The Atlanta Braves’ Mike Minor stopped the NL Central from finishing Saturday with the top three teams in the league, something that no team has ever done. The Cincinnati Reds led 2-1 in the fifth inning with a chance to catch the Braves for the third spot behind their divisional foes St. Louis and Pittsburgh, but Minor doubled in two runs to improve his record to 9-4 and lower his ERA to 3.02.
If the current standings hold, St. Louis (56-35) and Pittsburgh (55-36) would make the NL Central only the 10th division in 42 league seasons since realignment to have the top two teams in the league. The Braves of the NL East are now third at 54-40, just two games ahead of the Reds at 52-42.
If the Reds join the Pirates and Cardinals with the top three marks in the NL, it would be the first time ever one of the six divisions had the top three teams in the league. Maintaining those top three spots is particularly difficult because even if a division had the top three teams, they would play each other more to make it hard for all three to stay on top.
The NL Central trio also no longer has the worst team in baseball, the Houston Astros to roll up wins against. The Astros left for the AL West this year where Oakland and Texas are taking turns beating them.
Prior to 1994, the leagues were divided into two division each – East and West. in the first year of the AL and NL Central, the Montreal Expos and Atlanta Braves of the NL East finished as the top two NL teams. Since then, it has only happened 10 times:
1997 – AL East (Baltimore, NY Yankees) and NL East (Atlanta and Florida)
1998 – AL East (NY Yankees, Boston)
1999 – AL East (Yankees, Boston)
2001 – AL West (Seattle, Oakland) and NL Central (Houston, St. Louis)
2004 – AL East (NY Yankees, Boston)
2007 – NL West (Arizona, Colorado)
2010 – AL East (Tampa, NY Yankees)
2013 (as of Saturday) – NL Central (St. Louis, Pittsburgh)