MLB News Update
2013-07-31 11:00:00 EDT
The Pittsburgh Pirates have regained the lead in the National League Central with a dominating week against the St. Louis Cardinals.
Now with a 2.5 game lead over the Cardinals heading into Thursday night’s series finale the Pirates will be looking for the rare five game sweep. After taking the first three games of the series they rallied from a 4-2 deficit on Wednesday night and pulled out the 5-4 victory despite Jeff Locke’s worst start of the season. Locke surrendered 10 hits in just four innings, allowing all four Cardinal runs on the night. Locke is the only Pirate pitcher to struggle in this series as Brandon Cumpton and A.J. Burnett shut down St. Louis on Tuesday in the doubleheader and Francisco Liriano was great again on Monday. Offensively the Pirates have really spread things out of late and it helps take pressure off a guy like Andrew McCutchen. Pedro Alvarez has had a fantastic year and with this starting pitching and bullpen the Pirates are in great shape to not only end their streak of consecutive seasons under .500 but also make a postseason appearance.
St. Louis has now lost seven straight games and is just looking to steal a game from the Pirates in this series. If they can leave PNC Park trailing by just 1.5 games they’d be thrilled with how poorly they’ve played lately. Things are getting worse with Yadier Molina requiring a stint on the 15 day disabled list with a sprained right knee and at this point they really don’t know if he’ll be ready to come off when the time comes. St. Louis has struggled scoring runs on this road trip and manager Mike Matheny is looking for any way possible to get the team going. Losing Molina only hurts because he’s the most consistent bat in their lineup. Allen Craig has been ice cold of late as is Matt Carpenter and most of the club. They should snap out of it because they’re just too talented of a club but if they don’t find a way out of it soon they might be looking up at the Pirates by more than 2.5 games.
In Cincinnati the Reds are now six games back of the division lead and are just 4-6 in their last 10 games. They’ve had a ton of offensive struggles lately as well and much like the Cardinals it’s surprising giving the wealth of talent they have up and down the lineup. After beating up on the Giants they managed just three runs over their next four games against the Dodgers and Padres. Homer Bailey saved them from getting swept with a dominating performance Wednesday afternoon that should have ended in a complete game shutout if not for Joey Votto’s error getting something started for San Diego in the ninth inning. Bailey has been very good his last three starts but Wednesday was the first time he was rewarded with a victory. The Reds will be sitting home watching the Pirates and Cardinals play on Thursday night as they wait for St. Louis to arrive for a weekend series.
The Chicago Cubs weren’t extremely active at the trading deadline but not many teams were. They moved Alfonso Soriano last week to the Yankees as they finally found someone who was willing to take most of the money remaining on his contract. Some of their other trade targets like Kevin Gregg, Dioner Navarro, and Nate Schierholtz all remained with the club for now. Chicago is nine games under .500 but 16 games out of the division lead and 10 back in the Wild Card race. Travis Wood continues to lead the way for the rotation and Junior Lake has been great since being called up to the big leagues. They’ll have a tough test with the Dodgers coming to town for four games this weekend before heading to Philadelphia next week.
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The Milwaukee Brewers must feel fortunate that they only have to lose Ryan Braun for the rest of a season that’s completely meaningless to them. They’re 16 games under .500 but they are coming off winning three of four against the Cubs this week. Tyler Thornburg was excellent in his first start of the season on Tuesday surrendering just four hits, striking out six, and allowing no runs. Kyle Lohse put in his third straight strong start on Monday night. The veteran right hander has now given up just one earned run over his last three starts. Yovani Gallardo will miss at least a couple starts after being placed on the disabled list with a tight left hamstring. Aramis Ramirez is still struggling to return from a left knee injury that has kept him out of the lineup for much of the season.