Cincinnati Reds - "First Place" Cincinnati Reds to be exact. Reds fans don't get too many chances to say that, but at least for one day they can. After knocking off the Cardinals 7-2 and two-of-three over the weekend, the Reds are officially in first place all alone. 18 short days ago, they were in last, so while it's nice to be on top, the Reds would be wise to lay on the gas pedal or they could quickly be looking back up at the Cardinals. However, defense (no errors in 11 games), pitching (1.88 staff ERA over the last eight games), and timely hitting (.311 average with runners on and two out) are sure fire ingredients for winning baseball.
St. Louis Cardinals - not since July 30 of last year have the Cards been out of the top spot in the division. Sure, it's only just a half game but they've lost five of six and averaged just 3.2 runs in doing so. Brendan Ryan's offensive woes continue. The Cardinals' shortstop is mired in a woeful 1-for-28 slump and his average continues to plummet to its current .162. Perhaps he should consider growing his mustache again. Matt Holliday also might want to start earning his huge salary. The $120 million man has four homers and just 14 RBI, which ranks him sixth on the team. Not exactly the protection for Pujols St. Louis had hoped for when they re-signed him.
Pittsburgh Pirates - If you're a Pirates fan you have to practically be giddy about being in third place. Much like Reds' fans, you don't get much of an opportunity to be in the upper half of the division so you revel in it while you can. Who knows how long that will last, but after being swept by the Reds by a combined 16-1 last week, the Pirates went to Chicago and took two-of-three from the Cubs. Not particularly difficult to do these days, but it's better than being swept. The Pirates rank 15th in both runs scored and team ERA, so to be in third place in the Central is pretty impressive at this point. Will it last? Odds are that it won't but no one thought the Reds would be in first at this point, so who knows?
Chicago Cubs - Lou Piniella is ranting again. That's never good if you are a Cubs fan or player. Ownership is threatening to blow the team up and start over (again) if the Cubs don't win this year. They have some aging, expensive veterans (Lee, Ramirez, Soriano, Zambrano) and they likely will get shipped out before the trade deadline if the current trend continues.
Milwaukee Brewers - Luckily for the Brewers they face the Reds on the road as they are an unheard of 4-14 at Miller Park. This is also a team with too much talent to be puttering along at 15-22 and in fifth place in the division. Offense is not the problem as their 199 runs rank second in the N.L. Pitching, however, is a major factor. Their 5.20 ERA is 14th and they just lost Doug Davis to pericarditis.
Houston Astros - 110 runs, 19 homers, .228 average, .276 on-base percentage. All of them are league worst and a big reason why the Astros are bringing up the rear in the division. Still, they were good enough to sweep the Cardinals in St. Louis last week, so there is hope. Unfortunately, that hope went down the drain after a weekend sweep in San Francisco. It's gotten so bad in Houston longtime Astros Lance Berkman and Roy Oswalt have begun openly discussing their trade options. Things are looking mighty bleak in Houston.