Reds, Dodgers battle for position in playoff preview
SEP 06, 2013 5:19p ET
CINCINNATI — As they say, back in the day things were different, much different. And that’s the way it is now with the Los Angeles Dodgers visiting the Cincinnati Reds.
Back in the day, in the 1970s, the days of The Big Red Machine, when the Dodgers came to town it was red blood mixing with blue blood — a huge rivalry.
“We were in the same division (National League West) and we were the two best teams,” said Reds manager Dusty Baker, who played for the Dodgers when they despised the Reds with pressurized passion.
Now that they are in separate divisions the rivalry no longer exists, but a three-game series this weekend is important for the Reds, three games out of first place in the National League Central. It is no so important for the Dodgers because they lead the National League West by 12 games.
The Dodgers are a team that was crushed by injuries early in the season and lingered around the bottom of the division and at one point were a defeat or two away from firing manager Don Mattingly.
“They are doing now what they are paid to do, what they were supposed to do,” said Baker. “And they have some guys back healthy. They acquired almost everybody who was available out there so why is everybody so surprised?”
The Reds visited Los Angeles in late July and lost three of four, with all four games well pitched and well played.
“You have to play fundamental ball to beat them,” said Baker. “Let’s face it. They have (pitchers) Zack Greinke and Clayton Kershaw, probably the best pitcher around. Both those guys have been dealing.”
And the Reds face those two Saturday and Sunday.
Baker acknowledges that he thinks they have an All-Star at nearly every position and a stellar pitching staff and says, “We have good pitchers, too, but our guys are not as experienced as their guys. The key is to outplay them. Don’t see the numbers on the back, don’t read about how great they are, don’t care about what their payroll is. On paper they are supposed to beat everybody, but we don’t play on paper.”
Baker recalls when he was traded from the Atlanta Braves to the Dodgers and how things quickly changed in his baseball life.
“There was a Dodger Way,” he said. “We didn’t make mistakes, you bunted, you hit-and-run, you hit the ball out of the ballpark and you had good pitching.”
Baker said the day he arrived LA general manager Al Campanis handed him a book titled, “The Dodger Way to Play Baseball.” Baker smiled and said, “Naturally, I didn’t read it.”
During his first game with the Dodgers, Baker missed the cutoff man on a throw and was told, “We don’t miss the cutoff man.” And he said, “Don’t tell me what to do.” The next thing he knew he was surrounded by eight players, all in his face, “So when I got home that night I said, ‘Well, maybe I better read that book. And I did.”
And now the Reds are trying to throw the book at the Dodgers in three important games, almost as important as when the two teams definitely spit bad blood at each other in the 1970’s.
“Being in the same division makes a big difference,” said Baker. “Now our natural rivalries are Pittsburgh and St. Louis. It depends on how much you play the other guys and how good they are. You can’t have bad blood when you don’t play ‘em a lot, only see ‘em six or seven times a year.”
In the case of the Dodgers, the fewer times a team sees them they better off they are.
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