The Cincinnati Reds on Monday night handed the Cubs their 12th straight loss by a score of 14-5 (box score). Cincy is now a season-best 11 games over the .500 mark and is 10-5 for the month of August.
Notably in Monday's home win, Joey Votto recorded his 2,000th career hit:
Also, rookie second baseman Johnathan India homered for the third time in his past five games.
Two time zones away in Denver, the Rockies handed the Padres a crushing defeat by a score of 6-5 (box score). Colorado led for much of the game, but with two outs in the top of the ninth Trent Grisham hit a clutch three-run homer to tie it up. The San Diego comeback, however, was short-lived, as the hot-hitting C.J. Cron walked it off for the hosts in the bottom of the ninth:
The Padres have now dropped to .500 since the break, and particularly disappointing is their recent stretch. Their past 11 games have come against the generally lowly likes of the Diamondbacks, Marlins and Rockies, but the Padres have gone 5-6 in those games. The Padres have Fernando Tatis Jr. back in the fold, yes, but their rotation concerns are such that they were reduced to signing Jake Arrieta and his 6.88 ERA.
The Reds' and Padres' dueling trends have yielded a race for the second and final NL wild card spot. For a long time, the Padres appeared to have a firm grip on this spot with a reasonable chance of climbing to a higher seed. Now they lead the Reds for that spot by just 1 1/2 games.
Speaking of schedule, the Reds have a major advantage moving forward. According to Power Rankings Guru, the Padres have the toughest remaining schedule in all of MLB the rest of the way. The Reds, meantime, rank 29th out of 30 teams when it comes to remaining strength of schedule. Specifically, the Padres' remaining opponents have an average win percentage of .555, while the Reds' remaining opponents have an average win percentage of .463. That's the difference between playing a 90-win team and a 75-win team.
Framed another way, the Padres have 41 games left in the regular season, and 31 of those come against the Dodgers, Giants, Astros, Phillies, Braves and Cardinals. The Reds, meantime, have 42 games left, and 28 of them come against the Cubs, Marlins, Pirates, Tigers and Nationals.
As for the SportsLine Projection System, it now gives the Reds better odds of claiming the last wild card spot than it does the Padres. When you survey the way the two teams are trending and what the road ahead looks like for them, that makes a great deal of sense.