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State of the NL Central: July 19

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Now this is how you want to come out of the All-Star break.

Chicago Cubs v San Diego Padres Photo by Denis Poroy/Getty Images

I hadn’t actually planned on doing a recap this week, what with it being All-Star week and today being the first game back from the break. However, something changed to make it essential that I do the update.

The Cubs are in first place in the N.L. Central.

After languishing in second place for what felt like months on end, the Cubs have surpassed the Brewers and done so in style, with some moments that reminded us all why several Cubs became All-Stars. So let’s take a look at what happened last week to shake up the standings.

Chicago Cubs 55-38

The week didn’t actually start out all that well for the Cubs. Their west coast road trip kicked off to a shaky start with a split series against the San Francisco Giants in which the Cubs were only able to win a single game. However things took a decidedly positive turn when the team headed to San Diego where they were able to sweep the Padres in a three-game series.

This weekend they’ll be taking on division rivals the St. Louis Cardinals in a five-game series at home (gotta love those make-up games). The Cubs should fare well in this match, but as we’re about to find out, a five-game series can make or break a first-place team.

Up Next: vs Cardinals (5 games)

Milwaukee Brewers 55-43

A week ago Monday I looked at the Brewers week and said it was basically theirs to lose as they squared off against the Miami Marlins, then went on to a five-game series against the Pittsburgh Pirates. Well, lose they did.

The Brewers lost two of three games against the Marlins. They then headed to Pittsburgh and proceeded to lose every. single. game. in their five-game series against the Pirates. With only one win over the whole week, there was no way they could fend off the Cubs from overtaking them in first place.

The Los Angeles Dodgers will be in Milwaukee this weekend, angling to hold on to their own reclaimed number one spot in the NL West.

Up Next: vs Dodgers (3 games)

St. Louis Cardinals 48-46

The big news out of St. Louis is, of course, the club’s firing of manager Mike Matheny. The team didn’t fare too badly in the week overall, actually. They split their two-game series against the White Sox, before taking on the Cincinnati Reds, where the Reds took the first two games of the series, and the Cards won only one. Hey, I said they didn’t do too badly, I didn’t say they did great.

The Cards will spend their weekend in Chicago hoping to keep the Cubs from getting too far ahead in the division standings.

Up Next: @ Cubs (5 games)

Pittsburgh Pirates 48-49

There’s another reason the Cardinals will want to keep the Cubs from winning too many games this weekend, and it’s because they can feel the Pirates breathing down their necks. The Pirates, in addition to sweeping their five-game series against the Brewers, also took two of their three games against the Washington Nationals. That solid week means the Pirates now have the same number of wins as the Cardinals, and if the Cards add a few more losses, it could be all the Pittsburgh club needs to push ahead.

They’ll turn their attention to the Cincinnati Reds this weekend to see if the Reds will help them make that move.

Up Next: @ Reds (3 games)

Cincinnati Reds 43-53

The Pirates’ surge last week has widened the gap that once saw the Reds eying fourth place in the division, but in different circumstances the Reds had a good enough week they could have done pretty well for themselves in the standings. They won two of three games against the AL Central-leading Cleveland Indians (though the one game they lost was a brutal 19-4 trampling). They then took on the Cardinals and managed to win two of three games against their division rivals. All in all, a very good week for the Reds.

This weekend they’ll make another move to push for fourth place by taking on the Pirates in a three-game series at home.

Up Next: vs Pirates (3 games)