Central Intelligence: A Look Around the Division for Week of July 21

Boy, oh boy, does the Central division look to be a close one for the rest of the season. Depending on how you feel, that’s the worst thing ever or the best thing in the world. It should be a fun race, if that’s your definition of fun. Here’s a look at what happened over the last week.

St. Louis Cardinals

  • The Cardinals (56-48) have overtaken first place in the Central thanks to winning 17 of their last 24 games.
  • The Paul Goldschmidt the Cardinals traded for may finally be here and that’s a scary thought. He has hit a home run in six straight games, upping his season total to 24.
  • Andrew Knizner hit his first career home run on Wednesday in a win against the Pirates. Paul DeJong had his first career three-homer game against the Pirates in that same series.
  • Carlos Martinez is now up to 10 saves and St. Louis might have found their new closer after Jordan Hicks went on the IL earlier this year.

Chicago Cubs

  • All of the goodwill of the 7-2 start out of the break is gone, as they have lost four of the first five on the current road trip. The Cubs are 55-49, but still just a game out after everything.
  • All four of the losses have come in the last at-bat for the home team. The Giants scored three off Pedro Strop on Monday and hit a walk off home run in extra innings the next night. The Brewers scored two in the 8th to win 3-2 Friday night and Keston Hiura hit a walk-off two-run home run for a 5-3 win Saturday.
  • To shore up the bullpen, the Cubs acquired Derek Holland from the Giants. The southpaw will serve as a left-handed specialist after allowing just a .195 slugging percentage against them with the Giants.
  • Cole Hamels is currently on a rehab assignment with Triple-A Iowa and should be back with the Cubs soon, which will help the rotation.

Milwaukee Brewers

  • At 56-50, they are tied with the Cubs for second place after winning the first two of the weekend series.
  • Christian Yelich won the MVP last year with 36 home runs. He just hit his 36th on Saturday and it’s not even August yet. Like we’ve said before, a second MVP could be coming his way.
  • The Crew is getting a little thin on pitching. Brandon Woodruff and Jhoulys Chacin were already on the injured list and Gio González left his start against the Cubs on Friday night with arm issues.
  • Tyler Saladino had five hits all season in 51 at-bats heading into last Sunday’s game against the Diamondbacks. He then hit two grand slams in consecutive days. Baseball, huh?

Cincinnati Reds

  • Hey, look at the Reds (47-55) climbing the standings! They are two games ahead of the last-place Pirates.
  • Now that the Redlegs have fallen back out of the race, it will be interesting to see if they trade impending free agents like Yasiel Puig and Scooter Gennett. Keep an eye on Cincinnati heading into Wednesday’s deadline.
  • The other player acquired in the trade with the Dodgers last off season, Alex Wood, will finally make his Reds debut on Sunday against the Rockies.
  • Apparently all Josh VanMeter needed was to hit one home run. Since his first round-tripper last week, he has hit three more in three straight games. It can be fun when young players figure out major league pitching.

Pittsburgh Pirates

  • It has been a disastrous second half for the Bucs (46-68), who are now 2-13 coming out of the break.
  • There are rumors floating around about Pirates closer Felipe Vazquez. The Pirates are asking for two of the Dodgers’ “Big Four” prospects in a trade: Keibert Ruiz, Dustin May, Gavin Lux, or catcher Will Smith. The latter is torching pitchers for the Dodgers right now, so he may be a long shot.
  • Keone Kela, who has not pitched at all this year due to injury, reportedly to have gotten into an altercation with a Pirates coach, which led to a suspension. Kela declined to comment on the report.
  • Josh Bell has yet to hit a home run since the All-Star break, which could explain a lot of the Bucs’ struggles out of the break.
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