The question isn’t if the Reds will clinch; rather, it’s when. Could be as soon as Thursday. As jovial as the evening will be, I don’t think it will match that magical evening of a cool September Clinchmas in 2010. Making the playoffs is now expected. But even more so, winning in the playoffs is too. This Reds team isn’t comparable to the 2010 team. The Reds are 40-35 against teams at or above .500 and their ability to play with baseball’s best is no longer a subject of debate as it was two years ago. But it doesn’t mean there aren’t match-ups that are unfavorable in October. I’ll be breaking down each potential playoff opponent, working my way from the ground up: today, I start with a team just 4.5 games out of the Wild Card – the Arizona Diamondbacks.
The Diamondbacks have quietly hung around in a crowded race for the remaining Wild Card slot. The Reds finished 5-2 against the Diamondbacks this year, recently sweeping them in Arizona in a three game series.
Arizona doesn’t pose much of a threat on the mound – they boast the 16th best ERA in the game, a mediocre 3.95 team ERA. The starting rotation has a 4.28.
Offensively, Arizona is a bit more notable. They’ve got the 6th best offense in the National League and is literally one point shy of sharing the 5th best batting average. Reds fans witnessed this shortly after the All Star Break when the Diamondbacks nearly took 3/4 games, but were stifled by a remarkable Reds comeback in which they overcame a six run deficit.
Arizona’s biggest threat on the mound – Rookie of the Year Candidate Wade Miley – has already seen the Reds twice and is 1-1 against the hometown team with a 4.26 ERA. Ian Kennedy did get the best of the Reds in one game against them where he went eight innings and posted a 1.13 ERA for the win.
Unfortunately for the Diamondbacks, the higher seed plays its first two games on the road. The Diamondbacks and their explosive offense made themselves at home at a small park in Cincinnati that welcomes homeruns with arms wide open; however, in a best of five series in which they’d play the first two games at a wide open Chase Field, I think we’d witness something similar to when the Reds last visited. The Reds starting rotation boats a 3.80 ERA – and that’s playing in one of the most hitter-friendly parks in the game. In October, pitching is everything.
Prediction: Reds take series 3-0.