Will the Cardinals win the Central?

2014 mlb betting odds trends NL Central division winner Brewers Cardinals Pirates Reds

LAS VEGAS, NV (The Spread) - The race in the NL Central is the most exciting in baseball but which team will emerge as division champs?

Get Brandon Shively's Expert Picks

I like the Saint Louis Cardinals to win the NL Central this season. As of this writing, the Cardinals are 2 games back of the Brewers while the Pirates are 2.5 games back and the Reds 5 games back. The Cardinals will play Milwaukee six more times this season. They will travel to Milwaukee on September 4 for a three-game set and then play them at home on September 16 for a three-game set.

I like the Cardinals starting rotation anchored by the best pitcher in the NL, Adam Wainwright. They went and got two more veterans in John Lackey and Justin Masterson. While they struggled over the weekend in Baltimore, Lackey is a proven quality starter and Masterson can only get better, I think it's safe to assume. Lance Lynn is a guy that the Cardinals have been monitoring to make sure he does not wear out down the stretch and I think this rotation is the best in the NL Central in both talent and experience.

The Brewers put Matt Garza on the DL and they will insert Marco Estrada back in the rotation, who is serving up 'meatballs' to everone he faces. Estrada had allowed a MLB-leading 27 home runs before being taken out of the starting rotation. I am also not confident in Willy Peralta, as I have spotted a few noticeable red flags with him and I am looking for him to unravel down the stretch.

The Pirates pitching, meanwhile, is just not consistent enough to win games and when they do not score runs. Now with Andrew McCutcheon out, this is a blow to them as they have their work cut out for them in the next few weeks. A four-game set with the Detroit Tigers, then a three-game series at Washington is on the docket and I see the Pirates losing five of these six games. That means they will probably be about 5 games out of the division lead at some point. The Pirates also have to play Saint Louis six more times and I will call for the Cardinals to win four of those six games as well and the Pirates will be out of contention.

It is going to be a tight race between Milwaukee and Saint Louis but I have to think that the Cardinals' offense will wake up at some point and provide the veteran pitching staff with enough run support to help them win the division.

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