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State of the NL Central: August 20

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The Cubs keep holding on.

Chicago Cubs v Pittsburgh Pirates Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images

A good combo of luck and skill have kept the Cubs on top this week (thanks especially to a shortened Brewers schedule). The week ahead looks good for keeping them at number one as they face the flagging Detroit Tigers, and the NL Central’s last place Cincinnati Reds.

Let’s take a look back at the week that was.

Chicago Cubs 71-52

The Cubs had a 50-50 kind of week. Good enough to stay on top, and good enough to keep the gap between themselves and the Brewers at a solid 3½ games, but not good enough to make a big surge ahead. First they had a short two-game series against the Brewers, which they split, one game apiece. They follow this up with a four-game series against the Pirates, where the Cubs took the first two games and the Pirates took the last two.

The Cubs have a considerably easier week ahead as they head to Detroit for a two-game series against the flagging Tigers, and wrap up the week at home with a four-game set against the Reds. It’s unlikely the Cubs will sweep both series, but the odds are good they’ll come out better than 50%.

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

Milwaukee Brewers 69-57

The Brewers had a light week with only five games played, something that certainly helped the Cubs maintain their lead. Aside from the one-game win in the short series against the Cubs to start the week, they played three games against the Cardinals to end the week and won only a single game there. Not ideal, but Cubs fans won’t complain.

This coming week they continue with division play, seeing the Reds for three games, then hosting the Pirates for three. Both teams have been performing decently well, so it won’t be the easiest week for the Brewers in spite of their opponents being below them in the division.

Up Next: vs Reds (3 games); vs Pirates (3 games)

St. Louis Cardinals 68-57

It was a good week to be the Cardinals. First they took three of four in a series against the Nationals, then took two of three in a series against the Brewers. Hard to imagine a better week for a team looking to sneak into second place (something they could easily do this week if the Brewers aren’t careful).

In their way? Two NL West teams that won’t be easy to beat. First the Cards will see the Dodgers in Los Angeles for a three-game series, then they’ll be off to Denver for a three-game series against the Rockies. Not an easy week at all, but for a team looking to claw their way up in the rankings, it’s not impossible.

Up Next: @ Dodgers (3 games); @ Rockies (3 games)

Pittsburgh Pirates 63-62

Unlike the Cards, things didn’t go great for the Pirates this week, and any hopes they had at surging up in the rankings seem to be dwindling. First they were swept in a two-game series against the Twins (who are hot right now, they followed up the Pirates by winning three of four against the Tigers). Then they played the Cubs and split the four-game series at two wins apiece.

This coming week will see the Pirates playing host to the Braves for three games before they head to Milwaukee to play the Brewers over the weekend in a three-game series. The Braves have a very tenuous hold on first in the NL East right now with the Phillies a mere half game back, so they’ll be a real challenge, and the Brewers are going to be fighting tooth and nail to not lose their second place spot to the Cards. Could be a very tough week indeed for Pittsburgh.

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

Cincinnati Reds 55-69

Sweeps week for the Reds. First they were swept in three games by the Cleveland Indians at home, then they played host to the San Francisco Giants and swept the west coast team, winning all three games. It’s a victory wave they’ll be hoping to ride into the new week.

Like the Brewers, it’s a big week for division rivals for the Reds. In fact, they will only see other NL Central teams from now until September 5. This week will start with three games against the Brewers, followed by a four-game series against the Cubs.

Up Next: @ Brewers (3 games); @ Cubs (4 games)