National League fans were treated to three exciting divisional races that went right down to the wire in 2007. Each division-winner was decided on the season’s final weekend, with the largest margin of victory being the slim two-game edge the first-place Chicago Cubs held over the runner-up Milwaukee Brewers in the N.L. Central.
The Cubs captured their first Central Division title in four years by concluding the campaign with a record of 85-77 that left them two games ahead of the Brewers and seven games in front of the third-place St. Louis Cardinals. The Cardinals found their efforts to repeat as world champions compromised by injuries to several of their best players. Top starters Chris Carpenter and Mark Mulder both missed virtually the entire season, and sluggers Jim Edmonds and Scott Rolen also missed a significant amount of playing time. Albert Pujols did his best to carry the team on his shoulders, hitting 32 home runs, driving in 103 runs, scoring 99 others, and batting .327. But, it just wasn’t enough, and the Cardinals finished out of the playoffs for the first time since 2003.
The Cubs relied heavily on their improved pitching to edge out the Brewers for the top spot in the division. Compiling a team ERA of 4.04 that placed them second in the league rankings, the Cubs featured a deep starting rotation that included four double-digit winners. Carlos Zambrano and Ted Lilly headed the staff, posting 18 and 15 victories, respectively. Meanwhile, Derrek Lee, Aramis Ramirez, and Alfonso Soriano paced Chicago on offense. Lee hit 22 home runs, drove in 82 runs, scored 91 others, and batted .317. Ramirez batted .310, homered 26 times, and led the team with 101 runs batted in. Soriano batted .299, hit 33 homers, and scored 97 runs.
Although the Brewers came up a bit short in their quest to make the playoffs, their lineup featured two of the league’s best young players. Third baseman Ryan Braun earned N.L. Rookie of the Year honors by hitting 34 homers, driving in 97 runs, scoring 91 others, batting .324, and topping the circuit with a .634 slugging percentage. In just his second full season, 23-year-old first baseman Prince Fielder earned a third-place finish in the N.L. MVP voting by batting .288, knocking in 119 runs, scoring another 109, and leading the league with 50 home runs.
As close as Chicago and Milwaukee finished to one another in the N.L. Central, things were even tighter out West, where just one game separated the top three teams at the end of play on the final day of the regular season. The Arizona Diamondbacks concluded the campaign with a record of 90-72 that placed them just one game ahead of both the Colorado Rockies and the San Diego Padres, who finished the season with identical marks of 89-73. Forced to play a one-game playoff to determine the senior circuit’s wild-card entry into the postseason tournament, the two clubs subsequently engaged in a thrilling 13-inning affair that the Rockies ended up winning by a score of 9-8. The victory capped a brilliant two-week run during which the Rockies put themselves in a position to make the playoffs by winning 14 of their final 15 contests, including their last nine in succession. Along the way, Colorado set a new major league record by compiling a team fielding percentage of .9893.
Although Colorado and San Diego finished the regular season with identical won-lost records, they arrived at that point in extremely dissimilar fashions. The Rockies scored the second-most runs in the league (860), led the circuit with a .280 team batting average, and finished eighth in earned run average, with a mark of 4.32. On the other hand, the Padres finished ninth in the league in runs scored (741), and they finished next-to-last in batting average (.251). However, led by Cy Young Award winner Jack Peavy, who captured the pitcher’s version of the Triple Crown by leading all N.L. hurlers with 19 victories, a 2.54 ERA, and 240 strikeouts, the Padres posted a team ERA of 3.70 that placed them first in the league rankings.
While the Rockies relied heavily on their hitting to earn a spot in the playoffs, their pitching staff included 17-game winner Jeff Francis and bullpen aces Brian Fuentes and Manny Corpas, who combined to save 39 games. On offense, veteran first baseman Todd Helton batted .320 and knocked in 91 runs. Outfielder Brad Hawpe hit 29 homers and drove in 116 runs. Third baseman Garrett Atkins hit 25 long balls, knocked in 111 runs, and batted .301. Rookie shortstop Troy Tulowitzki homered 24 times, drove in 99 runs, scored 104 others, and batted .291. Leftfielder Matt Holliday earned a close second-place finish in the N.L. MVP voting by hitting 36 home runs, scoring 120 runs, and leading the league with 137 runs batted in, 216 hits, 50 doubles, and a .340 batting average. Holliday performed particularly well during the season’s final month, leading the Rockies on their extraordinary late-season run by hitting 12 homers, driving in 30 runs, scoring 29 others, and batting .367 over the final four weeks.
Although the Diamondbacks ended up winning the division, they had less talent than the Rockies and Padres, placing behind both teams in the league rankings in practically every major statistical category on offense, and posting a much higher team ERA (4.13) than San Diego. Brandon Webb anchored Arizona’s starting rotation, finishing second in the league with 18 wins and a 3.01 ERA, and leading all N.L. hurlers with 236 innings pitched, four complete games, and three shutouts. Closer Jose Valverde led the league with 47 saves, while pitching to a 2.66 ERA and striking out 78 batters in 64 innings of work. Eric Byrnes led Arizona on offense by hitting 21 home runs, scoring 103 runs, batting .286, and stealing 50 bases.
