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NL Central standings: Cubs are number one!

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Slow start? What slow start?

Photo by Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty Images

Oh, how good does it feel to see that headline? After a sluggish start to the 2019 season, the Cubs have since rallied hard and have been playing some incredible baseball over the latter part of April and now into May.

The stars (and some well-timed inter-division play) aligned to give the Cubs the perfect opportunity to shake things up in the Central. But it’s still an incredibly competitive division, and they’ll need to continue the momentum from this point forward if they hope to stay ahead of the Cardinals and Brewers.

Chicago Cubs (19-12)

How do you have a great week of baseball? By winning every single game you play, naturally. The Cubs did just that this past week, making the most of an abbreviated schedule. First they headed to Seattle where they played a two-game series against the Mariners, which they swept. Then they headed home to host the Cardinals, and swept that series as well, including the incredible 81-pitch Maddux by Kyle Hendricks.

Things are stacked in the Cubs’ favor this week, with a four-game series against the Marlins to start the week. The Marlins are 2-8 over their last 10 games, and have a 3-9 record on the road, so the Cubs really do have the upper hand in that series. They’ll follow that up with a weekend series against the Brewers, also at home. The Brewers are on a bit of a hot streak as well, going 7-3 over their last 10, so the Cubs will want to remain vigilant over the weekend.

Up Next: vs Marlins (4 games); vs Brewers (3 games)

St. Louis Cardinals (20-14)

The Cardinals are a mere half game back from the Cubs right now, in large part due to their busy week (they played seven games compared to the Cubs’ five). Their four-game series against the Nationals was a great start to the week, where the Cards took three of four games, but that last loss against Washington was the start of an unexpected downward slide, as they headed to Chicago and were swept by the Cubs over a three game series.

This coming week won’t be an easy one for the Cardinals (something the Cubs should take advantage of). First up the Cardinals have a three-game series against the Phillies who are currently 7-3 over their last 10 games. The Phillies have struggled a little on the road this year with a 5-7 record, something the Cardinals will want to capitalize on. Then the Cardinals will host the Pirates for a four-game weekend series. With a lot of weekend inter-division play ahead, expect the standings to shift a little over the final days of the week.

Up Next: vs Phillies (3 games); vs Pirates (4 games)

Milwaukee Brewers (20-16)

Looking at the Brewers’ week, it’s actually pretty impressive they didn’t climb further ahead. At the moment they’re right on the heels of the Cardinals, and their past week certainly helped them out on that front. They began the week with a four-game series against the Rockies, splitting the series two games apiece. They rolled that into a three-game sweep against the Mets.

The week ahead will see them take on the Nationals for a three-game series. The Nationals, as we know from their series against the Cardinals, are struggling somewhat, going 3-7 over their last 10 games, something the Brewers will hope to capitalize on. They’ll then see the Cubs for the aforementioned three-game weekend series. That one series could be the biggest one of the week as far as the standings go.

Up Next: vs Nationals (3 games); at Cubs (3 games)

Pittsburgh Pirates (16-15)

It was an all American League week for the Pirates this past week, with a two-game series against the Texas Rangers — which the Pirates swept — followed by a three-game seires against the Oakland Athletics, where the Pirates took two of the three games (though their one loss was a 14-1 butchering to open the series). It was a good week, but with their five-game schedule compared to the heavy seven-game schedules of the Brewers and Cardinals, it wasn’t quite enough to move them up in the standings.

First up this week they will play host to the Rangers in a two-game rematch series, where they’ll hope home field advantage will help them with a repeat win. Then they’ll need to take on the Cardinals in a four-game series, which will be now easy feat for the Pirates.

Up Next: vs Rangers (2 games); at Cardinals (4 games)

Cincinnati Reds (14-20)

The Reds had a decent enough week of play, but my prediction that they might move up in the standings was clearly a little premature, and given the distance growing between them and the rest of the pack, I won’t make any such lofty predictions again. They split their four-game series against the Mets two games apiece, and then won a single game (so far) in their four-game series against the Giants, which concludes on Monday afternoon.

They’ll then be jetting off to California for a three-game series against the Athletics. And if they weren’t already sick of the Giants, they’ll see the San Francisco club again for a three-game weekend series — an entire week in the Bay Area! It’s a very busy week for the Reds, where they could do well, but unless they sweep all seven games it likely won’t be enough to budge them in the competitive NL Central standings.

Up Next: vs Giants (1 game); at Athletics (3 games); at Giants (3 games)