In April, the theory through the NL East was that three flawed teams would contend, and the one that made the best in-season moves would win the division.
The Phillies got Joe Blanton to shore up a rotation that was eroding because of the ineffectiveness of Brett Myers and Adam Eaton.
Yesterday, the New York Mets took a step to rescue their rag-armed bullpen, seemingly incompetent without closer Billy Wagner, by acquiring durable righthander Luis Ayala from the Washington Nationals.
A reliable reliever for the first four years of his career, Ayala has dipped to 1-8 with a 5.77 ERA this season. He is among the major-league leaders with 62 appearances.
New York is expected to send good-field, no-hit minor-leaguer Anderson Hernandez to Washington once he clears waivers.
Gordon Edes of Yahoo Sports dug into his old notebooks and found this bon mot from Chicago starter Ryan Dempster, who predicted before the team's first spring workout that the Cubs would win the World Series.
"Enough of all the curse this, the curse that, the goat, the black cat, or the 100 years" without winning the World Series, Dempster said.
Fast-forward: The Cubs have won 18 of their 24 games since Alfonso Soriano returned from the disabled list on July 23, Dempster is 14-5, and Chicago's 76 wins are the most in the National League.
The Astros retired second baseman Craig Biggio's No. 7 before their game against Arizona. The seven-time all-star retired in 2007 after becoming the 27th player to reach 3,000 hits. He is Houston's career leader in seasons (20), at-bats (10,876), hits (3,060), extra-base hits (1,014), doubles (668), and runs (1,844).
Manny Ramirez has 26 homers overall this year and is 25 for 59 (.424) with six homers and 21 RBIs in 16 games with the Los Angeles Dodgers.
In the last 16 games he played for the Boston Red Sox, Ramirez was 24 for 59 (.407) with four homers and 15 RBIs.
The Mets have won six straight on the road for the first time since 2001. . . . A group of Mets took a few hours last week to visit wounded soldiers at Walter Reed Army Medical Center while in Washington to play the Nationals.