16-21. That’s the Cincinnati Reds record as this article is being typed up. They have the day off before returning to the field on Friday to play two games against the Pittsburgh Pirates in Pittsburgh. There are 23 games remaining in the season. In order to finish at least .500, the Reds must go 14-9 (or better).
There’s not a known record needed in order to qualify for the playoffs. The general belief is that finishing .500 will certainly do the trick, but that’s not a guarantee, either. Every division winner and second place team within a division makes the playoffs. Then the next two best records in the league make the playoffs. Within the division, the Cubs are up top at 22-14. It’s highly unlikely that the Reds catch them – they are 6.5 games back right now and it would take an incredible run to make up that kind of ground. But the Cardinals are 14-14 and the Reds are just 2.5 games back of St. Louis.
The two non-second place wild card spots are currently in the hands of the 16-16 Miami Marlins and the 18-19 Colorado Rockies. There’s that .500-ish mark again. The Brewers are 17-19, and the Giants are 18-20. Cincinnati can handle things all on their own with Milwaukee, who they play three times later this month. Keep winning, and sweep the Brewers, and they can jump right by them. But they don’t play the Marlins, Rockies, or Giants this season and can’t do anything about them but hope they lose more games than they win moving forward.
Looking at the Reds schedule the rest of the way, it is both favorable and unfavorable. The favorable part is that they have eight games remaining against the worst team in the league – the Pittsburgh Pirates. If Cincinnati is going to have any chance at the playoffs they need to win at least six of those games. It would probably be even better if they could just take all eight of them, however unlikely that is, because the rest of the schedule isn’t going to be easy.
After the 4-game series over three days in Pittsburgh the Reds get an off-day on Monday. But then they hit the road for six games against the Cubs and Cardinals. Beginning the following Monday is another 4-game series over three days against Pittsburgh, but this one is in Cincinnati. There’s a day off on Thursday the 17th, but then they open a 6-game home stand with the 22-15 White Sox and the Brewers. They get the 24th off, but then travel to Minnesota to face the Twins to end the season. Minnesota is currently 22-16.
The Reds must take care of business against the Pirates because everyone else they face is playing for their playoff lives, too. Fangraphs gives Cincinnati a 40% chance of making the playoffs as things stand today, projecting them to finish 29-31. Their remaining schedule, which includes eight games against the worst team in the league, has a winning percentage of .544. Among the teams not currently in the playoff spots, only the Mets at .548 is higher. The Giants and Rockies are both facing a sub .500 schedule moving forward. The Marlins, who are sitting at .500, have a .424 winning percentage schedule ahead of them.
It’s not going to be easy, but the Reds are going to have to play up to their potential and they’re going to need to do it every day the rest of the way. There’s not enough time remaining in the season for any hiccups. Every opportunity they have to win, they must take advantage of. The bullpen can’t blow any games. The offense can’t have any more games where they get three hits. Every cylinder needs to be firing from here on out. It starts tomorrow in Pittsburgh with Luis Castillo and Trevor Bauer on the mound. If you can take both of those games, going 12-9 the rest of the way to get to that .500 mark feels a lot more possible and realistic.