CHICAGO – With three teams separated by two games for the final National League wild-card spot, a couple of road trips for the Cincinnati Reds and San Diego Padres could become the differentiator between the teams.
The Reds began a nine-game, 11-day road trip to play the Chicago Cubs, St. Louis Cardinals and Pittsburgh Pirates. The Padres will play two home games against the Los Angeles Angels on Tuesday and Wednesday, before beginning a 10-game, 10-day road trip through the Dodgers, San Francisco and St. Louis.
After the Reds lost 4-3 to the Cubs on Monday, their seventh loss in their last nine games, FanGraphs projected the Padres have the upper hand in the wild-card race. The Padres have a 43% chance to win the wild card, the Reds are at 37% and the Philadelphia Phillies sit at 9%. The Phillies are only 1½ games back in their division, so they have multiple avenues to a playoff berth.
“There’s another level of baseball that we’re capable of playing,” Reds manager David Bell said after Monday’s loss. “That’s why we’re in this position. Our players, everyone in here, is doing everything we can to get back to that point as quick as possible. That’s really all you can do. Just keep playing, keep working and that’s just never, ever a question about the players on this team. That’s kind of where the focus is.”
The Reds have an easier strength of schedule than the Padres over the final weeks of the season, but they haven’t beat up on sub-.500 teams. They’ve lost four consecutive series, dropping two of three games to the Miami Marlins on the road and two of three games to the Detroit Tigers at home.
Bell dislikes the narrative around a weaker schedule because the Reds had to beat teams with a better record to put themselves in their current position.
“The cliché, we’re just taking it day by day,” Reds pitcher Michael Lorenzen said. “There is a sense of urgency, of course, but we know we’re really good. We’re just showing up and trying to win every day. That’s all we’re doing.”
The Phillies are 17-13 in their last 30 games, which is better than the Reds (15-15) and the Padres (13-17). Chasing the Atlanta Braves in the division, the Phillies are concluding a nine-game road trip Wednesday. The Phillies have a 5-2 record on the road trip, entering Tuesday.
WINKER SLOWED: The Reds were hopeful outfielder Jesse Winker could begin a rehab assignment this weekend, but that might be delayed by a couple of days.
"These injuries, especially for hitters in that part of the body, you have to really be careful not to reinjure it or tweak it again. We had to slow it down by a day or two, just because he felt a little something that was not unexpected, but enough to slow him down for a day or two.
"He could still be on track to be playing (rehab games) within the week. Rehab games, probably not within the week with us. It’s the last step, really, being able to swing, take full swings. That’s a big step with that injury.
HBP KINGS: The Reds have been hit by a league-leading 94 pitches this season, including twice in Monday’s series opener against the Chicago Cubs. The previous franchise record was 89 times in a season.
They’ve been hit by more than twice the number of hit by pitches for the Detroit Tigers (33), Toronto Blue Jays (45), Pittsburgh Pirates (45) and Kansas City Royals (46). The Los Angeles Dodgers rank No. 2 with 92 hit by pitches while the Milwaukee Brewers and Oakland A’s are tied for third at 82.
There have been only seven teams who have been hit by more pitches than the Reds since 1900. The 2003 Cleveland team was hit 103 times, the highest total since Brooklyn in 1899 (125).
Rookie Jonathan India has been hit 19 times, which leads the National League, and Kyle Farmer ranks second in the NL after being hit 16 times.
BARRERO ON STANDBY: Jose Barrero joined the Reds on their road trip to Chicago, remaining on the taxi squad for their series opener against the Cubs on Monday. Shortstop Kyle Farmer is preparing for the birth of his son, McCoy, this week.
Farmer said his wife’s due date was Sunday, but he’s been on alert to fly back to Georgia to meet his wife since the Reds were in Miami on their last road trip.
Barrero played in five minor-league games at Triple-A Louisville last week, optioned from the active roster when the Reds needed to make space for Asdrúbal Cabrera. He had five hits in 16 at-bats (.313 batting average) with two homers, two walks and two strikeouts.
Barrero is a top candidate to start at shortstop in Farmer’s absence. He started only three games in his first stint in the big leagues this year.
NICE GESTURE: Liam Castellanos, the 9-year-old son of Nick Castellanos, partnered with Cincy Shirts to distribute t-shirts that had an illustration of his dad. Nick Castellanos wore the shirt during the red carpet walk before the All-Star Game.
Liam donated the proceeds, which totaled $18,475.29, to The Dragonfly Foundation, a charity he picked. Nick Castellanos matched the donation.