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MLB Standings Update: NL Central Edition

The Houston Astros are off to a bad start for a second straight year. After dropping a four game set with the Padres last weekend, they enter a three game series at Citi Field tied for the worst record in the major leagues. 

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All that's bad, but it's nothing compared to the fact that they're just four games out of first placed in a very even National League Central. The Cincinnati Reds are your division leaders at 9-7, while the Chicago Cubs, Milwaukee Brewers, PIttsburgh Pirates and St. Louis Cardinals all are an even 8-8. Houston brings up the rear at 5-11.

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Why does that matter? Because Houston has only played two series against NL Central opponents. Sure, they got swept by the Reds and lost two of three to the Cubs, but last year, the Astros feasted (relatively) on their in-division competition.

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With a somewhat worse roster, the 2010 Astros finished 45-33 in the NL Central. They only had a losing record against the eventual division champion Reds. Houston even won 30 of those 45 games against the Cardinals, Cubs and Pirates.

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With this season be the same? It's hard to say at this point. Everyone has only played a handful of games, so it's hard to get a read on what the competition will be like. We can assume the Pirates will fall back out of the race quickly, but there are no guarantees. St. Louis has been riding the hot bat of Lance Berkman for a while, but will his hitting hold up? Milwaukee and Cincy were the favorites, but the Cubs have the offense to do some damage if they all keep hitting.

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Basically, the division is pretty equal right now (excepting the Astros). It could be the most balanced division in all baseball or it could be a repeat of the 1997 race, when the Astros won the division with an 84-78 record.

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