The NL Central is holding steady so far, with the teams still in the same spot in the standings as they were a week ago.
The Chicago Cubs maintain one of the best records in baseball. The Pittsburgh Pirates and St. Louis Cardinals are lurking around .500 and the Cincinnati Reds and Milwaukee Brewers are staying in it.
There were plenty of story lines in week three for the Central including a special performance on the mound from perhaps the best pitcher in all of baseball. Let’s dive right into it and take a look at how each team fared this week.
Chicago Cubs: 14-5, 1st place in the NL Central (6-1 last week)
This just in, the Cubs and Jake Arrieta are really good. Over the past week the Cubbies swept their arch rival Cardinals in a 3 game set and took 3 of 4 from the Reds.
The 6-1 week improved what was already one of the best records in all of baseball coming into the week, and helped them stretch out a 4 game divisional lead in the early going.
Intriguing stat line of the week: Jake Arrieta’s no-hitter, 9.0 innings, 0 H’s, 0 R’s, 4 BB’s, and 6 SO’s. This was a pretty easy one. No-hitters only come around so often and Arrieta took care of the Reds with ease on Thursday while seeing his teammates give him 16 runs of support.
Player to watch: Jake Arrieta. Spotlighting the same player twice in this recap may be overkill, but, Arrieta’s historic start deserves it. Now with a 0.87 ERA on the young season, Arrieta is starting to look like the best pitcher in all of baseball. Clayton Kershaw might have something to say about that, but if Arrieta continues this trend he started in the 2nd half of last season, he may just have one of the best seasons by a starting pitcher ever.
St. Louis Cardinals: 10-8, 2nd place in the NL Central (2-4 last week)
The Cardinals ran into a freight train in the Cubs to start the week, getting swept in a 3 game set, before taking 2 of 3 from the San Diego Padres to cap off the week.
With the win over the weekend the Cardinals were able to finish the week above .500 and maintain their 2nd place status in the division.
Intriguing stat line of the week: Adam Wainwright 6.0 innings, 7 H’s, 3 ER’s, 1 BB, 2 SO’s. Coming off an Achilles injury last season, Wainwright is off to a tough start to the season. His quality start against the San Diego Padres is an improvement upon what he had done prior, but, it’s still not particularly impressive. If Wainwright can return to pre-injury form for the Red Birds it would be huge, it doesn’t look like he is there quite yet though.
Player to Watch: Jedd Gyorko. Gyorko once looked like a future star with the Padres, blasting 23 HR’s in his rookie season in 2013. Since then it has been mostly disappointment for the young infielder. Already with four HR’s on the young season to go with a stellar .289 batting average and .999 OPS, Gyorko may force his way into everyday at-bats if Kolten Wong continues to struggle at second base for the Cardinals.
Pittsburgh Pirates 10-9, 3rd place in the NL Central, (3-3 last week)
The Pirates failed to capitalize on an opportunity to beat up on the subpar San Diego Padres, losing 2 of 3 to them to start the week. They managed to bounce back over the weekend to take 2 of 3 from the D-Backs and remain over .500.
The Pirates have avoided the same slow start they had last season, and are set up in good position to make a run at some point and be right in playoff contention.
Intriguing stat line of the week: Jordy Mercer. 3 for 4, 1 HR, RBI’s, 1 BB, 2 R’s. Mercer has been given the opportunity to bat leadoff against lefties and he is making the most of his early season opportunities. His great game on Friday was a good showing that justified the Pirates batting him leadoff against lefties.
Player to Watch: Jung Ho Kang. After an impressive rookie season cut short by a gruesome injury, Kang is on the road to recovery playing in rehab games with AAA Indianapolis. Provided there aren’t any setbacks, Kang should rejoin the Pirates this week and presumably take David Freese’s spot in the lineup.
Cincinnati Reds 9-10, 4th place in the NL Central, (3-4 last week)
The Reds continue to lurk at the bottom of the division, keeping themselves within striking distance. They managed to take 2 of 3 from the Rockies to start the week. They even managed to snag 1 game in the 4 game set against the Cubs despite being outscored by a whopping 24 runs in the series.
Facing the Mets and Pirates in 3 game sets on the road this upcoming week will be a good test for the Reds. If they go 3-3 against these playoff teams from 2015, it might be time to start taking the Reds more seriously.
Intriguing stat line of the week: Robert Stephenson 7.0 innings, 3 H’s, 1 ER, 2 BB, 3 SO’s. In just his second big league start Stephenson dominated a power filled Rockies lineup. The 23 year-old rookie is looking solid so far through his first 2 big league starts and should be considered a part of the wave of young pitching talent set to contribute to the Reds in 2016.
Player to Watch: Eugenio Suarez. Suarez continues to look like one of the top breakout players in all of baseball in 2016. He’s currently slashing .300/.355/.529 to go along with five HR’s and three SB’s. Suarez makes the Reds lineup look much better if he can continue to be a productive bat.
Milwaukee Brewers 8-11, 5th place in the NL Central, (3-4 last week)
After splitting a four-game home and home series against an interleague opponent in the Minnesota Twins, the Brewers missed a chance to capitalize and have a winning week by losing a 3 game set to the Philadelphia Phillies.
They remain within striking distance, and despite the possibility of a full on rebuild later on in the season, the Brewers are doing enough currently to keep their slim playoff hopes alive.
Intriguing stat line of the week: Jeremy Jeffress 1.0 inning, 3 hits, 3 ER’s, 0 BB’s, 0 K’s. Tapped as the Brewers closer after an injury to Will Smith toward the end of Spring Training, Jeffress has been mostly fine so far. He came in on Saturday to hold a deficit at 1 for the bottom of the 9th and instead surrendered a 3-run HR to Odubel Herrera. The Brewers need Jeffress at the back end of the ‘Pen so hopefully this was just a mulligan of an outing
Player to Watch: Chris Carter. Carter is somehow managing to slash .295/.361/.689 with five HR’s and nine doubles to start the season. The power numbers aren’t surprising, but, the batting average is as he’s coming off a season where he hit below .200. His BABIP of .333 is a little high, but, nothing astronomical. So maybe Carter can continue to provide power while also managing to hit something more respectable like .240.