By Allyus Fritz
The NL Central is the most surprising division in all of baseball. The Pittsburgh Pirates are now in first place, tied with the same record as the St. Louis Cardinals and leading the Cincinnati Reds by 3.5 games. Pittsburgh hasn’t been in first this late in the season since the Lincoln administration. Just kidding… but seriously.
This three horse race for first place will come down to the very last day of the season, and I can’t wait to see how it all plays out.
Here’s the NL Central breakdown.
1. Pittsburgh Pirates (48-30)
The Pirates! Unreal. Andrew McCutchen is leading his Buccos to their most successful season in two decades. It’s nice to see a perennial cellar dweller finally reach the promise land. I hope they don’t falter down the stretch. Jason Grilli will have to continue to be a masterful closer, while the rest of the young team will need to remain sharp.
2. St. Louis Cardinals (48-30)
The best record in baseball has belonged to the Cardinals for most of the season. Talented youngsters have made their mark on the mound this season, not only in the starting rotation, but also from the bullpen. Trevor Rosenthal now has a 1.89 ERA while Seth Maness is sitting pretty with a 2.92 ERA. Want one more example of how dominant the Cards have been this season? They currently have a run differential of +113. The second place team is +78.
3. Cincinnati Reds (45-34) 3.5 GB
Cincinnati has fallen a couple of games behind their division counterparts, but I don’t think they have much to worry about. Mike Leake and Matt Latos are leading a rotation that may be the best in baseball (their only competition in this regard: The Detroit Tigers and St. Louis Cardinals). Homer Bailey has a 3.88 ERA, which is the highest of the five starters for the Reds. Pretty solid, eh? Cincinnati’s problem has been scoring, which is ridiculous considering they play in a little league ballpark. My recommendation? Bat Joey Votto second.
Let’s wait until next year:
4. Chicago Cubs (33-44) 14.5 GB
We may look back on this season as the year the Cubs started to build a monster. Anthony Rizzo, Starlin Castro, and Jeff Samardzija (I now finally understand why Samardzija didn’t choose football) are all superstars in the making. Darwin Barney has one of the best gloves in baseball. The front office has finally decided to send down Carlos Marmol and soon the club will be liberated from Alfonso Soriano’s backbreaking contract. Look for the Cubs to deal Nate Schierholtz before the trade deadline.
5. Milwaukee Brewers (32-45) 15.5 GB
The series between the brew crew and the cubbies that started Tuesday put Milwaukee in last place. That’s probably the most exciting thing you could say about the Brewers right now, with the exception of the looming suspension that may be brought down on Ryan Braun for being connected to the Biogenesis clinic. Carlos Gomez is having the best year of his career, and he deserves an all-star selection because of it. Look for he Brewers to trade away aging reliever Francisco Rodriguez before he realizes he’s too old to be pitching as well as he is at the moment.
See you in the NL West.
Check out previous divisional breakdowns here:
*All statistics as of Friday morning, June 28.