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Wild Weekend Sees Pirates Close the Gap

A three-game sweep of the Los Angeles Angels had the Pittsburgh Pirates celebrating this weekend.

A three-game sweep of the Los Angeles Angels had the Pittsburgh Pirates celebrating this weekend.

The Pittsburgh Pirates continued to surprise everybody this weekend, picking up a three-game sweep of the talent-heavy, results-light Los Angeles Angels.

20130623_NL_CentralMeanwhile, the NL Central-leading St. Louis Cardinals found themselves on the other end of the broom, chalking up three straight losses to the Texas Rangers. The pair of results now sees the gap between the two at just one game.

Elsewhere in the division roles were reversed as the Cincinnati Reds struggled, while the Milwaukee Brewers and Chicago Cubs finished the weekend with something to smile about.

It was one of those weekends for the St. Louis Cardinals, who were swept by the Texas Rangers.

It was one of those weekends for the St. Louis Cardinals, who were swept by the Texas Rangers.

Texas Rangers at St. Louis Cardinals

Billed as a rematch of the 2011 World Series, this three-game set proved anything but a rerun of that epic Fall Classic.

After waiting out a three-hour rain delay on Sunday, it was the Rangers not Cardinals that ended up in the winner’s column.  The 2-1 victory added to a pair of wins to start the series, and secured the sweep in the process. The Cardinals – swept for the first time this season – had a sixth inning lead on a Matt Carpenter homerun, but failed to hold on as the Rangers scored a pair in the seventh.

Losers of two of the last three series, St. Louis (47-29) still boasts the best record in the majors, but a four-game lead at the top of the NL Central has evaporated due to happenings out west.

After this weekend’s disappointment, the Cardinals hit the road for a pair of games against the Houston Astros (Tue-Wed) before heading west for a weekend series with the Oakland Athletics (Fri-Sun).

Pittsburgh Pirates at Los Angeles Angels

While St. Louis was struggling in the rain, Pittsburgh was enjoying a trip out to sunny California.

After picking up a 5-2 win on Friday and a 6-1 win on Saturday, things tightened up a lot in Sunday’s series closer with the Angels. With Los Angeles leading 6-3 heading into the eighth inning, the Pirates put together a late rally to score three in the ninth and then forced the Angels to extra innings.

The Pirates then added four runs in the 10th, taking advantage of a Jack Shuck error in left field to score two of those runs. The Angels answered with three runs in the bottom of the frame, but Jason Grilli managed to strikeout Mike Trout to earn the win and the series sweep.

The trifecta of victories saw Pittsburgh (46-30) close to within one game of the Cardinals at the top of the division. The Pirates have not led the division since April 29.

Despite Pittsburgh sporting the second best record in the majors, bettors should continue to look on with trepidation. At this stage of last season, the Pirates were just one game back of the division lead, a lead it would take in July. But a 28-43 close to the season quickly saw the side fall off the pace and finish a mammoth 18 games back. The same could happen again this season.

The Pirates will look to gain that final game back on the Cardinals this week. First the team travels to the Pacific Northwest for a short two-game set with the Seattle Mariners (Tue-Wed) before returning home to host division rivals Milwaukee over the weekend (Fri-Sun).

Things got better for Brandon Phillips and the Reds, who avoided being swept on Sunday.

Things did get better for Brandon Phillips and the Cincinnati Reds, who avoided being swept on Sunday.

Cincinnati Reds at Arizona Diamondbacks

While Pittsburgh’s rise has become the hot topic in the NL Central, the Cincinnati Reds remain just 1 1/2 games back of the Pirates and 2 1/2 back of the Cardinals. In fact, the Reds have the third best record in baseball, although that’s little consolation for a team looking up at two division rivals.

The Reds picked up a 4-2 victory in the desert on Sunday, narrowly avoiding a three-game sweep at the hands of the NL West-leading Arizona Diamondbacks. Matt Latos’ career-high 13 strikeouts were a big part of the reason the Reds emerged victorious. Latos himself is glad to be back in the winning column after his 21-game undefeated streak was snapped against the Pirates last week.

After 17 straight days of baseball, Cincinnati (45-32) will be happy with Monday’s day off. The Reds will look to turn Sunday’s win into a winning streak with some interleague action this week. Dusty Baker’s side takes in a pair of games in Oakland (Tue-Wed) before heading to Arlington for three games with the Rangers (Fri-Sun).

Atlanta Braves at Milwaukee Brewers

While St. Louis and Cincinnati were dusting themselves off following losing series this weekend, the Milwaukee Brewers were kicking themselves after failing to sweep the NL East-leading Atlanta Braves.

After a pair of 2-0 wins on Friday and Saturday, the Brewers found themselves down 4-0 in the first inning of Sunday’s series closer. The Braves went on to add a run in the second and another in the fourth, leaving the Brewers floundering. A four-run fifth inning almost got Milwaukee back in the game, but Atlanta held on for the 7-4 victory.

The Brewers got a bit of a fright when centerfielder Carlos Gomez had to be helped off the field following a spectacular catch that robbed Andrelton Simmons of a homerun.

“I don’t think it’s serious,” Gomez told the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. “I’m going to be fine. I think in a few days I’ll be fine. Probably tomorrow it’ll be a little bit sore.”

Having narrowly missed out on what would have been a shocking sweep of the Braves, the Brewers (31-43) face a pair of divisional series this week, first hosting the Cubs (Tue-Thu) and then heading to Pittsburgh this weekend (Fri-Sun).

The Cubs celebrated a 14-run outing on Sunday.

The Cubs celebrated a 14-run outing on Sunday.

Houston Astros at Chicago Cubs

At 31-43, the Chicago Cubs are just one game worse off than the Los Angeles Dodgers. Whilst that’s almost certainly a condemnation of the underachieving Dodgers, it does go to show that if you put things into perspective, sometimes things aren’t quite as bad as they seem.

The Cubs certainly had something to smile about on Sunday as they piled 14 runs on the Houston Astros. Sure, it’s only the Astros but that 14-6 victory was enough to give the North Siders a 2-1 series win. That’s now two series wins in three attempts.

Currently tied with Milwaukee in the NL Central standings, the Cubs will look to make the most of a three-game set with the Brewers this week (Tue-Thu), after which the club heads to Seattle (Fri-Sun).

Odds for all games this week will be available from the BettingSports.com MLB Odds page. Stats, trend, and detailed information is available at each of the team’s pages.

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