The problem with each additional level of the playoffs is that it brings just one more chance for the best teams to fail in their quest to reach the World Series. Here are the best NL Central teams to never reach the Fall Classic.
2011 Milwaukee Brewers, 96-66 - The Brewers' 96 wins were just one win short of the franchise record, set by the 1970 team. The team had a very tough offensive lineup that featured Prince Fielder and National League MVP Ryan Braun. The starting rotation, led by Zack Greinke and Yovani Gallardo, won 70 games. Milwaukee beat the Arizona Diamondbacks in a tight Division Series, but they fell to the St. Louis Cardinals in six in the NLCS.
2008 Chicago Cubs 97-64 - The Cubs had the best record in the National League in 2008. Aramis Ramirez led the offense with 27 home runs and 111 runs knocked in. Two pitchers, Ryan Dempster and Ted Lilly, each won 17 games. Former starter Kerry Wood filled the closer role and saved 34 games. The team had winning streaks of nine and seven games and had three more streaks of winning at least five in a row. Sadly for long-suffering Cubs fans, the team was swept in the Division Series by the Los Angeles Dodgers.
2005 St. Louis Cardinals, 100-62 - The Cardinals had the best record in the major leagues in 2005. The team boasted the MV-3 trio of Albert Pujols, Jim Edmonds and Scott Rolen. Four Cardinals started the All-Star Game in 2005. Pujols would go on the win the NL MVP Award. The pitching staff led the league in team ERA, and starter Chris Carpenter became the only Cardinal other than Bob Gibson to win the Cy Young Award. The Cards swept the San Diego Padres in the Division Series, but division rival Houston beat St. Louis in the NLCS.
2002 St. Louis Cardinals 97-65 - The Cardinals won the Central by 13 games in 2002. Albert Pujols, in just his second year in the major leagues, led the team with 76 extra-base hits and 127 runs batted in. The team turned it on after August 8. Leading the division by just two games, the team played .725 baseball for the rest of the season and cruised to the division crown. St. Louis swept the Diamondbacks in the Division Series but fell to the wild-card Giants in the NLCS.
1998 Houston Astros, 102-60 - Though not yet in full Killer B mode (Lance Berkman would join the team the next year), the Astros were led by Craig Biggio and Jeff Bagwell, who combined to score 247 runs. The 'Stros also got a career year from Moises Alou, who bashed 38 home runs and knocked in 124. Randy Johnson came over in a trading-deadline deal, and the Big Unit was 10-1 with an ERA of 1.28 in Texas. None of that did Houston any good in the playoffs. The Astros lost to the Padres in the Division Series.A native of St. Louis, Brad Boeker has rooted for the Cardinals for over 40 years.
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