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State of the NL Central: April 30, 2018

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The Pirates stay on top of the heap, but the Cubs are climbing after series sweep

MLB: St. Louis Cardinals at Pittsburgh Pirates Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Was it really just one week ago the Cubs were languishing in fourth place in the N.L. Central and fans were starting to worry it was a sign the season might be going to The Bad Place? Fear not, one and all, because the Cubs — with many thanks to a series sweep against division rivals the Milwaukee Brewers — were able to gain ground and end up in second place.

Now, with a mere half game behind on first place, the Cubs are looking to get back on top. However, with the exception of the Reds, the Central remains a highly competitive division, and the Cardinals and Brewers are too close to be dismissed. Right now it’s anyone’s race.

Here’s how it all shakes out right now:

Pittsburgh Pirates (17-11)

The Pirates continue to exceed all expectation. They squared off against the Detroit Tigers this past week and managed to split a double-header where the bats were hot on both sides, then steal a series win with a well-pitched one-run game. Over the weekend they took on the St. Louis Cardinals and swept the series, handily keeping themselves on top, and pushing the Cards down in the standings. Cubs fans can’t complain about that, at least.

Up next: @ Nationals (4 games), @ Brewers (3 games)

Chicago Cubs (15-10)

We all know how things have gone fro the Cubs. The series sweep against the Brewers will certainly help bolster confidence going into the new week.

Up next: vs. Rockies (3 games), @ Cardinals (3 games)

St. Louis Cardinals (15-12)

The Cards won their series against the Mets 2-1 last week, but with the exception of one runaway win, they’ve taken their wins with narrow margins. Being swept by the Pirates certainly didn’t help their momentum, and going into the new week they’ll be featuring an all-Chicago showdown, which could be good (the White Sox are struggling this season) and bad (the Cubs are on a roll now). The Cubs matchup will obviously be the big one we’re watching, as the small difference between the two teams’ place in the standings can shift a lot with inter-division play.

Up next: vs. White Sox (2 games), vs. Cubs (3 games)

Milwaukee Brewers (16-13)

The Brewers had a strong start to their season, but have begun to show signs of struggle. In spite of winning a two-game series against the Kansas City Royals early last week (and their four game series against the Marlins), they were subsequently swept in four games against the Cubs. This week may bode well for them, as they square off against two division teams, which could see them climb up the ranks again.

Up next: @ Reds (3 games), vs. Pirates (3 games)

Cincinnati Reds (7-21):

Their record should give a good indication as to why the Reds were the first team to part ways with their manager this year. Whether or not that drastic measure can help them regain their footing still remains to be see, but the charm of Joey Votto can only take them so far. The Reds had some success this past week against the Twins including a 15-9 slugfest on Friday. They split the Minnesota series 2-1, and also took two of three games against the Braves earlier in the week. Positive signs, certainly, but unfortunately for the Reds with the tight race ahead of them for the Central it may already be too late for the season.

Up next: vs. Brewers (3 games), vs. Marlins (3 games)