The Reds are the hottest team in the division out of the gates but the St. Louis Cardinals’ sweep of the Marlins keeps them in step.
Much like it was coming into the year in 2020, the NL Central looks like it could go to any team except for the Pirates. The Brewers’ pitching staff has flirted with no-hitters twice already, the Cubs still have their star power, the St. Louis Cardinals are the reigning champs, and the Reds have started the season on fire.
That last part the Cardinals know intimately well as the Reds outslugged the Cardinals in the first series of the year, taking two games to one by scoring 27 runs in three games. In fact, since the Reds lost on Opening Day, they have yet to lose again and are sitting at 5-1 at the top of the division with a +31 run differential.
It’s comically early to start looking at standings, but there would be worry if the Cardinals were sitting at 1-5 like the Pirates already are.
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In years past, fans have seen teams bury the division early, building up a lead to fend off any struggles or challengers later. For this reason, I think it’s at least important to keep one eye on the standings at all times.
While the Cardinals were taking on the Marlins in Miami, the Reds were hosting the Pirates in Cincy. Their home ballpark helps with their offense for sure, but the Reds had six starting position players in their lineup on Wednesday with an OPS above 1.000 and have eight total players above that line.
They won’t slug like this forever, but for now, they look like the biggest threat to the division. Luckily for the Cardinals, the Marlins helped them right the ship after losing their opening series.
In a series that was won by doing the little things right, the Cardinals swept the Marlins even without much offensive performance in two of the games. Great starts by Jack Flaherty, Daniel Ponce de Leon, and John Gant led the way, but it was the team’s defense, baserunning, and approach at the plate that earned them the sweep.
Sure, the Cardinals were still striking out a lot, but the pitching for the Marlins is up and coming and looked nasty in two of the three games. Aggressive baserunning by Paul Goldschmidt and a well-timed steal from Tommy Edman were just a couple of the small things; a late grand slam doesn’t hurt things either.
It wasn’t a perfect series by any means for the Cardinals, but they did enough to win and keep up with the Reds. The team’s next big test comes in the form of the Brewers who just took two of three from the Cubs in the first series at Busch in 2021.
The Reds will regress when they leave Great American Ballpark and face tougher competition, but the Cardinals are a game behind them at 4-2 and there is nothing wrong with that.