Two days ago the Cincinnati Reds were sitting a game and a half out of the NL Central lead. As of Thursday after two utterly
inexcusable losses to the Chicago Cubs the Reds now sit 3 games out of the lead. 3 games does not sound like a lot until the realization that there are only 16 games left, none against the division leading Cardinals.
Now comes the question, do the Reds push for the NL Central Championship or conserve themselves, take one of the two NL wild card spots and hope for the best in the one game play off?
The Reds should take their chances in a 1 game playoff. Now hear me out on this the Reds have won the NL Central in both 2010 and 2012, both of those years they exited in the NLDS after playing with no sense of urgency.
While the Reds made their early exits from the postseason those years the two team wildcard or even the wildcard in general may be what the Reds need. In 2011 and 2012 the St. Louis Cardinals won the NL wildcard, both times they advanced to the NLCS, winning the World Series in 2011.
It appears the wildcard team plays with more urgency, they also appear to be riding more momentum going into the NLDS and NLCS. Cincinnati has yet to play with any urgency in their two most recent postseason appearances.
Reds fans don’t need to be reminded of their last two appearances. In case you have forgotten though in 2010 the Philadelphia Phillies swept the Reds with Roy Halladay throwing a no hitter in Game 1 all but killing the Reds from the beginning. In 2012 Cincinnati went up 2 games over the San Francisco Giants only to return home and lose 3 in a row.
Having watched this team for the past 4 seasons urgency is one thing this club lacks. Maybe with a 1 game playoff against the Pirates it will turn this team around.
Now facing the Pirates is the best option for the Reds. If they were to advance past the Pirates to the NLDS they would likely face the Atlanta Braves a team the Reds can handle. Heck they can handle the Dodgers and possibly the Cardinals. With a one game playoff though it may put them in the urgency mindset sending them deep into the post season.
Pittsburgh currently leads the season series against the Reds 7-6 with 6 games to be played between the two teams in the final week and a half of the season. It has been a toss up between the two teams but if possible Cincinnati needs to push for the first wild card spot. Cincinnati has won 4 of their 6 games against the Pirates this year at home. Playing at home is what Cincinnati needs.
A brisk October night at GABP likely awaits the Reds if they can manage to beat the Pirates over these last 6 games against the Pirates. There is still an outside chance for the NL Central Championship but Cincinnati needs help. St. Louis needs to lose, 2.5 games out is the lead currently. It is not an Everest climb, not even a K2 climb for the Reds but they need help.
Either way every baseball resource has the Reds at a 98.8% probability of making the playoffs. What the models can’t tell us is what position they will enter the postseason.