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State of the NL Central: June 6, 2018

The Cubs are only a half game back!

MLB: Milwaukee Brewers at Philadelphia Phillies Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Oh boy, can you see it everyone? First place? It’s so close. The Cubs are currently only a half game back of the Milwaukee Brewers, and as luck would have it the two clubs are set to square off against each other this week, which could be precisely the thing the Cubbies need to take the top spot.

In a division that has been tight from the first day of the season, the Central is starting to see a bit more distinction among the ranks, with the Reds obviously still lingering at the bottom, but the Cardinals and Pirates dropping further to the back of the pack. This is especially tough for the Pirates, who had been on top of the division for some time and seemed to have something good going on.

Not that Cubs fans are going to complain about the realignment of the ranks.

Milwaukee Brewers: 39-26

The Brewers started last week with a tough two-game loss in an interleague series against the Cleveland Indians, and both were tight games (3-2 and 3-1 respectively). They seemed to find their footing again with a three-game series against the Phillies, where they won two games in blowout fashion (12-4 and 12-3), and lost the series finale in a close 4-3 match.

Things won’t be easy this week, as they’ll pair up against the Cubs, who are looking to take the number one spot in the division, and they’ll see a rematch series against the Phillies, who will no doubt be looking to get a little vengeance. The Brewers can’t expect to have any easy wins this week.

Up Next: vs Cubs (3 games); vs Phillies (3 games)

Chicago Cubs: 37-25

Speaking of the Phillies, the Cubs had some good luck against the Philadelphia squad last week, winning their three-game series with two victories, only losing the series opener 6-1. The Cubs then had a three-game series against league rivals the Pirates, which went well, with two wins — including a 2-0 shutout — but dropping the series finale 7-1.

They series against the Brewers will be a great chance for the Cubs to shine this coming week and take the opportunity to claim top spot. They’ll also be up against the Cardinals in enemy territory, and the Cards will certainly want get ahead of their current three games back. Needless to say the Cubs will need to fight tooth and nail for their wins this week, but if they can get them, the end result could be tremendous.

Up Next: @ Brewers (3 games); @ Cardinals (3 games)

St. Louis Cardinals: 35-28

The Cardinals took on two teams that should have been “easy” wins last week, and only managed to prove that there are no free wins in baseball. They lost their series against the Miami Marlins, dropping two games of three, including a brutal 11-3 beating on Wednesday. Their series against the Reds went better, but they still dropped the finale on Sunday, losing 6-3 against the worst team in their division.

They’ll obviously been hungry to improve on those numbers this coming week. The San Diego Padres, who are 31-36 in the NL West will be their first challenge. The Padres are at the bottom of the West, but still posting a much better record than the Reds, and have almost as many wins as the Pirates, so they may yet prove a challenge for the Cards. And the Cubs, of course, are always a tough play. The Cardinals will need to rally if they want to win these upcoming series.

Up Next: vs Padres (3 games); vs Cubs (3 games)

Pittsburgh Pirates: 32-33

Oh how the mighty have fallen. Once leaders of the pack, the Pirates are now seven games behind and have won only three of their last ten games. Not ideal. They lost two of three games to the Dodgers, including a 5-0 shutout, and the other two games of the series were close scores (11-9 and 8-7). They then lost their series against the Cubs two out of three as well.

In the coming week they’ll take on the DBacks, who are crushing it in the West with a 35-29 record and then the Reds. Pretty different teams to tackle over the course of the week, which will keep the Pirates on their toes, looking to make up some of the gap between them and the Brewers.

Up Next: @ Diamondbacks (3 games); vs Reds (3 games)

Cincinnati Reds: 23-43

The Reds lost both their series this past week, but neither series was a sweep. The Reds are no longer nearly as far back as they were even three weeks ago. Don’t expect them to make a run for the division, but they certainly aren’t laying down quietly and letting the other teams dominate them completely. They won a game each against the Rockies and Cardinals, two teams doing significantly better than them overall.

Up next they’ll take on the Kansas City Royals, who are suffering in the AL Central with a 22-44 record and have only won two of their last ten games. It could be a prime opportunity for the Reds to gain a little more ground. Then they’ll take on the Pirates, who will be a considerably fiercer foe. Still, don’t sleep on the Reds entirely.

Up Next: @ Royals (2 games); @ Pirates (3 games)