These are not the best of times for the Cincinnati Reds to be playing the Los Angeles Dodgers, but then, these are not the best of times for them to be playing the New Hampshire Fisher Cats.
While they might have a better chance these days against New Hampshire, the Fisher Cats are busy this weekend playing the New Britain Rock Cats.
So, the Dodgers it is, leaders of the National League West.
The Reds enter the weekend series lugging the load of a seven-game losing streak.
Manager Dave Miley was asked by a TV-type after Wednesday's seventh straight loss, "Given what's happened, is anybody on this roster safe?"
Said Miley, "Next question."
What's a manager to do when the pitching, the offense and the defense take a late-April and early-May paid vacation?
Well, Tahiti and Aruba are always nice this time of year. But Miley knows he can't run and he can't hide.
He must fill out the lineup card, then sit in the dugout and push some buttons, hoping one of those buttons isn't a destruct button, which seems to be the button he keeps hitting these days.
Some helpful suggestions from the press box:
• Put Ryan Freel, a .300 hitter who finds ways to locate first base and brings enthusiasm and excitement to the field, at second base and bat him leadoff. Forget D'Angelo Jimenez and his Mendoza-line batting average and limited range.
• Move third baseman Joe Randa into the No. 2 spot in the batting order to utilize his contact hitting and his ability to hit the opposite way to move runners.
• Drop Ken Griffey Jr. from second in the order to his more comfortable third, the spot from which he has hit most of his career.
• Wily Mo Pena's leg hurts, which is why he wasn't pinch-hitting for Jimenez in the ninth inning Tuesday with two outs, two on and the Reds down, 4-2. Jimenez flied to left, ending the game.
• When Pena is healthy, bat him fourth and put him in right field until Austin Kearns, if and when, finds his way. Until Pena is healthy, bat Kearns fourth. He'll come around.
• Drop Sean Casey to fifth. He'll give Pena/Kearns some protection and drive in some runs, if he can solve his dilemma of grounding into 4-6-3 double plays with a man on first.
• Bat Adam Dunn sixth, a good spot for RBIs.
• Play Felipe Lopez at shortstop until Rich Aurilia locates his bat. If Lopez is the shortstop of the future, now is the time to find out while the team slips toward oblivion.
• Use catcher Javier Valentin more than once every five days. He is hitting .263 and is a decent defender. Jason LaRue is hitting .210 with no homers and only six RBIs.
• Now we come to the pitching, and uh, well, Miley and pitching coach Don Gullett are on their own on this one.
While they wait for Luke Hudson and Josh Hancock to come off the disabled list, the earned-run averages continue to rise faster than a Phoenix thermometer in August.
Suggestions abound that the club should turn to Ryan Wagner as the closer. While he is the team's most effective bullpenner and probably will be the closer next year when the team doesn't re-sign Danny Graves, Wagner is only 22 and devoid of experience.
Shoving him suddenly into the closer's role might be applying too much pressure too soon. Why risk ruining him at this juncture. Continue to let him develop in the set-up role ... for now.
Trades aren't likely. Teams don't trade good pitching this early in the season. That comes at the July trade deadlines, when teams out of contention begin dumping large salaries.
At the rate it is going, though, it will be the Reds shedding big salaries when late July arrives.