Reds’ Barnhart on key series vs. Cubs: ‘It’s going to be a lot of fun’

Reds fans cheer after a strikeout against the Angels on Tuesday, Aug. 6, 2019, at Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati. David Jablonski/Staff
Reds fans cheer after a strikeout against the Angels on Tuesday, Aug. 6, 2019, at Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati. David Jablonski/Staff

Reds to play most important August series since 2014

Jesse Winker put on a jersey from the baseball movie, "The Sandlot," as he dressed in the Cincinnati Reds clubhouse on Tuesday after an 8-4 victory against the Los Angeles Angels. Before he left the stadium, he tried to convince teammate Eugenio Suarez to watch the movie with him sometime.

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“The Sandlot” is a beloved baseball movie — especially for people of Winker’s age, who was born four months after the movie premiered in 1993 — but the best show this weekend will take place at Great American Ball Park.

The first-place Chicago Cubs (61-52) start a four-game series in Cincinnati on Thursday, and while the fourth-place Reds (54-58) aren’t exactly breathing down the necks of the National League Central Division leaders — they were 6½ games back through Tuesday — just the idea of a sweep getting the Reds back in contention has raised the excitement level for the Reds and their fans.

This will be the most important series the Reds have played in August since 2014. It’s arguably the only important series the Reds have played in August since then because the smallest deficit they’ve faced at this point in the last four seasons was 13½ games.

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“I’ve played around here long enough where we haven’t been any good, and (now) we’re good,” Reds catcher Tucker Barnhart said. “We’re going to make it interesting down the stretch. I look forward to keep winning and this big series this weekend.”

The pitching matchups alone will make this a fun series to watch. Here’s a rundown of the four games:

Thursday: Cole Hamels (6-3, 2.84 ERA) vs. Alex Wood (1-0, 3.18).

Friday: Yu Darvish (4-5, 4.36) vs. Trevor Bauer (9-8, 3.85).

Saturday: Kyle Hendricks (8-8, 3.06) vs. Sonny Gray (5-6, 3.25).

Sunday: Jon Lester (9-8, 4.46) vs. Luis Castillo (11-4, 2.63).

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All of those starters, except Hendricks, have been All-Stars at some point in their careers. Castillo, Gray and Hendricks rank in the top 10 in the National League in ERA. Hamels would also be in that group but he doesn’t have enough starts to qualify for the league leaders. He was on the injured list from June 29 to Aug. 3 with a left oblique strain.

The Reds lead the season series against the Cubs 7-5 and enter the series with eight wins in their last 11 games. It’s their best 11-game stretch of the season.

“It’s going to be a lot of fun,” Barnhart said. “We’ve got some horses. They’ve got some horses. I would assume the runs would be tough to come by, but hopefully we can scratch enough across.”

THURSDAY’S GAME

Cubs at Reds, 7:10 p.m., FS Ohio, 700, 1410