The true test is here. The time to find out if the Cincinnati Reds are playoff material has arrived in the form of a nine-game West Coast pow-wow.
Recent history suggests the Reds are screwed. Over the last five seasons, the Reds have a 16-35 (.314) record on the Left Coast.
In 2006 they were tied for first before embarking on a 10-game stretch on the West Coast. A 2-8 trip later, they were six games out and the season was essentially finished.
The time change will always screw up anybody flying from the East to the West—whether you're playing a sport or filing TPS reports. But it’s not like every team struggles so mightily in the Pacific Time Zone.
The good news is that only three players have endured this embarrassing slide. Brandon Phillips, Bronson Arroyo and Aaron Harang have been through it all.
Maybe the young guys have no idea about the poor West Coast play. There is also a greater veteran presence on this Reds team with players like Scott Rolen, Arthur Rhodes, and Orlando Cabrera who have been there before. This is also a team that hasn't lost more than five straight all season, and that was in April.
The trip will start in Arizona to play the lowly Diamondbacks. The Reds swept them at Chase Field last season, so that shouldn’t be an issue. Key word is shouldn’t. I’ll predict a series victory, as the Reds win two of three.
Then it’s off to Dodger Stadium in Chavez Ravine, which has treated the Reds like a punching bag. The Reds are an embarrassing 0-12 in the past four years in L.A.
Why is that? Are the Reds distracted by the tasty Dodger Dogs? Does the late-arriving crowd divert their attention?
Sure, the Dodgers have been a superior team over the past four years, but it is absurd to say that Brandon Claussen is the last pitcher from the Reds to beat the Dodgers in L.A. It’s a quirky streak that needs to end in 2010.
So I will go out on the limb and predict that the Reds will take a game against the fading Dodgers.
The trip finishes with a visit to San Francisco. The final game is a 12:35 local start, which will be the ninth game in nine days for the Redlegs. Needless to say I don’t expect a win on get-away day. So let’s say the Reds take one of the three against the Giants.
Add it all up and I see a 4-5 trip. Low expectations, eh? Considering the recent history of this team on the road, most fans would be satisfied with that mark. Tread water on the infamous West Coast swing and go home and continue to beat up on the N.L. Central dregs.
It’s a major hump the Reds need to leap over, and getting past this stretch, while keeping up the pace with the Cards, will go a long way in the Reds playoff aspirations.
It’s gut check time in Cincinnati as the dog days of summer roll on.