NL Central Race a Three-Headed Monster

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NL Central Race a Three-Headed Monster

Attention baseball fans: The NL Central is the best division in the National League. 

That's something you haven't heard in a long time. 

Chicago, Milwaukee, and St. Louis have the three best records in the NL.

While the Cubs have the NL's best record, and are riding a road-series victory over the Cardinals, Milwaukee and St. Louis are right on their heels.  

The Cubs and Brewers will meet 10 times during the second half, including seven games at Miller Park. Milwaukee has already taken four out of six games from Chicago; all of which were at Wrigley Field. 

Chicago and St. Louis split their six first-half meetings and have nine more after the All-Star break. One of the best rivalries in baseball should provide a lot of excitement during in the second half.

Milwaukee and St. Louis have already met nine times this season with the Brewers holding a 5-4 series edge. These two teams will meet six more times this season, all in St. Louis. 

 

What's in store for the second half?

 

Chicago

The Cubs have to endure missing Alfonso Soriano for another three weeks. Even when he returns, it will take a couple weeks for him to re-gain full strength in his hand.

Easiest Stretch: Starting August 19, Chicago plays nine straight against sub .500 teams, including the first six at home.

Hardest Stretch: 16 out of the last 22 games of the season are on the road. Of those 22 games, 12 are against Milwaukee and St. Louis.

 

Milwaukee

Milwaukee has made the biggest in-season splash so far with the acquisition of C.C. Sabathia. The Brewers look to have the division's best one-two combo at the top of the rotation with Ben Sheets and Sabathia. 

Easiest Stretch: The Brewers have a 13-game stretch from Aug. 29-Sept. 10 in which every team they play is currently at or below .500. The last 10 of the games during this stretch are at home. 

Hardest Stretch: Right after their easiest stretch, the Brewers end the season with their most difficult segment of the season. 10 of the last 16 are against the Phillies and Cubs, with 10-straight road games.

 

St. Louis

The Cardinals have managed to stay within striking distance of the division throughout the season, despite having nearly a dozen pitchers on the disabled list. This season, Tony La Russa has done one of the best managing jobs of his career.

Easiest Stretch: Starting Aug. 15, St. Louis plays 14 out of 16 games against teams that are currently below .500.

Hardest Stretch: On Aug. 8, St. Louis begins a seven-game road trip against Chicago and Florida.

 

Prediction

It's a shame that all three of these teams can't make the playoffs, especially with the way the NL West is shaping up.

I predict that two teams will emerge from the central to reach postseason play. The second place finisher will beat out Philadelphia or Florida for the Wild-Card spot. 

Division winner: Chicago—This team has held on to the league's best record, despite injuries to Soriano (hamstring and hand) and Zambrano (shoulder).  The Cubs have the majors' best home record and run differential to boast. 

Wild Card: St. Louis—The Cardinals are starting to get a little healthier and expect some pitchers to come off the DL shortly. St. Louis also has the most feared hitter in the game in Albert Pujols. 

 

Despite the addition of C.C. Sabathia, I am a little fearful about the ability of Ben Sheets to remain healthy for the rest of the season. He hasn't pitched 200 innings since 2004.

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