With the trade deadline a week away, it appears that the only team in the NL Central that is in a position to be a buyer at the trade deadline is the Milwaukee Brewers.
Heading into the weekend, the Brewers still sat in the first place by a comfortable 6.5 game margin ahead of the Cincinnati Reds and St. Louis Cardinals. The Cubs were lucky to steal one of their four games from the Cardinals in their four-game series this week and the Pittsburgh Pirates have officially fallen more than 20 games under the .500 mark.
This weekend could provide some real shuffling in the National League Central though with a weekend series in Cincinnati between the Cardinals and Reds. Let’s dive into everything that you need to know heading into this weekend.
Milwaukee Brewers, 56-41, +6.5 Games
After sweeping the Reds last weekend, the Brewers laid two massive eggs in their short two games series with the Kansas City Royals at American Family Field. Milwaukee lost the first game of the series 5-2 on Tuesday night and then fell 6-3 on Wednesday night.
This weekend provides the Brewers a great opportunity to make a statement on a national stage through a weekend series against the first-place Chicago White Sox. Saturday’s game is the FOX national broadcast of the week and Sunday fans are treated to a Brandon Woodruff and Lance Lynn matchup on Sunday Night Baseball.
In fact, this entire weekend provides for some great pitching matchups. On Friday, fans are treated to a Freddy Peralta and Lucas Giolito matchup. Saturday features a pair of potential Cy Young candidates in Corbin Burnes and Carlos Rodon.
While the White Sox have greatly struggled against teams that are above .500 this season, the matchup with the Brewers – and three tough starting pitchers – have playoff series vibes to it.
If the Brewers want to be real contenders in the National League they need to find a way to generate some sort of consistent offense. Entering Friday’s game, the Brewers ranked 29th in MLB in average, 25th in slugging and 21st in on-base plus slugging. The offense puts so much pressure on their pitching to hold opponents to just a couple of runs a game.
Cincinnati Reds, 49-47, 6.5 Games Back
Reds long-time first baseman Joey Votto has expectations of the Reds playing for a division crown in 2021. I don’t know who is going to tell him, but his team is flirting with a .500 record and is more than five games out of first place despite having one of the best offenses in baseball.
Since the All-Star Break the REds have a 1-5 record, with their only win coming on Tuesday against the Mets.
This weekend the Reds face off with a Cardinals team that has seen a small resurgence since the All-Star Break. The Reds are set to send Trevor Mahle to the mound on Friday and following that up with Luis Castillo on Saturday and Sonny Gray on Sunday.
The Cardinals are throwing their three weakest starters this weekend, so that plays into the Reds’ favor, especially in the run-producing ballpark that is Great American.
Votto may want to think that his team has a chance to win the division, but that isn’t a possibility until the Reds start to show any signs of being a real staff. Cincinnati’s pitching rotation owns the 22nd best team ERA and the 25th best team WHIP.
St. Louis Cardinals, 49-48, 7.0 Games Back
The Cardinals should have swept the Chicago Cubs in a four-game series, but they blew a five-run lead in the ninth innings on Tuesday night. Despite blowing that game, the Cardinals were able to quickly rebound and take games three and four of the series.
Dylan Carlson and Harrison Bader have both been swinging really hot bats and helped the Cardinals in their series win over the Cubs. Carlson went 7-17 with four doubles and a pair of home runs vs the Cubs while driving in seven runs and Harrison Bader went 7-16 with a pair of doubles and two RBIs against Chicago.
Again though it’s the Cardinals bullpen that continues to provide them countless problems. The bullpen leads the league in walks and hit batsmen, and it has cost them what feels like countless games this season.
Chicago Cubs, 48-50, 8.5 Games Back
The Cubs are fully in sell mode, especially after another series loss to the Cardinals this week. It appeared that Kris Bryant might have been on the move this week when he was removed from the game on Tuesday night, but it was just because of hamstring fatigue.
Craig Kimbrel though appears to be the Cubs’ most valuable trade piece and will command quite the haul at the trade deadline because he has been the best closer in baseball — statistically speaking — this season.
This weekend the Cubs have an opportunity to get back above .500 with a weekend series against the Diamondbacks at Wrigley Field.
Pittsburgh Pirates, 36-60, 19.5 Games Back
It’s more interesting to watch the Pirates trade rumors for their star second baseman Aaron Fletcher.
The Pirates have weekend series with the Giants this weekend, so things only figure to get more challenging for the Bucs as they play the team with the best record in the National League.