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State of the National League Central: May 15, 2018

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The Brewers are number one, but for how long?

Milwaukee Brewers v Arizona Diamondbacks Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images

With more than a quarter of the season under our belts we can’t blame things on small sample sizes, or make the “it’s still early” claim with the same regularity we did back in April. The truth is, the way things are shaking out now will have a lot to do with how they look for the rest of the season. We’ve already seen the World Series favorite Los Angeles Dodgers take a tumble in the standings, and many are wondering if they’ll be able to climb there way out and be competitive this season. It’s no longer looking as positive as it once was.

For the Cubs, even though they find themselves in fourth place again this week in the N.L. Central, their prospects for the season aren’t as grim as those of the Dodgers. The Central is proving to be one of the tightest divisions in the National League right now, and it’s truly anyone’s game (which we can see based on just how frequently the top spot shuffles).

Here’s a look at how the last week shook out for the Central.

Milwaukee Brewers (25-17)

The Brewers split their two-game series against the Cleveland Indians last week. The Indians, who were slated to be a powerhouse in the A.L. Central this season, are having their own struggles at the moment, and their hold on first place in a very bad division is seemingly tenuous. The Brewers went on to face the Rockies and took three out of four of those games, impressive given how strong the Rockies have been this season.

They started this week’s series against the equally hot Diamonbacks with a 7-2 win on Monday. The Brewers don’t seem ready to slow down any time soon.

Up Next: @ Diamondbacks (3 games, 1 already played); @ Twins (3 games)

St. Louis Cardinals (22-16)

Last week didn’t start off so hot for the Cardinals. They were swept by the Minnesota Twins, a team that’s one of the better options in the dismal A.L. Central right now, but by no means a star franchise. The Cards were shut out in one game and held to one run in the second. They went on to split their four-game series against the Padres, but their victories were not runaway wins. The Cardinals were really resting on their higher record leading into the week, and barely managed to hold onto the number two spot. If the Cubs and Pirates have good showings this week, the Cards are destined to take a tumble.

They’ll try to have better luck against the Twins in a two-game rematch, but they won’t be playing on their home turf. No wins are free right now.

Up Next: @ Twins (2 games); vs. Phillies (4 games)

Pittsburgh Pirates (23-17)

The Pirates had a heck of a week last week, winning both games against the Chicago White Sox and taking two of three from the Giants (probably not the homecoming former Pirate Andrew McCutchen was hoping for). Their win record is now better than the Cards, but thanks to having more games under their belt, they aren’t in second place. I wouldn’t be surprised to see these two swap places over the next week, especially with a rematch against the White Sox on the horizon at PNC Park.

Up Next: vs. White Sox (2 games); vs. Padres (4 games)

Chicago Cubs (21-17)

When the Cubs won last week they won in a major way. We saw incredible showings, especially from Willson Contreras making a dynamite splash on his bobblehead day, and Kris Bryant continuing to rack up home runs.

The Cubs swept the Marlins, and not by small margins in most cases, with a 14-2 and 13-4 blowout among their victories. They also took two of three from the White Sox, cutting off their five game winning streak on Sunday with a loss against the other Chicago club. A close match against the Braves started the week (a makeup game for the weather-delayed Jackie Robinson Day game), but the Cubs were unable to get the victory there.

The makeup game also ate up a rest day for the team, meaning they’re headed into a long stretch of games this week with no break, including a doubleheader Saturday (another makeup game). The Reds have had a strong week and will be looking for any signs of weakness from the Cubs.

Up Next: @ Braves (3 games); @ Reds (4 games)

Cincinnati Reds (14-28)

The Reds swept the Dodgers last week.

This isn’t really a deep dive into their successes or failures, but just let that sink in for a second. The Reds swept the Dodgers. They also took two out of three against the Mets (after laying claim to the Mets DFA’d anti-hero pitcher Matt Harvey).

Their winning streak was cut short in Monday’s game by the San Francisco Giants, but the Reds demonstrated last week they definitely have a little fight left in them this season. Unfortunately the rest of the Central is just too closely matched to give them much room to compete.

Up Next: @ Giants (3 games, 1 already played); vs. Cubs (4 games)