As we kick off the second half of the season, while the Reds endured a four game sweep at the hands of the Phillies, they played well enough in the prior two series of the 11-game road trip to keep them afloat. Really, a 5-6 record vs. the Cubs, Mets, and Phillies on the road is something you can live with, and they are still in first place.
A six game homestand awaits, as Cincinnati hosts the Rockies and Nationals. Following that are trips to Houston and Milwaukee. This should be a manageable stretch of games, as the Rockies are the only team in that bunch with a winning record, and thankfully, Ubaldo Jiminez is not scheduled to start
On a side note, the series in Milwaukee at Miller Park is the first time the Reds will have traveled there this season. Odd, considering we are halfway through July.
The Reds close the month against a very good Braves team, then travel to Chicago and Pittsburgh. While I could foresee us losing the Braves series, the results should be there against the Pirates and Cubs. With a huge showdown against the Cardinals following that, you would hate to see a mental letdown.
As we reach mid-August, I look at the stretch of games between August 9-25th to be amongst the most important ones of the year. First place could be on the line when St. Louis comes here, and the Florida series may appear easy on paper, but a possible Josh Johnson appearance may be looming.
Then comes the dreaded west coast road trip. Nine games in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Arizona, and probable matchups against the likes of Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, Clayton Kershaw, and Dan Haren (if the D'Backs don't trade him).
September is a road-heavy schedule, with the series' versus the Cardinals and Rockies jumping out on paper. September 10-24 is nothing but games against what will likely be sub-.500 teams. The Padres series after that could be key, especially if they are continuing their surprising NL west run.
The regular season ends with a homestand versus the Astros and Brewers. I'll take that over what the Cardinals have to deal with, if this NL Central race continues to be this close. They have to host the Rockies, who may be in a dogfight for the NL West crown/wild card, to close the season in a four game series.
Of course, there are a ton of things that can change between now and the end of the 162-game marathon. Injuries, players rising to the challenge, players slumping, and what have you. Additionally, the Reds have a few areas of the team to patch up if they want late season baseball to be meaningful.
Given that, there are a few things which I think are absolute certainties: That is, the bottom teams in the NL Central won't get much better. We have a nice chance to fatten up on the Pirates, Brewers, Cubs, and Astros of the world. St. Louis does as well. How you motivate yourself versus teams that you are better than on paper is extremely crucial.
The other certainty is that no matter how you slice it, traveling out west and dealing with that is going to be very crucial for this team. Keep in mind that the Cardinals are done with their west coast trips, whereas the Reds have yet to play an intra-league series west of the central time zone.
I remembered what happened in 2006, when what looked to be a promising season was ruined by our follies in California. Here's hoping history doesn't repeat itself, and that the Reds are in this for the long haul.