NL Central Provides Plenty of Fireworks Down the Stretch

CHICAGO – As the month of August comes to a close, several division races around MLB are all but wrapped up. But the NL Central is still providing plenty of intrigue as it has all season long with three teams currently in the heat of a race to October.

While the St. Louis Cardinals were supposed to be the best team in the division, their struggles saw them sell and drift to the bottom of the division, opening the door for a new challenger to take the NL Central.

The Brewers, Cubs and Reds have each had their ebbs and flows, including moments when it appeared none of them were playoff teams, but with just four weeks left, it’s safe to say they’ve found the best versions of themselves down the stretch.

When the second half started, it was the Cubs who took the division by storm going from having the worst team in the National League on May 28 to one of the best in baseball. Chicago owns a 32-20 record since July 1 and has been able to get stronger as the season has gone on. No one knew what to expect from the Cubs this season, but they’re showing the days of their rebuild are in the rearview mirror, holding a spot in the NL Wild Card race and knocking on the door of the division.

The Reds have had the benefit of youth on their side in their quest for their first trip to the postseason in a full season since 2013. Because of rookies like the electric Elly De La Cruz, the consistent Matt McLain and Spencer Steer, Cincinnati has become one of the best stories in baseball this season. The Reds have cooled slightly in the month of August, but have continued to stay in the thick of the postseason race.

But Milwaukee has taken the best punch of both teams and in the second half, Milwaukee has started to figure things out. The Brewers’ weakness at the beginning of the season was their offense, which sat near the bottom of the league. But the summer has brought new energy to the offense, which is ninth in runs scored in August.

Milwaukee has also gotten healthy just at the right time with important pieces returning. The Brewers’ strength was always going to be their rotation with Brandon Woodruff, Corbin Burnes and Freddy Peralta. The Milwaukee trio has a combined 2.83 ERA since the break and has led them as many believed they would.

Unlike the Reds and the Cubs, who haven’t been consistent playoff teams, the Brewers have been in this position, making it to the postseason in four of the last five seasons.

What may ultimately be the difference in this year’s NL Central race is scheduling. While the Reds have no more head-to-head matchups with Milwaukee this season, the Cubs and Brewers will meet three more times in what could be the showdown to decide the division on the final weekend of the regular season.

September is supposed to feature drama and games of importance with so much on the line. And the NL Central is shaping up to deliver just that during the season’s final weeks.