Central Intelligence: Week of April 21
We just hit the official one-month mark of the season on Sunday and some of the surprise teams are still hanging around. Some favorites continue to lag behind projections — Hi, Red Sox! — while others are coming back to the pack. Several NL Central teams fit into those categories, so let’s take a look at how the division fared this past week.
St. Louis Cardinals
- It was a good week in The Lou, as the Birds won 6 of 7, including a sweep of the Brewers, to push their record to 17-10.
- Dexter Fowler has rebounded nicely from his disaster season last year and is slashing .316/.419/.430 (.850 OPS). He has six doubles and a home run.
- The Cards’ run differential of +28 ranks second in the National League behind the Dodgers.
- There was yet another setback for Alex Reyes, who punched a wall in frustration after his latest start at Triple-A Memphis in which he went just 2.2 innings. He fractured his left pinkie finger as a result.
- The Cubs have been playing well for a few weeks now and have jumped all the way up to second place at 14-12 after a 5-2 week, sitting 2.5 back of St. Louis.
- David Bote had a career night on Saturday against the Diamondbacks, hitting two home runs and driving in five. The performance was so good that Ben Zobrist and other veterans approached Joe Maddon asking that Bote be added to Sunday’s lineup. He hit a double on Sunday as a reward in a 6-5 win.
- Maddon became the third-fastest manager in Cubs history to 400 wins after a 9-1 win on Saturday against the Diamondbacks. He is the fastest overall to 400 since Joe Torre in 1996-99.
- Jon Lester returned from the injured list on Thursday against the Dodgers and pitched five innings of one-run baseball.
- The Brewers are on the opposite side, going 2-5 this week to move three games back of St. Louis at 15-14.
- Christian Yelich has tied the MLB record for most home runs before May 1, with 14. Alex Rodriguez (2007), Albert Pujols (2006), and Cody Bellinger (also this season) share the record. Both Bellinger and Yelich still have two games left in April and Yelich is at home, so count on him breaking the record.
- Unless, that is, the tweaked back that forced Yelich out of Sunday’s game continues to hamper him. The Brewers don’t expect an IL stint and Yelich played pretty well through similar issues last season.
- Milwaukee currently has the second-worst ERA in the National League, with the Mets’ 5.40 worse by a slim margin over the Brewers’ 5.19. A lot of that comes from the rotation, which ranks as the worst at a combined 5.55 ERA. Their 1.98 HR/9 is second worst in the National League behind….the Cardinals, who are at 2.06 HR/9 from the starters.
- In need of pitching help, the Brewers signed recently-released Gio Gonzalez to a one-year, $2 million contract. He made his debut on Sunday, pitching five innings and giving up two runs.
- Remember how the Pirates were 12-6 and in first place and looked poised to make some noise? Yeah, they’ve lost eight in a row and are 12-14.
- Gregory Polanco made his season debut on Monday against the Diamondbacks, going 2-for-4. Through six games, Polanco is slashing .286/.348/.333.
- Chris Archer went on the injured list after Saturday’s start due to a bad thumb.
- Jung-Ho Kang faced his former Korean Baseball foe Hyun-Jin Ryu for the first time in the majors on Friday at Dodger Stadium. Kang went 1-for-3 with a strikeout against Ryu.
- It’s been a weird season for the Reds, who went 3-4 and are 11-16 overall.
- Now here’s the weird part: The Reds have a +10 run differential and an “expected record” of 15-12. Which way will things normalize moving forward?
- Sonny Gray has pitched pretty well in a Cincinnati uniform with a 3.64 ERA in six starts. Over 29.2 innings pitched, he has given up just 21 hits while striking out 36 with eight walks. Opponents are hitting just .198 off him.
- At some point, the Reds need to make a decision on Scott Schebler in regards to keeping him in the everyday center fielder role. His slash line currently sits at .139/.262/.250, which just won’t get it done.