The NL Central Remains the Most Contested Division in Baseball

The Cubs and Brewers are tied for the NL Central lead, but the Cardinals, Pirates and Reds are right there in their rear-view mirror.

Aaron Gash AP

When you look at the NL Central, only six games separate the leaders from the pack. Over 60 games into the season, there are five possibilities for who could win the Division, with two teams currently tied at the top.

Note the analysis and numbers provided are reflected as of June 7.

Chicago Cubs: T-1st (34-27)

After a torrid month from the middle of April to mid-May, in which they won 20 of 26 games, the Cubs have cooled off. They finished out May by losing a series against the Astros, and they were swept by the Cardinals. In those six games, the Cubs scored a total of 19 runs, while their opponents plated 27.

Just when it seemed like the wheels might come off, the Cubs gained traction back at Wrigley. They won a make-up game against the Angels 8-1, then proceeded to win the series against the Rockies. In their four most recent games, the Cubs outscored their opponents 24-15.

Difference Makers – The Cubs used the long ball to beat the Angels and Rockies, with home runs from Javy Baez, Wilson Contreras, Kyle Schwarber and David Bote. Baez had two home runs in that stretch, pushing his total to 15. Bote also had a big game for the Cubs, driving in seven runs and scoring once in a 9-8 win over Colorado. The Cubs’ pitching staff bounced back as well, specifically Jon Lester and Kyle Hendricks. Lester had a rough couple outings but returned to form against the Angels, pitching seven innings of four-hit ball, allowing one run. Hendricks has been one of the best on the rotation, and continued to dazzle with his most recent game of seven innings, allowing six hits and three runs but also struck out 10.

What’s Next – Chicago hosts St. Louis for a three-game series to close out their homestand before playing at the Rockies and Dodgers, both teams have winning records and LA owns the best record in the NL.

Credit to: Associated Bank

Milwaukee Brewers: T-1st (36-28)

The Brew Crew has one of the better bullpens in the league. In the last couple weeks, Milwaukee split with the Twins, beat the Pirates three games out of four and lost their series to the Miami Marlins.

They began that stretch off on a positive note, playing Minnesota, who thy out-scored 9-8 but won one of two. They proceeded to beat Pittsburgh by scoring 31 runs compared to the Pirates’ 26 runs. The Brewers got shellacked against the Marlins who out-scored them 25-8 in three games.

Difference Makers – Christian Yelich started the season hot from the plate, and though he’s been quiet since still leads the league with 23 home runs. His most recent against the Marlins when the Brewers saved face with a 5-1 win. Mike Moustakas has been another highlight for the Brewers, hitting 18 bombs this season, including two during their finale against Miami. On the mound, Milwaukee has gotten some stellar outings from Zach Davies. He has yet to record a loss this season, his most recent performance of eight innings, allowing two runs and struck out three.

What’s Next – Milwaukee hosts the Pirates for a three-game set then heads to Houston for two games and then hits the Bay to play the Giants for a three-game series.

Credit to: 1000 Logos

St. Louis Cardinals: 3rd (31-29)

The Cardinals may be in third, but it only takes one series and they could be right back at the top. St. Louis helped themselves with a three-game sweep of the Chicago Cubs to begin the month of June, and have won six of their last 10 games. They lost their series to the Phillies, then turned around to shutdown Chicago before splitting with the Reds.

The Cardinals pitching staff did a number on the Cubs, holding them to six runs through three games. In their series against the Phillies, the Cubs and the Reds, the Cardinals have been outscored by one run, with a majority of the damage coming from an 11-4 loss to Philly.

Difference Makers – The pitching has been a big factor in St. Louis winning games. John Gant has yet to lose this season with a 5-0 record as a reliever. He most recently tossed 1 1/3 innings without allowing a hit and striking out one for his fifth win. Adam Wainwright has also been a major contributor with a 5-5 record. He pitched eight innings of two-hit ball, struck out eight and walked a career-high seven in the Cardinals finale over the Cubs. Dexter Fowler launched his fifth homer of the season to help beat the Cubs 7-4. Paul Goldschmidt began the season on fire and hit his 12th homer of the year against the Cubs, while Marcell Ozuna leads the team with 51 RBI.

What’s Next – The Cardinals head to Chicago for a three-game series, then head to Miami and close out their road trip in New York to play the Mets.

Credit to: The Big Lead

Pittsburgh Pirates: 4th (30-31)

Despite losing six of their last 10 games, the Pirates are still in the race to the top. They also have the longest win streak in the Division (two games) with consecutive wins over the Braves. In the past couple of weeks, Pittsburgh has given themselves a chance to climb the standings by playing against the Reds and Brewers. In said games, the Pirates split with the Reds and nearly got swept by the Brewers. They were outscored 57-48 in those two series, which included a double-header with the Reds and thriller, though loss, going into 13 innings with the Brewers.

The Pirates beat the Braves two of their three games, winning their first series since sweeping the Padres mid-May. Pitching has been suspect this season but Pittsburgh had one of their best overall games in their 6-1 win over Atlanta. After giving up a solo home run in the first, Pittsburgh didn’t allow another run to score and ended up plating six runs with a pair of early home runs to take the lead for good.

Difference Makers – It’s been a tough year for the Pirates, getting some iffy pitching from a couple of their stars, including Chris Archer. He pitched one of his best games in their win against the Braves, tossing six innings of six-hit ball, allowing one run and striking out six. The Pirates have MVP Candidate, Josh Bell, raking away on offense. Bell has been on fire this season, getting on base 94 times in the month of May. Bell has 18 home runs and 56 RBI.

What’s Next – Pittsburgh hits the road to play the Brewers in a three-game set, followed by a four-game series in Atlanta and will conclude their road trip down in Miami.

Credit to: WRGT

Cincinnati Reds: 5th (28-33)

Expected to be one of the comeback stories of 2019, the Cincinnati Reds have shown glimmers of hope, here and there. They’ve lacked consistency in all aspects of their game, but they still remain just six games back of the NL Central lead.

Cincy is 5-5 through their last 10 games, eight of which were at home. In their last three series, the Reds have outscored their opponents 42-38 with their largest margins coming from an 8-1 win over the Pirates and a 9-3 win against Washington.

Difference Makers – It’s been a rough year for Sonny Gray, having been acquired from the Yankees after being demoted following a disappointing season. Trying to right the ship, Gray helped the Reds beat the Pirates with six innings of work, allowing five hits, walking two and striking out seven. He earned his second win of the season. Luis Castillo has been leading Cincy on the mound and his record of 6-1 shows it. He most recently threw six innings of two-hit ball, walked four and struck out eight in a 4-1 win over the Cardinals. On offense, Yasiel Puig has been finding his rhythm lately, launching his 11th homer of the season against the Cardinals and plating his 33rd RBI. Derek Dietrich has been one of few consistent bats for the Reds, leading the team with 17 home runs and 37 RBI, second to Eugenio Suarez with 40 RBI.

What’s Next – Cincinnati continues their road trip with a three-game series at Philly, followed a pair of games in Cleveland before returning home to host the Texas Rangers.

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