Though two division leads changed hands last week, the Cubs missed an opportunity and the MLB Wild Card standings look largely the same.
It’s never easy to win a World Series, but it’s much harder to stay on top than it is to get there.
The Chicago Cubs, who of course overcame the longest World Championship drought in the history of the sport last year, have been largely disappointing over the first three months this season. Coupled with a surprisingly strong start from a Milwaukee Brewers squad that was supposed to still be in rebuilding mode, the Cubs haven’t had sole possession of first place in the NL Central since May 26.
Compare that to last season when Chicago never spent a day in second place. After spending five days in a first-place tie, the Cubs took the lead in the division for good on April 11 and never relinquished it.
Last week, the Cubs had an opportunity to take control in the Central once again. Chicago won two of three games at home against the Padres, but managed only a split in four games in Miami. The Cubs struggled at the plate, and scored just nine runs against San Diego and plated seven runs in the final three games against the Marlins. The result: a one-run loss, and two losses by two runs apiece.
Had the Cubs managed to win two more games over the sub-.500 pair, Chicago would be back in first place. Instead, Chicago is 1.5 games back in the division and are still 7.5 games back in the NL Wild Card standings despite a five-game Rockies losing streak.
Because of last year’s success, few expect the Brewers to hold off Chicago for the division title. The Cubs, with largely the same roster as last year’s championship club, are still favored to win the Central and are capable of making a run at a second straight Fall Classic. But for now, Chicago is looking up at Milwaukee in the division standings, and Arizona and Colorado in the Wild Card.
American League Division Leaders
New York Yankees (40-33, .548)/Boston Red Sox (41-34, .547)
Given the struggles each team has faced, both the Yankees and Red Sox missed an opportunity to establish themselves as the beast of the American League East last week. After losing two out of three games to both the Angels and Rangers at home last week, New York has now dropped four consecutive series. Meanwhile, Boston also dropped back-to-back series last week, losing two of three in Kansas City before falling to the Angels Saturday and Sunday in a three-game series at Fenway Park.
Minnesota Twins (39-34, .534)
Unlike the Yankees and Red Sox, the Minnesota Twins jumped at the chance to take the lead in the AL Central. Of course, the Twins had an opportunity to face the team standing in their way: the Cleveland Indians. Minnesota, which was swept in four games at home by the Tribe June 16-18, responded with a three-game sweep over the Indians in Cleveland. After more than a week in second place, the Twins now hold a slim half-game lead in the Central.
Houston Astros (52-25, .675)
The Houston Astros still have the best record in baseball, and the club is tied for the major league lead in runs scored (424), and leads the majors in run differential (plus-119). Houston also has the largest division lead in MLB at 13 games over the Rangers and Angels. Plus, the Astros have 29 wins away from home – more than any other big league team – after winning six of seven games on the road last week.