While Arizona barely edged out Colorado and San Diego for the Western Division title, a collapse of historical proportions enabled the Philadelphia Phillies to sneak into the playoffs as champions in the East. The New York Mets appeared to have the division locked up, leading the Phillies by seven games with only 17 games remaining on the schedule. However, the Mets faltered down the stretch, losing 12 of their final 17 contests. Meanwhile, the Phillies went 13-4 during the same period, to finish the season with an overall mark of 89-73 that left them one game ahead of the Mets, who failed to gain a postseason berth.
Despite blowing what appeared to be an insurmountable lead in the closing weeks of the season, the Mets received solid efforts from their three best players. Although he struggled during the season's second half, Jose Reyes batted .280, scored 119 runs, and stole a league-leading 78 bases. Carlos Beltran led the team with 33 home runs and 112 runs batted in. David Wright earned a fourth-place finish in the N.L. MVP balloting by hitting 30 homers, knocking in 107 runs, scoring 113 others, stealing 34 bases, and batting .325.
The Phillies captured their first division title in 14 years even though they finished just 13th in the league with a team ERA of 4.73. Cole Hamels was the club’s only reliable starter, going 15-5 with a 3.39 ERA. The Phillies’ key to success was their potent offense, which finished first in the league with 892 runs scored and placed second in the loop with 213 home runs. Leftfielder Pat Burrell hit 30 home runs and drove in 97 runs. Centerfielder Aaron Rowand had the finest season of his career, batting .309 and establishing new career highs with 27 home runs, 89 runs batted in, 105 runs scored, 189 hits, and 45 doubles. Although an injury forced second baseman Chase Utley to miss a month of the season, he still managed to hit 22 homers, drive in 103 runs, score another 104, and finish among the league leaders with a .332 batting average. Defending N.L. MVP Ryan Howard struck out 199 times and batted only .268, but he finished second in the league with 47 home runs and 136 runs batted in. Shortstop Jimmy Rollins edged out Matt Holliday in the MVP balloting by hitting 30 homers, driving in 94 runs, batting .296, stealing 41 bases, collecting 212 hits, and topping the circuit with 139 runs scored and 20 triples. By hitting 30 homers, stealing 41 bases, and amassing 20 triples and 38 doubles, Rollins became one of just four players in major league history to surpass the 20-mark in all four categories in the same season.
The Phillies entered the postseason with momentum clearly on their side, fully expecting to advance to the World Series. However, they ran into a buzz-saw in the form of the Colorado Rockies, who continued their amazing run by sweeping Philadelphia in three straight games in the Division Series. The Arizona Diamondbacks similarly swept the Cubs in their first-round matchup, but they, in turn, were swept by red-hot Colorado in the NLCS. The Rockies’ seven consecutive postseason victories extended their overall winning streak to an incredible 16 games.
Nevertheless, the Rockies’ magical run ended in the World Series when they themselves were swept by the Boston Red Sox in four straight games. Two of the four contests were competitive, with Boston posting one-run victories in Games Two and Four. But the Red Sox simply overpowered the Rockies in the other two contests, defeating them by scores of 13-1 and 10-5.
Other outstanding performers, notable events, and points of interest from around the league follow:
• June 6 – In the San Diego Padres' 5–2 win over the Dodgers, closer Trevor Hoffman became the first pitcher to record 500 career saves.
• August 4 - Barry Bonds tied Hank Aaron for first place on the all-time home run list by connecting for his 755th round-tripper against San Diego's Clay Hensley.
• August 5 – New York’s Tom Glavine became the 23rd pitcher to earn 300 career wins by defeating the Chicago Cubs 8–3 at Wrigley Field.
• August 7 – Barry Bonds surpassed Hank Aaron's record of 755 career home runs with a fifth-inning shot off Washington's Mike Bacsik.
• September 25 - Prince Fielder, at age 23, became the youngest player ever to hit 50 home runs in a season by connecting twice in the Brewers' 9–1 victory over the Cardinals. He also became part of the first father-son duo to hit 50 home runs in one season (his father, Cecil, hit 51 homers for Detroit in 1990).
• San Diego’s Greg Maddux became the first pitcher in history to record at least 10 wins in 20 consecutive seasons by defeating the Philadelphia Phillies by a score of 14-3.
• Florida Marlins third baseman Miguel Cabrera hit 34 home runs, knocked in 119 runs, and batted .320.
• Marlins shortstop Hanley Ramirez hit 29 homers, scored 125 runs, batted .332, and amassed 212 hits, 48 doubles, and 51 stolen bases.
• Atlanta’s Chipper Jones hit 29 home runs, knocked in 102 runs, scored 108 others, and batted .337.
Seasons of the National League
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- Jake Peavy won the Cy Young
- Prince Fielder won the Hank Aaron Award
- Bob Melvin won the Mgr of the year
- Jimmy Rollins won the MVP
- Matt Holliday won the NLCS MVP
- Jose Valverde won the Rolaids Relief
- Ryan Braun won the Rookie of the Year
- Jake Peavy won the Triple Crown
- Jake Peavy won the TSN Pitcher of the Year
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