The MLB season passed the halfway mark and only 5.5 games separate first place from last place in the NL Central, which means all five teams – Cardinals, Brewers, Cubs, Reds, and Pirates – have a legitimate shot at a division crown and a guaranteed spot in the playoffs.

Cain Yelich Brewers
Lorenzo Cain and Christian Yelich from the Brewers celebrate a home run Yelich hit at Miller Park in Milwaukee, WI. (Image: Getty)

The NL Central has the tightest race in all of baseball with the Milwaukee Brewers (46-40) just a game ahead of the Chicago Cubs (45-41). However, the last place Cincinnati Reds are only 5.5 games back. It’s really anyone’s division with half the season to go. Those Cubs and Cardinals games are always fierce, but seems like every division this game has a little extra hot sauce due to the staunch competition.

NL CENTRAL (As of 7/3/19):
Milwaukee Brewers 46-40
Chicago Cubs 45-41
St. Louis Cardinals 41-42
Pittsburgh Pirates 41-43
Cincinnati Reds 39-44

The LA Dodgers (58-29) are on a mission to return to the World Series for a third-straight year. The Dodgers are running away with the NL West with a 13-game lead over the Colorado Rockies in second place.

The Atlanta Braves (50-36) are on top in the NL East with a 4.5-game lead after a slow start from the Bryce Harper and the Philadelphia Phillies.

According to the South Point Casino and Sports Book in Las Vegas, the Chicago Cubs are the highest NL Central team on the board at 6/1 odds, followed by the Brewers at 10/1.

Tight Race, Tight Moves

The Brewers are the team to beat so long as Christian Yelich’s bad back holds up the rest of the season. Yelich smashed his 31th home run of the season for the first-place Milwaukee Brewers. He’s fourth in the NL in hitting with a .328 average and continues to be at the top of the list of MVP candidates. Brandon Woodruff is one of only five pitchers with 10 or more wins.

El Mago and the Cubs are always favorites among bettors. Their actual odds are slanted due to the Cubbies insane popularity. The Cubbies are within striking distance of the Brew Crew, but if they can’t win the division, they have to make sure they stay ahead of the other teams fighting for the Wild Card as the NL Central cannibalizes itself. Those Cubs/Cardinals games are always insane. Javier Baez leads the team with 21 HR and 57 RBI, while Antony Rizzo has 19 jacks. Cole Hamels posted 10 quality starts with a 6-3 record and a 2.98 ERA. If Yu Darvish can get rolling, the Cubbies will be dangerous in the second half.

The St. Louis Cardinals are a game under .500, but they’ve been playing with “alligator blood” in their veins all season. The Cards are not loaded with megastars, but the lineup doesn’t back down. Marcell Ozuna leads the Cards with 20 homers and 62 RBI, while Paul Goldschmidt struggled with his new team and hitting over 50 points below his career average. Reliever John Gant is 7-0 and he’s tied for the team lead in wins if that helps indicate their lack of an ace.

Cubs 6/1
Brewers 10/1
Cardinals 25/1
Reds 250/1
Pirates 500/1

The Cincinnati Reds made several offseason moves that indicated they were trying to become serious contenders for the NL Central crown. However, they’re still in last place in the division. Yasiel Puig hit 18 homers in the first half of the season. Third baseman Eugenio Suarez leads the Reds with 20 home runs and 54 RBI. Sonny Gray (4-5 and 3.94 ERA) complained that the Yankees screwed up his pitching style last season. The Reds added his old pitching coach from Vanderbilt. However, Gay failed to provide stability in the backend of the rotation.

The Pittsburgh Pirates are the hottest team in the NL Central with seven wins over the last ten games. They were fighting the Reds for control of the NL Central basement but have now moved within 4 games off the Brewers’ lead. Josh Bell got named to the All-Star team and rightly so. The Pirates 1B is killing it with a .308 average, 25 homers, and a league-leading 78 RBI.