A startling trend has emerged in the 2010 Cincinnati Reds campaign: They can’t beat high-quality teams.
The Reds are in first place because they have been able to take care of business against the teams that range from middle-of-the-road to terrible. They have swept the likes of the Marlins, Diamondbacks, Brewers, Cubs, A’s, and Pirates.
But they have fared very poorly against the upper crust of the National League. The Reds are 14-26 against the first and second place teams in the NL. That’s a .350 winning percentage.
Against the rest of baseball, the Reds are 65-32 for a .670 winning percentage.
The Reds recent slide isn’t the product of them playing poorly, it’s the competition. The Reds were swept away by the Cards back in early August then ripped off a 13-3 run to end August.
But guess what? Two of the three losses were spankings at the hand of the second place Giants. Every other game was against teams at around .500 or worse.
Now, they have gotten off to a 1-4 start to a seven-game road trip against good teams (Cards and Rockies).
Check out the Reds’ record against teams vying for a playoff bid:
Braves: 2-3
Phillies: 2-5
Padres: 1-2
Giants: 3-4
Cardinals: 6-12
Rockies: 2-3
Luckily, the Reds only have three games left against the best in the NL (San Diego) after this four-game set with the Rockies. The dregs of the league are the majority, so it’s safe to say the Red Legs will be able to stave off any runs by the tired and disinterested Cardinals.
The numbers don’t lie though. The Reds will be playing one of the above teams come October 6th. They are going to need to figure out a way to beat other teams’ aces.
The offense has been superb against most pitchers, but the bats go into a deep hibernation against the likes of Roy Halladay and Tim Lincecum.
Even when they are able to touch-up an ace a bit, like Monday against Udalbo Jimenez, the pitching staff doesn’t hold up their end of the bargain.
Aaron Harang has been a great player for a lot of crappy Reds teams—but he’s done. Blowing a 4-0 lead against Jimenez in the next inning sealed his fate. Harang will be utilized in a long relief role down the stretch. Remember when this guy was the Opening Day starter?
The question of who will be the third starter in the playoffs is currently the elephant in the room for the Reds. At this point, it could be five different options.
Assuming Bronson Arroyo and Johnny Cueto are the first two, the third guy could be Homer Bailey (don’t shake off the catcher!), Travis Wood (never pitched this many innings), Mike Leake (ditto), Edinson Volquez (wild card), and Hoss Harang (no way).
It’s the biggest question mark for the Reds, and it will be interesting to see if one guy can emerge from this conundrum.
I’m not trying to get all Colin Cowherd on you Reds fans, but the inability to beat the upper echelon teams in the league is a huge cause for concern.
At this point, a 16-29 record against good teams is not a fluke, it’s a trend.

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