ST. LOUIS -- The National League Central is the tightest race in baseball, with the Pirates, Cardinals and Reds at the top -- and things are about to get very interesting in the next couple of weeks.
Beginning Monday, seven of Cincinnati's next 10 games are against St. Louis. The two teams will play again Sept. 2-5 at Great American Ball Park. Meanwhile, the Cardinals are starting a stretch of 13 straight games against either the Reds or Pirates. Following that, they don't face a team currently over .500 the rest of the season.
Reds left fielder Ryan Ludwick is a big proponent of trying to win every series possible. But what about looking at two of the next three series?
"No. The way I was taught was, you focus on the game at task, which is tonight," Ludwick said on Monday. "The bigger picture for me would be the series. Obviously, tonight is Game 1, but you want to win the series. If you win 80 percent of your series during the season, you're going to be in the postseason. Everybody knows it's a big game, a big series. It's the Cardinals. They're ahead of us. The Pirates are ahead of us."
"The more you play somebody, the more familiar you are with somebody," Reds manager Dusty Baker said of facing St. Louis. "If I had my preference, I would prefer an off-day vs. 17 in a row before we play them. But it is what it is. You play by it and abide by it."
Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Mark My Word, and follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.