International baseball has been routine in Major League Baseball since the National League expansion into Montreal in 1969.
This season, it’s the Cincinnati Reds turn to join the movement in, literally, the opposite direction.
After a rare Friday off, they are scheduled to play “home” games in Monterrey, Mexico, against St. Louis on Saturday and Sunday before opening a seven-day, seven-game West Coast swing starting on Monday. The Reds play three in Los Angeles against the Dodgers and concluding with four games in San Diego.
Right-hander Tanner Roark (0-0) is due to face Cardinals right-hander Adam Wainwright (1-0) on Saturday at 7:10 p.m., followed by right-hander Anthony DeSclafani (0-1) squaring off against right-hander Miles Mikolas (1-1) on Sunday at 4:10 p.m.
“I’m excited to go and have the best series I can have,” said right fielder Yasiel Puig, who celebrated his return on Thursday from a two-game suspension with a two-run double in Cincinnati’s 5-0 win over Miami at Great American Ball Park. “From Mexico, we go to LA and I need to be prepared to beat my old teammates. Everybody’s been waiting for us to go back, and we’re excited to go back.”
The Reds hope they’ve shipped enough material – even the players’ walk-up music – to Monterrey to make it feel as much as possible like Great American Ball Park, but first-year manager David Bell isn’t sure how much of a home-field advantage his team will enjoy at Estadio de Beisbol Monterrey. The visit to Mexico is the first in the regular season for both teams. The Reds have played in San Juan, Puerto Rico, losing two out of three in 2003 to Montreal.
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“It won’t be a home game for either team, for sure, but we’re looking forward to it,” Bell said. “We’ve been talking about it a long time.”
Both teams go into the visit on hot streaks. The Cardinals have won five straight, the last four at home against the defending NL-champion Dodgers. The Reds outscored the Marlins, 21-1, while sweeping a three-game series after losing eight straight – four by one run and the other four by two runs.
“Baseball’s crazy,” Puig observed. “We’re losing a lot back-to-back, and now we sweep the Marlins. The pitchers stopping all the other clubs has been great. We’re losing a lot of games by one run because the offense is not giving any runs to defend the pitchers’ good job. Now, everybody’s together. That’s the reason we won three games in a row.”
Each team is allowed to add one player to its roster for the Mexico series and the Reds are recalling outfielder Phillip Ervin, whom many thought should have made the team out of spring training after he hit .341 with five home runs and eight runs batted in over 16 games.
“Everything he did in spring training, what he’s contributed to this team in the past, our fit for our roster – I think all these things led to it being Phil,” Bell said. “We’re ready to go. I’m not completely sure what to expect, but we’re looking forward to it. It’s been well-planned out, and it’ll be fun to bring baseball to that part of the world. It should be a good experience.”