The NL Central has seen some serious change in the standings over the last week with both the Milwaukee Brewers and Chicago Cubs getting red hot, while the St. Louis Cardinals are struggling while fighting through some injuries.
The Reds accomplished something for the first time since 1990 over the past weekend to stay in contention while the Pittsburgh Pirates continue to find ways to lose baseball games and make silly plays that shouldn’t happen at the Major League level.
Here is your weekly update for the NL Central as of June 10.
Chicago Cubs, tied for first place (35-27)
The Cubs have been one of the hottest teams in Major League Baseball since May 14, winning 18-of-26 games including five games over the San Diego Padres. It’s no surprise that since first baseman Anthony Rizzo and Jason Heyward came back from stints on the injured list that Chicago has been able to stay hot and win games.
This weekend, the Cubs host the Cardinals at Wrigley Field for the first time in 2021. The Cubs starting rotations appear to be a little bit in flux with both Adbert Alzolay and Trevor Williams being placed on the 10-day injured list.
Meanwhile, former farmhand Patrick Wisdom has provided a jolt to the Cubs lineup in his 16 games with the Cubs. Wisdom is hitting .364 in 44 at-bats with eight home runs while slugging .955. Wisdom’s play at third base has helped the Cubs continue to move Kris Bryant around defensively in the outfield.
Milwaukee Brewers, tied for first place (35-27)
Since trading for shortstop Willy Adams on May 21, the Brewers are 14-5, but the only opponent that the Brewers played in that stretch that is over .500 this season is the San Diego Padres. The Brewers split a four-game series with the Padres in Milwaukee. So, the Brewers are certainly very hot, but they are beating teams that they should be beating.
Still, the Brewers are expected to linger around the top of the division throughout the summer with starting pitchers Brandon Woodruff and Corbin Burnes leading the rotation. In the bullpen, Josh Hader, once again, is one of the premier relievers in all of baseball with a 0.76 ERA in 23.2 innings pitched this season.
Since coming off the injured list on May 18, outfielder Chrisitan Yelich is hitting .234 with .767 ops. Yelich’s return to the lineup also seems to have coincided with the Brewers’ recent surge, and his career numbers suggest that he is going to start producing more.
St. Louis Cardinals, 3.0 GB (32-30)
At one point this season, the Cardinals had the best record in the National League and commanding lead in the division, but now they are just two games over .500 and are in third place in the division.
Like many teams in Major League Baseball, the Cardinals have been handcuffed by injuries all season. Shortstop Paul DeJong is set to make his return to the lineup this weekend in Chicago after being out since May 14 with a rib injury. DeJong’s return to the lineup should help the Cardinals offense, which has the ninth-best OPS in the national league.
Still, the biggest concern for St. Louis remains their pitching though, especially with Jack Flaherty reportedly being out until after the All-Star game with an oblique strain. Carlos Martinez had another rough start this week and with Kwang Hyun Kim experiencing back tightness, which has sidelined him for the second time this season the Cardinals need another starter.
Cincinnati Reds, 5.0 GB (29-31)
Joey Votto really enjoys talking a lot of trash for being on a team that is under .500 and five games out of first place. When you accomplish something for the first time since 1990, you can open your mouth a little bit, and he did just that after the Reds swept the Cardinals in a four-game series. The Reds followed their four-game sweep up by losing 2-of-3 to the Brewers and will travel to Colorado this weekend.
Jesse Winker continues to lead the Reds offense while Nick Castellanos regularly is setting the table for the early-season MVP candidate with his .357 batting average and 1.038 OPS.
Luis Castillo had one of his best starts this season against the Cardinals over the weekend going 6.0 innings and allowing just one earned run, which if the Reds are going to get over .500 he will need to replicate on a consistent basis. He didn’t have the same success against the Brewers on Thursday with three earned runs in 5.2 innings.
Pittsburgh Pirates, 11.5 GB (23-38)
Where to even start with the Pirates? Two weeks ago Will Craig had one of the biggest defensive miscues in baseball history. This week rookie Ke’Bryan Hayes missed first base on a home run and was later ruled out after the Dodgers challenged the play.
If you’re a fan of any team in baseball and need a win, look for the Pirates on your schedule and you’re bound to find a couple.
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