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NL Central report: Brewers surge continues

Milwaukee is tied with Pittsburgh atop the division, just like we all predicted.

Milwaukee Brewers v Arizona Diamondbacks Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images

The Milwaukee Brewers beat the Arizona Diamondbacks Wednesday afternoon to take the series against the National League West leaders, and continuing a hot May for the contending Brew Crew.

The Brewers smacked four home runs on Wednesday, including a team-leading 10th from third baseman Travis Shaw. The Brewers have won 10 of their last 15 games, hitting 21 home runs during that span.

21-year-old Freddy Peralta delivered a major league debut for the ages last Sunday with 13 strikeouts in a dazzling start at Coors Field, and the Brewers are expected to get Chase Anderson back from the disabled list next week.

Milwaukee also boasts one of the strongest bullpens in the game, second in the majors in relief ERA (2.60) and third in strikeout rate (27.8 percent). The leader of that group has been closer Josh Hader, who has struck out twice as many batters (50) as innings pitched (25).

The major league record for strikeout rate in a season with at least 50 innings is 52.5 percent, by Aroldis Chapman, then of the Cincinnati Reds in 2014. Hader so far this season has a 57.5 percent K rate. Ridiculous.

The Brewers didn’t even need Hader on Wednesday, with three other relievers — Matt Albers, Dan Jennings, and Jorge Lopez — combining for four scoreless innings in the win over Arizona.

Walking the plank

Milwaukee (26-18) needed that Wednesday to keep pace atop the National League Central with the Pittsburgh Pirates (25-17), winners of seven of their last eight games. The top four teams in the division are separated by just a game, with the St. Louis Cardinals and Chicago Cubs hanging close.

Pittsburgh wasn’t expected to contend this season, but they have outscored opponents so far by 31 runs, the fifth-best run differential in the National League and second-best in the division. Plus, the Pirates are willing to try anything if it would help them win. Just ask Jameson Taillon, who sought remedies for a cut on his finger last week.

Sorry, eh

The Cincinnati Reds are in last place in the NL Central but even they have seen success of late with seven wins in their last nine games, including a four-game sweep of the reeling Dodgers in Los Angeles.

Reds first baseman Joey Votto during that series at Dodger Stadium recorded an interview with Tim Brown for the Yahoo Sports baseball podcast, during which the Toronto native said “he didn’t give a rat’s ass” about fellow Canadian James Paxton of the Seattle Mariners tossing a no-hitter in Toronto. On Wednesday Votto apologized in a letter to the Canadian Baseball Network:

When asked about baseball in Canada, the Blue Jays and specifically this event, it took me back to the times and my resentment for not making Team Canada in high school, not being drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays out of high school, or not being picked for the Olympic team while in the minor leagues.

Clearly my reply came out of a side of jealousy for a Canadian baseball athlete being celebrated in the city of Toronto. It was an odd reply and one I am terribly ashamed of.

Nifty slide

Chicago Cubs infielder Javier Baez was up to his old tricks again on Saturday. He was dead to rites trying to steal second against the crosstown Chicago White Sox, but Baez executed one of his patented swim moves to avoid the tag and reach safely.