CINCINNATI -- The first, and most important, bit of news as the first-place Reds prepare to open a three-game set with the Dodgers tonight is that second baseman Brandon Phillips is in the lineup, batting second.
Phillips was a late scratch Sunday because of a lingering hamstring issue, an issue being described by the Reds as feeling like a "cramp." An MRI exam on Monday's off day showed nothing worse than a mild strain -- not a pull -- so Phillips, hitting .311 with eight homers and 23 RBI, is going to give it a go.
He's just under orders from manager Dusty Baker to play smart, and to "not do anything crazy."
Shot back Phillips to his manager: "I'm always crazy."
"That's what he told me," Baker said, chuckling. "One thing about Brandon is, you know he's honest."
Of course, all of this is if tonight's game is played. As the Reds finished hitting and the Dodgers took the field at 5:40 the sun was shining, but it is 86 degrees and off-the-charts humid.
They're expecting severe weather here to the point that the Dodgers' pre-game notes contains this entertaining bit: "The National Weather Center is now predicting a strong chance of severe weather (with the potential for tornadic activity) late this afternoon and early evening. If the nasty weather becomes a reality, all credentialed press will be sheltered in the left-field level media interview room as the press box and broadcast booths will need to be evacuated."
In 20-some years of doing this, I can't ever recall a similar note in the pre-game handouts.
But I love the phrase "tornadic activity."
Likes: Great day Sunday watching Nationals' phenom -- and this week's Sports Illustrated coverboy -- Stephen Strasburg. ... Reds shortstop Orlando Cabrera's enthusiasm. ... Nice drive from Cleveland to Cincinnati on Monday. About four hours, though it was a touch longer because I veered off the freeway in Columbus for a quick drive by Ohio State's football stadium, which I'd never seen before. ... I still love the pastoral Midwestern scenery. Farms, pastures, little shops like Grandpa's Cheesebarn and Just Pies. I couldn't pass up Grandpa's Cheesebarn ("Meats, cheeses, gifts"), and the hand-scooped ice cream cone was worth it. ... The ribs at Montgomery Inn, outstanding as ever. ... Yes, Monday being a travel day with no game, it doubled as a food day. ... Fantastic thunderstorm late Monday night, lighting up the Cincinnati skyline and the Ohio River and serenading those of us in hotels until the televisions went out. Love those mid-summer thunderstorms. One of the biggest things I miss since moving from the Midwest to the West Coast.
Dislikes: As I was saying the other day, come on Tom Izzo, stay put at Michigan State. You don't belong in the NBA. You're too good for the NBA. I mean it. Really.
Rock 'n' Roll Lyric of the Day:
"That's great, it starts with an earthquake
"Birds and snakes, an airplane and Lenny Bruce is not afraid
"Eye of a hurricane, listen to yourself churn
"World serves its own needs, dummy serve your own needs
"Feed it off an aux speak, grunt, no, strength
"The Ladder start to clatter with fear, fight down height
"Wire in a fire, representing seven games
"And a government for hire at a combat site"
-- REM, The End of the World (As We Know It)