While many speculated that the NL East or AL West would be the best divisions in all of baseball, it is in fact the NL Central that has been the class of the league. The two division leaders, Cincinnati Reds and St. Louis Cardinals, will square off in a three-game series in Cincinnati. The first game of the series will be a fascinating pitching matchup.
The Cardinals will send ace Adam Wainwright to the bump. Wainwright has put a huge emphasis on reducing walks this season, and it has already paid dividends. Wainwright has just six walks in 89 innings already this season. He has, however, got unsustainably lucky – allowing just two home runs thus far. Home run regression is a difficult thing to predict – as it naturally occurs somewhat for all pitchers into the humidity and hot weather of the summer – but the Reds will look to take advantage of the opportunities they get. Allowing fewer free passes has obviously led to strong performances by Wainwright, but it will help the Reds prepare for this start, as they can expect strikes early and often.
The Reds will send fifth starter Mike Leake to the hill. Leake has surely outperformed the league average back-end starter, to the tune of a 2.75 ERA in 68.2 innings. The Reds will need Leake to continue his strong pitching, as their ace Johnny Cueto returned to the disabled list. Though they may potentially recall Tony Cingrani, they will need their current starters to maintain or improve upon their strong pitching.
This three-game set will help to further see which of these two teams will win the NL Central and avoid the one-game Wild Card playoff. Though all of the 162 games are created equally, a victory here would increase or decrease the lead in the NL Central by one full game.
Gabe Isaacson is a writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter: @gabeisaacson.