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State of the NL Central: June 26

Reds ruined everything

MLB: St. Louis Cardinals at Milwaukee Brewers Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

Oof. That week could have gone better. While the status quo has stayed in place, nothing really went as expected for any of the NL Central teams. Since I don’t know anything about astrology I can’t blame Mercury being in retrograde or anything like that, but it really has been quite the week.

The Brewers maintain their hold on first place and the Cubs are still second, but now 2½ games back. They’ll need to pick up some momentum this week if they hope to gain that ground back again.

Milwaukee Brewers 45-32

The Brewers have held onto the top spot for several weeks now, but if we’re being honest, the only reason they’ve maintained their hold for another week is because the Cubs had an even worse week than they did. The Brewers got a win against the Pirates, and took two of four from the Cardinals, but that’s still only three wins in a week.

After going 5-5 in their last 10 games, the Brewers are in desperate need of a good week, and on paper, that’s exactly what they’ll have. They’ll take on the Royals, who sport a mere 24-54 record and have only won two of their last 10 games, and follow that up with four games against the Reds (but I’ll discuss a bit further down why the Brewers won’t want to assume the Reds will go quietly).

Up Next: vs Royals (2 games); @ Reds (4 games)

Chicago Cubs 42-34

The Cubs got swept by the Reds.

Over four games.

Sure, they also won two of three against the Dodgers (including a split double-header) and a 4-0 shut out. But they were swept by the Reds.

This coming week they face the Dodgers again, this time in Los Angeles, and they’ve already lost the first game of that four-game series. Then they’ll see the Minnesota Twins in a three-game series back home in Chicago. The Twins had a rocky month or so, but find themselves back in second place in the AL Central, and they haven’t fared badly on the road, owning a 14-20 record.

Up Next: @ Dodgers (4 games); vs Twins (3 games)

St. Louis Cardinals 41-36

The Cards actually had a pretty solid week last week, splitting both their series. First they dropped two of three to the Phillies, but each of the three games was a one-run margin. Next up the took two of four against the Brewers, with two games down to one run, and two others being blow-outs.

They’ve started the week well, with a 4-0 win against the AL Central-leading Cleveland Indians, but they’ll need all the luck they can get when they end the week with a three game series against the red-hot Atlanta Braves, who have a 22-17 record on the road, which is almost identical to the Cards 22-18 record at home.

Up Next: vs Indians (3 games); vs Cardinals (3 games)

Pittsburgh Pirates 37-41

The Pirates might have had a better week if Mother Nature hadn’t been against them, but a weather postponement against the Brewers meant they lost an extra game this week. As it was, they split the other two games, and the 1-0 shutout against the Brewers was hopefully a satisfying win, because it was the only one they got all week. The series against the Brewers was followed by a four-game sweep against the Arizona Diamondbacks. Rough.

They’ve started this week on a higher note, with a Monday win against the Mets. They’ll see the Mets for another two games before heading to San Diego for three against the Padres, who have a similar record to the Pirates (35-46), so in spite of the Padres last place position in the NL West, they won’t be a surefire win for the Pirates.

Up Next: @ Mets (3 games); @ Padres (3 games)

Cincinnati Reds 32-46

I have to take back everything I said last week about the Reds. I said they’d struggle against the surging Tigers. They swept the Tigers in a two-game series. I said they’d have a hard time against the Cubs, who were hungry for first place. They swept the Cubs in a four-game series. In fact, the Reds had a seven-game winning streak that was only just upset by the Braves, and that was a close game.

The Reds, who started the season with one of the worst records in baseball, now have a better record than the Mets, who started the season so hot their fans were already prepping for the postseason. I said we shouldn’t sleep on the Reds, and they’re proving it.

This week is going to be a real test for them, though, as they take on two division-leading teams. They’ve already dropped the first game against the Braves, and will follow up that series with four games against the Brewers. It’s a lot to take on, but I’m no longer willing to assume they’ll do poorly. Dare I say... the Reds might not finish this season in last place in the Central?

Up Next: @ Braves (3 games); vs Brewers (4 games)