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NL Central’s Three-Way Dance

Andrew McCutcheon's Pittsburgh Pirates are one of three teams in the NL Central vying for a postseason berth.

Andrew McCutcheon and the Pittsburgh Pirates are one of three teams in the NL Central vying for a postseason berth.

In professional wrestling, a three-way dance match pits a trio of wrestlers against each other in one match, often to decide a championship, with only one coming out on top. The race for the NL Central title is starting to resemble baseball’s own three-way dance.

20140831_NL_CentralFollowing this weekend’s action, the NL Central race is closer than ever, with the Milwaukee Brewers and St. Louis Cardinals locked in a tie at the top of the division, just ahead of the Pittsburgh Pirates.

On Sunday, the Cardinals overcame a five-run deficit to defeat the Chicago Cubs 9-6.

The Brewers meanwhile fell 15-5 to the San Francisco Giants, finishing the weekend on the wrong end of a sweep.

A Chris Heisey walk-off home run in the ninth sunk the Pirates 3-2, preventing the Bucs from finishing the weekend with a sweep of the Cincinnati Reds. It also saw the club drop two games back in the division and the wild card race.

Now, with just four weeks left on the schedule, these three sides will jockey for position as they look to earn one of five postseason berths.

The final stretch

You’d be hard pushed to find anything but parity when it comes to the final stretch in the NL Central.

All three teams still in contention have 26 games left on the docket. Of those 26 games, 10 come against teams with a .500 record or better, while 16 are against opponents with a sub-.500 record.

For the Cardinals and Brewers, all 10 of those games against teams with a winning record are intra-division games, including seven head-to-head matchups. The Pirates meanwhile will face the Cardinals and Brewers, as well as a four-game set with the Atlanta Braves.

Home field advantage could play a significant role in deciding the division champion, as well as the wild card representative(s).

The Brewers, 36-31 at home this season, have the favorable schedule, playing 14 of their last 26 at home. The Cardinals, 41-28 at home, play 12 of 26 at home. The Pirates face 17 of their last 26 on the road, alarming news when you consider the Bucs are just 27-37 away from PNC Park this season. Seven of Pittsburgh’s 10 games against winning opponents come on the road.

Based on this information, the Pirates look unlikely to snare a first-place finish, leaving the Pirates bracing themselves for a playoff game at best.

Significant remaining series

September 1-3: Pittsburgh at St. Louis

September 4-7: St. Louis at Milwaukee

September 16-18: Milwaukee at St. Louis

September 19-21: Milwaukee at Pittsburgh

September 22-25: Pittsburgh at Atlanta

Betting Sports has all the odds and trends you’ll need for Monday’s series opener between Pittsburgh and St. Louis.

Outside interference

It’s not beyond the realms of possibility for the Brewers, Cardinals and Pirates all to make the postseason, although the trio of NL Central sides would need a bit of help.

As it stands, the Washington Nationals look comfortable to lockdown the NL East title, while the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Francisco Giants are in a battle to take the NL West. The runner up in that race will be a threat for a wild card berth. In fact, if the postseason began today, the Giants would take a wild card berth alongside the NL Central runner up, leaving Pittsburgh on the outside looking in.

The Atlanta Braves, currently second in the NL East, are also contending for a wild card berth, and will represent another threat to the division’s hopes of sending three teams to the postseason. The Braves currently sit just one game in the win column ahead of the Pirates, and two games in the loss column behind the Brewers and Cardinals. A late September series between the Bucs and Braves looks likely to eliminate one or the other.

How things play out

The postseason predictor over at MLB.com has Washington, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Milwaukee and St. Louis making the postseason, meaning disappointment for Pittsburgh and Atlanta.

This looks just about right to Betting Sports.

The Braves have played worse than all other postseason contenders since the All-Star break, and while they’ve by no means been a bad side, they ultimately look like they’ll come up short.

Pittsburgh could still be a threat, but that lopsided schedule (in favor of road games) might prove punishing. That being said, the Pirates have the best record within the division since the All-Star break, and could move past Milwaukee, who has played .500 ball since the break. Ultimately, the series between the two sides may prove to be the big difference.

St. Louis looks like it has the best shot at winning the division, especially with seven games left on the slate against the Brewers, whom they own a 7-5 record over this season.

The Giants, winners of six straight and 11 of the last 15 look most likely to take a wild card berth, if they don’t catch the Dodgers in the division. If they do catch the Dodgers, the latter will take a wild card berth.


For a full list of today’s Major League Baseball odds, click here.

For MLB Futures odds, courtesy of Bovada, click here.

For team prop bets, click here.

For player prop bets, click here.

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