As the innings table yesterday may have shown, the Reds have a few pitchers (not many) that could use a breather down the stretch. But there may not actually be any physiological red flags for Cueto, Bailey or Chapman that say they need to throw on the brakes.
If the Reds don't rest some of their best players next month, they could capture the "#1 seed" in the NL, which would mean opening with "home-field advantage" throughout the playoffs (and in the World Series, since the NL won the All Star Game). Scare quotes because in 2012 only, Selig hath decreed that the higher-seeded teams will play the first two division series games on the road.
Here are a few possible scenarios for the final 30 games of the season:
The Reds keep pace, win 98 games, play the winner of the Wild Card play-in
If the NL teams kinda keep doing what they're doing, then the Reds would play the winner of the Braves-Cardinals one-game play-in (at the Cow Palace) meaning they would start their playoffs in St. Louis or Atlanta. For this reason, among infinite others, I hope the Cardinals do not make it to the NLDS.
There will be an especially unholy hell-storm if, for example, the Cardinals take the second wild card with an unimpressive record, beat the Braves and then face the Reds in the divisional series. The first two games would be at Busch Stadium, while the first four (if necessary) games of the series would essentially treat the Reds as if they were playing the Phillies in 2010. Our Twitter account can't take the strain.
The Reds save a little juice, go .500 over the remainder, wind up with 95 wins
That would let Washington in and possibly one other team -- provided that team goes on a massive winning binge. The Reds would probably still take the Central, but end up playing a division winner - the Giants, Dodgers or Nationals being the most likely.
The Reds scuffle, finish 12-18, wind up with 92 wins
This could put the Reds out of the divisional title. But, actually, probably not. The Cardinals would still have to go 21-11 over the remainder of the season. Just the same, probably best to avoid choosing this option.
Any worse and the Reds start to slide into serious danger of Collapse. At around 98 wins or more, the Reds have a good-to-great chance of beating the Nationals' pace and seizing the #1 spot. But if you think you'd rather play an NL West team in the NLDS, then you might hope for the Reds to circle their wagons a little next month.
Atlanta, St. Louis, Pittsburgh, LA and SF are all in the same neighborhood win-wise. But Atlanta is the team the Reds' have fared best against. The Nationals' pitching staff, even without Strasburg, is probably the least desirable gauntlet for the Reds, if their tilt during the early part of 2012 was any indication.
Also: September call-ups
Walt Jocketty said there will be three of them on Saturday, with the rest to come after Louisville finishes its wretched season. He also said it was unlikely that Hamiton would be among the chosen. Here are some predictions...