How ’bout that NL Central race, huh? At the start of June, a mere five games separated the division’s five teams. By the second week of August, Cincinatti exited the picture but the other four stuck around. A lousy four games separated the Cubs, Brewers, Cardinals, and Pirates. Any team who wants this division can command control of the race with a strong week of baseball.
But the question remains: Can any of these teams play good baseball for a calendar week? The defending champs from Chicago added a healthy dose of pitching at the trade deadline yet still can’t find their way. After an ugly loss to the Giants with Jose Quintana on the mound, manager Joe Maddon expressed his frustration. “We’re playing like that .500 team we were in the first half and I don’t like it,” he said after the game, calling out the defense in particular. “We’ve got to get sharper.”
Meanwhile, St. Louis was making another halfhearted push into the race while Milwaukee continued treading water. Frankly, we’ve found ourselves stuck in the middle of the most boring pennant race we can remember. Instead of “who wins most,” the NL Central has become the battle of “who loses least.” It’s a harsh letdown following the Cubs’ first World Series title in eons, and the doubters have plenty of reasons to question this team in 2017.