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Rough road begins for Reds

A conversation with Reds manager Dusty Baker can veer in many directions. Fans love to question his managerial decisions — something he’s well aware of — but there’s no doubt Baker can talk with the best of him.

Before Thursday’s 5-3 loss to Pittsburgh at Great American Ball Park, Baker mused about the doubts surrounding his team, even though at the moment it had the second-most wins baseball.

Baker was asked about the fact that his team is 10-16 against winning teams and 34-14 against everyone else.

“So?” he said. “We’ve killed everybody else. Isn’t that the same?”

Time will tell. The Reds began a stretch of 16 straight games against winning teams late Friday night in Arizona. It was the first of nine games in 11 days west of the Mississippi. Looking even further ahead, the Reds play only seven games against losing teams in their next 47 games.

The Reds trailed St. Louis by 3½ games in the National League Central through Thursday. On the bright side, they had a half-game lead on the Pirates in the wild-card race and a 5½-game lead over the next closest team in the wild-race race, the Giants. The two wild-card teams meet in a one-game playoff.

“When we had a losing road record, they were panicking,” Baker said. “People are always looking at the negative. I deal with the positive. You can find the negative in anything. What if we were losing to bad teams? That would really be a negative. I think we’re doing pretty darn good, not to be at full force. We’re not doing great, but our guys are doing better than a lot of teams.”

The Reds are 10-9 in June after going 19-8 in May. Even if the Reds can manage a .500 record in this next stretch, it wouldn’t be a disaster.

After Arizona (39-33), they play at Oakland (43-32) on Tuesday and Wednesday and then get an off day Thursday before a three-game series at Texas (41-32). Cincinnati returns home July 1 to host the defending World Series champions, San Francisco (37-35), for four games.

“We’ve got to really push these next few days,” Baker said. “After that, we’ve got some teams are first-division teams that are fighting to stay not only in the first division, but in first place. Everyone we play is in first place or second place.”

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