Dusty Baker remembers standing in the outfield with Big Red Machine slugger George Foster at the plate. He would see Foster stand up straight when he expected a fastball and go into a crouch if he was expecting a breaking ball.
“Don’t throw George this pitch, please,” Baker would think.
The Reds manager Baker is a hall of fame baseball name-dropper. Decades in the game have given him enough stories to entertain the beat writers covering the team for an entire season, no easy feat. Not a series goes by without Baker working Hank Aaron, one of his mentors as a young player, into a conversation.
The George Foster anecdote came out Wednesday before the Reds beat the A’s 6-5 to sweep a two-game series. Baker was talking about his players studying video and making adjustments and pitchers making adjustments to his players.
It’s a never-ending conversation. Why is this guy hitting or pitching well? Why is this guy struggling?
Todd Frazier’s name came up because he went 0-for-3 to extend his hitless streak to 31 at-bats going into a weekend series against the Padres beginning Friday night at Great American Ball Park. Baker moved Frazier from the No. 6 spot to the No. 2 spot in the order.
“It can’t hurt him,” Baker said. “He was down in an RBI slot. The three, four, five and six slots are supposed to be RBI slots. Three and four are getting on, and five and six have a lot of opportunities. We’re not scoring, and we’re trying to get him going.
“The lineup around here is so important. Everybody thinks they can do it, but very few have ever tried it. There are certain dynamics that go into the lineup. You don’t want too many double-play guys together. You don’t want too many strikeout guys together. There’s a lot of psychological things that go into where you hit in the order. I’ve been there. I’ve hit everywhere from first to seventh.”
Frazier hit .273 last season as a rookie, but he hit .181 in September after hitting .306 in July and .330 in August. He has yet to regain the hitting touch he had last summer. In the first four months of this season, he has hit .240, .220, .253 and .247. He’s hitless so far in August.
“A lot of times, everybody goes on last year,” Baker said. “Last year is important, but every year is different. Last year, Frazier was killing it last year in the first couple months, but sometimes these guys make adjustments to you, and the word gets around on what you can hit or can’t hit, or your sequence of pitches.
“If you’re going to be a good hitter, you better have a pretty good idea that every 2-2, they’re going to throw you a slider. You’ve got to be on top of your game to see if you have tendencies the same way they may have tendencies.”
Weekend series: The Reds (63-51) gained a game on the Cardinals (66-47) on Wednesday because St. Louis lost 13-4 to the Dodgers. Through Wednesday, the Cardinals had a 3½-game lead over the Reds in the wild-card race.
The Reds lead the Diamondbacks by 4½ games in the race for the second wild-card spot. A four-game series against Arizona at Great American Ball Park on Aug. 19-22 is looming large.
First, the Reds play the Padres (52-62) in a three-game series at home this weekend. San Diego is 21-35 on the road, while the Reds are 35-19 at home.
“We just have to play good baseball,” Reds right fielder Jay Bruce said. “We have to win games.”
Padres at Reds, 7:10 p.m., FS Ohio, 700, 1410