The Cincinnati Reds could not have had a better Sunday. They completed a three-game sweep of the San Francisco Giants with a 4-0 victory at Great American Ball Park and then watched — if they were able to stay up until 2:15 a.m. — as the Chicago Cubs lost 5-4 to the New York Yankees in 18 innings at Wrigley Field.
The Reds (17-14) lead the Cubs (16-15) by one game in the National League Central Division. A year ago, the Reds were 13-18 through 31 games and trailed the Cubs by 11 games. Two years ago, they were 15-16 and seven games back in the division. The Reds haven’t been in first place this late in the season since 2012, the last time they won the division. Even that 2012 team was 3½ games back through 31 games.
Now the Reds put their season-best five-game winning streak on the line against another first-place team, the Yankees, in 7:10 p.m. games Monday and Tuesday in Cincinnati. The Yankees (20-9) have also won five games in a row. They lead the American League East by a half game.
“It’ll be exciting, and it’ll be fun,” Reds manager Bryan Price said Sunday. “I think it’s a great time of year right now to be facing a team that’s first in their division.”
The Yankees swept the Reds 3-0 in 2014, the last time they played, in New York City. The Yankees won two of three games in 2011 the last time they visited Great American Ball Park.
Reds fans will get to see one of the game’s top young players. Aaron Judge, 25, leads baseball with 13 home runs. He made his major league debut last August. Fans will be familiar with second baseman Starlin Castro. The former Cub ranks second in the big leagues with a .355 average.
The Reds’ Rookie Davis (1-1, 7.36) starts against the Yankees’ Masahiro Tanaka (4-1, 4.46) on Monday. Tim Adleman (1-1, 4.22) starts for the Reds on Tuesday against CC Sabathia (2-1, 5.45).
The Reds will treat it like any other game.
“You’ve got to be able to block that stuff out and just come to play,” shortstop Zack Cozart said. “ We’re just here to play ball on a day in and day out basis. That’s the mentality we’re taking.