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State of the NL Central: July 3

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Soooooo close

Milwaukee Brewers v Cincinnati Reds Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

For now, the N.L. Central appears to be turning into a two-team race, with the Cubs waking up Tuesday morning one game behind the Brewers, but don’t ever count the Cardinals out. Here’s what all five teams have in store for the rest of this week.

Milwaukee Brewers 48-35

The Brewers were all about splitting series last week, and it cost them. They faced off against two of the worst teams in either league (sorry, Reds, I know you’re getting better, but you’re still not great), and even against bottom dwelling teams, they could only manage to win half their games last week. They split a two-game series against the Royals, and though they took two of four from the Reds, the two games they lost were by huge margins (12-3 and 8-2 for the Reds).

Cubs fans won’t be complaining about this downward slide, naturally.

The Brewers have another AL Central matchup to lead off the week with two more games against the Minnesota Twins (after defeating them Monday) followed by four games against the Braves, who won’t want to budge an inch with their NL East lead. Not going to be an easy week for the Brew Crew.

Up Next: vs Twins (2 games); vs Braves (4 games)

Chicago Cubs 47-35

There’s a very good reason the Cubs are now within half a game of the number one spot, and it’s what they did this past week that got them there. In spite of losing their first two games to the Dodgers in L.A., they closed the three-game series with an 11-5 victory, and rode that high for the remainder of the week against the Minnesota Twins. They swept the Twins and didn’t yield an inch, putting up double-digit scores in each game in spite of players dropping like flies from the 107+ degree real feel Chicago heat.

Take a look at that last week for the Brewers and plant the Cubs in their place, and we have a pretty similar matchup for Chicago this week. The Detroit Tigers had a great surge of good luck, but then stumbled into an 11-game losing streak. They’ve had two wins in a row now, but that stretch of losses still looms large. The Tigers have had some good luck this season against that other Chicago team, but whether or not that will translate against the Cubs remains to be seen. The Reds are kind of a dangerous conundrum right now, too (more on that below), and the Cubs might have their work cut out for them this week with a schedule that would have looked like a piece of cake two months ago.

Up Next: vs Tigers (2 games); vs Reds (3 games)

St Louis Cardinals 42-40

The week started so well for St. Louis as they won their first two games against the Cleveland Indians, one a 4-0 shutout, and the other an 11-2 beating. Then they lost the final game of the series and it was all downhill from there. They were subsequently swept by the Braves, meaning the nice start to the week was all but squandered.

Now they’ll face the Arizona Diamondbacks for two more games after defeating them Monday, and continue on their west coast tour with four games against the San Francisco Giants. The DBacks are looking to boost their lead in the West and the Giants are hoping they can finally climb over the Dodgers for the number two spot, so neither team will be a cakewalk.

Up Next: @ Diamondbacks (2 games); @ Giants (4 games)

Pittsburgh Pirates 40-43

The Pirates had a really solid week, and with the Cardinals struggles, Pittsburgh finds themselves just another good week away from inching back up to the third place position. They won both their series this past week with two of three games. The Mets and the Padres were able to eke out one win apiece against Pittsburgh, but not by huge victories.

The Mets and Padres are not precisely the cream of the crop, mind you.

This coming week they’ll face off against the Dodgers for two additional games after L.A. crushed them 17-1 on Monday, followed by three against the surprisingly impressive Phillies. Needless to say it won’t be as easy to come away with series victories this week, but the Pirates will sure try.

Up Next: @ Dodgers (2 games); vs Phillies (3 games)

Cincinnati Reds 37-48

The Reds continue to surprise me week after week. I stand by my supposition from last week’s post that I truly believe they might make their way up to fourth place before the season is over, something that seemed so completely impossible at the beginning of the year.

They won two of three games against the Braves (in Atlanta, no less) and split their four-game series against the Brewers at two games apiece. For a team that once seemed as if they might just be giving up, they are certainly showing life. (and as long as they’re not threatening to take first place, I feel like it’s okay to be a little impressed with them.)

This week will be an All-Chicago showdown for the Reds with a pair of games remaining against the White Sox following their victory over the Sox on Monday and three against the Cubs. I’d make guesses on how those would play out, but whenever I guess about the Reds things go terribly awry.

Up Next: vs White Sox (2 games); @ Cubs (3 games)