Reds once again bullying NL Central
CINCINNATI — Sometimes being The Bully on the Block pays bigger dividends than stealing lunch money.
If you are the Cincinnati Reds, being The Bully of the National League Central secures a path to the playoffs.
It is a formula they developed and executed last year by beating up everybody in the division.
Well, almost everybody. Even though the Reds were only 6-12 last year against the St. Louis Cardinals, they were 43-18 against Milwaukee, Chicago, Houston and Pittsburgh.
And the Cardinals struggled against the rest of the NL Central, which enabled the Reds to win the division by five games.
So if it works once, why not twice?
Due to a quirk in the schedule that fits the Reds like a hand-tailored suit, 32 of their first 44 games are against their NL Central brethren.
So far, not only has it worked, it is working even better.
The Reds are 20-10 against the NL Central and have an added dimension — they have a winning record (4-2) against the much-despised Cardinals.
They completed a two-game sweep of the Cubs on Tuesday, twice coming from behind to score a 7-5 victory. They play another NL Central opponent, the Pittsburgh Pirates, the next two nights in Great American Ball Park.
That will complete a string of 16 straight games within their division, and the Reds are 11-3 so far, including the three-game sweep of the Cardinals over the weekend that pushed them from 1½ games behind St. Louis to 1½ in front.
It is a positive run that brings a smile to manager Dusty Baker’s face.
"There are two times during the course of a season when you want to have a good run, if you had to pick 'em," he said. "One would be when you are in a long run of games within in your own division. That’s because you are picking up ground or losing ground very quickly on somebody. And the second one would be the ever-dangerous 17 or 18 interleague games.
"If you could pick 'em, those are the two times you want to be on top of your game," Baker added. "And we’ve played more games within our division than anybody, a lot more than anybody. That’s mostly because we’ve played Houston so much already.
St. Louis is struggling within the division again and is 9-9. Milwaukee is 12-11, Chicago is 6-11 and Houston is 9-15 within the NL Central.
The Reds already have played three series against the last-place Astros and are 6-3. They are 4-1 against the Cubs, 5-1 against the Brewers, but only 1-3 against the Pirates, who come to town Wednesday.