There’s really only one playoff race left in the National League, but it’s a good one. Three teams are battling for the Central, and while all three are virtual locks to make the postseason, securing the division crown is extremely important in this era of the second Wild Card.
The Pittsburgh Pirates and St. Louis Cardinals are tied atop the division with the Cincinnati Reds just 2.5 games games back. The standings could change dramatically this week, however, as the Reds head to Busch Stadium to take on the Cardinals.
Both these teams have plenty of pitching, but the matchup that stands out to me comes Tuesday when Mat Latos takes on Joe Kelly. Latos has been one of the better pitchers in the NL all season, but has been especially good since the break going 5-1 with a 1.47 ERA. Kelly has also been hot since moving from the bullpen back into a starting role and is 4-0 with a 2.20 ERA this month.
The resurgence of Adam Wainwright, who will pitch Wednesday, has been a big story for St. Louis this season. It’s going to be tough to beat Clayton Kershaw or Matt Harvey in the Cy Young race, but Wainwright is right there, leading the NL in wins (15) while ranking in the top-5 in both ERA (2.58) and strikeouts (182). He also leads all of baseball in innings (198 ⅔), complete games (5), shutouts (2), walks per nine innings (1.1) and strikeout-to-walk ratio (7.28).
On the hitting side for the Cards, Matt Holliday has started to heat up since the break after a disappointing first half. He’s hitting .330/.411/.523 since the All-Star Game. For the Reds, Devin Mesoraco is starting to settle in as a major leaguer. The 25-year-old catcher has hit .292/.323./483 since the break.
St. Louis leads the season series 8-4. Each of the three top teams have spent time leading the Central, but the Cardinals have spent the most days in first place, 101.
The Arizona Diamondbacks are chasing Cincinnati in the Wild Card, but they’re seven games back with only 33 games remaining. Whoever comes out on top in the Central will have the luxury of advancing straight to the NLDS while the other two teams will matchup in a one-game playoff.
- Reds at Cardinals
- Orioles at Red Sox
- Athletics at Tigers
- Indians at Braves
- Brewers at Pirates
- Rangers at Mariners
- Yankees at Blue Jays
- Cubs at Dodgers
- Padres at Diamondbacks
- Marlins at Nationals
- Giants at Rockies
- Phillies at Mets
- Astros at White Sox
- *Rays at Royals
- Angels at Rays
- Royals at Twins
*Makeup game from May 2
Mon: Cliff Lee (10-6, 3.16 ERA) vs. Zack Wheeler (6-2, 3.49)
Overshadowed by Matt Harvey, Wheeler is having a solid rookie season for the Mets. The 23-year-old is 6-2 with a 3.49 ERA over 12 starts, averaging 8 K/9. Lee is is 5-2 with a 2.55 ERA in 10 career starts against the Mets.
Tue: Derek Holland (9-6, 2.95) vs. Hisashi Iwakuma (12-6, 2.98)
With Yu Darvish taking over as the Rangers’ ace, Holland has blossomed. He had showed flashes of brilliance in the past, but never put it all together. Holland ranks sixth in the AL in ERA and Iwakuma is eighth.
Wed: Jarred Cosart (1-1, 1.60) vs. Chris Sale (9-12, 3.08)
Cosart, 23, is a shining light on what has been a dark season for the Astros. In seven starts, the Texas native has a 1.60 ERA and 1.18 WHIP. Look past Sale’s 9-12 record and you see he ranks in the top-five in the AL in strikeouts (181) and WHIP (1.08) and in the top 10 in ERA (3.08).
Thurs: TBD vs. Max Scherzer (19-1, 2.73)
Oakland hasn’t announced who they’re handing the ball to, but it doesn’t matter. Scherzer is a must-watch starter no matter what, and he’ll be gunning for his 20th victory. In seven starts since the All-Star Game, Scherzer is 6-0 with a 1.48 ERA.