Central matters: Cubs chasing division history down stretch

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Dexter Fowler and the Cubs are trying to catch the 1995 Reds for best division record in NL Central history.

MILWAUKEE – Even with Tuesday’s loss, the Cubs are on historic pace in NL Central play this season.

Their 38-17 (.691) mark against division foes – the best intra-division record in baseball – would be the best in the NL Central since division play was expanded in 2001 with the unbalanced schedule.

In fact, their .691 percentage would rank third all-time in the 23rd-year division, in range of the 1995 Reds’ record of .714 with 21 division games remaining.

“It’s the reason why we’re so far ahead,” second baseman Ben Zobrist said.

And you don’t have to look that far back in history to see the importance. Last year, the Cubs (97 wins overall) and Cardinals (100) both went 46-30 in the division. The Pirates roasted almost everybody they played outside the division but lost the division title by two games because of a 34-42 record against Central opponents.

Not that even the Cubs saw this coming when the season started.

“At the start of the season, I would have thought it would have been tighter come this time of the year,” Cubs second baseman Ben Zobrist said. “If you were basing it off last year, you would have said, `Man, it’s going to be the same.’ But it hasn’t been the same as last year.”

The Cubs can make it unlike any year in the division before, if they do well enough in their final five against the Brewers, six against the Cardinals, six against the Reds and four against the Pirates.

Central Standard

The biggest reason the Cubs have the top record in the majors is because they have taken care of business in the NL Central, where they’re on pace for one of the top records in the division’s 23-year history – and best since division play was expanded in 2001 with the unbalanced schedule. The top intra-division records in NL Central history (with 22 of the Cubs’ final 25 games in the division):

  • 1995 Reds  .714 (35-14)
  • 1996 Cardinals  .712 (37-15)
  • 2016 Cubs                .691 (38-17)
  • 1998 Astros  .679 (38-18)
  • 1994 Astros  .652 (30-16)
  • 1997 Astros  .646 (31-17)
  • 2005 Cardinals  .638 (51-29)
  • 2011 Brewers            .638 (51-29)
  • 2002 Cardinals         .633 (57-33)
  • 2010 Reds  .620 (49-30)
  • 2012 Reds  .620 (49-30)
  • 2004 Astros              .611 (55-35)
  • 2013 Cardinals  .605 (46-30)
  • 2015 Cardinals  .605 (46-30)
  • 2015 Cubs  .605 (46-30)
  • 1999 Reds  .603 (38-25)
  • 2004 Cardinals        .600 (54-36)

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