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.

Albert Pujols passes Mark McGwire with 584th career home run

CLEVELAND, OH - AUGUST 11: Albert Pujols #5 of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim runs out a double during the ninth inning against the Cleveland Indians at Progressive Field on August 11, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. The Indians defeated the Angels 14-3. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
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Angels DH Albert Pujols passed Mark McGwire for sole possession of 10th place on baseball’s all-time home run leaderboard, slugging his 584th career home run in the first inning of Wednesday night’s game against the Blue Jays.

Mike Trout had already slugged a solo home run off of Jays starter Marco Estrada to bring Pujols to the dish. Pujols jumped on an 0-1 cut fastball, sending it out to left-center field, clearing the fence by a few feet.

Pujols, who finished 4-for-4 with the homer and an RBI double, is batting .257/.321/.441 with 24 home runs and 99 RBI on the year. His next target on the home run leaderboard is Frank Robinson at 586.

Zach Britton allowed an earned run for the first time since April 30

BALTIMORE, MD - AUGUST 22:  Zach Britton #53 of the Baltimore Orioles pitches for his 38th save in the ninth inning during a baseball game against the the Washington Nationals at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on August 22, 2016 in Baltimore, Maryland.  The Oriole won 4-3.  (Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images)
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Orioles closer Zach Britton had appeared in a major league record 43 consecutive games without allowing an earned run, spanning May 5 to August 22. That streak came to an end on Wednesday evening against the Nationals.

The Orioles entered the bottom of the ninth inning holding a 10-3 lead, but reliever Parker Bridwell immediately found himself in hot water. He yielded back-to-back singles to Danny Espinosa and Clint Robinson. He was able to strike out Trea Turner, but walked Jayson Werth to load the bases. Daniel Murphy then crushed his first career grand slam to make it a 10-7 game. That prompted manager Buck Showalter to bring in Britton.

Britton, too, was knocked around. He served up a single to Bryce Harper, followed by a double to Anthony Rendon that scored Harper, pushing the score to 10-8 and ending Britton’s streak. Wilson Ramos reached on a fielder’s choice back to Britton, but the lefty finally finished the game by getting Ryan Zimmerman to ground into a game-ending 4-6-3 double play.

Britton now holds a nice 0.69 ERA with 38 saves and a 61/16 K/BB ratio in 52 innings of work this season.