Cubs Reds Baseball

Cincinnati Reds game planning/outfield coach Jeff Pickler (left) bench coach Freddie Benavides (center) and manager David Bell watch their team from the dugout during the eighth inning of Sunday's game against the Chicago Cubs.

CINCINNATI — A golden opportunity for the Cincinnati Reds to make the 2019 Major League Baseball postseason is right before them.

That’s despite coming up short of taking three games out of four from the visiting Chicago Cubs this weekend after Kris Bryant and company salvaged a split in the series. The Reds could have gained ground in the National League Central Division on the first-place Cubs but also in the National League Wild Card race.

Instead, Cincinnati now sits seven games behind the Cubs for the division lead and five games back of the second wild card spot currently held by the St. Louis Cardinals.

“They’re all important the rest of the way,” Reds manager David Bell said. “We know that. I don’t see it as losing momentum but its always important to bounce back.”

No opportunity to bounce back will be as big as the one that begins Monday when the team travels to Washington, D.C. for three games against the first-place wild card team, the Nationals. Following that series, the Reds return to Great American Ballpark to host the Cardinals.

Cincinnati travels to St. Louis the final weekend of the month for a four-game series that includes a Saturday day-night doubleheader.

Optimism still exists in the Cincinnati club house despite an opportunity to take a weekend series from the Cubs that slipped through its fingers.

“The mood doesn’t change. I just think the mood’s always winning games,” said outfielder Nick Senzel following Sunday’s 6-3 loss to the Cubs. “Today hurts real bad. We need to win games but we can’t dwell on it. We play tomorrow and we got a chance to go win some games in D.C.

“It’s important to just move on.”

On Sunday the Reds led the Cubs 3-0 after five innings and 3-1 going into the seventh. The bullpen, shaky since July, allowed four runs in that inning and another in the eighth that wasted an eight-strikeout day from starting pitcher Luis Castillo.

Cincinnati lost the opener of the series then won the next two. It appeared through six innings that the Reds would take the series three games to one and hold momentum before the road trip.

Washington has not been a team the Reds have had much success against. Over the last three seasons, including this year, the Reds have lost 14 of their last 17 games against the Nationals and haven’t won a series against against them since 2015.

Cincinnati fell to (56-60) on the year and is in fourth place in the NL Central race. Anthony DeSclafani will take the mound for the Reds versus Washington’s Erick Fedde.