The battle for the National League Central Division hasn’t cooled down all season. While the Cincinnati Reds have mainly been in-the-hole all season, the on-deck and at-bat positions have been in limbo. The St. Louis Cardinals and Pittsburgh Pirates have been front-runners in many categories including pitching (Pirates overall ERA of 3.20 only behind the Atlanta Braves at 3.19) and fielding (Cardinals lead in fielding with a FPCT of .988). Both teams also showcase MVP candidates in Yadier Molina and Andrew McCutchen.
Over the past 10 games, however, the Reds have stepped up to the plate with a winning record of 7-3 compared to the Cardinals 5-5 and Pirates 3-7. Many factors could be the cause of Cincinnati’s success including the presence of Ryan Ludwick in the lineup, Devin Mesoraco making key plays offensively and defensively or Brandon Phillips gaining ground on his goal of 100 RBIs (12-42, .289 AVG with 8 RBIs).
The Cardinals were without Molina for 15 games, which could explain their .500 record. Pittsburgh has been notorious for “falling apart” after the all-star break, however they haven’t exactly done so just yet. After 30 games, their record stands above .500 at 16-14 while St. Louis remains under .500 at 14-16. The Reds have played one game less and have the best post-break record at 17-12.
Schedule strength could also be a potential reason for the Reds 7-3 record. Recently, Cincinnati has faced the Chicago Cubs, San Diego Padres, Milwaukee Brewers, and the Oakland Athletics. So yes, three out of the four teams are under .500, but any team can beat any team on any given day, right? The Cardinals do not have much room to boast in this category giving that six of their past 10 games were against the 53-70 Chicago Cubs. The Buccos had the toughest schedule over the past 10 games playing two teams over .500 (Arizona and St. Louis) and two teams under .500 (Colorado and Miami).
The Reds are sitting pretty at just 2.5 games back from leading the division; a huge improvement from 7 games back less than two weeks ago. Over the past 10 matchups, this team has proven to be true contenders for their third NL Central Division title within the past five years.