Baseball's tightest race

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With the Brewers, Cardinals and Reds all losing seven of their last 10
games, the six NL Central teams are currently separated by just four
games.

Milwaukee – 34-29
St. Louis – 34-30
Chicago – 30-30
Cincinnati – 31-30
Pittsburgh – 30-33
Houston – 29-32

It’s not just the records that are similar either. The NL Central is
the only division without a team that’s scored at least 300 runs. It’s
also the only division without a team that’s allowed at least 290 runs.
The six NL Central teams rank between 15th and 28th in the majors in
runs scored and between third and 13th in the majors in runs allowed.
Four of the six teams have run differentials within 10 runs.

Milwaukee – 288 RS, 272 RA
St. Louis – 279 RS, 269 RA
Chicago – 253 RS, 245 RA
Pittsburgh – 278 RS, 270 RA
Cincinnati – 262 RS, 266 RA
Houston – 250 RS, 283 RA

As winnable as the division would seem to be, one wonders if the
Pirates will come to regret trading Nate McLouth. The Astros,
certainly, have no reason to give up now, even if their run
differential suggests that they’re fortunate to be where they are.
While Pittsburgh and Houston still look like the weakest teams in the
division, all of the clubs have clear flaws and it’s unlikely that any
will play .600 ball from here on in. As tight as things are, the
Brewers and Cardinals may be better off overpaying for help now rather
than waiting another six weeks to see if price tags come down at the
deadline.

Clayton Kershaw struggles with control, walks six Marlins

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Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw entered Wednesday night’s start against the Marlins without having issued a walk in his previous three starts. In fact, his last walk came on April 3 when he issued a free pass to Paul Goldschmidt with the bases empty and two outs in the bottom of the first inning. All told, Kershaw was on a streak of 26 walk-less innings before he took the mound at home to take on the Marlins.

Kershaw started off Wednesday in character, striking out the side in the first inning. He issued a walk in a tough second inning, but escaped without allowing a run. Kershaw walked two more in the third and again danced out of danger. In the fourth, Kershaw walked Lewis Brinson to load the bases with no outs and — you guessed it — didn’t end up allowing a run. His errant control finally came back to bite him in the fifth when Kershaw issued back-to-back two-out walks, then served up a three-run home run to Miguel Rojas down the left field line. His night was done when he completed the inning. Five innings, three runs, five hits, six walks, seven strikeouts, 112 pitches.

The six walks Kershaw issued over five innings marked his first six-walk outing since April 7, 2010 when he issued six free passes to the Pirates in 4 2/3 innings. The only other time he walked as many was on August 3, 2009 against the Brewers in a four-plus inning outing. Kershaw hasn’t even walked five batters in an outing recently — the last time was September 23, 2012 against the Reds.