1. Milwaukee Brewers (67-57, - GB)
After a tough series against the Dodgers, the Brewers’ run differential has fallen to just a +1. Still, Milwaukee has held serve at the top of the division since the break. Even when things look bleak for the Crew, they’ve managed to keep the competition at bay; or maybe the competition has kept itself at bay.
The Brewers get Minnesota and San Diego at home next week.
What to watch: While the Brewers won’t do direct competition with the Reds, they’ll meet the Cubs for six games before the end of the season. I partially expect Milwaukee and Chicago to be the primary competitors for the division, so it could get interesting as we near the end of September.
2. Chicago Cubs (63-59, 3.0 GB)
The Cubs still have the best run differential in the division (+64). It remains the only positive differential in the division, and yet the Cubs find themselves jumping between second and third place.
The Cubs get Detroit and Pittsburgh on the road next week.
What to watch: The team DFA’d Tucker Barnhart, who now suffered the same fate at the hands of Chicago’s front office as Trey Mancini. The Cubs, who are still chasing the Brewers, have cut ties with both veterans in an attempt to free up space for more productive players. The organization will still be on the hook for the two players’ salaries after this season, however.
3. Cincinnati Reds (64-60, 3.0 GB)
Like their closest competition, the Reds found themselves at 5-5 over their last 10 games. It’s strange, frankly, that the Reds have been able to continue keeping pace with the Brewers. At 24th in the league, Cincinnati has had a 90 wRC+ since this time last month. That’s apparently not going to cut it.
Reds get Anaheim and Arizona over the next week, all on the road.
What to watch: Hunter Greene is slated to make his return to action Sunday afternoon, and just in time for the Reds push for the playoffs. Still trailing Milwaukee and now technically Chicago, the Reds could use the extra help.
4. Pittsburgh Pirates (55-68, 11.5 GB)
At 14 games under .500, the Pirates have been one of the worst teams in baseball since their hot April. There was a precipitous fall off and the club has dawdled near the bottom of baseball ever since.
The Pirates get St. Louis and Chicago at PNC.
What to watch: Pirates’ fans are still looking towards the future, and that of course include Paul Skenes. The first overall pick made his professional debut earlier in the week, and many are wondering what his timeline will be. Skenes will start in the Minor Leagues next season, but whether he begins in Double-A or Triple-A remains to be seen, and, of course, his much anticipated major league arrival.
5. St. Louis Cardinals (54-70, 13 GB)
The Cardinals have lost four straight games as they continue to let the hourglass of the season slip through. Fans in St. Louis have transitioned into watching some of their young players, like Jordan Walker and now Masyn Winn.
The Cardinals get Pittsburgh and Philadelphia on the road.
What to watch: Highly anticipated prospect Masyn Winn made his debut for the Cardinals Friday night. After his first major league base hit, the Mets’ Pete Alonso tossed the ball into the crowd. That’s not the greatest way for your first hit to go down in history, but the St. Louis prospect expects to figure highly into the organization’s future.