MLB Playoffs: Reds head to Atlanta, hope for month on the road

Credit: David Jablonski

Sonny Gray interview (Sept. 27, 2020)

Credit: David Jablonski

Postseason starts Wednesday for Reds and could last until Oct. 28

The Cincinnati Reds flew from Minneapolis to Atlanta on Sunday night, not knowing when they would return home to Ohio. They open the playoffs at noon Wednesday on ESPN against the Atlanta Braves in the wild-card series and could be gone until Oct. 28, the date the World series ends.

How do you pack your bag for such a trip?

“Fill it to the brim,” reliever Lucas Sims said. “Fill it up with all the essentials you need. Pack as much as you can. Hopefully, there’s laundry. I think they have laundry set up.”

The No. 7 Reds would play in Houston in the second round against the No. 3 Chicago Cubs or No. 6 Miami Marlins if they beat the No. 2 Braves and then in Arlington, Texas, for the National League Championship Series and the World Series if they keep winning. That is the goal after they earned their first postseason appearance since 2013 by winning 11 of their last 14 games.

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“We packed for a month," pitcher Sonny Gray said. "We’re excited for all the opportunities and challenges we have ahead of us.”

Last year, Major League Baseball completed the entire postseason in 29 days, and only 10 teams made the playoffs. This year, with 16 teams advancing and eight best-of-three wild-card series replacing two winner-takes-all wild-card games, all the games will fit into 30 days.

There also will be less travel. Teams will play at neutral sites in the final three rounds. There will be no off days in between games.

All these changes came about because of the coronavirus pandemic. Baseball experienced several COVID-19 outbreaks during the season and wants to limit the chance of that happening in the postseason. Players will live in a bubble throughout the postseason, moving from their hotels to the ballpark.

“It’s fine with me,” Reds infielder Kyle Farmer said. “I’ll stay away as home as long as I can except my wife might be a little upset with me. The further we can stay away from home, I guess the better."

Farmer is a native of Atlanta. He graduated from Marist School, which is located 10 miles from Truist Park, the home of the Braves. He also attended the University of Georgia.

“Heading to Atlanta, it’s going to be tough for me,” Farmer said. "I live five minutes from the hotel. So it’s kind of tough. But I’ve got to follow the rules and see where it goes. As long as we keep winning. Winning takes care of everything. That’s what I always say.”

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The Reds finished 16-13 at home and 15-16 on the road in the 60-game regular season. They played without fans in the stands — with the Reds grounds crew being an exception — all season, and that will continue in the postseason.

Gray started the regular-season finale Sunday and allowed two earned runs in 5 1/3 innings. The Reds rallied twice from one-run deficits and won 5-3 in 10 innings. After the game, Gray was asked if home-field advantage exists when there aren’t fans in the stands.

“I don’t know,” he said. “I guess the only thing maybe is just being comfortable. (The Braves) have been there. They know their routines. But we’ll have a couple of days to adjust. We’ll get there tonight. I do know, in the playoffs, crowds are crazy. Fans are insane. It’s a great atmosphere. It’s a ton of good energy. We went to Atlanta last year. We’ve bene there. We’ve played there. We’ve pitched there. So we’re not going to a place we’re uncomfortable with. We know the place. It’s a great ballpark. I don’t know the home-field thing. The Twins are one of the best home teams in all of baseball, and we came here and won a series on the road.”

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