The Cincinnati Reds and St. Louis Cardinals are beginning to distance themselves from the rest of the pack in the NL Central standings, but look out for the Milwaukee Brewers, who benefited from a recent three-game home series against the Pirates, who just can't seem to win at Miller Park.
Here are the standings so far:
In our last glance at the NL Central standings, we discussed the Astros' woes. The Pirates and Cubs look likely to struggle this year simply because they're the Pirates and Cubs. (Okay, maybe that's not entirely fair to the Cubs. But it just feels right.) But what about the Brewers? Do they have a chance to challenge the Reds and Cardinals, or is their surge into third place merely the result of a home series against the Pirates?
Milwaukee should eventually benefit greatly from the return of top starter Zack Greinke, who after missing time due to injury has only had one really effective start out of three this season, despite excellent strikeout and walk numbers. Once Greinke gets going, the Brewers could have five solid starters, since their other four (Shaun Marcum, Yovani Gallardo, Randy Wolf and Chris Narveson) have all either pitched well this year or shown signs of doing so in the future.
The Brewers' offense is already very good, with three good hitters in their prime years in Ryan Braun, Rickie Weeks and Prince Fielder all swinging well. Catcher Jonathan Lucroy is currently hitting .326/.378/.483 and is probably due for a bit of regression, but Milwaukee can probably make up for that by getting more out of outfielder Corey Hart. It doesn't look like outfielder Carlos Gomez is ever going to hit, and the Brewers are one of many major-league teams with shortstop problems, as Yuniesky Betancourt is the same bad player he's always been. But with Braun, Weeks and Fielder leading the way, the Brewers should be fine.
The Brewers continue to have enough to contend in the NL Central. They're five games behind the Reds right now, but if Greinke starts dealing and the rest of their rotation performs at a high level, that won't last.