The Reds face 11 games in 10 days in three California cities this week and next.
Manager Dusty Baker wasn’t kidding when he said this was a business trip, not a pleasure trip. The Reds won’t have much time roam wine country north of San Francisco, take in a celebrity home tour in Los Angeles or lay on the beach in San Diego.
“We’ve got to take care of business,” Baker said.
The Reds headed west on a down note after a 3-2 loss to Pittsburgh on Sunday at Great American Ball Park. They played the Giants late Monday with Bronson Arroyo on the mound and play a doubleheader against the Giants today because of a rainout in Cincinnati on July 4. Going into Monday’s game, the Reds were 8-0 with Arroyo on the mound following a loss, and Arroyo got the decision in five of those games.
Arroyo didn’t want to paint these 11 games as any more important than any other 11-game stretch because they’re not. They are important only because every game for a contending team is important.
“It’s like a broken record,” Arroyo said. “We talk about every series being big. If you’re playing a team that’s not that good, you don’t want to take anything for granted. If you’re playing a team that’s great, it’s obviously big because you’ve got to bring your ‘A’ game. Then you play the Pirates and the Cardinals, and they’re the most important games we play all year.
“Every game is so important, especially when you realize that the difference between one game in this division could mean playing game 163 to even see if you get into the playoffs, which isn’t really fun.”
As the trip began, the Reds (55-43) trailed the Cardinals (59-37) by five games in the National Central Division. Pittsburgh (57-39) had a three-game lead on the Reds in the wild-card race. The two wild-card teams meet in a one-game playoff after the season.
Chasing the Reds for the second (and final) wild-card spot are the Dodgers (50-47 and 4½ back) and Phillies (49-50, 6.5).
The Reds’ failures on the west coast over the years are well documented, but not as bad as you might think. Since 1993, they are 38-44 in San Francisco, 33-43 against the Dodgers in Los Angeles and 41-42 in San Diego. Since 2003, they are 17-18 in San Francisco, 11-20 in L.A and 15-17 in San Diego.
The Reds are 3-0 against the Giants (45-52) this season, but this will be their first look at the Dodgers and Padres (43-56).
“The first series against the Giants will be the biggest part of it,” Arroyo said. “If we can get off to a good start, I think we’ll be OK. If we don’t, it seems like one of the few places we start sliding downhill.”