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NL Central update: Cubs reclaim the top spot

But, as ever, it’s a tight race.

Jim Young-USA TODAY Sports

Another busy week of play has shuffled the deck for the NL Central once again, with the Brewers and Cubs swapping the top spot, and the Pirates and Reds now tied for last in the division. The Cardinals, it seems, are the only ones to remain consistent from week to week.

Still, the Central remains baseball’s closest race, with only 5½ games between first and last place. Truly, it could be anyone’s division, so let’s take a look at what’s coming this week and whether the Cubs are likely to still be first next Monday.

Chicago Cubs 42-35

A Crosstown Classic kicked off the week for the Cubs as they squared off against the White Sox for a two-game series at home. The teams split the series one game apiece. Then that same 50/50 story continued as the Mets came to town and the Cubs won two of the four games of the series against the New York club.

The start of the week won’t be easy for the Cubs, as they kick off a four-game series against the NL East-leading Braves. It could be a tough series as the Braves are 22-15 on the road and 7-3 for their last 10 games. Don’t count the Cubs out, though, as their strong 27-14 record at home is second only to the Dodgers in the National League. After facing the Braves at Wrigley, the Cubs will head to Cincinnati for a three-game weekend series against the Reds. The Reds have a pretty strong 6-4 record over their last 10 games, so don’t expect a sweep, but the Cubs should fare well.

Up Next: vs Braves (3 games); at Reds (3 games)

Milwaukee Brewers 42-36

How do you have a bad week? Well you start with a three-game sweep at the hands of the Padres, then return home and drop your first two games to the Reds. The Brewers were able to salvage two wins in the four-game series, and are hoping to ride that two-game win streak into the new week.

First they’ll tackle the Mariners in a three-game series. The Mariners are marginally better on the road than at home, and are 6-4 over their last 10 games, but they’re also 35-47 for the season and dead last in the AL West. After the M’s, the Brewers will host the Pirates for a three-game series. This has the makings of a better week for the Brewers.

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

St. Louis Cardinals 40-37

Speaking of not-so-great weeks, the Cardinals lost three of their four games against the Marlins to start the week. They managed to bounce back by winning two of three games against the Angels. Mike Trout who?

This coming week will see them play host to another American League team from California, as the Athletics come to town for a two-game series. The A’s have struggled a little on the road this season with a 17-19 record, so the advantage goes to the Cardinals here, as their strong home record of 24-16 gives them the definite upper hand. After the A’s, they’ll head to San Diego for a three-game series against the Padres. As we saw with the recent series the Padres had against the Brewers, this won’t be an easy one on the Cards.

Up Next: vs A’s (2 games); at Padres (3 games)

Pittsburgh Pirates 36-40

Did I say the Padres would be a tough competitor for the Cardinals? Don’t tell that to the Pirates. After splitting their two-game series against the Detroit Tigers to start the week, the Pirates swept their three games at home against the Padres. Not a bad way to get out of last place (or at least to tie for fourth).

This week sees the team facing some tough adversaries. First up will be a three-game series against the Houston Astros on the road. The Astros are 27-11 at home right now, but they are also on a 3-7 skid over the last 10 games, so the Pirates might have a perfect storm of luck brewing. And speaking of Brew, after the Houston series the Bucs will head to Milwaukee for a three-game weekend series.

Up Next: at Astros (3 games); at Brewers (3 games)

Cincinnati Reds 36-40

That losing skid the Astros are on... well, the Reds played a hand in it. They kicked off their week with a three-game sweep of the Houston club, then went to Milwaukee to take two-of-three from the Brewers. It should be interesting to see if the Pirates can repeat the luck of the Reds as they play a mirror series this week.

As for the Reds, they’ll start their week in Los Angeles (well, Anaheim) with a two-game series against the Angels. After that they’ll return home to play host to the Cubs for a three-game weekend series. The Reds and Angels are on pretty even footing at the moment, so it should be interesting to see how the Cincinnati club fares on the road. The Cubs, on the other hand, will be hungry to put some distance between themselves and the rest of the Central, so they’ll prove tough competition for the Reds.

Up Next: at Angels (2 games); vs Cubs (3 games)