With about seven weeks left in the Major League Baseball season, a few of the races seem like they are all but decided. The Los Angeles Dodgers, Houston Astros, and New York Yankees have commanding leads, but the NL Central is a very tight race, with the St. Louis Cardinals and Milwaukee Brewers separated by just 2.0 games at the time this article was written.
That should make for an exciting race down the stretch, as Milwaukee came into August holding the top record in the division, but it has been St. Louis that has been playing better of late and suddenly find themselves at the top of the standings. Adding even more excitement is the fact that the loser of this division still has a legitimate shot at making the playoffs, as the Brewers are 1.0 games behind the San Diego Padres for the final wildcard spot.
Odds To Win The NL Central
This is a two-team race right now, with the St. Louis Cardinals (-200) being given the best odds of winning the division. It is understandable why oddsmakers are so hyped on. The club is 10-3 in August, despite a 4.27 ERA, 22nd overall. While the team has the 16th best ERA in baseball (3.90) the pitching staff is struggling this month. However, the offense has picked up the pace. Through the first 13 games they have scored 70 runs, an average of 5.38 runs per game. That has easily made up for any shortcomings by the pitching staff, and is a huge reason why this club has risen to the top of the standings.
While St. Louis is catching fire, the Milwaukee Brewers (+150) are suddenly struggling. Milwaukee is 5-8 through the first 13 games of this month, despite having a 3.57 ERA. The pitching numbers have been very solid for this club, but the offense has abandoned them, producing just 47 runs through the first 13 games, an average of 3.61 runs per contest. That is not going to get the job done if this club expects to get on top of St. Louis. However, this may just be a mini-slump. Milwaukee is ninth in team batting average and are averaging 4.53 runs per game. Should they start to get their offense going again, they will push the Cardinals to the end.
The other three teams in this division are all but eliminated. The Chicago Cubs (+125,000), the Cincinnati Reds (+200,000), and the Pittsburgh Pirates (+200,000) are all at least 16 games out of the division lead. With only about 45 games left in the season, there is virtually no chance for one of these clubs to make a run to the top, especially considering they have to beat both Milwaukee and St. Louis to win the division. While one of those teams may slump, expecting both to do so is a far-fetched idea.
Adding to the impossibility of the situation is that Cincinnati is 6-9 in August, Chicago is 8-7, and Pittsburgh is 5-9. One of these teams needs a 14-1 run to even be considered, and no one can expect that.
This is clearly a two-team race at this point. If the Brewers can get their offense going again, look for them to win this division.