Three teams, three stories
The best race in baseball has been in the National League's Central Division. The Central has been a three-team carousel between the surprising Pittsburgh Pirates, the perennial favorite St. Louis Cardinals, and the lurking Cincnnati Reds.
All three have sewed up playoff spots-- but there is a little thing of their positioning. As of today, the Cards lead the Pirates and Reds by 2 games. But all three have their own stories to tell.
The Cardinals are trying to hold pole position and avoid the one-game wild card playoff. Conventional wisdom is they will hold on to it. Their magic number is 4, with five games to play. However, the Cardinals play the Washington Nationals-- the just-eliminated Washington Nationals. The Reds play the Mets, while the Buccos play the Cubs. The final weekend, the Cards end with the Cubs, while the Reds and Pirates play each other. The Pirates and Reds are expected to beat up on each other, leaving St. Louis in great position. But don't give the Central to the Cardinals just yet...remember, there is a little rivalry between Chicago and St. Louis...
I am a Reds fan. I fully believe Great American Ball Park will be home to the Reds and Pirates in a wild card playoff a week from today.. The Pirates are tasting the playoffs for the first time since 1992-- when a pre-juiced Barry Bonds was in their outfield. Remember that year? The Atlanta Braves reached the World Series when a very slow, very injured Sid Bream scored to win the NLCS that year. The Reds are rounding into playoff shape now, having won 6 of their last 7, and with two more against the lowly Mets at GABP. A national columnist said we have not seen the best of the Reds yet, and I agree. It may be 2014 before we see it (and, side note... will we see Nevin Ashley at GABP before long?)
Three teams, three stories-- and one conclusion. No matter who you favor, it has been a great year for the NL Central.
That's my take...I'm Tom Lee.