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After grueling stretch, Reds aim to bank on lighter schedule ahead

CINCINNATI — September 7, 2023 – By Mark

As the Reds wrapped their series vs. the Mariners on Wednesday, they had plenty of good news in front of them along with some bad news. 

First, the bad news. The Reds were handed an 8-4 loss by the Mariners as Seattle avoided a three-game series sweep at Great American Ball Park. 

Now here’s some good news: the schedule ahead for Cincinnati.

  • Games remaining: vs. STL (3), at DET (3), at NYM (3), vs. MIN (3), vs. PIT (3), at CLE (2), at STL (3)
  • Standings update: The Reds (73-69) fell a half-game behind the Marlins (72-67) for the third National League Wild Card spot, while the D-backs (72-68) pulled even with the Reds. Cincinnati has the tiebreaker over Arizona but must rely on intradivision record for the tiebreaker with Miami.

Out of the Reds’ 20 remaining games, only three are against a team with a winning record. They play those games vs. the Twins Sept. 18-20 at GABP. Based on opponent winning percentages, Cincinnati has the easiest schedule of games left among all National League clubs.

“As a team, we don’t approach a team any different based on their record,” Reds manager David Bell said. “And so from that way of looking at things, it’s not going to get easier. But also at some point you do expect some breaks as far as some of the things we’ve dealt with over the last two weeks that we can’t go back and change.”

What doesn’t help the Reds in the Miami tiebreaker scenario is that they’re 18-25 vs. their NL Central rivals — including 4-3 vs. St. Louis and 4-6 against Pittsburgh. The Marlins are 19-21 vs. the NL East.

A little more bad news: There are no more games left against any fellow Wild Card contenders. Beyond just winning as many games as possible, the Reds likely will need some help.

The last of the bad news: The Reds are done playing against American League West teams for the rest of the season. Including the loss on Wednesday, the Reds went 13-2 against those clubs.

“I’ve looked at the schedule, as well,” said right fielder Will Benson, who was 3-for-4 with a solo homer in the ninth inning. “My point of emphasis, especially with these kinds of teams that aren’t really in the playoff hunt, is we have to knock them out as early as possible. [It’s] understanding that they may give in if we put up four [runs] early in the game.

“It’s really coming out there and showing no mercy. We don’t have time to really mess around.”

Back to the good news: The Reds just finished one of the most tumultuous gauntlets of their season. They went 9-8 during a 17-game stretch that included a three-city West Coast trip, a nine-hour charter flight delay because of mechanical problems, two doubleheaders while playing fellow Wild Card contenders — the D-backs, Giants and Cubs.

More good news: Cincinnati might be through the worst of a roster churn caused by four COVID-19 cases and injuries. Since Friday, the club made 27 different roster moves — including calling up rookies and journeymen from the Minor Leagues.

After Wednesday’s game and before enjoying a scheduled day off Thursday, Bell moved around the Reds’ clubhouse. He individually commended his players for surviving what could have been a team-folding stretch.

“We handled it, I think, the best we could,” center fielder TJ Friedl said. “We came back home and had some really young guys step for us, pitching-wise. Our offense has finally turned the page and we’re playing how we used to be playing. The biggest thing for us right now is to take every game one game at a time, go from there and let the rest take care of itself.”

Now for the best news: Starting pitcher Hunter Greene, the first member of the Reds with a reported COVID case, is scheduled to start on Sunday vs. the Cardinals. Greene was back at the ballpark Wednesday working out with the club for the first time since being cleared. Cincinnati should also get reliever Fernando Cruz back on Friday for the series opener vs. St. Louis. 

Bell noted that another COVID patient, lefty starter Brandon Williamson, is through the worst of his symptoms and working out again away from the club.

Second baseman Jonathan India, who has been out since July 30 with plantar fasciitis in his left foot, will begin a rehab assignment on Friday with Triple-A Louisville. If all goes well, India could be activated ahead of Tuesday’s three-game series at Detroit.

“We’ve got a long way to go. We’ve got a lot left to accomplish,” Bell said. “We’ve faced a lot over the last week, two weeks. We all thought it was remarkable getting through it the way we did. Tomorrow, it’s really important to enjoy the off-day and then we get back to work.”

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