Reeling Reds to play first-place Nationals this weekend

“The mind is a strange thing,” the doctor says. “You must begin by asking it: what is losing. … Losing is a disease — as contagious as polio.”

Any Cincinnati Reds fan who grew up watching that baseball movie has thought about that scene in the last two weeks as their team’s season has gone into a downward spiral.

Ten losses in the last 11 games and one win in a 14-day stretch has dropped the Reds 11½ games behind the St. Louis Cardinals in the National League Central. Even the second wild card, a lifeline for all but the poorest teams, is seven games out of reach.

Manager Bryan Price held a closed-door meeting with the players Wednesday after a 6-4 loss to the Colorado Rockies. Price didn’t need to say, “Losing is a disease.” That’s obvious. The only question is, “Can it be cured?”

The Reds were off Thursday. They’re 19-27, four games ahead of the last-place Milwaukee Brewers (16-32).

“We’re just trying to play good baseball,” Price said. “Before we lost these 10 out of 11, I didn’t think we were playing great baseball at 18-17. We’re capable of playing a lot better.

“It certainly doesn’t have anything to do with the work ethic of the players and the staff. They’re doing a terrific job with that, but we have to anticipate success and we have to enjoy being on the field more than we are. It’s just really a matter of being frustrated and trying to enjoy playing baseball through the frustration. That’s a challenge for all of us, for sure.”

The schedule doesn’t favor the Reds this weekend. They start a three-game series against the Washington Nationals (28-19) tonight at Great American Ball Park. The Nationals have won eight of their last 10 and lead the National League East by 1½ games.

Price said any pressure he’s feeling is self-induced.

“It’s no fun to go through this,” he said. “I’ve been doing this for a long time. I’ve been on many teams that have gone through periods of real struggle. For me, it’s no added pressure. I’ve been criticized a lot in my life. Getting more criticism doesn’t change my mindset or my lifestyle or anything else.”

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