(Photo credit: Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports)
The Cincinnati Reds will continue their fight for a playoff berth when they open a three-game series with the visiting Minnesota Twins on Monday night.
The Reds (78-73) are coming off a 4-2 road swing through Detroit and New York (Mets), taking the first two games of each series.
On Sunday, the Reds lost 8-4 to the Mets, and it cost Cincinnati ground in the National League wild-card race, as the Reds dropped a half-game behind the Chicago Cubs and Miami Marlins for the third and final spot.
"Of course, the results are going to be what gets us where we're going, but for us as a team, I think we're doing a good job -- I know we're doing a good job -- of really paying attention to things that we can control," Reds manager David Bell said after Sunday's loss.
"The idea is, 'Yes, every game is important to win. Every play is important to make.' But you have to turn the page really quick," Bell added.
Turning this page means facing the American League Central-leading Twins (79-71), who are seven games clear of the second-place Cleveland Guardians. The Pittsburgh Pirates will follow the Twins into Cincinnati as the Reds' final homestand of the season concludes.
Three games on the just-concluded road trip were decided by one run, and the Reds won all three. They have gone 34-26 in one-run games this season.
"We kind of joke about the close games that we play -- and they're never easy -- but there's something to be said for having the experience of knowing how to get it done in the really tight games," Bell said. "That's one thing our team has been really good with. We're serious, we have a job to do, but at the same time, it hasn't become a pressure thing. It's just the same approach that got us here."
The Twins are in a much more favorable spot. Sunday's 4-0 road win over the Chicago White Sox lowered their magic number for clinching the AL Central to six games.
Minnesota took the weekend series three games to one behind former Reds ace Sonny Gray, who pitched seven scoreless innings on Sunday, striking out six. Edouard Julien hit a three-run homer to lead the offense.
"It was a good way to finish the series," said Twins bench coach Jayce Tingler, who began filling in for manager Rocco Baldelli on Sunday. "I think Sonny kind of came out from the get-go and set the tone and just really threw the ball well. (We) got the two big hits, really from Julien. We played pretty good defense behind him and a nice way to finish up the (series)."
Baldelli is expected to miss at least Monday's game. He is in Minnesota with his wife, who is expecting twins.
The Twins will send right-hander Joe Ryan (10-9, 4.20 ERA) to the mound in the series opener. On Tuesday, Ryan was charged with two runs on five hits over 4 2/3 innings, striking out seven and walking two as the Twins beat visiting Tampa Bay 3-2.
The Reds, with just three regular pitchers in their rotation, were non-committal after Sunday's game about a starting pitcher for Monday, but it could be rookie right-hander Connor Phillips (0-0, 8.31 ERA) in his third major league appearance.
Phillips debuted on Sept. 5, and in his second start on Wednesday in Detroit, he gave up three runs on four hits and four walks in four innings. He struck out three.
--Field Level Media