Hal McCoy: With 62 left, let's consider 6
By Hal McCoy
Dayton Daily News
HOUSTON — The bad news is that the Cincinnati Reds face Roger Clemens tonight in Minute Maid Park, which means they might score one or two runs. The good news is that Aaron Harang — 2-0 against the Astros this year — pitches for the Reds, and when Clemens pitches, Houston's offense considers it a holiday and takes the night off.
This is game number 100 for the Reds, so let's play numbers — three reasons why the Reds might stay in playoff contention and three reasons why they might not.
Why they might
1 To put it politely, the National League stinks to high heaven. Reds manager Jerry Narron puts it best: "Other than the New York Mets, every team in the National League has holes." Some are deep black holes (Pittsburgh comes to mind), some are Swiss-cheese holes (that, of course, would be Milwaukee) and some have bullet holes (self-inflicted defeats). The Reds fall into the last category, and if they limit games they give away, they can make it.
2 The bullpen no longer is The Firestarters. The fix began with the acquisition of closer Eddie Guardado (5-for-5 in saves), which enabled Todd Coffey to return to the setup role in which he thrived. The Magic Man, Gary Majewski, so far has been black magic, but Bill Bray is solid. Jason Standridge has been nearly perfect since his recall. If not yet solid, the bullpen at least isn't a bucket with a hole in it.
3 They have seven games remaining with division leader St. Louis, and as long as they keep David Weathers away from Albert Pujols, they have a chance to gain considerable ground. They have nine left with Pittsburgh and seven with the Chicago Cubs, and if the Reds don't win at least a dozen, they will have shot off most of their fingers.
Why they might not
1 The Reds can rely on Bronson Arroyo and Harang for professional starts. Eric Milton is up and down more than a standard Duncan Yo-Yo. Elizardo Ramirez usually is passable, but they don't score runs for him. The Reds need two starters, and Joe Mays isn't even close to being the pitching version of Willie Mays. The more they run him out there, the more they run themselves out of contention. When fans are begging for the return of Brandon Claussen (3-8, 6.19 ERA), you know something is rotten in the Rhineland rotation.
2 With the trade of Austin Kearns and Felipe Lopez, the offense is a tad weaker. The four hottest hitters are Edwin Encarnacion, Ryan Freel, Scott Hatteberg and Rich Aurilia, but Narron can't find a way to get all four in the lineup at once. "I'd love to run the same eight out there every day and have the fans be shocked when they see a guy like Ed Armbrister in there, but I can't," he said, referring, of course, to Sparky Anderson and his Band of Eight during the Big Red Machine Days.
3 The Reds have only 33 games on the road and 29 at home. While Great American Ball Park seems well-suited for them, the Reds do not dominate at home. Their just-completed 7-3 homestand still leaves them only two games over .500 at GABP while they are three over on the road. They need more road games.
Contact this reporter at hmccoy@DaytonDailyNews.com