Playing to Game 162
All of the remaining 19 games the Reds play in 2014 will be against NL Central opponents, with 16 of them against teams still in playoff contention — the Cardinals, Brewers and Pirates. At this point, all the Reds can do is try to disrupt the race as much as they can.
“Hopefully, we do make a difference in a positive way for our ball club,” Reds manager Bryan Price said on Monday. “We know these games mean a lot as far as where these teams — if they end up in the postseason or not. There should certainly be an investment on our side and make it a difficult thing for opponents to extract a victory from us.”
Playing division rivals or not, the Reds are desperate to finish 2014 with something positive, a tall task since they have gone 16-32 since the All-Star break entering the four-game series opener vs. the Cardinals.
“It eats at you from the inside, out to not play better than we have,” Price said.
The Reds ranks last in the Majors in second half batting average (.222), runs, hits, slugging and on-base percentage.
“We want to finish the season a lot stronger than we’ve played in the second half,” Price said. “It’s a troublesome feeling to go home, as frequently as we do, with a loss. I’m sure it’s eating away at everybody. It’d be a real nice reprieve from that heaviness to go out there and start to win more games. Certainly with respect to the those teams that are contending for the playoffs, we want to give them the best that we have. We have to do something selfishly, and that’s go out and win our games so we can feel a little bit better about how we finish up.
In the past four seasons, only 2011 was a year where the Reds were left to be spoilers. At the same time, they have some September call-ups they need to look at. It’s going to be a fine line for the club with how they use their younger players.
“We’re trying to respect the process and play as many of our regulars as possible against these contending teams, with still periodically getting a glimpse at some of the guys that we have for future consideration,” Price said. “That’s really what’s the challenge of this, is outside the Cubs series, everybody that we’re playing is still in contention. Yet we do want to see — I would like to see and I’m sure Walt [Jocketty] and the front office and out coaching staff would like to see — some of these guys play with a little bit more frequency. So that’ll be a challenge. We’ll see how that works its way out.”
The time of the Reds’ Sept. 21 game at St. Louis has been moved to 8:05 p.m. ET because it’s been picked up by ESPN for Sunday Night Baseball. For ESPN, it’s a potential chance to have the Cardinals clinch the NL Central. Another incentive for the Reds, perhaps, is not being the opponent that has to watch a team clinch playoff spots against them. It is possible — not necessarily likely — that the Reds could see St. Louis, Pittsburgh and Milwaukee all clinch playoff berths against them. That would sting just a bit, no?