Cardinals, Pirates, And Cubs Continue To Flex Muscles In NL Central Race


We are reaching mid-August baseball, where the pennant race is heating up.

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When looking at the overall best records in baseball, the St. Louis Cardinals (75-42), Kansas City Royals (70-46), Pittsburgh Pirates (69-46), Chicago Cubs (67-49), and Los Angeles Dodgers (67-51) round out the Top 5.

Three of the top four teams live in the NL Central Division, and they appear to be running through most of the competition.

Of course, in the American League, the Kansas City Royals and the red-hot Toronto Blue Jays have emerged as top contenders. Toronto acquired pitcher David Price and shortstop Troy Tulowitzki among others at the trade deadline. The Blue Jays also boast a few former Pittsburgh Pirates in outfielder Jose Bautista and catcher Russell Martin.

The St. Louis Cardinals have lost starting pitcher Adam Wainwright, first baseman Matt Adams, centerfielder Jon Jay, and left fielder Matt Holiday, but their replacements have not missed a beat. Their starting rotation has a historically low team ERA of 2.60 at the moment and currently are 33 games over .500.

I think the Cardinals have the best rotation in the league, and pitching has proven to be a key attribute to former World Series champions. The Miami Marlins gave St. Louis a rare loss today, allowing the Pirates to gain a game in the standings.

The Pittsburgh Pirates started the season a little slow, but they have surged since mid-May, boasting the best record in baseball since that time. Despite the losses of Josh Harrison, Jordy Mercer, and A.J. Burnett, the Pirates recently swept the NL West leading Los Angeles Dodgers and the NL East leading New York Mets.

The Pirates swept the season series against the Mets (6-0). The acquisition of infielder Jung Ho Kang has proved to be one of the best pickups this offseason, but will the starting rotation hold up? There is a chance that Burnett could be back in a few weeks, and this could provide a lift to a rotation that has shown some vulnerability of late.

The Chicago Cubs have a new manager in Joe Maddon, formerly from the Tampa Bay Rays, and they are not afraid to play their young talent that they have accumulated in recent losing seasons. Centerfielder Kris Bryant (23) and first baseman Anthony Rizzo (26) are two talented leaders for this team.

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Pittsburgh Pirates

With a solid core of youth, the Cubs appear to be poised to contend for years to come. Recently, the Cubs annihilated the former World Series Champs, the San Francisco Giants, who are also in contention for the Wild Card and NL West crown. Their 9-game winning streak ended today against Chris Sales and the Chicago White Sox.

Unfortunately for Pirates and Cubs fans, the Cardinals seem to have sold their soul to the devil. Will they collapse down the stretch? With 45 games remaining, the Pirates are currently 5 games back, and the Cubs are currently 7.5 games back.

Looking ahead, the Pirates will play at St. Louis September 4th to 6th and Sept. 28th to 30th at PNC Park. The Pirates will play the Cubs at home on Sept. 15th to 17th and away on Sept. 25th to 27th. The Cardinals will host the Cubs Sept. 7th to 9th and then travel to Chicago from Sept. 18th to 20th. These are 18 crucial games that will decide the NL Central champion.

As we witnessed last year at PNC Park, a team and pitcher that catch fire at the end of the season and into the playoffs could make a run and win the World Series. Just ask Madison Bumgarner and the San Francisco Giants. I’d rather not see them in a playoff Wild Card again.

This should be a fun ride down the stretch, and I hope that all three N.L. Central contenders make it into the playoffs. September baseball should be a blast.

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