MLB 

NL Central Update: 8/11-8/18

Hold on to your hats fans! It’s going to be a bumpy ride.

In an area known for it’s flat terrain, the road to the NL Central may not be as smooth sailing, or driving, or flying, as anyone thought. Yes, it has been that way for the entire season, with the St. Louis Cardinals always looming in the back mirror of the Milwaukee Brewers.

For a while though, St. Louis seemed like the only threat to the Brewers. In May, it was always a matter of time before the Cardinals took their rightful place atop the division and the Brewers began their painful decent back to humanity.  It’s August now, and Cardinals fans are still waiting for that to happen.

If the Brewers have proven anything this season, it’s that they are a legitimate contender in Major League Baseball. They have been in first place for all but four days this season and have the best run differential in the division, according to Sports Illustrated. They continue time and time again to win ball games against teams that should be better than them. They are currently on a four game win streak, sweeping the first place Dodgers in a three game series. That sweep included a win over Los Angeles ace Clayton Kershaw who has been dominant against everyone this season.

Yes, the Brewers are for real. It’s time to start predicting and waiting for their fall. Instead, it’s time to start paying attention to everyone else in the division. The Brewers do not have the division wrapped up. It’s going to be a three team race in the NL Central for the playoffs.  Who are the three teams? The Brewers, Cardinals, and Pirates IF, and it’s a big if, all three teams remain healthy down the stretch.

The Cardinals have spent most of the season without catcher Yadier Molina but have still been able to win ball games
The Cardinals have spent most of the season without catcher Yadier Molina but have still been able to win ball games

The NL Central has been an injury plagued league this season, which is one of the many reasons the Brewers have not had a consistent threat to their first place spot. The Cardinals have been playing without catcher Yadier Molina for half of the summer months now and have severely underperformed without him. Their offense has been lacking, but they’ve still done enough to support their pitching staff and keep them in the hunt. It hasn’t exactly been pretty, though, for the Cardinals. The team who once made winning look polished, poised, and easy now struggles to win sloppily. It’s not something the Cardinals are used to, but it has allowed them to stay half a game ahead of the Pirates, a position they will need to be in down the stretch.

And Pittsburgh, well, they are called the Pirates for a reason. Last year, they made the playoffs for the first time in 21 years and had a disappointing start to this season. Expectations were high, but injury after injury has kept them struggling to even break .500. They lost eight players from their Opening Day 25 man roster.  Jason Grili and Bryan Morris were traded, Wandy Rodriguez and Travis Ishikawa were released, Jose Tabata and Tony Sanchez were sent to the minors, and Garrit Cole and Clint Barmes were placed on the DL.

 

The PIrates have played without several of their key players, including Garrit Cole, for the majority of the season. They are poised to make a run though as all of these players are returning to the line up at just the right time
The PIrates have played without several of their key players, including Garrit Cole, for the majority of the season. They are poised to make a run though as all of these players are returning to the line up at just the right time

That was just early on in the season. The Pirates have lost 2013 Come Back Player of the year Fransico Lariano to the DL with a strained oblique, Russell Martin to a hamstring injury, and Andrew McCutchen to a rib injury.

Don’t count the Pirates out of the division though. While they are in the midst of a four game losing streak, the Pirates have a chance to really do some damage in the division. Starting August 22, they have a series against both the Brewers and the Cardinals, meaning they can put a dent in the Brewers lead and take control of the division. These series are happening right as the Pirates are poised to get their key players back from the DL. They are dangerous and fully prepared to take the division by shear force, as any good pirate would. 

Of course, there are two other teams in the Division. The Cincinnati Reds have also been plagued by injuries all year, the biggest coming to their star first baseman Joey Votto. Still, they’ve managed to obtain a 63-61 record and are in 4th in the division. While the Reds may not have enough to make a push, there’s no reason to lose hope in the team. They were just unlucky, bitten by the injury bug than never quite let them go. It could very well be the Reds season next year if key pieces are not traded away after this season ends.

It's not the Cubs time... yet... but it's only a matter of time before they are also in the thick of the NL Central race.
It’s not the Cubs time… yet… but it’s only a matter of time before they are also in the thick of the NL Central race.

Then, there’s the Chicago Cubs who are finally starting to show some promise. It’s been a long few rebuilding years, but the young stars in the Cubs minor league systems are coming up with promise. The Cubs young players are showing promise! They are not a hopeless cause! In two maybe three years, the Cubs will be contending for the NL Central too. Trust me, it won’t be long until all five teams will be serious contenders for the division. Soon, the NL Central will be the division to watch because every team will have a chance to win the division.

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