The Cincinnati Reds have a chance to clinch a playoff berth Thursday, but they can hardly be blamed if their minds are elsewhere.
Manager Dusty Baker won’t be with the Reds for a second straight day as they go for a three-game sweep of the Chicago Cubs.
Baker was diagnosed with an irregular heartbeat Wednesday night and stayed overnight in a Chicago hospital. He underwent chest X-rays to “rule out pneumonia”, and was undergoing another test Thursday to see if he could fly back to Cincinnati on Friday.
Head trainer Paul Lessard said Baker was having trouble breathing and has a history of having an irregular heartbeat. He hopes to return for Friday’s series opener against the Los Angeles Dodgers.
“He sounded good and they are just doing their due diligence, just running some tests,” acting manager Chris Speier said. “He will be back shortly.”
Cincinnati (90-59) tried to stay on task even without their manager Wednesday night, defeating Chicago 6-5 in 11 innings after failing to protect a 4-0 lead. Drew Stubbs singled in the go-ahead run in the 11th.
With the victory, the Reds lowered their magic number to clinch a playoff spot to one after the Dodgers split a doubleheader at Washington. Their magic number for a second NL Central title in three years is three.
“I am looking forward to it,” second baseman Brandon Phillips said. “The only time I drink was 2010 (the last time the Reds won the NL Central), that was the first time I tasted alcohol, I’m kind of looking forward to that feeling again.”
With a playoff berth all but certain, the Reds look to get Johnny Cueto (17-9, 2.92 ERA) back on track before the end of the regular season.
Cueto has lost his last three starts and has failed to make it out of the fifth inning in the last two, allowing a season high-tying six runs and nine hits over 4 1-3 innings of a 6-4 loss to Miami on Saturday.
“I can’t explain it,” Cueto said. “You have to take it easy. I feel good and have to keep moving forward. … I felt fine. I was calm. You have to accept the good with the bad.”
Despite his struggles, Cueto, who has an 8.22 ERA over his last three starts, has the chance to improve to 4-0 this season against Chicago. The right-hander has a 1.21 ERA in the previous three meetings with the Cubs (58-91), going eight innings in each of the last two.
Alfonso Soriano is 11 for 40 with four homers lifetime against Cueto and is 1 for 8 this year. He hit his 30th homer Wednesday, his most since 2007.
The Cubs, who have lost three straight, are 4-11 against the Reds this year.
Trying to avoid a sixth straight home loss to Cincinnati, Chicago hands the ball to Jason Berken (0-1, 4.50), who is making his second start for the club after being acquired off waivers from Baltimore.
Berken gave up six runs - two earned - and eight hits over four innings of a 7-6 loss to Pittsburgh on Saturday in his NL debut.
“He was a victim of a couple of errors,” manager Dale Sveum said. “It could have been a decent little outing, five innings. Could have gotten into the fifth only giving up two, but the errors cost him pitches and the ability to go five or six today.”