Despite how humiliatingly painful (and painfully humiliating) these last two games in St. Louis have been, the Reds are still just 3 games back of the Pirates. Pittsburgh, like the Reds, have lost four of their last six. With 29 games still to play - six (21%) against those very same Pirates - there is plenty of opportunity for the Reds to improve their playoff lot.
If the first 133 games and the last two series against the Cardinals hadn't convinced you, the Reds can't hold out much of any hope to win the division. But they can certainly sneak into second place in the Central. Second place in the Central, at this stage in the season, means being Wild Card Number One. Which means home field advantage in the one-game playoff.
What is that actually worth? It doesn't really mean extra revenue to the team that they wouldn't get by playing the game on the road. A lot of that playoff money goes elsewhere under the Collective Bargaining Agreement and the remaining gate receipts are shared between the teams. It would, however, put more money into the pockets of employees and businesses in and around the stadium, which would make up for the home game the Reds lost to rain.
To the team on the field, of course, the home field advantage would be the thing. This season, the Reds are 41-24 (.631) at home, while just 33-35 (.485) on the road. They have the same home winning percentage as the Cardinals, behind just four other contending teams in the majors. They've kept up a .590 winning percentage at home since 2010, despite a down year in 2011.
They've also won 4 of 7 against the Pirates at home to a 2-4 record at PNC.
Getting an edge in a one-game crapshoot might not be worth sending out legitimate prospect for a rental player. But the Reds could use a boost over their remaining schedule to overtake the Pirates and keep the Diamondbacks at a safe distance.
Right now, the team's ace probably won't be returning as a starter. Plans to pitch out of the bullpen are up in the air. Broxton is out for the season, while Marshall's return is a question mark. Tony Cingrani is supposed to be back in a week, which could mean mid-September.
Meanwhile, the relievers that have been moved up are on a bad kick: Alfredo Simon has a 4.85 ERA in August, Sam LeCure checks in at 6.74, JJ Hoover has had two game-busting meltdowns in the last week, Manny Parra has given up earned runs in 3 of his last four outings.
And the bench continues to offer very little power outside of Chris Heisey's modest contributions.
At the end of August, is there really anything the Reds can do besides wait for Cingrani, Marshall and (maybe Cueto) to return? I DON'T KNOW:
Get creative in September. When rosters expand, the Reds will bring up Derrick Robinson. Shouldn't hurt. They might also use Daniel Corcino out of the bullpen and Billy Hamilton as a pinch-runner. It's not much, considering every other team is bringing up reinforcements, but they can make the most of what's available.
Waiver trades. There's not much left - and not much time left before September 1 to get a traded player eligible for the playoff roster - but something could be arranged. RPs Javier Lopez and Heath Bell were put on waivers. Michael Morse and Kendrys Morales would be nice bench bats to have. Maybe the Reds were the team that claimed Morales? Probably not.
Sign Aaron Harang. I know I would.