When Harry Ford rolled up to Petra in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, he was smacked with a trio of challenges to complete before ever getting the opportunity to see the hallowed mug. He had to duck razor-sharp head-loppers, hopscotch his way across a pockmarked floor of death, and [spoiler alert] trust his senses despite illusion to navigate a narrow walkway crossing a perilous cavern.
All of that just to have the opportunity to maybe succeed, y’know?
We’ve likely sounded a bit hyperbolic in recent months around these parts, talking about the ‘biggest this’ and the ‘most important’ that as the Cincinnati Reds strolled through their May and June contests. Hey, when the club is playing winning baseball for the first time since the discovery of the abandoned Mary Celeste, these things just kind of happen.
The thing is, for the most part these Reds have actually navigated the ‘mosts’ and the ‘biggests’ pretty damn well so far. That’s why they’re 9 games over .500 in the middle of August, why they’re still playing meaningful games, and why a pursuit of an elusive playoff spot for this franchise is still so titillating.
They haven’t yet failed. They’re still doing the damn thing.
Starting today, it’s the next round of ‘biggest road trip in recent memory’ for them, as they roll into Atlanta to face a resurgent Braves club that has picked itself up off the mat after losing superstar Ronald Acuña Jr. earlier in the season. They’ve won 7 of 10 and are a pair of games over the .500 mark, and have surged right past the New York Mets in that time. They now only trail the NL East leaders by a pair of games, and again look poised to make some noise in a playoff chase the same way they did while mauling the Cincinnati Reds just last seasons.
Of course, the NL East leaders they trail at the moment are the Philadelphia Phillies, who have won 8 of 10 to take the division’s top spot for now. And they’ll play host to the Reds after the Atlanta series wraps on Thursday, pitting Cincinnati against back to back opponents who are playing their best, most meaningful ball of the season.
Yesterday’s loss to Cleveland leaves the Reds 5.5 games back of the Milwaukee Brewers in the NL Central race, and 3.5 games back of the San Diego Padres for the final Wild Card spot (as well as 6.5 games back of the Los Angeles Dodgers from hosting the Wild Card playoff game). And while the Reds just waxed their way through a soft-spot in their schedule, each of Milwaukee and San Diego now run into soft-spots in theirs, with Milwaukee up against the Cubs and Pirates next and the Padres beginning a run against the beleaguered Marlins, Diamondbacks, and Rockies.
In other words, any slip up from the Reds right here makes the path to the playoffs tough enough as-is, but the as-is is probably about to get even tougher regardless. So, it’s a big damn week for these Redlegs, one that might well determine just how many other challenges they’ll even get to face with meaning for the rest of the season.
The penitent Reds will pass.