The Reds are tantalizingly close to a nine-game stretch in which they play some of the worst teams in the Majors.
The only thing standing between Cincinnati and that soft stretch is a date with the best pitcher in baseball.
The Reds and Dodgers conclude a three-game series on Sunday at Great American Ball Park with what should be a great pitchers' duel: Dodgers left-hander Clayton Kershaw vs. Reds righty Homer Bailey.
Cincinnati, which holds an 8 1/2-game lead for the second National League Wild Card spot, is 1 1/2 games behind the first-place Cardinals in the NL Central. The Dodgers have won six of their last eight games.
"We're going to gain on somebody," said Reds manager Dusty Baker. "This is the last time we're going to have to gain on somebody."
Kershaw rarely throws back-to-back clunkers, and he's coming off one in Colorado. He allowed a season-high five earned runs on a career-high 11 hits against the Rockies on Monday. Kershaw hasn't made it out of the sixth inning in either of his last two starts, but he isn't concerned.
"I haven't hit a lull before," said Kershaw. "I'm not planning one now. I feel great."
While Kershaw hasn't been his usual dominant self lately, Bailey has been showcasing some of his best stuff of the season. He's 5-0 with a 2.42 ERA in his last five starts, with a five-game winning streak -- his career high.
Bailey blanked the Cardinals in each of his past two starts, throwing 7 1/3 and seven scoreless innings, respectively.
Dodgers: Ryu expected to pitch Wednesday
• Left-hander Hyun-Jin Ryu is optimistic he can start on Wednesday, after being scratched from his last scheduled start on Friday because of back stiffness.
"I was never worried in any way," said Ryu through an interpreter. "I'm feeling a lot better, but [starting Wednesday] is up to the manager."
• Michael Young has a four-game hitting streak (.375).
Reds: Phillips expected back on Sunday
• Second baseman Brandon Phillips received the day off on Saturday, but should return in Sunday's series finale.
"It's kind of a necessary day off," said Baker. "[We have] a short turnaround. I didn't like how he went after a couple balls. He wasn't gliding like he usually does."
Phillips is 8-for-19 (.421) in his career against Kershaw.
• Cincinnati is a season-high 19 games above .500.
• Reds shortstop Zack Cozart has a career-long 13-game hitting streak.
• Kershaw is 2-1 with a 2.81 ERA in seven career starts against the Reds.
• Dodgers first baseman Adrian Gonzalez is hitting .500 (9-for-18) with seven RBIs against Bailey.