four other members have made two postseason appearances each. And every team in the division, except the Dodgers, has finished in last place at least once in the last eight years, and it's the Dodgers who have had sole possession of last place every day since May 6 this season.
Arizona went into Saturday with a 2 1/2-game lead despite the fact that its starting pitchers are winless since June 5. The rotation is a combined 0-8 with 11 quality starts in the stretch, during which the D-backs have gone 8-12.
But then San Diego, with a 15-11 June record, is the only team in the NL West that went into Saturday with a winning record in the month.
The Giants have won five of six games at Arizona this season but went into Saturday with a 9-24 road record in cities other than Phoenix, having lost seven of nine road series played outside Arizona and having been swept five times, including last week, when they were swept at Dodger Stadium for the first time since 2009.
Have you noticed?
The Marlins, 14-41 over the first two months of the season, are assured a winning record in June. Miami went into Saturday with a 13-10 record this month and with a win on Saturday or Sunday would post as many wins in June as in April and May combined.
Jason Marquis is 9-3 for San Diego. Surprised? Don't be. Marquis is 73-50 prior to July 1 in his career, but 48-62 from July 1 on. That may explain why he's appeared in the postseason only five times despite the fact that he has been on 11 teams that have advanced to the postseason. In four of those appearances, he has been used in relief. The right-hander was 0-1 in four appearances (three starts) for St. Louis in 2004, allowing nine earned runs in 14 1/3 innings.
DJ LeMahieu has taken over at second base for the Rockies, having raised his average from .233 on June 5 to .291 going into Saturday. Doesn't hurt to get consistent at-bats and be hitting ahead of Carlos Gonzalez, who is leading the NL with 21 home runs, 188 total bases and 62 runs scored.
Atlanta is sitting atop the NL East but has been shut out a Major League-leading 11 times. The Braves have the third-best record in the NL -- behind NL Central-leading Pittsburgh and second-place St. Louis. Cincinnati, the third-place team in the NL Central, has the NL's fourth-best record. In fact, Pittsburgh (49-30) and St. Louis (48-31) have the two best records in the big leagues.
The Pirates just might roll into the All-Star break. Twelve of the Pirates' final 14 contests before the break are home games, starting with a 10-3 victory over Milwaukee on Friday. That gave the Pirates a 26-13 record at home, second best in the NL to Atlanta (26-11). At the other extreme, the Mets are 14-24 at home and Miami is 15-24.
The American League went into Saturday with a 92-80 edge in Interleague Play this year. The Mets, however, don't seem impressed. In fourth place in the NL East, the Mets are 24-42 against NL teams but 8-2 against AL clubs. They are 4-0 against the Yankees, 2-0 against Minnesota and 2-2 against the White Sox. The only other NL teams with winning records in Interleague Play are Pittsburgh (11-3), the Cubs (8-4) and the Nationals (9-6).
Detroit right-hander Max Scherzer is the first pitcher to open a season 12-0 since Roger Clemens did so in 1986. For those wanting to look ahead, since the advent of divisional play, Dave McNally has the most starts (26) to open a season without taking a loss. McNally was 15-0 in his first 26 starts in 1969 before his Orioles lost, 5-2, at Minnesota on Aug. 5 that season. He was 5-7 in his final 14 starts of the year.
After converting his first 13 save opportunities this season, Philadelphia closer Jonathan Papelbon blew four of his next five chances. This comes at a time when the Phillies announced that Papelbon's primary setup man, Mike Adams, has two tears in his right labrum and one in his rotator cuff, virtually finishing the reliever's season.
Out of left field
Texas right-hander Yu Darvish went into Saturday leading the Majors with 143 strikeouts, 11 more than Matt Harvey of the Mets. If Darvish were to lead the Majors in strikeouts this season, he'd become only the fifth pitcher born outside the United States to win a strikeout title, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. The four who have: Irish-born Tommy Bond in 1877 and Hugh Daily in 1884, Mexican-born Fernando Valenzuela in 1981 and Venezuelan-born Johan Santana in 2005 and '06.
Tracy Ringolsby is a columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.