Cardinals Catch Pirates at Top of NL Central

Lance Lynn led the St. Louis Cardinals to victory Sunday, completing a sweep that sends the club back to the top of the NL Central.

Lance Lynn led the St. Louis Cardinals to victory Sunday, completing a sweep that sends the club back to the top of the NL Central.

Having fallen behind their divisional rivals in recent weeks, the St. Louis Cardinals came out strong this past weekend, sweeping the tougher-than-you-think Miami Marlins to draw level with the Pittsburgh Pirates atop of the NL Central.

Three straight Cardinals wins coupled with a disappointing series for the Pirates in the Windy City sees the two clubs sharing not only the NL Central lead but also the best record in all of baseball.

Miami Marlins at St. Louis Cardinals

The Cardinals got a strong pitching performance from Lance Lynn (11-3, 3.67 ERA) on Sunday as the second year starter held Miami to two runs on seven hits in seven innings, snapping his own two-game losing streak in the process. His 11th of the season ties that of Adam Wainwright (11-5, 2.36 ERA) for the club best.

20130707_NLCentralSt. Louis’ offense tallied three runs, including a homer by Matt Holliday in the first and Carlos Beltran stealing home in the third. Those three runs were just enough to squeeze by the Marlins for a one-run victory. It was the Cardinals’ second one-run victory in as many days, having defeated the Marlins 5-4 on Saturday.

Prior to the weekend series, the Marlins had compiled an 18-11 record since June 1, a testament to how improved the side is compared to the start of the year. St. Louis might feel lucky to have gotten out of the series with a sweep, the club’s first since early May.

St. Louis (53-34, 25-16 home) will meet former division rivals the Houston Astros (32-57, 15-25 road) briefly on Tuesday and Wednesday before hosting the Cubs from Thursday to Sunday.

Pittsburgh Pirates at Chicago Cubs

While much has been written about Pittsburgh’s surprising rise to the top of the NL Central and the majors, most baseball observers are still hesitant to lay acclaim on the side just yet. That’s what two consecutive second half slumps will do for you.

The Cubs took 2-of-3 from the Pirates over the weekend.

The Cubs took 2-of-3 from the Pirates over the weekend.

The Pirates showed a glimpse that we could be about to see another letdown this weekend as the club traveled to the Windy City for a series against division rivals the Chicago Cubs.

Things started out well with the Buccos picking up the 6-2 victory as Francisco Liriano (8-3, 2.20 ERA) allowed just four hits in a complete game. Things turned around on Saturday though as the Cubs got a pair of home runs from Alfonso Soriano, who knocked in all four runs in a 4-1 victory.

Sunday’s rubber game saw the Pirates twice come from behind to tie the game, only to be thwarted by Dioner Navarro’s sacrifice fly in the 11th inning, which was enough to score Anthony Rizzo from third and give the Cubs the 4-3 win.

The loss marked the third consecutive Sunday the Pirates have lost a game in extra innings.

Having entered the weekend with a two-game lead over the Cardinals, the Pirates found themselves tied with their rivals by the time Sunday evening rolled around.

Pittsburgh (53-34, 29-15 home) will look to get back on track this week with a three-game home series against the Oakland Athletics (52-37, 24-23 road) beginning Monday.

Oakland Athletics vs. Pittsburgh Pirates odds for 7/8/13 are available now.

The Pirates (-110) opened as a narrow favorite, but the AL West-leading Oakland (+100) could easily pull-off the upset or even tip the scales in its favor ahead of the game.

The over/under opened at 8.

Ahead of the All-Star break, the Pirates will close out the first half with a hoe series against the New York Mets.

Meanwhile, the Cubs (38-48, 19-25 road) will face the Chicago White Sox (34-51, 19-20 home) on Monday, a make-up of their rained out May 28 fixture. Having taken the previous three meetings, a win would see the Cubs sweep their city rivals for the first time since 1998, and only the second time in history.

Chicago Cubs vs. Chicago White Sox odds for 7/8/13 are available now.

The moneyline opened with both teams at -105 so you’ll need to do some shopping around, particularly as some sportsbooks are favoring the Cubs and others the Sox. Check our MLB odds page for the latest.

The over/under opened at 8.

Following Monday’s rescheduled game the Cubs will host the surging Los Angeles Angels (43-45, 19-20 road) on Tuesday and Wednesday before a four-game weekend series with division rivals St. Louis.

Seattle Mariners at Cincinnati Reds

In the race for the NL Central title, the Cincinnati Reds have fallen into the shadows somewhat. Still, Dusty Baker’s club remains one of the National League’s best clubs; the Reds are currently tied with the Atlanta Braves for the third best record in the league.

With two wins from three, the Mariners spoiled the Reds' weekend.

With two wins from three, the Mariners spoiled the Reds’ weekend.

Like the Pirates though, the Reds had a weekend to forget as they hosted the Seattle Mariners.

The AL West club scored a 4-2 win in the series opener on Friday before the Reds retaliated with a 13-4 thrashing on Saturday. Sunday’s rubber game was uneventful for the most part, but it was the Mariners that picked up the ‘W’ thanks to a pair of home runs from Nick Franklin and Justin Smoak early in the game. The 3-1 loss saw the Reds drop 3 1/2 games back of the division leaders.

Cincinnati (50-38, 20-22 road) will meet the Milwaukee Brewers (35-52, 20-25 home) this week (Mon-Wed) before traveling to Atlanta ahead of the All-Star break.

New York Mets at Milwaukee Brewers

Milwaukee’s slide continued over the weekend as the Brewers lost two-of-three against the New York Mets.

The Brewers' miserable season continued with a series loss to the Mets.

The Brewers’ miserable season continued with a series loss to the Mets.

The Queens side took a gargantuan 12-5 victory in the series opener on Friday before Milwaukee grabbed a 7-6 lead on Saturday. Sunday’s game finished 2-1 in favor of the Mets, but both of those runs were unearned, coming on throwing errors by the Brewers.

Ron Roenicke’s side has now dropped 10 from the last 14 games, and sit dead last in the NL Central, 3 1/2 games back of the Cubs. The Brewers struggles are highlighted further when you realize the club is just three games better off than the Miami Marlins and four games better than the MLB-worst Houston Astros. All of this after the side recorded a 96-66 record and won the division in 2011.

The lowly Brewers host the Reds in the early part of this week.

Milwaukee Brewers vs. Cincinnati Reds odds for 7/8/13 are available now.

Cincinnati (-135) goes into Monday’s game as the moneyline favorite over Milwaukee (+125), hardly surprising considering the Reds own a 5-1 record over the Brewers this season.

The over/under opened at 8 1/2.

After welcoming the Reds, the Brewers will hit the road for a four-game series against the Arizona Diamondbacks to close out the first half of the season.

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