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N.L. Central update: The Cardinals extend their division lead

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Cubs maintain a hold on the second wild card spot

San Francisco v St Louis Cardinals Photo by Michael B. Thomas /Getty Images

As the first week of September arrives, and with it the last month of regular season baseball, the race towards the postseason is on in earnest. The Cardinals maintained their hold on the first place spot in the central, extending their lead over the Cubs to three games. The good news — if there is any to be found in a second place position — is that the Cubs are firmly in place for the second N.L. wild card spot, and have a pretty healthy lead over the Brewers in the division as well.

Let’s take a look at the week (and holiday Monday) that have passed, to see what got us here and what lays ahead.

St. Louis Cardinals 77-60

The Cardinals fared really well against division rivals last week, certainly bolstering their stronghold on first place. Even with a postponed game against the Reds on Friday that was plus a Saturday doubleheader, the team still managed to take two-of-three against the Brewers to start the week, then took three-of-four from the Reds.

This coming week they’ll continue a four-game series against the Giants, which they’ve already won the first game of, before heading to Pittsburgh for a three-game weekend series against the Pirates.

Up Next: vs Giants (3 more games); at Pirates (3 games)

Chicago Cubs 74-63

Where the Cardinals excelled within the division, the Cubs saw weekend struggles instead. Following a three-game sweep of the Mets to start the week, they headed home to take on the Brewers, and saw their home field magic wither on the vine. After winning the first game of the series, they dropped the next two. A four-win week was enough to keep them ahead of Milwaukee, however.

On Labor Day the team kicked off a two-game stint against the Mariners, which they won the first game of. They’ll then gear up for a rematch against the Brewers, this time in Milwaukee, and hope to bring a little revenge with them along for the trip North. The Brewers have a pretty solid 39-30 home record, though, so it’s not going to be easy.

Up Next: vs Mariners (1 more game); at Brewers (4 games)

Milwaukee Brewers 70-67

Since we’ve already talked about the Cardinals and Cubs weeks, it won’t surprise you to learn how the Brewers did. They won only a single game against the Cardinals to start the week, before taking two-of-three against the Cubs over the weekend.

Like the Cubs, they’ve started their week with some interleague play, theirs against the Houston Astros, who are riding high following Justin Verlander’s outstanding third career no-hitter in Toronto over the weekend. The Houston club rode that victory into Milwaukee to take the first game of a two-game series. The Brewers will then host the Cubs for a weekend rematch, hoping their home field advantage can help them to a series win.

Up Next: vs Astros (1 more game); vs Cubs (4 games)

Cincinnati Reds 64-74

The Reds had a crammed schedule last week, playing eight games over seven days. They started the week with a four-game series against the Marlins and took three of those four games, including a 5-0 shutout. Then they headed to St. Louis where the Cardinals managed to take the wind out of their sails, and the Reds lost three of their four games there.

They’ve started this week with a loss already, dropping the first of a four-game series against the Phillies, and this weekend they’ll play host to the Diamondbacks whose 37-34 away record is going to really put the Reds to the test. However the week shapes up, the Reds will really be looking forward to an off-day next Monday.

Up Next: vs Phillies (3 more games); vs Diamondbacks (3 games)

Pittsburgh Pirates 60-77

The Pirates had a pretty stellar week by all accounts. Things started slow with a three-game series against the Phillies where the Pirates were only able to collect a single win to avoid the sweep, but then the team headed to Colorado where they proceeded to sweep the Rockies over a four-game series.

They did not play on the holiday Monday as they headed home to Pittsburgh, where they’ll spend this week in a three-game series against the Marlins, followed by a three-game weekend series against the Cardinals. Look for them to sneak in about three wins for sure this week.

Up Next: vs Marlins (3 games); vs Cardinals (3 games)