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State of the NL Central: August 13

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Who’s hot and who’s not in the division this week.

Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

Things are looking better and better for the Cubs every day, and I don’t just mean because of that sensational walk-off grand slam last night (Bless you, David Bote). They continue to widen the gap between themselves and the rest of the NL Central, and if they’re able to keep it up, their claim to the division title should be in very good shape for these last weeks of the season.

How did the week play out for everyone in the Central?

Chicago Cubs 68-49

The Cubs played well this week, taking ideal advantage of a three-game series against the struggling Kansas City Royals. In spite of losing one game 9-0, the Cubs still won the series, taking two of three. They then faced the Washington Nationals and once again lost only a single game in that series, and finishing things off in triumphant fashion on Sunday in an unforgettable moment that I will not stop mentioning.

Ahead, things take a divisional turn, with a two-game series against the Brewers, followed by four games in Pittsburgh against the Pirates. None of these will be sure-win series, but the Cubs are riding a wave after Sunday and will hope to best their division rivals and further their lead.

Up Next: vs Brewers (2 games); @ Pirates (4 games)

Milwaukee Brewers 67-54

Where the Cubs had a solid week, the Brewers did not. They dropped two of three against the Padres, then headed to Atlanta where they dropped two of three against the Braves. Two wins in a week isn’t going to help them gain any ground on Chicago, and they dropped from being 1½ games back to 3 games back.

This coming week they’ll have the aforementioned two-game series against the Cubs and follow that with a three-game series against the Cardinals. In fact, the foreseeable future for the Brewers is all division rival series, which will either help them gain ground or push them even further down in the standings. The next time they see a non-NL Central team won’t be until August 31.

Up Next: @ Cubs (2 games); @ Cardinals (3 games)

St. Louis Cardinals 63-55

The Cardinals couldn’t have asked for a better week, and if the Brewers continue to falter, there’s a chance the Cards could be right on their heels gunning for the number two spot. The Cardinals faced the Marlins for three games, and won two of the three, their only loss by a single run. They then headed to Kansas City where they swept the Royals in a three-game series, including a decisive 7-0 shutout.

They’ll face the Nationals for three games to start this week before inviting the Brewers to St. Louis for a three-game series, which could go a long way towards shaking up the standings next week.

Up Next: vs Nationals (3 games); vs Brewers (3 games)

Pittsburgh Pirates 61-58

The Pirates had a pretty decent week of their own. They started a westward trip with a three-game series against the Rockies in Colorado, and won two of three games there, then headed to San Francisco to square off against the Giants for four games, where they split the series, two wins apiece.

They’ll have a two-game series in Minneapolis against the Twins (who are in a bit of a funk right now), before heading home to welcome the Cubs for a four-game series.

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

Cincinnati Reds 52-66

The Reds had a great opportunity last week to show what they were made of, and they managed to do a decent job of it, just not how one might expect. With series against the Mets and Diamondbacks on the line, you might imagine the Reds would have trampled the Mets and subsequently gotten trampled by the DBacks. You would be forgiven for thinking it, but as it turns out, you’d have been wrong. The Reds lost two of three to the Mets, then won two of three against the Diamondbacks. Because this is baseball, and it’s simply impossible to predict.

Looking ahead, they will face the AL Central-leading Cleveland Indians for three games (ouch), then see the Giants in Cincinnati for three games, which could go either way.

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