26 Games Will Decide the National League Central Division Title

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sport

After 136 games this season, the Cardinals and Pirates are right back where they started: tied.

Yesterday in Pittsburgh, the St. Louis Cardinals avoided a sweep at the hands of the Pittsburgh Pirates. In doing so, the Redbirds won a share of first place in the National League Central. After beating the Pirates in both clubs' 136th game of the season, St. Louis and Pittsburgh are once again tied for first place. The next 26 games will decide who will avoid the Wild Card play-in game.

The Standings

Club

Wins

Losses

Win Pct.

DIV. GB

W.C. GB

Run Diff.

PIT

79

57

.581

-

+3.5

+57

STL

79

57

.581

-

+3.5

+140

CIN

76

61

.555

3.5

-

+91


The Cardinals and Pirates are knotted up atop the NL Central with the Reds breathing down both of their respective necks as the clubs round the bench down the home stretch of the postseason race. St. Louis and Pittsburgh have three head-to-head games remaining, next weekend at Busch Stadium After that, the clubs will compete by proxy with players and fans alike doing a lot of September scoreboard-watching. Consequently, I thought we'd take a look at the two clubs' respective schedules to see which team has the advantage on paper.

To do this, I took each opponent's run differential and multiplied it by the number of games against that opponent. I then added these totals together. This column is entitled the "Weighted" column. I have included a row for each individual series against a given team. The bottom row contains the cumulative totals for each club's remaining schedule.

St. Louis Cardinals Remaining Schedule


Opponent

Games Vs.

Run Diff.

Weighted

@ CIN

4

+92

+368

vs. PIT

3

+57

+171

vs. MIL

3

-65

-195

vs. SEA

3

-101

-303

@ COL

4

-13

-52

@ MIL

3

-65

-195

vs. WAS

3

-18

-54

vs. CHC

3

-50

-150

Total

26

-163

-410


Pittsburgh Pirates Remaining Schedule


Opponent

Games Vs.

Run Diff.

Weighted

@ MIL

3

-65

-195

@ STL

3

+140

+420

@ TEX

3

+86

+258

vs. CHC

4

-50

-200

vs. SD

4

-94

-376

vs. CIN

3

+92

+276

@ CHC

3

-50

-150

@ CIN

3

+92

+276

Total

26

+151

+309


As you can see, the Cardinals have the easier schedule overall. That being said, the Reds have the potential to play a pivotal role in who wins the NL Central. Cincy faces Pitt six times in season's final nine games. And, of course, the Reds and Redbirds being their four-game series today in a few hours.

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