Don't look now, Brewers NL Central rival may be rising from the dead in division race

The hottest team in the division has dragged themselves out of the cellar.
May 9, 2024; Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA;  Milwaukee Brewers shortstop Willy Adames (27) steals second base as the ball gets away from St. Louis Cardinals second baseman Nolan Gorman (16) during the third inning at American Family Field. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports
May 9, 2024; Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA; Milwaukee Brewers shortstop Willy Adames (27) steals second base as the ball gets away from St. Louis Cardinals second baseman Nolan Gorman (16) during the third inning at American Family Field. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports / Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports
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Before the 2023 season began, many experts predicted that the NL Central would be a battle between the Milwaukee Brewers and the reigning division champion St. Louis Cardinals. While the former held up their end of the bargain, the latter very much did not.

Instead of competing for a division title, the Cardinals stumbled their way to a 71-91 record and a last place finish in the NL Central. It was the team's first losing season since 2007 and the first time they had finished last in their division since 1990, back when they were in the NL East and the Brewers were still in the American League.

Speaking of the Brewers, they went on to win the NL Central for the second time in three years, though they would suffer an early postseason exit at the hands of the Diamondbacks. Fast forward to 2024 and both teams would be among different experts' picks to win the division once again.

Yet on Saturday, May 11th, Milwaukee walked off of American Family Field winners of the first three games of a four-game home series against St. Louis and winners of the teams' first six matchups of the season together. The Brewers stretched their division lead to 1.5 games over the Cubs while the Cardinals fell to nine games back, sat in last place in the NL Central, and owned the third worst record in the National League.

Apparently that was exactly the wake up call the Cardinals needed. They would avoid the series sweep with a Mother's Day win on the 12th and begin the process of righting the ship. Now, they're the team that's nipping at the Brewers' heels.

After a slow start to the season, the Cardinals appear to be rising from the dead and are in 2nd place in the division, right behind the Brewers.

Ever since that fateful early May series, the Cardinals have finally caught fire a little bit. They have won all five series that they have played since then, going 11-3 over that span. That includes a three-game sweep of the Orioles, owners of the third best record in the AL, at home.

Their most recent win brought their record to 27-27, the first time their record has been back to the .500 mark since April 12th when they were 7-7. The Cardinals are now also in second place for the first time all season, five games back of the division-leading Brewers.

Of course that final fact was made possible by Milwaukee themselves after their most recent series at home. On Thursday, they capped off a series win against the Cubs with a 6-4 victory, giving the Crew wins in three of the four games of the home series and sending Chicago down to 3rd place in the NL Central for the first time since April 16th.

For the Cardinals, it has helped that their offense has finally come alive. They've scored 5.5 runs per game since the Brewers series in May on the backs of Paul Goldschmidt, who's back to doing what St. Louis fans expected of him at the plate, as well as youngsters Nolan Gorman, Masyn Wynn, and Lars Nootbaar.

Those who are skeptical of the Cardinals' recent stretch may point to the fact that the other four non-Orioles teams that they just one series against (Angels, Red Sox, Cubs, Reds) all currently have a .500 record or worse. But all St. Louis can do is beat the teams on their schedule and that's exactly what they've done.

That is by and large what the Brewers have done as well, which is why they continue to lead their division and have the third best record in the NL. So the Cardinals can keep creeping up on the Crew all they want, but if Milwaukee keeps doing what they're doing then they'll be just fine.

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