The Milwaukee Brewers started their season at 80/1 favorites to win the 2014 World Series. However, after an impressive 7-2 start, including a current six-game winning streak, they have improved their odds to 50/1. What may be more impressive with their current streak is that all six games have been on the road. The Brewers will try and surpass the Pirates as the team to win the NL Central this year, but the Cardinals and Reds will also look to make things hard for both of these teams. Here is a look at how the NL Central has played out thus far.
There was no escaping that the talk of the Brewers this season was going to start with the return of Ryan Braun. After Braun missed the majority of last season amid PED-related issues, he has come back into the lineup this year and been off to a bang with 10 RBIs to lead the team. Braun’s biggest game was against the Phillies on Tuesday, when he belted three separate home runs and finished the day with 7 RBIs. The Brewers are also getting important input from Carlos Gomez, who leads the team with a .390 batting average and three home runs. Both Tyler Thornburg and Yovani Gallardo have started the season 2-0, and the latter has yet to give up a run. They also have Matt Garza and Marco Estrada on this team, so they hope this pitching core can help come up big if Braun and company keep swinging the bat well.
The current win streak for the Brewers included a sweep of the Red Sox and then of the Phillies. But the most intriguing stretch is about to happen over the course of the next two weeks. They’ll play Pittsburgh on seven different occasions, with a three-game series against the Cardinals in the middle of that.
The Pirates are just one game behind the Brewers, starting the season 6-3. Pedro Alvarez leads the team in both home runs and RBIs, which he has 5 and 10, respectively. Starling Marte has also been playing well, leading the team in batting average and on base percentage. Andrew McCutchen is coming off an All-Star campaign, but he has yet to get things going in 2014. He is only hitting .212 and has been struck out 10 times, while also failing to go yard in the nine games of the season. If McCutchen can turn things around and Marte and Alvaraez keep things going well, then the Pirates will be able to make another push at the playoffs, which they did for the first time in nearly two decades last season.
The St. Louis Cardinals were able to hold off the Pirates in the NL Central last season, but they were beat by the Red Sox in the World Series in six games. This year they are off to a 5-4 start, but they have a series coming up against the Cubs that they’ll look to get some quality wins. The Cardinals haven’t been lighting it up on offense just quite yet. In the MLB rankings, they are 23rd in runs, 29, 27th in batting average, .215, 26th in OBP and slugging percentage, .294 and .339. Yadier Molina has been doing his best with three home runs and seven RBIs, while Matt Adams has a .364 batting average. However, they’ll need to pull things together with the rest of the team if they hope to keep pace with the rest of what looks like it’ll be a very tough division.
The Reds and Cubs both sit at 6-3 at the bottom of the NL Central. This conference was able to put three teams in the playoffs last season, as the Reds joined the Brewers and Cardinals. Their leader in 2013 was Joey Votto, who has gotten off to a slower start this season. Although he leads the team with a .359 OBP, he is only hitting .250 and has yet to hit a home run. Jay Bruce and Todd Frazier both have two home runs apiece, and Bruce also leads the team with 8 RBIs. The Reds need increased productivity from Votto and Bruce, as well as solid contributions from a pitching staff that consists of Alfredo Simon and Johnny Cueto. The Reds have already played the Cardinals in two separate series thus far this season, going just 2-6. They also lost 2-of-3 against the Mets. They’ll play a series against Tampa before big series against Pittsburgh and Chicago.
The disappointment of Cubs fans never seems to get any better. After finishing the season 66-96 last season, which was enough to keep them in the basement in the NL Central, things haven’t started much better in 2014. They currently sit at 3-6, after losing 4-of-6 against Pittsburgh and 2-of-3 against Philadelphia. The good news might be that in their recent series against Pittsburgh, they lost by just one run in both losses. Things won’t get much easier, as they’ll play the Cardinals and then the Yankees in the coming weeks. They’ll look to turn things around before it’s too late and they find themselves once again too far back to catch up to the leaders in the NL Central.
Here’s how the NL Central started, compared to where they are at now for odds to win the 2014 World Series.
St. Louis Cardinals – Starting: 8/1; Now: 9/1
Milwaukee Brewers: 80/1; 50/1
Pittsburgh Pirates: 35/1; 35/1
Cincinnati Reds: 30/1; 35/1
Chicago Cubs: 135/1; 125/1
Be sure to keep checking Sportspicks.com throughout the year to see how this division settles out.