The new-look Milwaukee Brewers start the season against last year’s division champion Cincinnati Reds at the Great American Ball Park.

Milwaukee Brewers at Cincinnati Reds

The Cincinnati Reds have lost three straight Opening Day games heading into Thursday's contest

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Both clubs are in the playoff race as they start a three-game series at AT&T Park in front of a ESPN2 audience.

Cincinnati Reds at San Francisco Giants

Cincinnati currently leads the NL Central division by 3 1/2 games with six weeks to go, as the team starts a three-game series against the Giants.  The Reds captured a 5-2 victory over the Dodgers on Sunday afternoon giving the team its eighth win in nine games and guaranteed a winning nine-game West coast road trip.  “You can’t help but notice we haven’t done much winning in Los Angeles,” first baseman Joey Votto said.  “For us to be the team that finally breaks that streak and gets a winning series on the road, it’s a good thing.”  The pitching staff has been fantastic since June 17, posting a 3.15 ERA, which is the third-best mark in the majors over that span.  Offensively, the club leads the NL with a .272 average and scoring 4.96 runs per game.  The Reds are 15-5 in August (+1,020) and 10-4 as a road underdog of +100 to +125 this season (+760).

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The Reds must remain focused on the task at hand, as they may look ahead to next week’s series against the Cardinals.

Cincinnati Reds at Chicago Cubs

Cincinnati has turned the tide against the Cubs this season, blanking them 3-0 at Wrigley Field on Friday afternoon.  The Reds are now 8-3 against them this season, after tallying a disappointing 5-10 mark in 2009.  At 62-48, the club is a season-high 14 games over .500 after winning five of their past six games, including a 4-1 mark on this road trip.  The team must remain focused over the next two games and not look ahead to a three-game series against the Cardinals starting Monday.  “I can’t put too much importance on St. Louis because they’re not here yet,” manager Dusty Baker said.  “You have to win games now before we get there.”  The pitching staff has posted a 3.01 ERA since June 17, which is the second-best mark in the majors over that span, behind only the White Sox (2.87).  Cincinnati is 20-18 in day games this season (-50) and the total is 11-22 O/U in those contests.  The Reds are also 3-4 this season (-170) and 11-14 the last three years after shutting out an opponent (-140).

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Two contenders in the National League start the month of August looking to capture a series victory.

Atlanta Braves at Cincinnati Reds

Atlanta continues to lead the NL East division, but its lead has been cut due to losing five of eight games on its current road trip.  The Braves did make a couple moves at the trade deadline, picking up outfielder Rick Ankiel and relief pitcher Kyle Farnsworth from Kansas City.  “Ankiel’s a tremendous outfielder, a great athlete,” Chipper Jones said.  “Hopefully he helps solidify things out there.”  The club is still a tremendous 18-9 against the NL Central, which is their best winning percentage against any division this season.  Atlanta is also 20-15 in day games this season (+380) and the total is 19-16 O/U in those contests.  The team is averaging 4.0 runs per game under the sun and hitting for a combined .256 average, while opponents are scoring 3.8 and batting .236.  Atlanta has gone 26-31 in August the last three years (-820).

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I’m beginning to think that Donovan McNabb is stupid. Not just sort of stupid, either – cripplingly stupid. how else could you explain his suggestion to the Redskins that they sign Terrell Owens. There are about a million things wrong with that suggestion. McNabb and Owens were oil and water last time around. McNabb really needs to get off to a strong start for his new team. Owens has lost a step or three and clearly isn’t the player he once was. There isn’t a more divisive player in the league. Even at his best Owens wasn’t a great fit for what Mike Shanahan likes to do. Thinking that he’s up to the challenge of playing with Owens again, or that Owens would make an impact in Washington worth the heartache, is a sign of a stunning lack of awareness.

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Carson Palmer is well on his way to wasting even more of his impressive talent. He’s coming off a lost season thanks to elbow problems, and he isn’t exactly setting a positive tone now – he has already missed two days of practices since training camp started. It was only because of the flu, but it’s still a bad omen. I was sure Palmer was going to be a megastar when he came out of college, but he has been frustratingly mediocre in the last few seasons. I put about 98 percent of the blame for that on Marvin Lewis. If you have read this site for  while then you have heard this before, and you are certainly going to hear it again – Lewis is the worst coach in football. The Bengals have been pathetic underachievers for much of his tenure, and they will continue to disappoint for as long as the team’s management refuses to come to their senses and get themselves a real coach. Palmer, and the city of Cincinnati, deserves better.

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