The MLB NL Central Race Is Over and Howard’s Impact on the Lakers

08/16/12 5:10 PM

When Cincinnati Reds first baseman Joey Votto went down with a knee injury a month ago many thought the Pittsburgh Pirates and the St. Louis Cardinals would pass the Reds in the standings. Those who thought that would happen have been proven wrong. Instead the Reds have gone 21-8 without Votto and have extended their lead in the National League Central to 7 games over both Pittsburgh and St. Louis. The Reds have extended their lead because of consistent starting pitching, improved hitting, and a lights out back end of the bullpen.  The Reds have only used five starting pitchers all season and off season acquisition Mat Latos after a shaky start has been outstanding. Latos along with Johnny Cueto give the Reds a potent one two punch in their rotation.

The Reds hitting struggled most of the first half of the season but recently outfielder Ryan Ludwick and third baseman Todd Frazier have given Cincinnati some much needed thump in the middle of the batting order. The Reds bullpen has been lights out all season with closer Aroldis Chapman but, at the trading deadline Cincinnati traded for Jonathan Broxton from Kansas City and Cincinnati has three closers to pitch the last three innings of any game. For the Reds to lose the division they would have to collapse and Pittsburgh with their offensive struggles and St Louis with their bullpen problems won’t have enough juice to catch Cincinnati.

Now that the Olympics are over it’s only about two months until the opening of NBA training camps. The focus of most of the league has been on the recent trade of Dwight Howard from Orlando to the Los Angeles Lakers. The acquisition of Howard will definitely improve the Lakers but they still have some matchup problems with the defending Western Conference champions the Oklahoma City Thunder.

The Lakers as they stand now still have no one to guard the big three from Oklahoma City Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, and James Harden. That could change through because the Houston Rockets accumulated a lot of draft picks in the recent draft and could offer the Lakers a package of young talented players for Paul Gasol. Houston was one of the teams that wanted to trade for Howard but they also showed interest in trading for Gasol.

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