As we begin moving down the stretch of the season, the Brewers add some distance; Cubs take advantage of Reds; Reds dip to third; Pirates stand pat; and the Cardinals can’t climb. Here’s the week that was.
1. Milwaukee Brewers (64-54, - GB)
The Brewers finally popped the positive run differential mark. Going into’s Saturday’s contest, Milwaukee was at +1. While the club hasn’t been great lately, they’ve been good enough. While the Cubs surge and the Reds slide, the Brewers have done enough to take advantage of what’s going on down the standings to open up a lead of a couple games.
Brewers have a tough slate next week: three at Los Angeles (NL), three at Texas.
What to watch: The Brewers are in first place in the division. They have also been a fairly formidable NL Central club for much of the last decade, appearing in the playoffs five times since 2011. Now, they’re exploring relocation. Supposedly, Rob Manfred is pressuring Wisconsin officials to provide over $400 million in funding to renovate American Family Field. To leverage their position, those involved apparently think threatening relocation is the proper move.
2. Chicago Cubs (61-56, 2.5 GB)
The Cubs, with their +70 run differential this season, are 7-3 over their last 10 games and have gone 16-6 dating back to mid-July. The idea that the Cubs decided to stand pat over the deadline — and, in fact, add talent — may have been the smart move. In a winnable division, Chicago is surging at the right time to get themselves in the race. Increasingly, a division that was supposed to be dominated by the Brewers and Cardinals is becoming a three team race between the Brewers, Cubs, and Reds.
Cubs get the other Chicago club and Kansas City, all at home.
What to watch: The Cubs rewarded Dansby Swanson a large contract in the off-season after spending his whole career in Atlanta. Swanson has largely lived up to expectations. Besides newcomer Cody Bellinger, Swanson has been the second most productive player in Chicago. That clubhouse seems the exact opposite of the cancerous nature of the clubhouse on the other side of the city. And Swanson, with his 112 wRC+, 3.6 fWAR, and stellar defense, has brought everything he did with the Braves in his final season.
3. Cincinnati Reds (61-57, 3 GB)
The Reds have stumbled as of late. Prior to beating the Pirates Friday night, Cincinnati had been 1-8 in the month of August. Coming into Saturday, they were 2-8 over their last 10. With a little over 40 games left in the season, the Reds have some time to sort out their woes, but if this streak continues for much longer, the Brewers and Cubs may leave behind their Queen City counterparts.
Reds get Cleveland and Toronto at home for five total games during the upcoming week.
What to watch: Nick Senzel was drafted second by the Reds in 2016. Senzel, who has just over three years of service time, has been optioned to Triple-A. Considered to a be a safe, strong pick back in 2016, Senzel hasn’t exactly panned out. Every season in the majors has produced a below average wRC+ and, besides his first year, every season has also produced a negative fWAR. Senzel, 28, may be running out of time to get his game figured out.
4. Pittsburgh Pirates (52-64, 11 GB)
The Pirates, conceivably out of both playoff races in any meaningful sense, have a stretch of what should be winnable games coming up. 4-6 over their last 10, the Pirates get a stretch of games that contains the Cardinals and Royals, with the Cubs sprinkled in between. September looks to be a potentially rough month, with matchups against the Brewers, Braves, Yankees, Cubs, Reds, Phillies, and Marlins.
Pirates get New York (NL) and Minnesota on the road this week.
What to watch: David Bednar had a blowup against the Braves earlier in the week that resulted in a Pirates’ loss. He’d given up one run in each of his last two appearances coming against Atlanta and Milwaukee. Bednar’s got a 2.08 ERA on the season, better than his career 2.74 mark. With a month-and-a-half left, I’ll be interested to see Bednar’s deployments and quality of outing for a team that’s no longer in a playoff race.
5. St. Louis Cardinals (52-66, 12 GB)
Cardinals social media pundits seem to think the team has a shot to make a run at the playoffs. With games against the Royals, Athletics, Mets, and Pirates upcoming, St. Louis fans — passionate though they may be — seem a bit delusional about where the current iteration of their team stands. Instead of understanding that their club is largely on level with these teams, they seem to think this “easy” stretch should bolster their playoff hopes.
Cardinals get Oakland and New York (NL) at home over the next week.
What to watch: Adam Wainwright has a 7.81 ERA and 1.98 WHIP this season. He also has 198 career wins. The Cards will continue to trot out Waino for his scheduled starts as he pursues win number 200. Not for their vintage quality, Wainwright’s starts are worth watching if for no other reason than the warring nature of his present ability and pursuit of a milestone.