NL Central Standings: Cubs in first place by 4.5 games
Cubs hope to finish strong in 2020 (Kamil Krzaczynski - USA Today Sports)

NL Central Standings: Cubs in first place by 4.5 games

by - Staff Writer -

Another week and a day gone by in the MLB. While it seems like Covid-19 outbreaks and positive tests re in the past, the league is making the push toward the playoffs. It's been crazy, it's been exciting, it's been fun, and it's almost over.

The 60 game sprint has less than a week left, as every team's regular seasons ends on Sunday, the 27th of September. Most teams have now played nearly 54 games, give or take, which leaves just two more series on the schedule to decide the 16 playoff spots and 16 seeds for this new format with additional teams making the playoffs here in 2020.

Awards will be given out, divisions will be won, seasons will end while others carry on -- it may have only been a little over a third of a regular season, but it has included a lot of drama and so many impressive performances that talk of an asterisk on this season seems silly

The Yankees are finally getting hot, the Dodgers and the Padres look like contenders in the NL West, the Marlins, Giants, and Blue Jays are very much so in the hunt, and playoffs are still a possibility for many teams.

But let's focus on the NL Central and AL Central like we have all year. So here's a look at the week that was and the week that will be in the NL Central.

Cubs 32-22 (4.5 games lead)

It appears all but solidified that the Cubs are about to clinch the NL Central for the third time in the last five seasons. Since the Cubs 13-3 start, the Cubs are just 19-19. However, in the previous 13 games, the Cubs are 9-4. From the come from behind victory over the Reds two weeks ago to three solid Jon Lester starts, the epic comeback against the Brewers, Alec Mills' no-hitter, Kyle Hendricks hitting his stride, and the bullpen being a stable unit, the Cubs appear close to firing on all cylinders, which is a great time to do so.

The offense has still faced its struggles, but Kyle Schwarber and Javier Baez seem to be putting together solid at-bats. Anthony Rizzo is hitting the ball hard, which pairs well with Ian Happ and Jason Heyward, still solid producers all year long. On the rotation side, the Cubs have all four pitchers throwing well and expect Jose Quintana to start today.

Last week the Cubs swept the Indians in a two-game series and then lost two of three to the Twins over the weekend. This week the Cubs take on the Pirates for four games and then the White Sox for three over the weekend to end the regular season. The Cubs won game one against the Pirates 5-0 on Monday.

Cardinals 26-25 (4.5 games back)

The Cardinals have been unable to put a hot streak together and stay above .500 this year due to their Covid-19 outbreak in their clubhouse and the influx of doubleheaders the Cardinals have had to play. The Cardinals have an excellent shot at squeaking into the postseason, which is beyond impressive considering their obstacles this season. Should the Cardinals hold off the Reds, they have their pitching staff to thank. Although Paul Goldschmidt has produced a solid season offensively for the Redbirds, many pitchers counted on to throw heavy amounts of innings in a short amount of time have kept the Cardinals afloat.

Last week the Cardinals lost three of five to the Brewers, which included splitting two doubleheaders. A weekend bout with the Pirates had the Cardinals win four of five, including sweeping a doubleheader. This week, the Cardinals take one the Royals for three and then end the season against the Brewers for five. The Cardinals will finish their season, having played 58 games, and lost to the Royals 4-1 on Monday.

Reds 28-27 (4.5 games back)

For once, we aren't talking about how disappointing the Reds have been. The Reds are hitting their stride at the exact right time. Sparked by strong starting pitching from Cy Young hopeful Trevor Bauer, Sonny Gray, and Luis Castillo, the Reds have won nine of 11 and finally see themselves projected to make the playoffs. No team would want to run into those three starters, especially when you consider that Eugenio Suarez has begun to carry a Reds offense that also features Joey Votto, Nicholas Castellanos, Mike Moustakas, and Jesse Winker.

Last week was arguably one of the best and most important for the Reds. The Reds swept a four-game series over the Pirates and then took two of three from the red-hot White Sox over the weekend. This week the reds play a three-game series with Milwaukee, get an off day, and then end the season with three games against the Twins. The Reds beat the Brewers 6-3 on Monday.

Brewers 26-27 (5.5 games back)

The Brewers have been relatively disappointing this season but still find themselves in striking distance for a playoff spot. Christian Yelich has finally started hitting better, and Keston Hiura has been a bright spot for the Brewers, but this team can only go as far as their pitching takes them. In addition to Corbin Burnes and Brandon Woodruff out of the rotation pitching well, a lights-out bullpen has helped the Brewers stay afloat.

Last week the Brewers continued to tread water, winning three of five from the Cardinals early in the week and sweeping the Royals over the weekend. This week the Brewers play a crucial eight games in the division against the Reds and Cardinals as they hope to make another September push and make the playoffs. The Brewers lost to the Reds 6-3 on Monday.

Pirates 15-39 (17 games back)

What can we say about the Pirates? Pittsburgh may be the only team in the league to not win 20 games in this 60 game season. The Pirates have occasionally gotten strong performances from members of their offense in Colin Moran or Jacob Stallings. They have seen flashes from members of their rotation in JT Brubaker as well. But the bottom line for the Pirates is this season will be one to forget, and it's almost over.

Last week the Pirates had a terrible week. They have now lost 12 of their previous 13 games. Last week, the Pirates were swept in a four-game series against the Reds and then lost four of five to the Cardinals over the weekend. This week the Pirates play the Cubs for four and then the Indians for three. The Pirates lost to the Cubs 5-0 on Monday.

And as we have all season long, let's take a look at the AL Central, who these five teams have spent battling all season long, which has turned into one of the league's most entertaining and competitive divisions.

Chicago White Sox 34-20

Minnesota Twins 33-22

Cleveland Indians 30-24

Detroit Tigers 22-30

Kansas City Royals 22-32

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