The Reds enter play tonight with a 3 1/2 game lead over the Cards. Doesn't seem like much with almost a quarter of the season (a hair more than a quarter for the Cards) left to play. You think, surely a mere 3 1/2 game lead is not much with that many games left. But let's take a look.
The Reds have only 38 games left. Let's suppose for a minute they play .500 ball. That would leave them with a record of 91-71. For the Cards to tie, they would have to go 24-17, a .585 clip, well above their current .554 clip. And that's to tie.
If the Reds were to finish up at their current season winning percentage of .581, they would go 22-9, and finish 94-68. To tie under those circumstances, the Cards would have to finish 27-14, a .659 clip.
Since the All-Star break, the Reds are 23-11, or a .676 winning percentage. If they keep that up, they'll finish 98-64. Then to tie, the Cards would have to finish 31-10, a .756 clip.
Speaking of the .500 ball scenario, certainly it's possible the Cards could heat up, and there's no guarantee the Reds play .500, but I like the Reds' chances. First, they're hot. Since being swept before the All-Star game by Philly, the Reds have lost only one series (the three-game sweep by the Cards) and tied one, a four-game split with Washington. They've won the other nine series. Plus, they're equally good on the road, being ten games over .500 at home and on the road.
And the Reds' schedule has to be described as easy. After a tough three-game series starting tonight with contending (and pitching-rich) San Fran, the Reds have only ten more games against teams that are currently above .500. They have three away against the Cards (over Labor Day weekend -- we have tickets to the Friday night game), three at San Diego (the tail-end of a nine-game road trip leading up to the season's last home stand), and four games at Colorado following the St. Louis series.
That leaves fifteen home games against the Cubs, Astros, Brewers, and Pirates (the Reds are 34-21 against the division), four home games against the Diamondbacks (whom the Reds just swept) and 6 road games against the Astros and Brewers. Twelve of the final fifteen games are against the Astros and Brewers.
Here are the two keys: take care of business at home against the Cubs and Brewers, and don't blow it on the road at St. Louis and Colorado. If the Reds are still in the lead after the seven-game Cards/Rockies road trip, they should be home free.