The Cincinnati Reds have been the hottest team in the NL Central over their past 18 games. In that span, the Reds own a 12-6 record, compared to the Cardinals and Pirates, who have both gone 9-9 in the same stretch.
Dating back to the All-Star Game, the Reds boast the best record of the three teams mentioned above, going 18-13, which is a .581 winning percentage.
Should they stay on their current winning pace, the Reds would win 20-21 of their 36 remaining games and finish the season with a record of either 91-71 or 92-70. Either of those two totals would give them a very good shot at winning the division when you figure the projected win totals of the Cardinals and Pirates over the same 36 games.
|Team||Current W-L||2nd Half Winning Percentage||Projected W-L|
|St. Louis Cardinals||72-53||.469||88-74|
At their current pace, the Reds would finish second in the division. However, they'll hold the keys to their own fate as six of their 11 remaining series come against teams with a record below the .500 mark.
The Pirates and Cardinals will face six teams below .500 in that same span. The Cardinals own the easiest schedule down the stretch, though, as all six of their series against teams below .500 happen consecutively to end the season.
The Reds will play both the Pirates and Cardinals twice in the final 36 games, with both series against the Pirates coming in the team's final nine games.
Simply put, the Reds have a solid chance to win their division. At just 3.5 games back, the time has come for the Reds—who have finally gotten healthy—to make their move on the NL Central.
Several players will have to step up over the final 36 games of the season if the Reds are going to win consecutive NL Central Championships—and their third in four seasons.
Let's take a look at five such players right now.
All stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com—unless otherwise noted—and are current through play Aug. 20, 2013.