News and notes from the NL Central: Reds, Cubs, Cardinals, and the debut of Henry Davis

Jun 19, 2023; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates right fielder Henry Davis (32) takes the field to make his major league debut against the Chicago Cubs at PNC Park. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Jun 19, 2023; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates right fielder Henry Davis (32) takes the field to make his major league debut against the Chicago Cubs at PNC Park. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports /

The NL Central is home to two of the hottest teams in baseball right now, and with just 5 games seperating first and fourth place, it seemingly can be won by anyone.

The Cincinnati Reds are on a scorching hot run, 17-6 since May 26, and have climbed into the driver’s seat of the NL Central, leading the division by a half game over Milwaukee. The starting pitching staff is begining to resemble an infirmary, however, with Hunter Greene, Nick Lodolo, Connor Overton, and Graham Ashcraft all on the IL. Luke Weaver, and a collection of rookies have been tasked with taking the hill everyday and, while that situation might sound less than ideal, it hasn’t proven to be too problematic as the Red Legs have won nine of their last 10 games.

Monday night saw the team welcome Joey Votto back to the lineup, where he hit sixth, cranked a solo shot, picked up a couple more RBI, and really rounded out the batting order in a nice way. Nick Senzel is back and healthy, Jake Fraley is back and healthy, Wil Myers could be back soon, and all that gives manager David Bell a lot of nice options on his lineup card everyday.

While heading into the dog days of July and August with this assemblage of pitchers is going to make even the most optimistic Reds fan cringe a little, these guys have actually been okay, and there is probably enough firepower in the minor league cupboard to add an arm or two, should they become available.

The Chicago Cubs, fourth in the division, are 8-2 over their last 10 games, and sit just 3.5 games out of first place. This team has had some solid pitching all year, but has been especially impressive during this 10-game stretch, holding opponents to three or fewer runs seven times, while posting two shutouts. Mark Leiter Jr., Adbert Alzolay, Michael Fulmer, and Julian Merryweather have formed a dominant back end that, as a group, has not allowed an earned run since June 7. That bullpen, combined with some typically reliable innings from their starters, and a lineup that has shown an ability to get on base and score some runs, will make the race in the NL Central a lot more interesting as the summer heats up.

Chicago is the only team in the NL Central with a positive run differential, and numbers like that will help a team more often than not.

While the Cubs and Reds are trending in a positive direction, the rest of the division just can’t seem to get out of it’s own way.

The St. Louis Cardinals are 4-6 over their last 10 games, 30-43 overall, and seem to have Nolan Arenado questioning everything. The team’s Expected Win/Loss is a full fives games better than their actual record, and they are 8-16 in one-run games. Despite all the big names and high draft picks on the roster, they are fielding a league avererage lineup that is consistantly let down by some subpar pitching. With 90 games still left to play, it wouldn’t be impossible to climb out of the basement, especially with this collection of talent, but it’s time to start winning some games. St. Louis has won three in a row, and is set to meet the Cubs for two games this weekend in London, so there is an opportunity to make up some ground.

The Milwaukee Brewers have added Julio Teheran to their starting rotation and, despite having not thrown meaningful MLB innings since 2019, he is 2-2 in five starts, while allowing just six earned runs. The Crew also added free agent Raimel Tapia. While he is probably going to serve as outfield depth initially, he is a career .275 hitter who can play all three outfield positions, and we are just a couple of seasons removed from his 2021 campaign that saw him swipe 20 bags for Colorado.

The big story in Pittsburgh is the arrival of top prospect Henry Davis to the Show. Davis was the team’s top selection (number one overall) in 2021, was drafted as a catcher, but has been playing outfield also. Wherever he plays in the field, it was his bat that pushed him so quickly through the minors, jumping four levels in 2022, before hitting .284 with 11 homers in 51 minor league games this year. He doubled in his first at-bat during his MLB debut Monday night against Chicago, and later drew a walk as well. The Pirates are hopeful he can add some spark to a team that has lost eight of its last 10 games and has been slowly slipping in the standings.

Next. Could the Cardinals trade this hot-hitting prospect?. dark