MLB News Update: National League Central Update as of 8/22/13
1. Pittsburgh Pirates (74-52), 2. St. Louis Cardinals (73-53), 3. Cincinnati Reds (73-55), 4. Milwaukee Brewers (55-72)
As of August 22, 2013
Pittsburgh’s lead in the National League Central is down to just a single game over the St. Louis Cardinals and 2.5 over third place Cincinnati.
If there’s one thing that the Pirates have to be discouraged about in the second half of the season, it’s the performance from young left-hander Jeff Locke. He was dominant in the first half of the year, but he’s struggled immensely in the second half, giving up tons of hits and numerous walks. Locke posted ERA’s of 2.83, 1.78, and 1.67 though the first three months of the season. In July it was 3.38, but in August it's ballooned to 7.71. He’s allowed 22 hits in just 14 innings in his three starts and a 9/10 strikeout-to-walk ratio. At this rate, he’s not going to see a start in the post season, but they’re still going to need him to figure things out down the stretch if they want to lock up this division. After taking two of three from San Diego, the Pirates will head to San Francisco for four games this weekend.
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St. Louis now has their All-Star catcher Yadier Molina back and he’s performing better than ever. Molina has 10 hits in 27 at bats since returning, including five doubles and two home runs. It’s strange just how much value he has to this ball club because even though his numbers are great it’s the intangible elements that make him so good. Molina plays a huge part in this pitching staff’s success and in a big spot there’s nobody Cardinals fans would want at the plate more than him. Their lineup is arguably the best in the National League, and if Molina keeps soaring the rest of the way they should have enough to overtake the Pirates for the division.
Cincinnati used the last four days to help further solidify their spot in the postseason by taking three of four from the Arizona Diamondbacks, their only competitor for the final Wild Card spot in the National League. Mat Latos fired eight innings of one run ball on Thursday afternoon and the big right-hander continued his dominance. His last five starts have been excellent, he’s pitching to a 0.81 ERA in the month of August, and Thursday’s victory gave him a 13-4 record with an ERA of 2.93 on the year. Latos is pitching like the ace that the Reds were hoping he would be when they stole him from the Padres heading into last season. They’ll still need workmanlike efforts from guys like Homer Bailey, Mike Leake, and Bronson Arroyo, but with their lineup they’re never out of a game. The Reds can play free and loose down the stretch and they’re still the forgotten team in this race, despite being just 2.5 games back.
Milwaukee and Chicago are battling each other to try and stay out of the cellar, but with just over a month to go you’d have to say both would be better off getting themselves a higher draft pick. It’s clear that both these clubs need to find pitching in the offseason by any means possible. Travis Wood and Wily Peralta have had their moments, but both these teams need serious infusions of talent on the mound. Losing Kyle Lohse when the season’s over won’t be good for the Brewers either. Either way, with the way their division looks right now expect both these teams to be at the bottom for the next few years.