Pete Rose once told Dusty Baker the ballpark was his sanctuary. No matter what was happening away from the diamond, problems vanished for Rose when he stepped between the lines.
The advice helped Baker as much as any advice he’s ever received. However, after the Reds finished June with a 2-6 road trip that dropped them 5½ games behind the Pirates and 3½ behind the Cardinals, it’s hard to imagine any of Baker’s players are viewing the ballpark as a sanctuary. If any of the Reds have problems off the field, they have just as many on it at this time.
Through Sunday, Cincinnati (46-36) still had the fourth-best record in the National League, but it went 12-15 in June after finishing 19-8 in May. The Reds began a four-game series with the Giants at Great American Ball Park on Monday.
“I just hope everybody’s positive about it,” Baker said. “We’re at the halfway point (of the 162-game regular season). It’s not like it’s Sept. 5 or something. I’ve got full faith in this club, and we’ll turn it around.”
Baker said the Reds don’t need a spark, they need a fire. The offense, especially, needs a lift. It ranked 27th out of 30 teams in June in runs scored (93), an average of 3.4 runs per game.
In May, the Reds ranked eighth in baseball in runs scored (136), an average of five runs per contest. Among the slumping hitters is second baseman Brandon Phillips, who hit .209 in June after hitting .301 in May.
“It sucks that some of our fans are counting us out and jumping off the bandwagon,” Phillips said. “All you can do is is believe in yourself. We’ve got to get as many wins as possible. I understand how they feel. Trust me, we’re not losing on purpose. We’re trying our hardest.”
Counting Monday’s game, the Reds have 14 games before the All-Star break. They have a chance to get back on track because the Giants are struggling, having lost eight of their last 10 — as are the next two opponents, Seattle (35-47) and Milwaukee (32-48).
“Let’s see how many we can win before the All-Star break,” Baker said. “That’s what good basketball teams do. They make a run right before halftime and then come out right after halftime and make another quick run.”