Cubs News: NL Central Standings Update: Three team race, Cards still terrible
Jeff Curry - USA Today Sports

Cubs News: NL Central Standings Update: Three team race, Cards still terrible


by - Staff Writer -

In just the last two weeks, two separate teams have held possession of first place, and one is on their heels. We at CUBS HQ are here to break down the action of the NL Central periodically as the season progresses. Here is our 11th NL Central Update of the year.

Milwaukee Brewers 68-57

Like last season, the Brewers were constructed to prevent runs, not score them. The Brewers are boosted by an excellent pitching staff of Freddy Peralta, Brandon Woodruff, and Corbin Burnes — a three-headed monster that stacks up against anybody in the National League — and they’re finally getting healthy. Despite not having a potent offensive attack, the Brewers have stayed atop this division. Offensively, Milwaukee has been led by Rowdy Tellez and Willy Adames, similar to last season.

Brian Anderson and former Brave catcher William Contreras have been welcome additions thus far. But the most significant boost to the Brewers has been Christian Yelich’s resurgence, as he is slashing similar numbers to his peak. The Brewers also sent Devin Williams and Corbin Burnes to the All-Star game a few weeks ago.

Since we last updated, the Dodgers swept the Brewers, and then they swept the Rangers in Texas.

UP NEXT: The Brewers are back home this week, hosting a two-game series against the Twins and then playing the Padres for three over the weekend.

Chicago Cubs 65-59 (2.5 games back)

The Cubs finished in third place in the NL Central last year and made it a point of focus over the offseason to make drastic improvements to the team — which also fit baseball’s new rules. The Cubs may have let Willson Contreras go, but they committed to long-term contract extensions with Nico Hoerner and Ian Happ, both of whom enjoyed breakout campaigns in 2022. Plus, the Cubs acquired Cody Bellinger and Dansby Swanson to be the team’s starting shortstop for the next seven years. The Cubs had a nearly month-long rough patch but have since been playing great ball; thanks to a torrid hot streak from Cody Bellinger and excellent pitching performances, everything appeared to click.

The Cubs had some injuries, but as they’ve gotten healthy — they’ve gotten hot and avoided selling at the trade deadline. The Cubs also sent three players to the All-Star game, Marcus Stroman, Justin Steele, and Dansby Swanson.

Since we last updated, the Cubs have made up some serious ground in both the playoff push. The Cubs split a two-game series with the Chicago White Sox, capturing the Crosstown Cup thanks to a three-run walk-off homer from Christopher Morel. The Cubs took two of three from the Royals over the weekend and took game one against the Tigers 7-6 on Monday.

UP NEXT: This week, the Cubs travel east for three with the Tigers and a three-game set in Pittsburgh against the Pirates.

Cincinnati Reds 64-61 (4.0 games back)

The Reds were once again expected to be one of the worst teams in the MLB and were early on. Fully in another rebuild. Joey Votto is the only really recognizable name on a team that had players like Luis Castillo, Sonny Gray, Nicholas Castellanos, Jesse Winker, and Eugenio Suarez. The Reds' claim to fame has been flame-thrower Hunter Greene, who was developing into a young ace in baseball before his injury.

However, the last few months have been a different story for Cincy. Elly De La Cruz has burst onto the scene and turned heads, and players like rookie Matt McLain, Spencer Steer, and Jake Fraley have stepped up offensively. The Reds rattled off 12 consecutive victories to soar into first place. The Reds also sent closer Alexis Diaz to the All-Star game.

Since we last updated, the Reds have cooled off a bit. The Reds split a two-game series against Cleveland and dropped two of three against Toronto over the weekend.

UP NEXT: This week, the Reds are in LA, taking on the Angels and then playing the Diamondbacks for four in Arizona.

Pittsburgh Pirates 56-69 (12 games back)

The Pirates were widely expected to finish last in this division throughout the last few years, but their progress over the years does not pencil them in as a bottom feeder in this division. Their strong start to the 2023 season had them in first place through almost a month of baseball. Bryan Reynolds is once again leading things for the Pirates, Jack Suwinski’s 19 home runs led all rookies last year, and he has 21 dingers on the season thus far.

Andrew McCutchen has also seen some success in his return to Pittsburgh and has been a strong producer in the lineup. O’Neil Cruz was expected by many to take a giant leap this season, but he is on the injured list. Mitch Keller has been the Bucs' best starter, and David Bednar is still closing things down in All-Star fashion. The Pirates were slight sellers at this year’s deadline. The Pirates sent Mitch Keller and David Bednar both the All-Star game.

Since we last updated, the Bucs dropped two of three against the Mets and the Twins. The Pirates took game one from St. Louis 11-1 on Monday.

UP NEXT: the Pirates take on the Cardinals and the Cubs at home this week.

St. Louis Cardinals 55-71 (13.5 games back)

The St. Louis Cardinals are the reigning NL Central Division Champions, but for the first time since I was born, this will be the first season that the Cardinals do not have Albert Pujols or Yadier Molina on the roster. The St. Louis Cardinals did not make a ton of noise in the offseason but did acquire former Cub Willson Contreras to be their new catcher — however, less than a month into the season, he had been relieved of his catching duties. Jordan Walker was their top prospect and was called up to start the season, and he has been a significant boost to the struggling birds. The Cardinals struggled severely out of the gates, despite the offense being led by NL MVP Paul Goldschmidt’s 18 homers and near .300 average.

The return of Adam Wainwright to the rotation and perennial All-Star Nolan Arenado looking like himself again certainly helps. Still, even as Arenado approaches 80 RBI and 25 HR, the Cardinals have not been able to go on a run. Nolan Gorman has also been solid, but not enough for St. Louis. Nolan Arenado was named to the All-Star game once again. The Cardinals traded away Jack Flaherty, Jordan Hicks, Jordan Montgomery, and Paul Dejong at the trade deadline as they try to reload.

Since we last updated, the Cardinals took two of three from the A’s and dropped three of four against the Mets and game one against the Pirates 11-1.

UP NEXT: the Redbirds travel to play a series with the Pirates and Phillies this week.

Stay tuned all year for updates on the NL Central.

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