Vol. 1: NL Central Weekly Wrap-Up
The National League Central was the first division to see action this season, as the Chicago Cubs went against the St. Louis Cardinals in the shell that was once Wrigley Field. Fast forward one week and the season is in full swing. In what is shaping up to be a crazy year in the NL Central, each week will likely look different than the last.
The Reds began the season at home against the division rival Pittsburgh Pirates, in which they swept them 5-2, 5-4, and 5-4. Johnny Cueto pitched an absolute gem on Opening Day, going 7 deep with 10 Ks while not allowing a run. Todd Frazier and Joey Votto enjoyed the series too, as Frazier had 2 HRs and 4 RBIs and Votto with 1 HR and 4 RBIs.
Over the weekend, the Reds stayed home to face another divisional foe, the St. Louis Cardinals. After winning the series opener 5-4, they proceeded to lose the next two 1-4 and 5-7. Votto added another 2 HRs during the series and Cueto pitched yet another good game, but failed to get the win.
The star of the team during the week was Billy Hamilton. Though he only managed a .25o batting average, he stole 7 bases, which is more than 26 teams have as a whole. On the downside, the bullpen didn’t look too hot, with 3 relievers having an ERA above 5.00. The Reds will continue to look for set-up options, as they already have a shut down closer in Aroldis Chapman.
Cubsmania has settled down now that the season is underway. As stated earlier, the Cubs opened with the Cards. The second game of the series was postponed due to “high winds,” which means after one brutal 3-0 loss and one great 2-0 win, the series was split. In the loss, the bullpen was the only aspect of the Cubs game that looked good. However, Jake Arrieta pitched out of his mind in the win, throwing 7 innings of shutout baseball.
Next up, the Cubs traveled to Denver to face the Colorado Rockies. Chicago won the series 2-1 in the thin Coors Field air. The offense finally came around in game 2, as Starlin Castro had 3 hits, a homer, and 2 RBIs and top prospect Jorge Soler had 2 hits and 2 RBIs as well. The problem of starting pitching remained throughout the series though, as Jason Hammel, Travis Wood, and Kyle Hendricks put up sub-par outings.
Consistency is going to be Chicago’s biggest problem this year. Spurts of good and bad will not equate in a playoff birth, especially in the close NL Central. To be more consistent, Jon Lester and company will need to string together productive starts regularly. When Kris Bryant gets the call, the offense should help out a bit more, but it will all come down to the rotation.
The Brewers don’t look to have the same team from last year. In the opening series against the Rockies, the Brew Crew were swept in astounding fashion. Without Yovani Gallardo, it appears the rotation has been left without an identity. The lack of an ace showed on Opening Day, as the Brewers were blown out 10-0. As could be expected in a series like this, the offense was pretty much nonexistent.
This weekend, Milwaukee battle the Pirates at home. The team got their first win of the season, but that was the only win of the series, losing it 1-2. In Saturday’s win, Jean Segura hit the ball well, launching a longball 2 RBIs. Jimmy Nelson also pitched a fabulous game, only allowing 2 hits in 7 innings. Other than this game though, there isn’t a whole lot to cheer about.
Adam Lind had himself a solid week though, hitting .450 with 1 homer and 4 RBIs. He’s a candidate for player of the week in the NL Central, which will be announced later in the article. Sadly, the Brewers don’t seem to have enough pieces right now to make a run in the division. The pitching isn’t deep enough and the offense lacks consistency. Unless moves are made, the Brew Crew could be bottom feeders this season.
The Pirates opened the year in Cincinnati, where they were swept. On the Pirates’ side of the series, the offense struggled mightily. Andrew McCutchen hit a home run, but did very little after that, while Starling Marte struck out 7 times in the series. The Bucs received 2 good starts from Francisco Liriano and A.J. Burnett, but that was not enough to make up for the lackluster run production.
Next up, Pittsburgh squared off against the Brewers. The Bucs escaped with a series win and the first 2 wins of the season. Jeff Locke had a quality start and Casey Sadler had a good one as well. Vance Worley was beaten up in the second game of the series though, as he allowed 6 runs in 6.1 innings. The offense showed up in Sunday’s bout, racking up 10 runs on the Brew Crew.
The hitting woes should work themselves out as more games are played, which means that if the rotation can continue to thrive, the Pirates could be a force to reckon with later in the year.
St. Louis Cardinals
The Cards are favorites to win the division, but to do this, they will need to hold off the emerging Cubs. In their opening series, they split 1-1. Adam Wainwright looked to be his usual self in the opener, shutting down the Cubbies. Jason Heyward made a good first impression too. Even though they lost the second game, the pitching staff only allowed 2 hits. The hitters just didn’t get it done for them in that game.
In the weekend games, the Cards went up against the undefeated Reds. When all was said and done, the Redbirds left with 2 more wins. The pitching was once again brilliant, with Michael Wacha and Carlos Martinez pitching fantastic games. As far as offense is concerned, they got what they needed to win and not much else.
The target is on the Cards’ backs this season, as it usually is. In order to maintain dominance in the division, the offense will need to be more dynamic. Only 4 home runs were hit last week, which may be good for 6 games, but the pitching staff will not always be able to make up for that. Never doubt the Cardinals though.
Position Player of the Week: Billy Hamilton– .250 BA, .357 OBP, 1 HR, 7 SB
Pitcher of the Week: Johnny Cueto– 0-1, 14 IP, .064 ERA, 14 K
1. St. Louis Cardinals– 3-2
2. Chicago Cubs– 3-2
3. Cincinnati Reds– 4-2
4. Pittsburgh Pirates– 2-4
5. Milwaukee Brewers– 1-5