After 20 games in 20 days — only seven of them spent at home — the Cincinnati Reds returned to Great American Ball Park this week. The off day the team had Monday was its first since April 22. It’s the longest stretch without a break this season.
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“That day was outstanding,” third baseman Eugenio Suarez said. “I spent all my time with my daughter and my wife at home. I tried to enjoy my daughter after that long road trip. She made me feel better.”
The start of a challenging series greeted the Reds (18-23) on Tuesday. The Chicago Cubs (24-14) arrived in Cincinnati with 22 victories in their last 29 games. They lead the National League Central Division by 2½ games and sit 7½ games in front of the last-place Reds.
Cincinnati hoped to contend in the Central this season after four straight last-place finishes. Instead, it has occupied the basement every day since April 15. The Reds finished 3-3 on a road trip to Oakland and San Francisco that concluded Sunday with a 6-5 loss to the Giants.
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Manager David Bell sees signs his team can turn the corner soon. He was asked Tuesday about right fielder Yasiel Puig and second baseman Jose Peraza dying their hair blonde in imitation of third baseman Eugenio Suarez, who started sporting that look last season.
“I’m all for the hair,” Bell said. “It’s fun to see they’re enjoying playing and enjoying being around each other. I’m a supporter of that as long as we play the game right and they compete and they take care of each other. All that’s happening. I think it’s great. Hopefully, the fans enjoy and can sense that they play well together. You can tell when you’re watching a team that competes together. it’s hard to put your finger on what that looks like, but you can sense it. We’re starting to feel that a little bit.”
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Bell’s increasing confidence will be put to the test this week. The Cubs have the best record in the National League. The team with the second-best record, the Los Angeles Dodgers (27-16), starts a three-game series in Cincinnati on Friday. It’s an important stretch, Bell said.
“I think it’s a great challenge based on the fact that it’s been a process to get to this date, and from my seat, I really like where we are,” he said. “It’ll be a good challenge to see how that translates against really good competition.”
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